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Free Will and Fate by Sara Winters
Chapter 37 : Concrete Evidence
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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            Hermione looked into his eyes anxiously the moment they sat down in Professor McGonagall's office again. "How was it?" she asked.

            "Strange," Harry responded immediately. His eyes followed the Headmistress as she sat down at her desk, listening to his answer. "I haven't seen anyone's memories like that except for Snape's, but this was so…different. It was like looking at myself, but not really. Like seeing another person who looks like me, living a totally different life. Like watching a movie where I know all of the characters, but the story doesn't make sense." He didn’t think he was making any sense, but didn't question it when she nodded at his response.

            Hermione sat back in her chair and began playing with her hair, an expression of concern fixed on her face. "That does sound unusual, but you had to have expected as much. Did you see anything?"

            Harry grinned. "I saw the first time you kissed me." He laughed as Hermione began to blush. He also saw a quite few other things he wasn't going to mention with Professor McGonagall sitting a few feet away. "You ran pretty fast afterwards."

            She rolled her eyes. "Thank you for reminding me, Harry," she said. "I meant something useful about your attack or anything from this past summer."

            "No. Well, I don't know if it's really useful," he said. "My mum and I were arguing about Snape before she left. Then I was at the station talking to Draco on the platform. We were waiting on the Hogwarts Express to arrive, it was that early. Hardly anyone else was there." Harry looked off into space for a moment, trying to recall every detail of what he'd seen.

            "Was anyone else there?" Hermione asked.

            Harry nodded. "Lucius Malfoy was there, but he didn't come after me or anything, not that I could see. He was just standing a little ways off on the platform."

            "Well then, what happened? I got there around ten-thirty and I don't remember you on the train or in the station at all. Draco was already in the Prefects compartment and he said you would be on the train soon."

            Harry shook his head. "I couldn't find the exact memory because part of it had been Obliviated. One minute Draco and I were standing there talking about nothing really, drinking bottles of butterbeer—"

            "That time of morning?" McGonagall asked. "Unusual drink for just after breakfast."

            "I suppose," Harry said. "I don't even know where we got them from. I saw myself talking to Draco, finishing off my drink and then telling him I was going to the bathroom." He shrugged. "Then everything went dark. Dumbledore said we'd try again when I've recovered a bit more. He says he may be able to restore more of the memory when my mind can take it."

            "The potion must've been in your drink at the station," Hermione said. "I wonder if Mr. Malfoy had been instructed to give you one last dose before he cursed you. It's not like you can buy butterbeer anywhere near King's Cross. He would've had to bring them with him."

            "Or Draco," Harry suggested. "You've seen him in some of my memories. I don’t care what our relationship has been like, I don't know if he can be trusted. He was standing there drinking with me. How do I know it wasn't his idea? He was the only person who knew I was in the bathroom."

            "It's not a lot to go on," Hermione said. "I suppose we can let the Minister figure it out when we give him everything. He'll have a lot to consider when bringing charges."

            "Yeah, assuming he does anything at all. Do you really think he wants anyone to know he trusted Snape all this time when he shouldn't have or that all of his notes on Voldemort were stolen from the Ministry?" Harry asked. "It could make him look like he didn't have control of what was going on, similar to what Fudge had feared when Dumbledore and I were trying to tell him Voldemort was back. I hope the same thing doesn't happen."

            "I don't believe the Minister would let pride get the better of his judgment," McGonagall said. "I also do not believe he will let any of the guilty parties get away, if only because he knows I can go to the Wizengamot if he does not."

            Harry wanted to believe her assessment of the situation, but he knew all too well what it was like when powerful men feared what would happen to them if their subordinates lost confidence in their abilities. He didn't want to place the risk of Voldemort coming back on Dumbledore's ego. He would personally take care of Snape before any of his plans could be carried out, and he knew exactly how to do it.

            "How difficult would it be to get a Pensieve?" Harry asked.

            McGonagall looked startled by the question. "Well, I don't know. You could try Dervish and Banges down in Hogsmeade, but it's such an expensive item, they may not carry any. There is at least one shop in Diagon Alley that should have one in stock, but that's not a guarantee either. I suppose you could mail order one. Why?"

            Harry shrugged. "I was thinking that if they couldn't get the Key back from me in time, with me in your office most of the day, they might just try to retrieve one of their own memories of reading it and make a copy. Or they could even try Legilimency to duplicate it."

            McGonagall shook her head. "It would be better if they were to go through the memory itself instead of trying to view it from someone else. It would be easier to read that way. I don't suppose they'd do that unless it was a last resort," she said. "I don't think it would be easy to procure one quickly at this late date, but Professor Lestrange does have rather extensive resources."

            "I've been thinking about that," Hermione said. "If one of them had read it completely, wouldn't they have done something like that before now? Harry stole the Key just before school started and it's been well over a week. Professor Snape wouldn't still be trying to get to Harry if it was as simple as reviewing one of his own memories. He's doing everything as quietly as possible. Why would he keep coming after Harry if he could carry out his plans without it?"

            "Because he hates me," Harry said simply.

            "That is a good point, Miss Granger," Professor McGonagall said. "Professor Snape is being quite careful, to the point where I am not sure when we will be ready to go forward with what we know. I suppose we'll have to put it in the hands of the Minister before long."

            "What are we waiting for, exactly?" Harry asked. "Haven't we done everything we can short of writing a sign on Snape's forehead? What are we waiting on them to do before we turn them in?"

            "I…well…"

            "We're waiting on solid proof to connect them to everything," Hermione said, interrupting the Headmistress. "So far, we've found Dumbledore's notes in back of a dusty shelf in Potions storage, we've found out how you were cursed, but part of your memory has been erased, and we know you've gotten at least one direct threat from Professor Snape."

            "Two," Harry said. "He did it again when he was pushing me around in the Great Hall at breakfast the other day."

            "Yes," Hermione said. "But that's not enough for the three of them to go to trial. It's not nearly enough to get them all convicted, even on the Minister's say-so. What we need is proof that Professor Snape or Professor Lestrange have met with You-Know-Who at some point recently and are working to bring him back somehow. Muggles use fingerprints and letters for this type of thing, but we've got to find proof that's concrete or they'll get away with all of it."

            "I won't let Snape get away with anything," Harry said. "Now that I've got my life back, there's no way he's going to keep his."

            "Harry James Potter!" Harry looked up at the Headmistress's sharp voice. "You will not talk of killing your stepfather again. I do not think you have it in you to murder someone, but I do not wish to be proven wrong."

            He nodded briefly at her words but said nothing. He knew what he had to do, in spite of her opinion on the subject. Frowning, Harry considered everything that had happened to his mother and his own life because of Snape. The way forward was clear. He didn't need approval from Professor McGonagall or anyone else to do what needed to be done. He just needed a plan.

            "Harry?" He looked over to find Hermione staring at him with a concerned expression. "Are you okay? I've been calling your name for a minute."

            "No, I—can you believe it? What we've done today?" He smiled in an effort to cover the dark direction his thoughts had taken. "I can hardly wrap my mind around it. I didn't think it would be possible."

            "I know," she remarked. "I was pretty close to agreeing with you." She clutched his hand and smiled back at him. "When we get a moment alone outside this office, I'll be happy to celebrate with you properly." Her whisper was accompanied by the softest of blushes.

            Harry looked around. "Where'd Professor McGonagall go? Wasn't she just here?"

            "You really were out of it, weren't you?" Hermione asked. "She went over to St. Mungo's to deliver the rest of the potion and ask if they've figured out what other curses you have now that one has been handled. She said we'll have lunch when she gets back and decide where to go from here."

            "I'm tired of this, actually," Harry said. "We've been cooped up in this office for almost four days."

            "Yes, partially because we needed Professor McGonagall's help and partially for your safety."

            "Yeah, I'm safe from Snape, but he's safe from me too," Harry remarked. "I know she doesn't want me to do anything, but it's not murder if I'm defending my life against him. Does she really think I'm going to let him get away with it?"

            "Harry, he's not getting away with anything. He's going to Azkaban and the reason why will be made public through the courts. Put it this way," Hermione began. "If we go with the way Professor McGonagall wants to do it, your mother won't blame you for anything and she won't think you're only accusing him for personal reasons. And you'll never have to tell her about using a Time-Turner."

            "I hadn't thought about that," Harry said. "I wasn't sure if I should tell her at all. I want her to know about the note and everything. But if I tell her about that—"

            "You'd have to tell her pretty much everything else," Hermione finished. "It would disturb her to know everything you've been through."

            "You don't think she's going to notice my scar hasn't faded after a while?" he asked. "What about my hand? The only reason she didn't see it Saturday is because I kept it at an angle, but it's not something I can keep a secret forever. I'm going to have to tell her something."

            "When it's all over, you can tell her everything," Hermione said. "You could even ask Professor McGonagall to explain it all to her. She's already promised to explain our so-called punishment."

            "I'm glad for that. I wasn't looking forward to another lecture." Harry leaned forward and put his head down on the table. "I'm ready for all of this to be over. It feels like this has been going on for months. When can it be done?"

            "Hopefully very soon, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said. She stepped out of the fireplace and walked to sit across from Harry at the table. "I've given this a little more thought. Auror Tonks is probably the best person to carry on where we left off," she said. "As much as I trust in the Minister's intentions where a potential trial is concerned and as much as you both have done so far, I don't think either of you should be involved further."

            "When am I going to leave?" Harry asked.

            "As soon as I can arrange it. Both of you, if you have no objections, of course. I will wait until I get a chance to talk to your mother this weekend before I start making arrangements. I don't know how much of the situation I'll be able to tell her before arrests are made."

            "But, why should I leave?" Hermione asked.

            The Headmistress turned to her, surprised. "With the two of you in here together, if they ever grow suspicious of Harry being missing from school, you will be the first person they approach for information. While I'm confident an arrest can be made soon on the information we've gathered so far, there are no guarantees that either of you will stay safe if you remain at Hogwarts. Especially if there are more involved than the three you have identified. Neither of you can stay holed up in my office forever. There are protections around the school," she continued, "but there's only so much I can do. Especially with two of the culprits inside these very walls. It would be safer if you went into hiding until everything is resolved."

            "It makes sense," Harry said, "but how long will I have to be gone? Can't I just try to use the Time-Turner again?"

            "The Minister advises against it. He said you may be asked to testify if your recovery at the hospital is not quick enough or if some of your discoveries after coming to school are questioned," she said. "The gist of it is that you made these discoveries, not the version of you that is in the hospital. He is willing to keep your situation in St. Mungo's a secret until the trials are over if your testimony becomes necessary."

            McGonagall frowned as she glanced at her desk, picturing the box with Dumbledore's notes just behind it. "I'm not really sure where any of this is going, to tell the truth. I am doing my best to keep you and the other students safe, but I fear someone is going to have to make a move in order for the case to be proven. Having them get caught in the act is out of the question, but—"

            "Use me," Harry said. "Tell everyone you've let us off our punishment starting tomorrow and let Snape come after me. If he questions me directly about the Key, you'll have proof that he stole it and is trying to get it back from me. That memory in itself should be enough to suggest he plans to use it."

            "Out of the question," McGonagall repeated. "I will not ask you to put yourself in danger—"

            "You're not asking," Harry interrupted. "I'm volunteering. I've come back from certain death a couple of times already, I think I can handle Snape getting a little pushy about a piece of parchment. You've seen enough of my memories to know I can defend myself, or at least that I could hold him off until he can be arrested. We could even have an Auror follow me around with my Invisibility Cloak if you're concerned that he'd kill me in the hallway." He glanced at Hermione. "We all know this is probably the only way we're going to get him to say or do something incriminating. Otherwise we'll either be waiting around at least another week for proof or the Wizengamot will bring charges they won't be able to prove. This is it."

            "I don't believe that," McGonagall said. "There has to be another way besides putting yourself in danger."

            "If you can think of a way, I'd welcome it," Harry said. He turned to Hermione.

            "Don't look to me to support this idea of yours." She crossed her arms in front of her chest and leaned back in her chair. "If you're determined to do something crazy, you're going to have to do it on your own. Having an Auror follow you around the school is a barely viable option, but—"

            "I'm willing to do that," Harry said. "Tonks is more than capable of defending me if it comes down to it."

            "Harry, you just got out of one deadly situation, why would you set yourself up for another?" Hermione asked. "I don't care how safe you think it'll be to have someone follow you around school, there are no guarantees. We got lucky with that potion. I'm not even going to get into how you survived that scar," she said, gesturing towards his forehead. "There are only so many times you can tempt fate before it ends differently than you expect."

            Professor McGonagall said nothing, seeming to study the grain of the wooden table as Harry and Hermione continued arguing about what to do next. Without warning, she cast a Silencing Charm on both students and continued to think of their options as they waved hands in front of their faces and throats in protest. After a few minutes, she lifted her eyes to find both of them watching her, Hermione red-faced and teary-eyed, Harry glaring.

            "Are you both finished?" she asked.

            They nodded simultaneously.

            "Good. Though, I think I will keep you silent until after lunch." At Harry's additional protest, she added, "Perhaps through the evening. I think we all need some time for silent thought." With that, she left the room to send a message down to the kitchens for lunch.

 

 

            "You're sure about this Professor?" Harry asked.

            She nodded. The movement made the pounding in her head worse, but she had no immediate wish to take back her decision. Her temporary decision. Until someone acted, there was no point in keeping two anxious, restless students cooped up in her office waiting for proof that would not just walk up and present itself to the courts. They had to do something…drastic. With precautions, of course. McGonagall would never forgive herself if her own wish to see Snape punished led to Harry being hurt or worse.

            Hermione crossed her arms and pouted, rolling her eyes as Harry shot her a wide smile.

            "So that means I can leave now, right?" Harry asked. He glanced out at the late afternoon sky. "I can still make it to Quidditch practice."

            "Is that all you can think about?" Taking a deep breath, Hermione lowered her voice with some effort. "The minute you step outside this door unprotected, your life is in danger. And you want to go flying around the field?"
            "Pitch," Harry corrected. "And yes, I do. I think we both could do with a little relaxation. Come on, Hermione. We've managed to dodge death, discover what could be a new branch of medicine," he said with a smile at her, "and finish most of our assignments for the week in record time. You could use a few hours to not worry. I could use some practice before I get kicked off the House team."

            "You won't get kicked off," she said in a small voice. "You're too good."

            Harry shrugged. "I don't know that. Dean is still reserve Seeker." He grabbed her hand. "Come on, if you're so afraid of something happening to me in mid-air, you can stand there with your wand out and hex anyone who comes without 100 feet of us during practice."

            "That is my advice as well," McGonagall said. "Not that you should cast spells at anyone approaching," she said as Hermione turned to her in alarm, "but that you should stick together when outside this office. I think spending the afternoon and evening among your classmates will be beneficial to you both. You can resume completing your assignments here after breakfast tomorrow."

            "In the meantime, we can go?" Harry asked again.

            "In the meantime, Harry shouldn't go looking for a fight?" Hermione asked, squeezing his hand as she spoke.

            "Yes to you both." McGonagall sighed. "Harry, I've already told you, if you do something reckless, there is little I will be able to do to protect you. I'll send Auror Tonks to escort you from practice back to your common room, and she will escort you from the Great Hall back here tomorrow morning. The four of us can discuss what needs to be done then. You are not to make a move on any private plans of yours until then. Am I clear?"

            Harry nodded and practically ran to the door, dragging Hermione behind him before she could protest again. If it were left up to her, they'd remain in hiding forever.


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