What Lies Beneath

Snape's Suspicions

– CHAPTER SEVEN –

Snape's Suspicions

I rolled out of the Headmaster's fireplace and landed on my backside unceremoniously. To make matters worse, Snape walked out as if he hadn't been whirling through the floo system at high speeds.

"Ah, Professor Snape, Harry, so glad you could join me," said Dumbledore. I grumbled disconcertedly and hauled myself to my feet. Apparently Dumbledore could see through Polyjuice. I breathed heavily, quenching my body's thirst for oxygen.

The headmaster appeared inexorably calm as ever. The tips of his fingers joined to form a bridge upon which his wizened chin was resting. There were two wooden chairs opposite his desk, which seemed to be screaming for relief from the cover of parchment. Snape took the chair to left and shuffled it away from the other. I took the remaining chair and returned the favour.

"You may want to secure the castle," I said. I blinked as I realised that the Polyjuice still had not worn out and my voice was therefore still quite deep. "There's a small army of Aurors on our backs."

Dumbledore merely smiled serenely. "Oh, I have a feeling Miss. Hufflepuff has done our jobs for us." I was a little aggravated at how lightly Dumbledore was taking this, almost as though we were discussing our favourite bands over tea.

"Dumbledore," said Snape, unable to contain himself. I found it difficult to contain my laughter at the ludicrously nasal tone. It seemed Dumbledore too found the situation amusing, his blue eyes danced merrily behind his half-moon spectacles. "This boy deserves expulsion at the very least. He abused your undeserved generosity, attacked a student, used various others…" Dumbledore held a hand up to silence Snape.

"I am well aware of the sequence of events within school grounds. I would appreciate if Harry recounted the exploits at the Ministry himself." He smiled encouragingly at me, though I could feel his unease.

I considered refusing to answer his questions, but what would I possibly gain? Lying was an option but even with my strongest Occlumency shields, I had a feeling Dumbledore would see right through me. On top of that, I would be contradicted by Snape constantly and he would very easily prove I was lying. I had a feeling he had a vial of Veritaserum somewhere in the depths of his robes. The only option was the truth. But would it be the blunt truth? There was always the possibility that Dumbledore would expel me when he found out the goal of my mission. Then again, he would not want me spouting the prophecy to the Daily Prophet. No, he had no option but to keep me at Hogwarts. As much as most lessons bored me, I loved Hogwarts like a fond grandmother.

"I guess it all started with our conversation yesterday," I said, trying hard to keep my voice neutral. "I'll be honest with you, sir, I had a horrible feeling that I wasn't told the whole truth." The only body gesture he made to signal he was listening was a slight tilt of his head.

"You are so arrogant," said Snape venomously, "so self-important that you wish the Headmaster of this school to privy his secrets to you? Albus, this is prepos…"

"While I understand your concerns," interjected Dumbledore, "it would perhaps benefit you both if you parted company. As Shakespeare once wrote, parting is such sweet sorrow."

Snape stared at Dumbledore incredulously. "Shakespeare was a revered Muggle playwright," explained Dumbledore. "My dear friend Nicholas Flamel introduced me to his plays decades ago and I must admit I have acquired quite a taste for them. That particular quote comes from Romeo and Juliet, one of his more popular plays."

"Dudley says a new version of it is coming out soon," I said absent-mindedly.

"Oh? Are you planning to see it?" asked Dumbledore.

I laughed hollowly. "The Dursleys won't let me go to the cinema, I've got far too much work to do around the house." I smirked; the words had the desired effect. Dumbledore's serenity faded for a fraction of a second.

"Before this digression devours us," said Dumbledore, his hand running up and down his beard, "your absence may help Harry collect his thoughts." He raised his thin hand and pointed towards the door. "If you wish to listen in by pressing your ear to the door, please feel free." He almost added this as an afterthought.

Snape's lips thinned, though this did not have such a profound effect when his cheeks had a pink tinge, freckles covered his face and he only appeared several years older than I was. The sound of a door being closed with unnecessary force signalled that I should continue my story.

"Where was I?"

"You were doubting the prophecy, last I recall," said Dumbledore quietly, staring at something over my shoulder.

"No, I was doubting your, err, interpretation of it."

Dumbledore stared at me intently over his half-moon spectacles then smiled. "My mistake," he said, "call it age."

I decided that instead of trying to repel his direct Legilimency, I would avoid eye contact and attempt to deflect any indirect probes. "I basically thought that the most important thing to do was find out the full context of the prophecy, and I knew that the Ministry kept records of these sort of things."

"May I ask where you picked up this information?" asked Dumbledore. I looked intently at a piece of parchment on the desk as he said this. The most important thing was that he did not find out about the dreams I had about Tom.

"A History of Magic lesson," I said, hoping that Binns had droned on about the Ministry at some point during the past five years.

"I was unaware that such sensitive and highly secret matters had made its way onto the Hogwarts syllabus," said Dumbledore pleasantly.

"No, it was a question I asked him earlier this year," I said quickly, covering up my error. "He mentioned a prophecy a Seer had given and I asked how he knew about it. He said there's a place in the ministry where they stored prophecies."

"I see," said Dumbledore, though the change from stroking his beard to drumming the desk with his fingers gave me the impression that he did not believe me. "Please continue."

Since the small lie I had fed him did not work, I decided on sticking to the truth for a while. "I'll admit that I set up a diversion so that I could escape. Once nobody was looking, I slipped away and made my way to the Ministry."

"And how did you make your way there?"

I had a feeling that he knew the answer to this, that it was a test. I therefore had to abandon my original idea of claiming I floo'd. "I Apparated," I said bluntly.

I suddenly had the odd feeling that I was being watched. I spared a quick glance around but relaxed as soon as I realised that it was the former Heads in their portraits. Those who were not pretending to sleep were frowning at me disapprovingly. If my future at Hogwarts depended on any of these people, I would have been packing already. Dumbledore did not question my premature mastery of Apparition but instead motioned for me to continue.

"I had a look at the list of departments and only one had any chance of holding the prophecies. So I took the lift down to the Department of Mysteries."

"I imagine you may have attracted some attention given your history," said Dumbledore, fingers still drumming slowly on the desk.

"Yeah, that's what I thought so I disguised myself as a Ministry worker. There were no guards on the ninth floor which I found weird, so I went into that circle room unchallenged."

"And you were in perfect health throughout?" asked Dumbledore, etching concern across his face. Had I not known about the Mind Wards, I would have found this an extremely odd question to ask.

"I had a lot of headaches, actually," I lied. "And they got worse as time went on, which is why I was keen to get out of there as quickly as possible."

From then on, I recounted the story truthfully, though I, of course, omitted the Unspeakable whom I had manipulated. I told him of the prophecy and Snape stopping me from hearing its entire contents. I told him of my anger at Snape, that there was a particularly sharp headache which clouded my vision. I told him of the alarm, and of my idea to dress as Aurors in order to escape. I emphasised that it was Snape who cast the Imperius curse and told him of the Aurors who chased us into right to the death. He nodded encouragingly throughout and did not interrupt me even once. Even as the tutting from the portraits grew steadily louder, I kept speaking.

"And so here I am," I finished, failing to contain a sigh.

"Hand him over to authorities!" called out a sneering voice.

"That is quite enough," said Dumbledore, before turning back to me. "While the manner of his outburst is quite unacceptable, there is a shred of truth in Phineas' statement." He took off his half-moon spectacles and cleaned them on his midnight blue robes. Once they were replaced at the end of his nose, he continued speaking. "I must underline the severity of your actions, Harry. It was not only the rules of Hogwarts you have disregarded, but the laws of our society." The portraits took this opportunity to express their approval.

"The Department of Mysteries is warded in ways most do not understand," continued Dumbledore, once the noise had died down. "By setting foot even in the corridor leading to the Department, you placed not only your own life in grave danger but also that of Professor Snape, who was kind enough to attempt a rescue mission." I sat in silence, quietly disagreeing with most of what was being said.

"I am not sure whether you are aware of this, Harry, but your actions today warrant a life sentence in Azkaban." I blinked dumbly. Did he know about my use of the Imperius Curse or did breaking into the Department carry the same sentence? Dumbledore sighed heavily and I was suddenly aware of how old he looked. "In any other circumstances, I would have had to remove you from the school and involve the Ministry." There were cries of outrage from some of the portraits. I remained silent, waiting for Dumbledore to finish.

"However, I appreciate both your honesty and my involvement in the motivation behind your admittedly imprudent actions. Curiosity is not a sin, Harry, but it must at all times be tempered with caution. I must impress upon you the extent of your luck today. Had Professor Snape not found you, it may have been a cell where you would be sitting now and not the security of Hogwarts." I allowed yet another comment I strongly disagreed with pass. If it had not been for Snape, I would have heard the full prophecy, my attack on Snape would not have triggered the alarms and I would be eating dinner in the Great Hall.

"I will freely admit that you have not heard the full contents of the prophecy. Nevertheless, you know as much as I on this subject. Unfortunately, the Seer involved finished the prophecy during an interruption which had snared my attention. You see, Lord Voldemort had employed a spy to retrieve information on my activities. I only discovered the Death Eater's presence some way into the prophecy. My need to know the prophecy was overcome by my disinclination of allowing Voldemort privy to the details of the prophecy."

"Why did Snape –"

"Professor Snape," corrected Dumbledore.

"Yeah, why did he stop me from hearing the full prophecy today, then?" I asked, pretending to believe Dumbledore's story.

"Old wounds take time to heal," said Dumbledore sadly. "I am sure you are aware of Professor Snape's history with your father and your uncanny resemblance to him makes it difficult for Professor Snape to move on. You will have to give him time, Harry. Ah, I see the effects of the Polyjuice potion are wearing off." I looked down at my hands, which were quickly thinning and shrinking. I used one of the peculiar silver instruments of Dumbledore's as a mirror, though it gave a distorted reflection. My small chin was almost miniscule while my forehead was enlarged, my scar a lightning-shaped chasm. My green eyes were practically saucer-like compared to my microscopic mouth.

I ripped my eyes from the comical reflection. Dumbledore eyed me expectantly, as though waiting for an answer to a question he had not asked. I pondered on what angle I should take. The opportunity for the angry teenager had long since evaporated and would have been fruitless in any case. I was in the wrong and he refused to admit he was lying about the prophecy. Even if he had not heard it originally, he would have heard the copy; he was Supreme Mugwump after all.

There was, as always, the Riddle approach. Engage in mind games and use any weakness Dumbledore may show against him. I knew, though, that this was out of the question. While I could give a fair impersonation of Riddle, I was in no position to manoeuvre, nor was I good enough to have a battle of wits with the old Headmaster. And anyway, there was a higher likelihood of Neville Longbottom assassinating the Minister than there was of Dumbledore showing any signs of cracking.

This left me only one option: the repentant schoolboy.

Dumbledore's phoenix trilled as it had yesterday. Once again, it soothed me like a sip of hot chocolate, but there was a part of me that was extremely irritated by it. I shrugged off this odd feeling and spoke up.

"What I did today was wrong," I said, attempting to keep my tone sincere when I felt anything but. "I was just so worried about the prophecy that I wanted to go to any lengths to find out the truth. I didn't think about the consequences. I was reckless." I paused to take a breath when a piece of parchment caught my eye. I thought I had seen the word 'Horcrux'.

"Is something the matter?" asked Dumbledore kindly.

"No," I said, hoping he had not spotted the object of my attention, "just got a small headache. I'm alright now." I looked at a few other pieces of parchment in order to divert Dumbledore's attention from the one I was really interested in. "I am really grateful that you've given me a second chance, sir, I really appreciate it. I love Hogwarts more than anything else. I'm not going to betray your confidence in me. Hopefully one day we'll both find out the whole prophecy."

Dumbledore smiled warmly, though it was not with the same expression of absolute trust he had used in my first and second years. I had a feeling he will never wear that one around me again.

"Unfortunately, I cannot allow this misdemeanour to go unpunished," said Dumbledore wearily. "I am afraid I am going to take one hundred and fifty points from Gryffindor. It is a shame that your sublime efforts during the Quidditch season has gone to waste. A great shame –"

Before he could utter even one more word, there was an almighty crash that caused some of the silver instruments to vibrate with such ferocity, I feared they would fall and shatter. I looked over my shoulder and saw Snape breathing heavily, his skin sallow as ever.

"This is an outrage, Dumbledore," he snarled. I used the distraction as an opportunity to examine the parchment concerning Horcruxes more closely. Annoyingly, most of the sheet was covered with other, more formal looking letters. I noticed that the cursive handwriting was Dumbledore's. It read:

Of Voldemort's seven Horcruxes, new evidence I have uncovered from Ogden may point to the ancestral ring of the House of Slytherin holding…

I quickly averted my gaze from the piece of parchment; I heard my name being called. I looked up at Dumbledore, who sent me a curious look. Judging by Snape's murderous glare, it appeared as though Dumbledore had failed to subdue the Potions Master.

"I think it would be best if you joined your housemates," said Dumbledore purposefully. "You may want to start thinking of packing; yet another school year draws to a close." I nodded slowly and rose to my feet.

I had been searching for another Horcrux for almost three years and here, right under my nose, lay the answer. Slytherin's ring. But where on earth would Tom have hidden it? The orphanage? No, that was too obvious and too dangerous.

My feet led me through the oaken door. The moving phoenix statue stairs were ready for me. As I was about to step onto them, I heard the voices from the office. Unable to resist the temptation, I brought up my most powerful Occlumency wards to stop Dumbledore knowing I was listening and pressed my ear to the door.

"Dumbledore, the boy is dangerous," said Snape urgently.

"I do not think he is dangerous, merely misguided. For this, I must take the blame." I frowned. Misguided? How on earth does he know anything about me? Other than this week, I had hardly spoken to him alone for three years.

"There is no time for second chances," snapped Snape, his voice hurried. I had never heard him speak this quickly; he usually took time to milk every word, weighing them up like potions ingredients. Only when he lost his temper did he ever let words slip out of his mouth carelessly. "He is ruthless and reckless."

"Severus, we must not allow our pasts –"

"This has nothing to do with his pathetic father." Snape's voice was growing louder; he seemed really desperate to get rid of me. "Loathe as I am to admit it, Potter is in a different mould. Dumbledore, he cast an Unforgivable today."

There was a protracted silence. I felt a sear of pain from my hand and noticed that my nails were digging deep into my palms. What would Dumbledore do now, I thought, rubbing the throbbing pink mark my nails had left. Knowing him, nothing. Knowing him, he already knew.

"Do you have nothing to say to that?"

"We cannot alter the past."

"He almost killed me, Dumbledore!" snarled Snape, almost shouting now. "After acting on your orders, he felt it necessary to attack me. If anything, that should warrant expulsion!"

"Did you notice any changes in his appearance?"

"He had already stolen another identity, so there was no way of telling. How can you do nothing while this boy runs amok, doing as he pleases?"

"You had seen the false appearance before the attack. If you wish for me to act accordingly, you must reveal the whole truth. Were there any changes in his person?"

There was another silence. I pressed my ears closer to the door, thinking that I was missing something.

"Severus, you are keeping something from me," said Dumbledore, a hint of impatience in his voice. "There is no shame in being caught off your guard by a very powerful young wizard."

"It is nothing," said Snape dismissively, "nothing of value in any case."

"Severus, you more than any know I do not deride suggestions."

"Potter…reminded me of him."

My breath caught in my throat and I felt my eyes bulge. No. There is no possible way he could have…

I felt like groaning as I remembered. The impression of Riddle I had performed in order to make Snape more responsive. I had not thought of the consequences.

"Please expand."

"The mannerisms, the coldness, it was all there. It is a farcical idea but I think he may have been possessed by…by the Dark Lord." I felt my muscles relax suddenly. For a horrible moment, I thought Snape may have pieced together the puzzle.

Dumbledore remained silent so Snape continued. "It would explain his remarkable hike in academic performance. Had it not been for the…situation with the Weasley girl three ago, I would not have even contemplated it. The evidence is there, Dumbledore."

"What evidence in particular?"

"He ordered me with such…ferocity I was taken aback. You are aware of the last instance I had been ordered in such a manner. Furthermore, he managed to cast the Imperius Curse with as much skill as his age would allow. The fully grown Auror would have fallen to the curse had it not been for his distance from Potter. Finally, the attack…" Snape trailed off, disgust and self-loathing reverberating with every syllable uttered.

"I know this is difficult, Severus, but the first step to diagnosis is understanding."

"It was his eyes. His eyes were red. The spells I was attacked with today, not even I knew. There was no defence against it! You must get rid of the boy. He will eventually hand the Dark Lord weapons no spell can defend against."

"I understand," said Dumbledore pensively. He did not elaborate.

"Well?"

"I will take your idea on board. Until it is proven, however, we cannot take any action which would draw the Ministry's attention. You are forgetting the political consequence of expelling Mr. Potter –"

"I hear rumours," said Snape, his voice shaking with fury now, "that the Dark Lord has abandoned the forests of Albania. While these are rumours, the fact is that he will not rest until he has a body. Having Potter under his thumb will mean he will tread the path to his goals with absurd ease! You know as well as I the fickle nature of the Ministry."

"We are not taking any interest in Mr. Potter's well-being," said Dumbledore. It seemed he was well aware of this information. "I will be keeping a closer eye on him. If you are right, I will take measures towards ridding Harry of Voldemort's presence. Until then, there will be no slipping of information. The events of today will remain between you, I and Mr. Potter. Is that understood?"

"And assuming he volunteers the information to his little band of followers?" said Snape contemptuously. "What of my reputation?"

"Oh, I am sure he will be disinclined to shed the light on this particular tale. After all, if he has been possessed, that information will never leave his lips." I could hear a hint of amusement in Dumbledore's voice and I suddenly had a horrible feeling he knew I was standing outside.

Needing no further warning, I straightened up and hopped onto the revolving staircase, trying to be as quiet as possible.

Dumbledore did not believe Snape – that much was obvious. But what conclusions had he drawn? He was very quick to ask about the attack on Snape. Another thought, far more horrifying than Dumbledore finding out about Tom was niggling at the back of my mind. My eyes turned red. Was I turning into Voldemort? Was I turning into my parents' killer? That very thought disgusted me down to my core. As I emerged from the empty corridor leading to the office, I took the staircase immediately to my left.

It made sense, though. The dreams about Tom, my thirst for knowledge, my attraction to Tracey, my attraction to the darker spells…

No! There was no way I am turning into Voldemort. Snape and Dumbledore had no idea what they were talking about. I changed of my accord and it benefited me. The greatest argument I had was Hermione. If I were turning into a crazy Dark Lord, she would have chosen Ron over me.

Clinging desperately on to that thought, I ascended onto the fourth floor landing. For the present, my greatest worry was Dumbledore following me around. No, I thought, he would be far subtler. The teachers. He would get reports from them.

My feet instinctively led me down the spiral staircase of the library. Since we came from different houses, the Hogwarts House system forced us to use it. As expected, Tracey, Terry and Hermione were lounging in our usual spot at the far corner of the library, where the fading rays of sunlight filtered in through the magnificent arch windows. I approached the table and collapsed in the last remaining seat.

"Alright," said Terry, his concentration fixed on a piece of parchment he was trying to mould magically.

"Alright," I mumbled. He had only managed a fold in the parchment. Tracey was lazily watching Terry's progress. Her arms were folded and lay on the table, supporting her head. Hermione was staring at me curiously.

"How was the thing at the Department of Mysteries?" she asked.

"If I told you that, I'd have to kill you," I said, a wry smile pulling at my lips. The reference was lost on Terry and Tracey but Hermione chuckled appreciatively.

"Another one of their Muggle things," said Tracey, rolling her eyes. "How was it? Were you caught?"

I deliberately looked elsewhere but at her. I could handle lying to Terry or even Hermione if I had to, but there was something about Tracey which made it impossible for me to lie when speaking to her. "It wasn't a joke," I said slowly, watching the parchment getting folded inexpertly. Impatiently, Terry jabbed his wand, causing his project to vibrate before catching fire.

"It's not like we're going to tell anyone," said Terry, irritated at the falling ashen remains. "You told us why you really went anyway."

"If I could tell you, you know I would," I said quietly. "But maybe, I might be more up for it later." I was jabbing my head surreptitiously towards Pince, who stood not five metres away. This did not seem to sate Terry.

"But –"

"If he can't tell us," said Hermione, exasperated, "then he can't tell us. Was it good or not, though?" She lowered her voice. "Not for what you went there for, but as a place of work."

"It wasn't as great as everyone thinks."

"That's just as well," said Hermione briskly. "I've been thinking about possible careers, of course, and being a Healer just seems much more rewarding. Also, I heard that Unspeakables have to more or less sacrifice their social life. While they are paid better than almost any other profession, job satisfaction seems more important than financial gains, wouldn't you think?"

I sniggered and Terry groaned. "I don't think those Muggle advice books you've been reading have done you any good," said Tracey. Hermione rolled her eyes.

"All of you realise that you will have to think about careers sometime soon," she said, her arms crossed.

"Me?" I said lightly. "The great Harry Potter? Why, I can waltz into any job without any OWLs and they'll be over the moon. You're looking at the next Minister, Miss. Granger."

"Whoever heard of a child of the Noble House of Davis doing something as common as working?" said Tracey, feigning hurt. "I will assume my father's position on the Board of Governors and the Wizengamot and sit on my mountain of gold."

"Hermione Granger!" piped Terry admonishingly. "How dare you even hint at the heir of Honeydukes lifting a finger? So naïve…so innocent…" He gave a very Dumbledorian shake of the head. Finally, none of us could hold it in any longer and we burst into peals of laughter. I noticed Hermione's laughter was rather uncomfortable.

I had no time to question her; Madame Pince had swooped down upon us. The rays of the setting sun made her features even more vulture-like and shrivelled than usual. "Ah, Madame Pince," I said, feigning brightness. "May I say, you're looking particularly refreshed today. I'm sure the annoying students trying to cram loudly leaving has done you wonders."

Her shrivelled lips widened into an under-practised wooden smile. "Even you cannot change the closing time of the library, Mr. Potter," she said in her high, croaky voice.

"I appreciate that," I said. My smile was beginning to hurt me, if that were possible. "Time flies when you're having fun, I suppose."

"Indeed," she said and moved away. As soon as she was out of sight, I rolled my eyes. The others stifled their giggles as we got up. I was sometimes amazed at my ability to charm the her. Pince was difficult, of course. She generally saw herself as some sort of guardian of books against the great enemy: the student population. She saw students as parasites that were intent on damaging her precious books.

"I wonder if she's married," said Terry as we strolled down the fourth floor corridor.

"Oh don't…" Tracey trailed off and shuddered as I took her hand.

"Well I'm going up obviously," said Terry when we reached the stairs, trying desperately not to think of Pince in a romantic situation.

"So am I, unfortunately," said Hermione. She looked at me questioningly.

"No, I'm going to walk Tracey to the Slytherin common room." Hermione nodded.

"Before we say goodnight," said Terry mischievously, "here's an image to go to sleep with. Pince reading up on, err, procreation before trying it out with her husband…"

"Urgh," said Tracey in disgust. Her warm hand squeezed slightly harder on mine.

"You are disgusting," snapped Hermione, visibly repulsed, before ascending the stairs. I appreciated the humour but the mere thought of Pince in a revealing dressing gown was too horrible to contemplate. Terry's laughter followed him up the staircase.

"Sometimes I worry about that boy."

"What did you get up today, then?" I asked softly, as we descended the stairs.

"Oh, after following your instructions, we hung out, wondering whether or not you were in Azkaban yet." I felt myself stiffen, but quickly tried to laugh it off.

"Who won the bet, then?" I asked, trying to cast it off as a joke.

"Don't pull that shit on me," snapped Tracey. She stopped in her tracks in an empty second floor corridor. Her hazel eyes were shining with anger. "You told us what to do this morning. Fine. You didn't want Snape or someone finding out what you were doing. Fine. But what's stopping you now?"

"Tracey," I said dangerously.

"Is this how it's going to work?" said Tracey waspishly. "I tell you secrets but you lie to my face? I can't allow myself to be made to look a fool–"

"I said I can't tell you in public, didn't I?" I said quietly. "You're making a fool out of yourself by shouting in the middle of a corridor." I grabbed her arm and pulled her into an empty classroom.

This was a classroom I had never seen before. The dusty tables and chairs were stacked along the far wall. The dark ceiling was alive with shifting pearly runes, most of which I did not recognise. Tracey seemed to have calmed down, judging by the lack of quivering of her hair.

"I don't want you to tell me everything," she said pleadingly. "But one day you'll realise that you're not as sneaky as you think you are. I'll find out what happened eventually." I sighed and did the only thing I could think to do. I pulled her warm body towards mine and enveloped her in a hug. I kissed her smooth neck.

"No," she said and reluctantly pulled away.

"I managed it," I said, refusing to let go. "I broke in." Tracey pulled away more forcefully.

"You think that's funny, do you?" she said, hurt contorted in every line of her face. She looked away but I would not let her. I placed a finger on her narrow chin and forced her to face me.

"No, listen. I broke into the Department of Mysteries," I said, looking her straight in the eyes. "I tricked an Unspeakable into letting me get in."

Tracey stared at me unblinkingly for a moment, her mouth forming a small 'o'. "That's not possible," she said, but I could tell she believed me. "My father said not even the Dark Lord at the height of his powers…"

"You father has no idea what Lord Voldemort can and can't do," I said bitterly.

"But how?"

"I can't tell you," I said, "Dumbledore's made sure of that." She stiffened and her eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

"Dumbledore found you?"

"Do you think the Aurors can stop me?" I said, only partly joking. I bent down and kissed her tenderly. Her lips were dry but the usual warm feeling lingered. When we finally separated, she nodded towards the door.

"Anymore accusations you'd like to throw at me?" I asked as we emerged into the corridor.

"No, but there is a request," she said.

"Another one?" I said. "Aren't I lucky."

"It's my father," she said quietly. "He wants to meet you." I kept my expression neutral. I deeply disapproved of her father and I had a feeling she knew this. While I was careful not to give an opinion on him, the expression of disdain I always wore was unavoidable. The man had not only been a scummy Death Eater, but he was low enough not to stick to his guns. I could never bring myself to feel anything but contempt for such a person. Judging by Tracey's body language when she was forced into mentioning him, he did not like me either.

"What about your mum?" I said, attempting to brush away the suggestion. "I thought there'd be an encore after Christmas." Last Christmas, I had spent the holiday with Tracey's mother, Mrs. Jones. She had welcomed me warmly and was even happy with Terry and Hermione turning up for a few days, despite the relatively small semi-detached house she lived in.

"You can go there for the second part of the holiday if you really want to."

"Who told your father about us?" I asked, more coolly than I had first intended.

"It could have been anyone," said Tracey quietly. "But considering Mr. Malfoy and my father are best friends, I'm guessing it was Draco." I nodded slowly. It made sense. Considering the fact that I had attacked Malfoy, the reception would not be pleasant. I could only imagine Dumbledore's expression when he found out I was spending the holiday in the Davis household of all places. I started to think that it would not be such a bad idea. Davis himself would be but an annoying itch whereas I could find out so much in the house of a former inner circle Death Eater.

"So when has your father arranged for me to drop by?"

"He's really not that bad once you get to know him," said Tracey quickly. "Once he finds out how amazing you are, he'll love you like a son, trust me." I smiled weakly. That was far more terrifying than the notion of him hating me.

"He wants to meet me straight away then, I assume." Tracey nodded apologetically before kissed me thankfully.

"I knew you'd understand," she said, as the entrance to the Slytherin common room came into view.

"I'll brace myself for a tide of Pureblood protocol, shall I?" She laughed and slapped me playfully.

"Goodnight," she said and kissed me one final time.

I looked on as she gave the password. The apparently blank stone wall formed a small opening and she disappeared into it. This was going to be an interesting holiday.


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