On Professor Sinistra's other side was the sallow-faced, hook-nosed, greasy-haired Potions master, Snape - Harry's least favorite person at Hogwarts. Harry's loathing of Snape was matched only by Snape's hatred of him, a hatred which had, if possible, intensified last year, when Harry had helped Sirius escape right under Snape's overlarge nose - Snape and Sirius had been enemies since their own school days.
On Snape's other side was an empty seat, which Harry guessed was Professor McGonagall's. Next to it, and in the very center of the table, sat Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster, his sweeping silver hair and beard shining in the candlelight, his magnificent deep green robes embroidered with many stars and moons.
Malfoy, whose pale eyes were still watering with pain and humiliation, looked malevolently up at Moody and muttered something in which the words "my father" were distinguishable.
"Oh yeah?" said Moody quietly, limping forward a few steps, the dull clunk of his wooden leg echoing around the hall. "Well, I know your father of old, boy... . You tell him Moody's keeping a close eye on his son. . . you tell him that from me. . . . Now, your Head of House'll be Snape, will it?"
"Yes," said Malfoy resentfully.
"Another old friend," growled Moody. "I've been looking forward to a chat with old Snape. . . . Come on, you. . ."
And he seized Malfoy's upper arm and marched him off toward the dungeons.
The next two days passed without great incident, unless you counted Neville melting his sixth cauldron in Potions. Professor Snape, who seemed to have attained new levels of vindictiveness over the summer, gave Nevihle detention, and Neville returned from it in a state of nervous collapse, having been made to disembowel a barrel full of horned toads.
"You know why Snape's in such a foul mood, don't you?" said Ron to Harry as they watched Hermione teaching Neville a Scouring Charm to remove the frog guts from under his fingernails.
"Yeah," said Harry. "Moody."
It was common knowledge that Snape really wanted the Dark Arts job, and he had now failed to get it for the fourth year running. Snape had disliked all of their previous Dark Arts teachers, and shown it - but he seemed strangely wary of displaying overt animosity to Mad-Eye Moody. Indeed, whenever Harry saw the two of them together - at mealtimes, or when they passed in the corridors - he had the distinct impression that Snape was avoiding Moody's eye, whether magical or normal.
"I reckon Snape's a bit scared of him, you know," Harry said thoughtfully.
"Imagine if Moody turned Snape into a horned toad," said Ron, his eyes misting over, "and bounced him all around his dungeon..."
Meanwhile Professor Binns, the ghost who taught History of Magic, had them writing weekly essays on the goblin rebellions of the eighteenth century. Professor Snape was forcing them to research antidotes. They took this one seriously, as he had hinted that he might be poisoning one of them before Christmas to see if their antidote worked.
THE DELEGATIONS FROM BEAUXBATONS AND DURMSTRANG WILL BE ARRIVING AT 6 O'CLOCK ON FRIDAY THE 30TH OF OCTOBER.
LESSONS WILL END HALF AN HOUR EARLY --
"Brilliant!" said Harry. "It's Potions last thing on Friday! Snape won't have time to poison us all!"
"Well. . . it is amazing," said Bagman, rubbing his smooth chin and smiling down at Harry. "But, as you know, the age restriction was only imposed this year as an extra safety measure. And as his name's come out of the goblet.. . I mean, I don't think there can be any ducking out at this stage. . . . It's down in the rules, you're obliged. . . Harry will just have to do the best he --"
The door behind them opened again, and a large group of people came in: Professor Dumbledore, followed closely by Mr. Crouch, Professor Karkaroff, Madame Maxime, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Snape. Harry heard the buzzing of the hundreds of students on the other side of the wall, before Professor McGonagall closed the door.
"We were under the impression that your Age Line would keep out younger contestants, Dumbledore," said Karkaroff, his steely smile still in place, though his eyes were colder than ever. "Otherwise, we would, of course, have brought along a wider selection of candidates from our own schools."
"It's no one's fault but Potter's, Karkaroff," said Snape softly. His black eyes were alight with malice. "Don't go blaming Dumbledore for Potter's determination to break rules. He has been crossing lines ever since he arrived here -"
"Thank you, Severus," said Dumbledore firmly, and Snape went quiet, though his eyes still glinted malevolently through his curtain of greasy black hair.
Professor Dumbledore was now looking down at Harry, who looked right back at him, trying to discern the expression of the eyes behind the half-moon spectacles.
"Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?" he asked calmly.
"No," said Harry. He was very aware of everybody watching him closely. Snape made a soft noise of impatient disbelief in the shadows.
"Did you ask an older student to put it into the Goblet of Fire for you?" said Professor Dumbledore, ignoring Snape.
"No," said Harry vehemently.
"Ah, but of course 'e is lying!" cried Madame Maxime. Snape was now shaking his head, his lip curling.
"He could not have crossed the Age Line," said Professor McGonagall sharply. "I am sure we are all agreed on that -"
"Dumbly-dorr must 'ave made a mistake wiz ze line," said Madame Maxime, shrugging.
"It is possible, of course," said Dumbledore politely.
"Dumbledore, you know perfectly well you did not make a mistake!" said Professor McGonagall angrily. "Really, what nonsense! Harry could not have crossed the line himself, and as Professor Dumbledore believes that he did not persuade an older student to do it for him, I'm sure that should be good enough for everybody else!"
She shot a very angry look at Professor Snape.
"My dear Madame Maxime, if you have an alternative, I would be delighted to hear it."
Dumbledore waited, but Madame Maxime did not speak, she merely glared. She wasn't the only one either. Snape looked furious; Karkaroff livid; Bagman, however, looked rather excited.
"Wonder why that was," said Harry darkly as Cedric Diggory walked past, surrounded by a large group of simpering girls, all of whom looked at Harry as though he were a particularly large Blast-Ended Skrewt. "Still - never mind, eh? Double Potions to look forward to this afternoon. . ."
Double Potions was always a horrible experience, but these days it was nothing short of torture. Being shut in a dungeon for an hour and a half with Snape and the Slytherins, all of whom seemed determined to punish Harry as much as possible for daring to become school champion, was about the most unpleasant thing Harry could imagine. He had already struggled through one Friday's worth, with Hermione sitting next to him intoning "ignore them, ignore them, ignore them" under her breath, and he couldn't see why today should be any better.
When he and Hermione arrived at Snape's dungeon after lunch, they found the Slytherins waiting outside, each and every one of them wearing a large badge on the front of his or her robes. For one wild moment Harry thought they were S.P.E.W. badges - then he saw that they all bore the same message, in luminous red letters that burnt brightly in the dimly lit underground passage:
SUPPORT CEDRIC DIGGORY--
THE REAL HOGWARTS CHAMPION!
Ron had hurried forward to see what was wrong with her; Harry turned and saw Ron dragging Hermione's hand away from her face. It wasn't a pretty sight. Hermione's front teeth - already larger than average - were now growing at an alarming rate; she was looking more and more like a beaver as her teeth elongated, past her bottom lip, toward her chin - panic-stricken, she felt them and let out a terrified cry.
"And what is all this noise about?" said a soft, deadly voice.
Snape had arrived. The Slytherins clamored to give their explanations; Snape pointed a long yellow finger at Malfoy and said, "Explain."
"Potter attacked me, sir -"
"We attacked each other at the same time!" Harry shouted.
"- and he hit Goyle - look -"
Snape examined Goyle, whose face now resembled something that would have been at home in a book on poisonous fungi.
"Hospital wing, Goyle," Snape said calmly.
"Malfoy got Hermione!" Ron said. "Look!"
He forced Hermione to show Snape her teeth - she was doing her best to hide them with her hands, though this was difficult as they had now grown down past her collar. Pansy Parkinson and the other Slytherin girls were doubled up with silent giggles, pointing at Hermione from behind Snape's back.
Snape looked coldly at Hermione, then said, "I see no difference.".
Hermione let out a whimper; her eyes filled with tears, she turned on her heel and ran, ran all the way up the corridor and out of sight.
It was lucky, perhaps, that both Harry and Ron started shouting at Snape at the same time; lucky their voices echoed so much in the stone corridor, for in the confused din, it was impossible for him to hear exactly what they were calling him. He got the gist, however.
"Let's see," he said, in his silkiest voice. "Fifty points from Gryffindor and a detention each for Potter and Weasley. Now get inside, or it'll be a week's worth of detentions."
Harry's ears were ringing. The injustice of it made him want to curse Snape into a thousand slimy pieces. He passed Snape, walked with Ron to the back of the dungeon, and slammed his bag down onto the table. Ron was shaking with anger too - for a moment, it felt as though everything was back to normal between them, but then Ron turned and sat down with Dean and Seamus instead, leaving Harry alone at his table. On the other side of the dungeon, Malfoy turned his back on Snape and pressed his badge, smirking. POTTER STINKS flashed once more across the room.
Harry sat there staring at Snape as the lesson began, picturing horrific things happening to him. . . . If only he knew how to do the Cruciatus Curse. . . he'd have Snape flat on his back like that spider, jerking and twitching.
"Antidotes!" said Snape, looking around at them all, his cold black eyes glittering unpleasantly. "You should all have prepared your recipes now. I want you to brew them carefully, and then, we will be selecting someone on whom to test one. . ."
Snape's eyes met Harry's, and Harry knew what was coming. Snape was going to poison him. Harry imagined picking up his cauldron, and sprinting to the front of the class, and bringing it down on Snape's greasy head - And then a knock on the dungeon door burst in on Harry's thoughts.
It was Colin Creevey; he edged into the room, beaming at Harry, and walked up to Snape's desk at the front of the room.
"Yes?" said Snape curtly.
"Please, sir, I'm supposed to take Harry Potter upstairs." Snape stared down his hooked nose at Colin, whose smile faded from his eager face.
"Potter has another hour of Potions to complete," said Snape coldly. "He will come upstairs when this class is finished."
Colin went pink.
"Sir - sir, Mr. Bagman wants him," he said nervously. "All the champions have got to go, I think they want to take photographs. . ."
Harry would have given anything he owned to have stopped Colin saying those last few words. He chanced half a glance at Ron, but Ron was staring determinedly at the ceiling.
"Very well, very well," Snape snapped. "Potter, leave your things here, I want you back down here later to test your antidote."
"Please, sir - he's got to take his things with him," squeaked Cohn. "All the champions..."
"Very well!" said Snape. "Potter - take your bag and get out of my sight!"
"You've had an owl," said Ron brusquely the moment he walked in. He was pointing at Harry's pillow. The school barn owl was waiting for him there.
"Oh - right," said Harry.
"And we've got to do our detentions tomorrow night, Snape's dungeon," said Ron.
"Ignore it," Hermione said in a dignified voice, holding her head in the air and stalking past the sniggering Slytherin girls as though she couldn't hear them. "Just ignore it, Harry."
But Harry couldn't ignore it. Ron hadn't spoken to him at all since he had told him about Snape's detentions. Harry had half hoped they would make things up during the two hours they were forced to pickle rats' brains in Snape's dungeon, but that had been the day Rita's article had appeared, which seemed to have confirmed Ron's belief that Harry was really enjoying all the attention.
Hermione was furious with the pair of them; she went from one to the other, trying to force them to talk to each other, but Harry was adamant: He would talk to Ron again only if Ron admitted that Harry hadn't put his name in the Goblet of Fire and apologized for calling him a liar.
Harry looked at him in disbelief. He was sure Cedric wouldn't have asked that if he had seen the dragons himself. Harry wouldn't have let his worst enemy face those monsters unprepared - well, perhaps Malfoy or Snape...
"You'll see, you'll see in a minute!" said Hermione excitedly.
She turned left at the bottom of the staircase and hurried toward the door through which Cedric Diggory had gone the night after the Goblet of Fire had regurgitated his and Harry's names. Harry had never been through here before. He and Ron followed Hermione down a flight of stone steps, but instead of ending up in a gloomy underground passage like the one that led to Snape's dungeon, they found themselves in a broad stone corridor, brightly lit with torches, and decorated with cheerful paintings that were mainly of food.
"She wants a new angle, Hagrid," said Ron wisely as he shelled salamander eggs. "You were supposed to say Harry's a mad delinquent!"
"But he's not!" said Hagrid, looking genuinely shocked.
"She should've interviewed Snape," said Harry grimly. "He'd give her the goods on me any day. 'Potter has been crossing lines ever since he first arrived at this school. . . .'"
"Said that, did he?" said Hagrid, while Ron and Hermione laughed. "Well, yeh might've bent a few rules. Harry, bu' yeh're all righ' really, aren' you?"
Harry had used during the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. Other teachers were not so generous. Nothing would ever deflect Professor Binns, for example, from plowing on through his notes on goblin rebellions - as Binns hadn't let his own death stannd in the way of continuing to teach, they supposed a small thing like Christmas wasn't going to put him off. It was amazing how he could make even bloody and vicious goblin riots sound as boring as Percys cauldron-bottom report. Professors McGonagall and Moody kept them working until the very last second of their classes too, and Snape, of course, would no sooner let them play games in class than adopt Harry. Staring nastily around at them all, he informed them that he would be testing them on poison antidotes during the last lesson of the term.
"Evil, he is," Ron said bitterly that night in the Gryffindor common room. "Springing a test on us on the last day. Ruining the last bit of term with a whole load of studying."
He found it hard to concentrate on Snape's Potions test, and consequently forgot to add the key ingredient - a bezoar - meaning that he received bottom marks. He didn't care, though; he was too busy screwing up his courage for what he was about to do. When the bell rang, he grabbed his bag, and hurried to the dungeon door.
"I'll meet you at dinner," he said to Ron and Hermione, and he dashed off upstairs.
He and Ron set off along one of the winding paths through the rosebushes, but they had gone only a short way when they heard an unpleasantly familiar voice.
"... don't see what there is to fuss about, Igor."
"Severus, you cannot pretend this isn't happening!" Karkaroffs voice sounded anxious and hushed, as though keen not to be overheard. "It's been getting clearer and clearer for months. I am becoming seriously concerned, I can't deny it _"
"Then flee," said Snapes voice curtly. "Flee - I will make your excuses. I, however, am remaining at Hogwarts."
Snape and Karkaroff came around the corner. Snape had his wand out and was blasting rosebushes apart, his expression most ill-natured. Squeals issued from many of the bushes, and dark shapes emerged from them.
"Ten points from Ravenclaw, Fawcett!" Snape snarled as a girl ran past him. "And ten points from Hufflepuff too, Stebbins!" as a boy went rushing after her. "And what are you two doing?" he added, catching sight of Harry and Ron on the path ahead. Karkaroff, Harry saw, looked slightly discomposed to see them standing there. His hand went nervously to his goatee, and he began winding it around his finger.
"We're walking," Ron told Snape shortly. "Not against the law, is it?"
"Keep walking, then!" Snape snarled, and he brushed past them, his long black cloak billowing out behind him. Karkaroff hurried away after Snape. Harry and Ron continued down the path.
"What's got Karkaroff all worried?" Ron muttered.
"And since when have he and Snape been on first-name terms?" said Harry slowly.
Harry had taken his first step back toward Gryffindor Tower when something else on the map caught his eye . . . something distinctly odd.
Peeves was not the only thing that was moving. A single dot was flitting around a room in the bottom left-hand corner - Snapes office. But the dot wasn't labeled "Severus Snape" ... it was Bartemius Crouch.
"Filch? Whats going on?"
Filch stopped a few steps below Harry and turned. At the foot of the stairs stood the only person who could make Harry's situation worse: Snape. He was wearing a long gray nightshirt and he looked livid.
"Its Peeves, Professor," Filch whispered malevolently. "He threw this egg down the stairs."
Snape climbed up the stairs quickly and stopped beside Filch. Harry gritted his teeth, convinced his loudly thumping heart would give him away at any second. . . .
"Peeves?" said Snape softly, staring at the egg in Filch's hands. "But Peeves couldn't get into my office. . . ."
"This egg was in your office. Professor?"
"Of course not," Snape snapped. "I heard banging and wailing -"
"Yes, Professor, that was the egg -"
"- I was coming to investigate -"
"- Peeves threw it. Professor -"
"- and when I passed my office, I saw that the torches were lit and a cupboard door was ajar! Somebody has been searching it!"
But Peeves couldn't -"
"I know he couldn't, Filch!" Snape snapped again. "I seal my office with a spell none but a wizard could break!" Snape looked up the stairs, straight through Harry, and then down into the corridor below. "I want you to come and help me search for the intruder, Filch."
"I - yes, Professor - but -"
Filch looked yearningly up the stairs, right through Harry, who could see that he was very reluctant to forgo the chance of cornering Peeves. Go, Harry pleaded with him silently, go with Snape . . . go. . . Mrs. Norris was peering around Filch's legs.... Harry had the distinct impression that she could smell him.. . . Why had he filled that bath with so much perfumed foam?
"The thing is, Professor," said Filch plaintively, "the headmaster will have to listen to me this time. Peeves has been stealing from a student, it might be my chance to get him thrown out of the castle once and for all -"
"Filch, I don't give a damn about that wretched poltergeist; it's my office that's -"
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.
Snape stopped talking very abruptly. He and Filch both looked down at the foot of the stairs. Harry saw Mad-Eye Moody limp into sight through the narrow gap between their heads. Moody was wearing his old traveling cloak over his nightshirt and leaning on his staff as usual.
"Pajama party, is it?" he growled up the stairs.
"Professor Snape and I heard noises, Professor," said Filch at once. "Peeves the Poltergeist, throwing things around as usual - and then Professor Snape discovered that someone had broken into his off -"
"Shut up!" Snape hissed to Filch.
Moody took a step closer to the foot of the stairs. Harry saw Moodys magical eye travel over Snape, and then, unmistakably, onto himself.
Harrys heart gave a horrible jolt. Moody could see through Invisibility Cloaks... he alone could see the full strangeness of the scene:
Snape in his nightshirt, Filch clutching the egg, and he, Harry, trapped in the stairs behind them. Moody's lopsided gash of a mouth opened in surprise. For a few seconds, he and Harry stared straight into each other's eyes. Then Moody closed his mouth and turned his blue eye upon Snape again.
"Did I hear that correctly, Snape?" he asked slowly. "Someone broke into your office?"
"It is unimportant," said Snape coldly. "On the contrary," growled Moody, "it is very important. Who'd want to break into your office?"
"A student, I daresay," said Snape. Harry could see a vein flickering horribly on Snape's greasy temple. "It has happened before. Potion ingredients have gone missing from my private store cupboard ... students attempting illicit mixtures, no doubt...."
"Reckon they were after potion ingredients, eh?" said Moody. "Not hiding anything else in your office, are you?"
Harry saw the edge of Snapes sallow face turn a nasty brick color, the vein in his temple pulsing more rapidly.
"You know I'm hiding nothing, Moody," he said in a soft and dangerous voice, "as you've searched my office pretty thoroughly yourself."
Moodys face twisted into a smile. "Auror's privilege, Snape. Dumbledore told me to keep an eye -"
"Dumbledore happens to trust me," said Snape through clenched teeth. "I refuse to believe that he gave you orders to search my office!"
"Course Dumbledore trusts you," growled Moody. "Hes a trusting man, isn't he? Believes in second chances. But me - I say there are spots that don't come off, Snape. Spots that never come off, d'you know what I mean?"
Snape suddenly did something very strange. He seized his left forearm convulsively with his right hand, as though something on it had hurt him.
Moody laughed. "Get back to bed, Snape."
"You don't have the authority to send me anywhere!" Snape hissed, letting go of his arm as though angry with himself. "I have as much right to prowl this school after dark as you do!"
"Prowl away," said Moody, but his voice was full of menace. "I look forward to meeting you in a dark corridor some time.... You've dropped something, by the way. ..."
With a stab of horror. Harry saw Moody point at the Marauders Map, still lying on the staircase six steps below him. As Snape and Filch both turned to look at it, Harry threw caution to the winds; he raised his arms under the cloak and waved furiously at Moody to attract his attention, mouthing "It's mine! Mine!"
Snape had reached out for it, a horrible expression of dawning comprehension on his face -
The map flew up into the air, slipped through Snapes outstretched fingers, and soared down the stairs into Moodys hand.
"My mistake," Moody said calmly. "It's mine - must've dropped it earlier -"
But Snape's black eyes were darting from the egg in Filch's arms to the map in Moodys hand, and Harry could tell he was putting two and two together, as only Snape could. . . .
"Potter," he said quietly.
"What's that?" said Moody calmly, folding up the map and pocketing it.
"Potter!" Snape snarled, and he actually turned his head and stared right at the place where Harry was, as though he could suddenly see him. "That egg is Potters egg. That piece of parchment belongs to Potter. I have seen it before, I recognize it! Potter is here! Potter, in his Invisibility Cloak!"
Snape stretched out his hands like a blind man and began to move up the stairs; Harry could have sworn his over-large nostrils were dilating, trying to sniff Harry out - trapped. Harry leaned backward, trying to avoid Snapes fingertips, but any moment now-
"There's nothing there, Snape!" barked Moody, "but I'll be happy to tell the headmaster how quickly your mind jumped to Harry Potter!"
"Meaning what?" Snape turned again to look at Moody, his hands still outstretched, inches from Harry's chest.
"Meaning that Dumbledore's very interested to know who's got it in for that boy!" said Moody, limping nearer still to the foot of the stairs. "And so am I, Snape . . . very interested...." The torchlight flickered across his mangled face, so that the scars, and the chunk missing from
his nose, looked deeper and darker than ever.
Snape was looking down at Moody, and Harry couldn't see the expression on his face. For a moment, nobody moved or said anything. Then Snape slowly lowered his hands.
"I merely thought," said Snape, in a voice of forced calm, "that if Potter was wandering around after hours again ... it's an unfortunate habit of his ... he should be stopped. For - for his own safety."
"Ah, I see," said Moody softly. "Got Potter's best interests at heart, have you?"
There was a pause. Snape and Moody were still staring at each other, Mrs. Norris gave a loud meow, still peering around Filch's legs, looking for the source of Harry's bubble-bath smell.
"I think I will go back to bed," Snape said curtly.
"Best idea you've had all night," said Moody. "Now, Filch, if you'll just give me that egg-"
"No!" said Filch, clutching the egg as though it were his firstborn son. "Professor Moody, this is evidence of Peeves' treachery!"
"It's the property of the champion he stole it from," said Moody. Hand it over, now."
Snape swept downstairs and passed Moody without another word. Filch made a chirruping noise to Mrs. Norris, who stared blankly at Harry for a few more seconds before turning and following her master. Still breathing very fast. Harry heard Snape walking away down the corridor; Filch handed Moody the egg and disappeared from view too, muttering to Mrs. Norris. "Never mind. my sweet.. . we'll see Dumbledore in the morning ... tell him what Peeves was up to...."
Moody took hold of Harrys arms and pulled; Harrys leg came free of the trick step, and he climbed onto the one above it. Moody was still gazing at the map.
"Potter ..." he said slowly, "you didn't happen, by any chance, to see who broke into Snapes office, did you? On this map, I mean?"
"Er . . . yeah, I did . . ." Harry admitted. "It was Mr. Crouch."
Moody scared him slightly. . . yet Moody had just helped him avoid an awful lot of trouble. . . .
"Er ... Professor Moody . . . why d'you reckon Mr. Crouch wanted to look around Snapes office?"
Moodys magical eye left the map and fixed, quivering, upon Harry. It was a penetrating glare, and Harry had the impression that Moody was sizing him up, wondering whether to answer or not, or how much to tell him.
"Put it this way. Potter," Moody muttered finally, "they say old Mad-Eye's obsessed with catching Dark wizards . . . but I'm nothing - nothing - compared to Barty Crouch."
Harry walked slowly back to Gryffindor Tower, lost in thought about Snape, and Crouch, and what it all meant.... Why was Crouch pretending to be ill, if he could manage to get to Hogwarts when he wanted to? What did he think Snape was concealing in his office?
"Just forget the egg for a minute, all right?" Harry hissed as Professor Flitwick went whizzing resignedly past them, landing on top of a large cabinet. "I'm trying to tell you about Snape and Moody. ..."
This class was an ideal cover for a private conversation, as everyone was having far too much fun to pay them any attention. Harry had been recounting his adventures of the previous night in whispered installments for the last half hour.
"Snape said Moodys searched his office as well?" Ron whispered, his eyes alight with interest as he Banished a cushion with a sweep of his wand (it soared into the air and knocked Parvati's hat off). "What. . . d'you reckon Moody's here to keep an eye on Snape as well as Karkaroff?"
"Well, I dunno if that's what Dumbledore asked him to do, but he's definitely doing it," said Harry, waving his wand without paying much attention, so that his cushion did an odd sort of belly flop off the desk. "Moody said Dumbledore only lets Snape stay here because he's giving him a second chance or something. ..."
"What?" said Ron, his eyes widening, his next cushion spinning high into the air, ricocheting off the chandelier, and dropping heavily onto Flitwick's desk. "Harry... maybe Moody thinks Snape put your name in the Goblet of Fire!"
"Oh Ron," said Hermione, shaking her head sceptically, "we thought Snape was trying to kill Harry before, and it turned out he was saving Harry's life, remember?"
She Banished a cushion and it flew across the room and landed in the box they were all supposed to be aiming at. Harry looked at Hermione, thinking... it was true that Snape had saved his life once, but the odd thing was, Snape definitely loathed him, just as he'd loathed Harry s father when they had been at school together. Snape loved taking points from Harry, and had certainly never missed an opportunity to give him punishments, or even to suggest that he should be suspended from the school.
"I don't care what Moody says," Hermione went on. "Dumbledore's not stupid. He was right to trust Hagrid and Professor Lupin, even though loads of people wouldn't have given them jobs, so why shouldn't he be right about Snape, even if Snape is a bit -"
"- evil," said Ron promptly. "Come on, Hermione, why are all these Dark wizard catchers searching his office, then?"
"Why has Mr. Crouch been pretending to be ill?" said Hermione, ignoring Ron. "Its a bit funny, isn't it, that he cant manage to come to the Yule Ball, but he can get up here in the middle of the night when he wants to?"
"You just don't like Crouch because of that elf, Winky," said Ron, sending a cushion soaring into the window.
"You just want to think Snapes up to something," said Hermione, sending her cushion zooming neatly into the box.
"I just want to know what Snape did with his first chance, if he's on his second one," said Harry grimly, and his cushion, to his very great surprise, flew straight across the room and landed neatly on top of Hermione's.
Obedient to Sirius's wish of hearing about anything odd at Hogwarts, Harry sent him a letter by brown owl that night, explaining all about Mr. Crouch breaking into Snape s office, and Moody and Snape's conversation. Then Harry turned his attention in earnest to the most urgent problem facing him: how to survive underwater for an hour on the twenty-fourth of February.
Harry scribbled the dates down on the back of Sirius's letter, tied it onto the brown owl's leg, and watched it take flight again. What had he expected? Advice on how to survive underwater? He had been so intent on telling Sirius all about Snape and Moody he had completely forgotten to mention the eggs clue.
"You might find something to interest you in there, Granger!" Pansy said loudly, and she threw the magazine at Hermione, who caught it, looking startled. At that moment, the dungeon door opened, and Snape beckoned them all inside.
Hermione, Harry, and Ron headed for a table at the back of the dungeon as usual. Once Snape had turned his back on them to write up the ingredients of todays potion on the blackboard, Hermione hastily rifled through the magazine under the desk.
"Well, I was too busy seeing whether you and Harry were okay to-"
"Fascinating though your social life undoubtedly is. Miss Granger," said an icy voice right behind them, and all three of them jumped, "I must ask you not to discuss it in my class. Ten points from Gryffindor."
Snape had glided over to their desk while they were talking. The whole class was now looking around at them; Malfoy took the opportunity to flash POTTER STINKS across the dungeon at Harry.
"Ah . . . reading magazines under the table as well?" Snape added, snatching up the copy of Witch Weekly. "A further ten points from Gryffindor ... oh but of course ..." Snapes black eyes glittered as they fell on Rita Skeeter's article. "Potter has to keep up with his press cuttings. . . ."
The dungeon rang with the Slytherins' laughter, and an unpleasant smile curled Snape's thin mouth. To Harry's fury, he began to read the article aloud.
"'Harry Potter's Secret Heartache. . . dear, dear. Potter, what's ailing you now? 'A boy like no other, perhaps. . .'"
Harry could feel his face burning. Snape was pausing at the end of every sentence to allow the Slytherins a hearty laugh. The article sounded ten times worse when read by Snape. Even Hermione was blushing scarlet now.
"'. . . Harry Potter's well-wishers must hope that, next time, he bestows his heart upon a worthier candidate.' How very touching," sneered Snape, rolling up the magazine to continued gales of laughter from the Slytherins. "Well, I think I had better separate the three of you, so you can keep your minds on your potions rather than on your tangled love lives. Weasley, you stay here. Miss Granger, over there, beside Miss Parkinson. Potter - that table in front of my desk. Move. Now."
Furious, Harry threw his ingredients and his bag into his cauldron and dragged it up to the front of the dungeon to the empty table. Snape followed, sat down at his desk and watched Harry unload his cauldron. Determined not to look at Snape, Harry resumed the mashing of his scarab beetles, imagining each one to have Snape's face.
"All this press attention seems to have inflated your already over-large head. Potter," said Snape quietly, once the rest of the class had settled down again.
Harry didn't answer. He knew Snape was trying to provoke him; he had done this before. No doubt he was hoping for an excuse to take a round fifty points from Gryffindor before the end of the class.
"You might be laboring under the delusion that the entire wizarding world is impressed with you," Snape went on, so quietly that no one else could hear him (Harry continued to pound his scarab beetles, even though he had already reduced them to a very fine powder), "but I don't care how many times your picture appears in the papers. To me. Potter, you are nothing but a nasty little boy who considers rules to be beneath him."
Harry tipped the powdered beetles into his cauldron and started cutting up his ginger roots. His hands were shaking slightly out of anger, but he kept his eyes down, as though he couldn't hear what Snape was saying to him.
"So I give you fair warning, Potter," Snape continued in a sorter and more dangerous voice, "pint-sized celebrity or not - if I catch you breaking into my officee one more time -"
"I haven't been anywhere near your office!" said Harry angrily, forgetting his feigned deafness.
"Don't lie to me," Snape hissed, his fathomless black eyes boring into Harrys. "Boomslang skin. Gillyweed. Both come from my private stores, and I know who stole them."
Harry stared back at Snape, determined not to blink or to look guilty. In truth, he hadn't stolen either of these things from Snape. Hermione had taken the boomslang skin back in their second year - they had needed it for the Polyjuice Potion - and while Snape had suspected Harry at the time, he had never been able to prove it. Dobby, of course, had stolen the gillyweed.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Harry lied coldly.
"You were out of bed on the night my office was broken into!" Snape hissed. "I know it. Potter! Now, Mad-Eye Moody might have joined your fan club, but I will not tolerate your behavior! One more nighttime stroll into my office, Potter, and you will pay!"
"Right," said Harry coolly, turning back to his ginger roots. "I'll bear that in mind if I ever get the urge to go in there."
Snape's eyes flashed. He plunged a hand into the inside of his black robes. For one wild moment. Harry thought Snape was about to pull out his wand and curse him - then he saw that Snape had drawn out a small crystal bottle of a completely clear potion. Harry stared at it.
"Do you know what this is. Potter?" Snape said, his eyes glittering dangerously again.
"No," said Harry, with complete honesty this time.
"It is Veritaserum - a Truth Potion so powerful that three drops would have you spilling your innermost secrets for this entire class to hear," said Snape viciously. "Now, the use of this potion is controlled by very strict Ministry guidelines. But unless you watch your step, you might just find that my hand slips" - he shook the crystal bottle slightly - "right over your evening pumpkin juice. And then. Potter . . . then we'll find out whether you've been in my office or not."
Harry said nothing. He turned back to his ginger roots once more, picked up his knife, and started slicing them again. He didn't like the sound of that Truth Potion at all, nor would he put it past Snape to slip him some. He repressed a shudder at the thought of what might come spilling out of his mouth if Snape did it... quite apart from landing a whole lot of people in trouble - Hermione and Dobby for a start - there were all the other things he was concealing . . . like the fact that he was in contact with Sirius . . . and - his insides squirmed at the thought - how he felt about Cho. ... He tipped hhis ginger roots into the cauldron too, and wondered whether he ought to take a leaf out of Moody s book and start drinking only from a private hip flask.
There was a knock on the dungeon door.
"Enter," said Snape in his usual voice.
The class looked around as the door opened. Professor Karkaroff came in. Everyone watched him as he walked up toward Snape's desk. He was twisting his finger around his goatee and looking agitated.
"We need to talk," said Karkaroff abruptly when he had reached Snape. He seemed so determined that nobody should hear what he was saying that he was barely opening his lips; it was as though he were a rather poor ventriloquist. Harry kept his eyes on his ginger roots, listening hard.
"I'll talk to you after my lesson, Karkaroff," Snape muttered, but Karkaroff interrupted him.
"I want to talk now, while you can't slip off, Severus. You've been avoiding me."
"After the lesson," Snape snapped.
Under the pretext of holding up a measuring cup to see if he'd poured out enough armadillo bile, Harry sneaked a sidelong glance at the pair of them. Karkaroff looked extremely worried, and Snape looked angry.
Karkaroff hovered behind Snape's desk for the rest of the double period. He seemed intent on preventing Snape from slipping away at the end of class. Keen to hear what Karkaroff wanted to say, Harry deliberately knocked over his bottle of armadillo bile with two minutes to go to the bell, which gave him an excuse to duck down behind his cauldron and mop up while the rest of the class moved noisily toward the door.
"What's so urgent?" he heard Snape hiss at Karkaroff.
"This," said Karkaroff, and Harry, peering around the edge of his cauldron, saw Karkaroff pull up the left-hand sleeve of his robe and show Snape something on his inner forearm.
"Well?" said Karkaroff, still making every effort not to move his lips. "Do you see? It's never been this clear, never since - "
"Put it away!" snarled Snape, his black eyes sweeping the classroom.
"But you must have noticed -" Karkaroff began in an agitated voice.
"We can talk later, Karkaroff!" spat Snape. "Potter! What are you doing?"
"Clearing up my armadillo bile, Professor," said Harry innocently, straightening up and showing Snape the sodden rag he was holding.
Karkaroff turned on his heel and strode out of the dungeon. He looked both worried and angry. Not wanting to remain alone with an exceptionally angry Snape, Harry threw his books and ingredients back into his bag and left at top speed to tell Ron and Hermione what he had just witnessed.
"Moody says Crouch is obsessed with catching Dark wizards," Harry told Sirius.
"Yeah, I've heard it's become a bit of a mania with him," said Sirius, nodding. "If you ask me, he still thinks he can bring back the old popularity by catching one more Death Eater."
"And he sneaked up here to search Snape's office!" s aid Ron triumphantly, looking at Hermione.
"Yes, and that doesn't make sense at all," said Sirius.
"Yeah, it does!" said Ron excitedly, but Sirius shook his head.
"Listen, if Crouch wants to investigate Snape, why hasn't he been coming to judge the tournament? It would be an ideal excuse to make regular visits to Hogwarts and keep an eye on him."
"So you think Snape could be up to something, then?" asked Harry, but Hermione broke in.
"Look, I don't care what you say, Dumbledore trusts Snape -"
"Oh give it a rest, Hermione," said Ron impatiently. "I know Dumbledores brilliant and everything, but that doesn't mean a really clever Dark wizard couldn't fool him -"
"Why did Snape save Harry's life in the first year, then? Why didn't he just let him die?"
"I dunno - maybe he thought Dumbledore would kick him out-"
"What d'you think, Sirius?" Harry said loudly, and Ron and Hermione stopped bickering to listen.
"I think they've both got a point," said Sirius, looking thoughtfully at Ron and Hermione. "Ever since I found out Snape was teaching here, I've wondered why Dumbledore hired him. Snape's always been fascinated by the Dark Arts, he was famous for it at school. Slimy, oily, greasy-haired kid, he was," Sirius added, and Harry and Ron grinned at each other. "Snape knew more curses when he arrived at school than half the kids in seventh year, and he was part of a gang of Slytherins who nearly all turned out to be Death Eaters."
Sirius held up his fingers and began ticking off names.
"Rosier and Wilkes - they were both killed by Aurors the year before Voldemort fell. The Lestranges - they're a married couple - they're in Azkaban. Avery - from what I've heard he wormed his way out of trouble by saying he'd been acting under the Imperius Curse - he's still at large. But as far as I know, Snape was never even accused of being a Death Eater - not that that means much. Plenty of them were never caught. And Snape s certainly clever and cunning enough to keep himself out of trouble."
"Snape knows Karkaroff pretty well, but he wants to keep that quiet," said Ron.
"Yeah, you should've seen Snape's face when Karkaroff turned up in Potions yesterday!" said Harry quickly. "Karkaroff wanted to talk to Snape, he says Snape's been avoiding him. Karkaroff looked really worried. He showed Snape something on his arm, but I couldn't see what it was."
He showed Snape something on his arm?" said Sirius, looking frankly bewildered. He ran his fingers distractedly through his filthy hair, then shrugged again. "Well, I've no idea what that's about. . . but if Karkaroff s genuinely worried, and he's going to Snape for answers ..."
Sirius stared at the cave wall, then made a grimace of frustration.
"There's still the fact that Dumbledore trusts Snape, and I know Dumbledore trusts where a lot of other people wouldn't, but I just can't see him letting Snape teach at Hogwarts if he'd ever worked for Voldemort."
"Why are Moody and Crouch so keen to get into Snapes office then?" said Ron stubbornly.
"Well," said Sirius slowly, "I wouldn't put it past Mad-Eye to have searched every single teacher's office when he got to Hogwarts. He takes his Defense Against the Dark Arts seriously, Moody. I'm not sure he trusts anyone at all, and after the things he's seen, it's not surprising. I'll say this for Moody, though, he never killed if he could help it. Always brought people in alive where possible. He was tough, but he never descended to the level of the Death Eaters. Crouch, though . . . he's a different matter ... is he really ill? If he is, why did he make the effort to drag himself up to Snape's office? And if he's not. . . what's he up to? What was he doing at the World Cup that was so important he didn't turn up in the Top Box? What's he been doing while he should have been judging the tournament?"
Perhaps Dumbledore was in the staffroom? He started running as fast as he could toward the staircase -
Harry skidded to a halt and looked around. Snape had just emerged from the hidden staircase behind the stone gargoyle. The wall was sliding shut behind him even as he beckoned Harry back toward him.
"What are you doing here, Potter?"
"I need to see Professor Dumbledore!" said Harry, running back up the corridor and skidding to a standstill in front of Snape instead. "It's Mr. Crouch . . . he's just turned up ... he's in the forest... he's asking -"
"What is this rubbish?" said Snape, his black eyes glittering. "What are you talking about?"
"Mr. Crouch!" Harry shouted. "From the Ministry! He's ill or something - he's in the forest, he wants to see Dumbledore! Just give me the password up to -"
"The headmaster is busy. Potter," said Snape, his thin mouth curling into an unpleasant smile.
"I've got to tell Dumbledore!" Harry yelled.
"Didn't you hear me. Potter?"
Harry could tell Snape was thoroughly enjoying himself, denying Harry the thing he wanted when he was so panicky.
"Look," said Harry angrily, "Crouch isn't right - he's - he's out of his mind - he says he wants to warn -"
The stone wall behind Snape slid open. Dumbledore was standing there, wearing long green robes and a mildly curious expression. "Is there a problem?" he said, looking between Harry and Snape.
"Professor!" Harry said, sidestepping Snape before Snape could speak, "Mr. Crouch is here - he's down in the forest, he wants to speak to you!"
Harry expected Dumbledore to ask questions, but to his relief, Dumbledore did nothing of the sort.
"Lead the way," he said promptly, and he swept off along the corridor behind Harry, leaving Snape standing next to the gargoyle and looking twice as ugly.
Moody was limping toward them, leaning on his staff, his wand lit.
"Damn leg," he said furiously. "Would've been here quicker . . . what's happened? Snape said something about Crouch -"
"Crouch?" said Hagrid blankly.
Harry turned away from the window and stared up into the rafters. The many perches were half-empty; every now and then, another owl would swoop in through one of the windows, returning from its night's hunting with a mouse in its beak.
"If Snape hadn't held me up," Harry said bitterly, "we might've got there in time. 'The headmaster is busy. Potter . . . what's this rubbish, Potter?' Why couldn't he have just got out of the way?"
"Maybe he didn't want you to get there!" said Ron quickly. "Maybe - hang on - how fast d'you reckon he could've gotten down to the forest? D'you reckon he could've beaten you and Dumbledore there?"
"Not unless he can turn himself into a bat or something," said Harry.
"Wouldn't put it past him," Ron muttered.
"But Travers and Mulciber we have," said Mr. Crouch. "Very well, Karkaroff, if that is all, you will be returned to Azkaban while we decide -"
"Not yet!" cried Karkaroff, looking quite desperate. "Wait, I have more!"
Harry could see him sweating in the torchlight, his white skin contrasting strongly with the black of his hair and beard.
"Snape!" he shouted. "Severus Snape!"
"Snape has been cleared by this council," said Crouch disdainfully. "He has been vouched for by Albus Dumbledore."
"No!" shouted Karkaroff, straining at the chains that bound him to the chair. "I assure you! Severus Snape is a Death Eater!"
Dumbledore had gotten to his feet.
"I have given evidence already on this matter," he said calmly. "Severus Snape was indeed a Death Eater. However, he rejoined our side before Lord Voldemort's downfall and turned spy for us, at great personal risk. He is now no more a Death Eater than I am."
Harry turned to look at Mad-Eye Moody. He was wearing a look of deep skepticism behind Dumbledore's back.
Dumbledore placed his long hands on either side of the Pensieve and swirled it, rather as a gold prospector would pan for fragments of gold.... and Harry saw his own face change smoothly into Snape's, who opened his mouth and spoke to the ceiling, his voice echoing slightly.
"It's coming back . . . Karkaroff's too . . . stronger and clearer than ever..."
"A connection I could have made without assistance," Dumbledore sighed, "but never mind." He peered over the top of his half-moon spectacles at Harry, who was gaping at Snape's face, which was continuing to swirl around the bowl. "I was using the Pensieve when Mr. Fudge arrived for our meeting and put it away rather hastily. Undoubtedly I did not fasten the cabinet door properly. Naturally, it would have attracted your attention."
"I'm sorry," Harry mumbled.
Dumbledore shook his head. "Curiosity is not a sin," he said. "But we should exercise caution with our curiosity. . . yes, indeed ..."
Frowning slightly, he prodded the thoughts within the basin with the tip of his wand. Instantly, a figure rose out of it, a plump, scowling girl of about sixteen, who began to revolve slowly, with her feet still in the basin. She took no notice whatsoever of Harry or Professor Dumbledore. When she spoke, her voice echoed as Snape's had done, as though it were coming from the depths of the stone basin. "He put a hex on me, Professor Dumbledore, and I
was only teasing him, sir, I only said I'd seen him kissing Florence behind the greenhouses last Thursday. . . ."
"Right," said Harry hastily, staring at the contents of the Pensieve again, which were swirling more slowly now that Dumbledore had stopped adding thoughts. "And ... er ..."
But the Pensieve seemed to be asking his question for him.
Snape's face was swimming on the surface again. Dumbledore glanced down into it, and then up at Harry.
"No more has Professor Snape," he said.
Harry looked into Dumbledore's light blue eyes, and the thing he really wanted to know spilled out of his mouth before he could stop it.
"What made you think he'd really stopped supporting Voldemort, Professor?"
Dumbledore held Harry's gaze for a few seconds, and then said, "That, Harry, is a matter between Professor Snape and myself."
Harry knew that the interview was over; Dumbledore did not look angry, yet there was a finality in his tone that told Harry it was time to go. He stood up, and so did Dumbledore.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat up late in the common room once again that night, talking it all over until Harry's mind was reeling, until he understood what Dumbledore had meant about a head becoming so full of thoughts that it would have been a relief to siphon them off.
Ron stared into the common room fire. Harry thought he saw Ron shiver slightly, even though the evening was warm.
"And he trusts Snape?" Ron said. "He really trusts Snape, even though he knows he was a Death Eater?"
"Yes," said Harry.
"So what could I do? Feed you information from another innocent source. You told me at the Yule Ball a house-elf called Dobby had given you a Christmas present. I called the elf to the staffroom to collect some robes for cleaning. I staged a loud conversation with Professor McGonagall about the hostages who had been taken, and whether Potter would think to use gillyweed. And your little elf friend ran straight to Snape's office and then hurried to find you..."
Moody raised his wand, he opened his mouth; Harry plunged his own hand into his robes -
"Stupefy!" There was a blinding flash of red light, and with a great splintering and crashing, the door of Moody's office was blasted apart -
Moody was thrown backward onto the office floor. Harry, still staring at the place where Moody's face had been, saw Albus Dumbledore, Professor Snape, and Professor McGonagall looking back at him out of the Foe-Glass. He looked around and saw the three of them standing in the doorway, Dumbledore in front, his wand outstretched.
At that moment, Harry fully understood for the first time why people said Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort had ever feared. The look upon Dumbledore's face as he stared down at the unconscious form of Mad-Eye Moody was more terrible than Harry could have ever imagined. There was no benign smile upon Dumbledore's face, no twinkle in the eyes behind the spectacles. There was cold fury in every line of the ancient face; a sense of power radiated from Dumbledore as though he were giving off burning heat.
He stepped into the office, placed a foot underneath Moodys unconscious body, and kicked him over onto his back, so that his face was visible. Snape followed him, looking into the Foe-Glass, where his own face was still visible, glaring into the room. Professor McGonagall went straight to Harry.
Dumbledore bent down over Moody's limp form and put a hand inside his robes. He pulled out Moody's hip flask and a set of keys on a ring. Then he turned to Professors McGonagall and Snape.
"Severus, please fetch me the strongest Truth Potion you possess, and then go down to the kitchens and bring up the house-elf called Winky. Minerva, kindly go down to Hagrid's house, where you will find a large black dog sitting in the pumpkin patch. Take the dog up to my office, tell him I will be with him shortly, then come back here."
If either Snape or McGonagall found these instructions peculiar, they hid their confusion. Both turned at once and left the office.
There were hurried footsteps outside in the corridor. Snape had returned with Winky at his heels. Professor McGonagall was right behind them.
"Crouch!" Snape said, stopping dead in the doorway. "Barty Crouch!"
"Good heavens," said Professor McGonagall, stopping dead and staring down at the man on the floor.
Filthy, disheveled, Winky peered around Snape's legs. Her mouth opened wide and she let out a piercing shriek.
"Master Barty, Master Barty, what is you doing here?"
She flung herself forward onto the young man's chest.
"You is killed him! You is killed him! You is killed Master's son!"
"He is simply Stunned, Winky," said Dumbledore. "Step aside, please. Severus, you have the potion?"
Snape handed Dumbledore a small glass bottle of completely clear liquid: the Veritaserum with which he had threatened Harry in class. Dumbledore got up, bent over the man on the floor, and pulled him into a sitting position against the wall beneath the Foe-Glass, in which the reflections of Dumbledore, Snape, and McGonagall were still glaring down upon them all. Winky remained on her knees, trembling, her hands over her face. Dumbledore forced the mans mouth open and poured three drops inside it. Then he pointed his wand at the mans chest and said, "Ennervate."
"Map?" said Dumbledore quickly. "What map is this?"
"Potter's map of Hogwarts. Potter saw me on it. Potter saw me stealing more ingredients for the Polyjuice Potion from Snape's office one night. He thought I was my father. We have the same first name. I took the map from Potter that night. I told him my father hated Dark wizards. Potter believed my father was after Snape.
"You killed your father," Dumbledore said, in the same soft voice. "What did you do with the body?"
"Carried it into the forest. Covered it with the Invisibility Cloak. I had the map with me. I watched Potter run into the castle. He met Snape. Dumbledore joined them. I watched Potter bringing Dumbledore out of the castle. I walked back out of the forest, doubled around behind them, went to meet them. I told Dumbledore Snape had told me where to come."
"Of course," said Professor McGonagall. She looked slightly nauseous, as though she had just watched someone being sick. However, when she drew out her wand and pointed it at Barty Crouch, her hand was quite steady.
"Severus" - Dumbledore turned to Snape - "please tell Madam Pomfrey to come down here; we need to get Alastor Moody into the hospital wing. Then go down into the grounds, find Cornelius Fudge, and bring him up to this office. He will undoubtedly want to question Crouch himself. Tell him I will be in the hospital wing in half an hour's time if he needs me."
Snape nodded silently and swept out of the room.
Harry heard the hospital doors burst open. Unnoticed by any of the people around his bed, all of whom were staring at the door as Bill pulled back the screens, Harry sat up and put his glasses back on.
Fudge came striding up the ward. Professors McGonagall and Snape were at his heels.
"When we told Mr. Fudge that we had caught the Death Eater responsible for tonight's events," said Snape, in a low voice; he seemed to feel his personal safety was in question. He insisted on summoning a dementor to accompany him into the castle. He brought it up to the office where Barty Crouch -"
"I told him you would not agree, Dumbledore!" McGonagall fumed. "I told him you would never allow dementors to set foot inside the castle, but -"
"Look, I saw Voldemort come back!" Harry shouted. He tried to get out of bed again, but Mrs. Weasley forced him back. "I saw the Death Eaters! I can give you their names! Lucius Malfoy -"
Snape made a sudden movement, but as Harry looked at him, Snape's eyes flew back to Fudge.
"Malfoy was cleared!" said Fudge, visibly affronted. "A very old family - donations to excellent causes -"
It seemed Fudge could think of no answer to this. He rocked backward and forward on his small feet for a moment and spun his bowler hat in his hands. Finally, he said, with a hint of a plea in his voice, "He can't be back, Dumbledore, he just can't be ..."
Snape strode forward, past Dumbledore, pulling up the left sleeve of his robes as he went. He stuck out his forearm and showed it to Fudge, who recoiled.
"There," said Snape harshly. "There. The Dark Mark. It is not as clear as it was an hour or so ago, when it burned black, but you can still see it. Every Death Eater had the sign burned into him by the Dark Lord. It was a means of distinguishing one another, and his means of summoning us to him. When he touched the Mark of any Death Eater, we were to Disapparate, and Apparate, instantly, at his side. This Mark has been growing clearer all year. Karkaroff's too. Why do you think Karkaroff fled tonight? We both felt the Mark burn. We both knew he had returned. Karkaroff fears the Dark Lord's vengeance. He betrayed too many of his fellow Death Eaters to be sure of a welcome back into the fold."
Fudge stepped back from Snape too. He was shaking his head. He did not seem to have taken in a word Snape had said. He stared, apparently repelled by the ugly mark on Snape's arm, then looked up at Dumbledore and whispered, "I don't know what you and your staff are playing at, Dumbledore, but I have heard enough. I have no more to add. I will be in touch with you tomorrow, Dumbledore, to discuss the running of this school. I must return to the Ministry."
Mrs. Weasley screamed and leapt back from the bed.
"Sirius Black!" she shrieked, pointing at him.
"Mum, shut up!" Ron yelled. "It's okay!"
Snape had not yelled or jumped backward, but the look on his face was one of mingled fury and horror.
"Him!" he snarled, staring at Sirius, whose face showed equal dislike. "What is he doing here?"
"He is here at my invitation," said Dumbledore, looking between them, "as are you, Severus. I trust you both. It is time for you to lay aside your old differences and trust each other."
Harry thought Dumbledore was asking for a near miracle. Sirius and Snape were eyeing each other with the utmost loathing.
"I will settle, in the short term," said Dumbledore, with a bite of impatience in his voice, "for a lack of open hostility. You will shake hands. You are on the same side now. Time is short, and unless the few of us who know the truth do not stand united, there is no hope
for any us.
Very slowly - but still glaring at each other as though each wished the other nothing but ill - Sirius and Snape moved toward each other and shook hands. They let go extremely quickly.
"That will do to be going on with," said Dumbledore, stepping between them once more. "Now I have work for each of you. Fudge's attitude, though not unexpected, changes everything. Sirius, I need you to set off at once. You are to alert Remus Lupin, Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher - the old crowd. Lie low at Lupin's for a while; I will contact you there."
"But -" said Harry.
He wanted Sirius to stay. He did not want to have to say goodbye again so quickly.
"You'll see me very soon. Harry," said Sirius, turning to him. "I promise you. But I must do what I can, you understand, don't you?"
"Yeah," said Harry. "Yeah . . . of course I do."
Sirius grasped his hand briefly, nodded to Dumbledore, transformed again into the black dog, and ran the length of the room to the door, whose handle he turned with a paw. Then he was gone.
"Severus," said Dumbledore, turning to Snape, "you know what I must ask you to do. If you are ready . . . if you are prepared ..."
"I am," said Snape.
He looked slightly paler than usual, and his cold, black eyes glittered strangely.
"Then good luck," said Dumbledore, and he watched, with a trace of apprehension on his face, as Snape swept wordlessly after Sirius.
It was several minutes before Dumbledore spoke again.
Madame Maxime was still there. She was sitting next to Hagrid. They were talking quietly together. Further along the table, sitting next to Professor McGonagall, was Snape. His eyes lingered on Harry for a moment as Harry looked at him. His expression was difficult to read. He looked as sour and unpleasant as ever. Harry continued to watch him, long after Snape had looked away.
What was it that Snape had done on Dumbledore's orders, the night that Voldemort had returned? And why. . . why . . . was Dumbledore so convinced that Snape was truly on their side? He had been their spy, Dumbledore had said so in the Pensieve. Snape had turned spy against Voldemort, "at great personal risk." Was that the job he had taken up again? Had he made contact with the Death Eaters, perhaps? Pretended that he had never really gone over to Dumbledore, that he had been, like Voldemort himself, biding his time?