The Best Man
2: The Search for Snape, Part 2.
Summary: Harry suffers from bad dreams,
and sees a face from the past...
Harry's head felt as though it was about to burst. The potion which had
muddied his senses kept him paralysed, unable to move as the savage voice
cut through him, ranting on and on.
"You murdered my father, Potter! And you'll pay for it now - I have your
blood, and you *will* speak the charm if you ever want to leave this room
His vision blurred, Harry watched the ripples on the bowl of scarlet liquid,
drifting in and out of focus, and he felt the warm blood still trickling
down his arm. He tried to think of ideas for escape, to remember ways
he could use his powers to get out of this nightmare, but the scraps of
memory floated away in his mind before he could grasp them. One image
came into sudden focus - the clock on the sitting room wall behind Malfoy
- his brain could not work out what time it showed - what time was it?
He had to get back, he knew, there was something urgent - the wedding!
Ginny! He had to get back - now -
"I've waited long enough, Potter! Are you ready to do this - or do you
choose to suffer the consequences?" The light glinted on the knife, lying
beside the bowl.
Sweat pouring from his face, Harry jerked abruptly into consciousness,
his breath coming in gasps, his eyes snapping open and staring wildly
into the darkness.
"Harry? Are you all right?"
It took Harry a few moments to adjust to where he was. Malfoy's voice
had gone. His head was clear. His arm was healed. He wasn't tied to a
hard chair, but lying in a soft bed. The grey light of early dawn was
seeping through the curtains, and the room was quiet, except for the rustle
of the bedclothes as Ginny raised her tousled head from the pillow and
leaned up on one elbow to peer at him anxiously through the gloom. "Did
you have another nightmare?" she asked sleepily.
Harry rolled over onto his back, and let out a long sigh as his breathing
slowed. "Yeah. Sorry."
"You can't help it." She shifted closer, pulling the covers up over both
of them, and rubbed his shoulder comfortingly. "Was it the same one?"
"More or less."
"You know, we could ask Madam Pomfrey up at Hogwarts - she might have
something you could take to sleep better -"
"No, it's all right, really. They'll go away soon."
Although he couldn't see her face, now pressed against his arm, Harry
could imagine her doubtful expression as she said, "I hope so. D'you want
anything? A drink?"
"No, it's O.K., Gin. Try to go back to sleep, it's really early still."
As if to confirm his words, the clock on the bedroom wall chimed four,
"Mm -hmm." She snuggled down next to his shoulder, and after a few minutes
she seemed to have drifted back into sleep. But Harry didn't even make
the effort. His eyes still wide open, he stared at the shadowy ceiling,
unwilling to risk re-entering the nightmare, and wondering how long it
would be before these latest dreams stopped plaguing him.
It had been over two months since Draco Malfoy and Gilderoy Lockhart had
abducted him from The Burrow and held him hostage in Malfoy's house at
Fairmile Cross. During the daytime, Harry had plenty to do to stop him
thinking about what had happened, but at night, the events kept coming
back to haunt him. He wasn't sure why it bothered him so much. He had
had worse experiences in the past - the struggle against Voldemort had
been far more terrible, and Bill Weasley's death had left bigger scars
on them all. Harry had expected to get over this fairly quickly, especially
with all that was going on. He and Ginny had returned from their honeymoon
and settled back into life in Hogsmeade. There had been a statement to
make at the M.L.E.S., and thank-you notes to write for wedding presents.
Harry and his team-mates in the Hogsmeade Hurricanes had been training
hard for the new Quidditch season, and Harry had also had to write his
regular Quidditch columns for the "Daily Prophet". Ginny had been busy
with her job as the team's P.R. - there was a lot of team merchandise
and publicity material for the new season to be sorted out. And there
were always many friends to catch up with.
Hermione had been teaching at Hogwarts for several weeks now, and she
had been to dinner with the Potters several times. She looked well, Harry
thought, and she seemed to be enjoying her teaching. She had told several
funny stories about incidents in her Transfiguration classes, which had
led them into a flood of reminiscences about their own schooldays. She
was coming to see them in Hogsmeade today, since it was a Saturday. Ginny
was planning a special meal tonight, because it would also be the first
time Ron had visited them since the wedding.
Harry knew how busy Ron had been in the past weeks - the M.L.E.S. had
been working hard preparing the case against Malfoy and Lockhart. Ron
strongly suspected that the Resurrection Charm was only one of the Dark
Magic activities Malfoy was involved in, but it was difficult to find
proof. Ron had been searching for evidence that Malfoy had other helpers
in his schemes. Harry knew that he had been travelling extensively with
members of his team, trying to track down known associates of Malfoy's.
Several times, Ron had had to put off plans to visit Hogsmeade, but he
had sent an owl yesterday to confirm that he had managed to get a weekend's
leave, and was looking forward to coming.
Harry had been thinking a lot about Ron and Hermione since the wedding.
Now that they were speaking to each other again, Harry badly wanted his
friends to get together. Secure in his relationship with Ginny, he wanted
everyone else to be happy too, and, knowing his friends as well as he
did, he was sure they both felt something missing from their lives. Whatever
had happened between them in the past, he was convinced that deep down
they still cared deeply about each other, and he thought it was significant
that neither of them had managed to have a successful relationship with
anyone else since their break-up.
Ginny was all in favour of encouraging her brother and Hermione to get
together. Harry had warned her not to be too obvious about this when they
were both under her roof.
So, Harry did have plenty to occupy his thoughts, and he wondered again
why, with so many positive things happening, his nights were still broken
with vivid memories of the abduction.
The dawn light was brightening through the curtains. Ginny was still breathing
peacefully. Harry wondered what the dawn looked like from the cell where
Malfoy was being held. Was he thinking vengeful thoughts about Harry?
Was he plotting revenge? What had driven him to such drastic action? He
must have known that Harry would be able to identify him to the Enforcers
- unless he had really intended that Harry would never get out of that
house alive. Was he so desperate to have his father back? Had it been
entirely his own plan, or was there someone else behind it? Had Malfoy's
life, since his father's death, been so empty that he was willing to take
any risk? Despite the nightmares, Harry couldn't help feeling a twinge
of pity for Malfoy. Without good friends to steer him along the right
path, might he, Harry, have ended up like Malfoy?
Musing over this, Harry hardly noticed when the clock chimed five. His
eyes slid shut, and he slipped back into a sleep which lasted until morning,
and which this time was dreamless.
Harry hugged her as she stood on the doorstep of the cottage, twelve hours
"Hope I'm not too early," Hermione said, hugging him back. "I'd finally
caught up with my marking, and it was such a beautiful afternoon I wanted
to get out of the castle and make the most of it."
"Come in, come in. Yeah, it's great today. Hard to believe it's October."
"Hi," Ginny called from the kitchen. Cooking was not Ginny's favourite
activity, but when she did plan a special meal she would go to great lengths
to make it perfect. "I need one or two more things, Harry. Would you mind
nipping out and getting them before the shops shut?"
"O.K." Harry reached for his cloak.
"Can I come with you?" Hermione asked. "I'd like a chance to chat."
"Sure." Calling goodbye to Ginny, they set off down the little lane towards
the centre of Hogsmeade. On this sunny autumn day, with the shops about
to close and Hallowe'en only a week away, the village was bustling with
"So, it's still going well at school, is it?" Harry asked, as they walked
briskly through the crowds.
"Yes, fine. I now realise what a pest I must have seemed sometimes to
"What d'you mean?"
"I've got a fourth-year student - Isabelle Inkpen - who's an incredibly
hard worker. She keeps handing in essays which are four rolls of parchment
long when everyone else has only filled one-"
"Hmm, that reminds me of someone else-"
"Yes, I know, well, I'm all in favour of hard workers - but it's a bit
of a pain when I have to find the time to wade through it and mark it
all. I never realised how long marking and planning lessons would take
- I'm up till all hours some nights. Still, the teaching itself is fun."
As they went about their shopping, Hermione made Harry laugh by telling
him an anecdote about a first-year who had turned his finger into a knitting
needle. The shopping was slow work, because so many people in Hogsmeade
knew Harry, and wanted to talk to him about the Hurricanes' chances for
the Cup, or how married life was suiting him, and Harry had to be polite
and stop to talk to them all.
"Ginny's doing chocolate cauldrons for dessert," Harry said. "You can
Hermione smiled a little. "Still Ron's favourite? When d'you think he'll
"Don't know - pretty soon, if he managed to get away from the office on
time and there weren't any crises."
They turned back towards the Potters' house, Broomstick Cottage. Harry
shot a quick sideways look at Hermione. She had seemed pleased enough
to hear than Ron was also coming to dinner - and she looked particularly
nice, as though she had taken a good deal of trouble with her appearance.
Her dress was the same shade of dark red as the one she had worn to the
pre-wedding party - Harry thought it was a good colour on her, and he
wondered if Ron would also appreciate it.
The crowds were still thronging the streets. Harry looked across the road
towards The Three Broomsticks, which seemed to be doing a roaring trade,
with customers flowing in and out. Suddenly, he froze, and stopped walking.
Hermione, taken by surprise, also came to a halt. "What's up?" she asked.
Harry strained to pick out figures from the constantly-moving crowd. The
tall figure in the black cloak kept disappearing from his view. But that
first glimpse - when the man had turned slightly towards them - that hooked
nose and sallow face - but where had he gone now?
"I thought I saw - I'm sure it was him -" Harry walked quickly towards
the entrance of The Three Broomsticks, and Hermione followed him, puzzled.
"Snape." But as the crowd around the door dispersed, Harry couldn't see
the tall figure in black any more.
"Snape?" Hermione exclaimed. "Really? Where?"
"He's gone. But it looked like him - I can't be sure - I haven't seen
him for eight years."
"He'd be taking a chance coming to Hogsmeade," Hermione said, as they
both looked inside the pub's doors and up and down the street. There was
no sign of Snape - if it had been Snape - now. "He must know the M.L.E.S.
want to question him. Malfoy's case has been all over the paper."
"It really looked like him," Harry said in frustration, as they gave up
their search. "Maybe it wasn't, though. Why would he come here? Anyone
might recognise him."
"We'd better get this shopping back to Ginny, she'll be wondering what's
happened to us," Hermione said, and they continued on their way. Harry
couldn't help glancing back towards the pub, but the mysterious figure
who might have been Severus Snape was nowhere to be seen.
"There you are!" Ginny exclaimed, as they opened the front door. "You
were gone a long time. Ron's here!"
"Yeah, and she's making me slave away chopping vegetables," Ron's voice
complained from the kitchen. "Come and rescue me, Harry, this is supposed
to be your job!"
Harry grinned as he saw his friend. "No, no, keep going, I'm sure you're
better at it than me," he said, handing the shopping bag to Ginny and
sliding into a chair. "You finally made it, then!"
"Yeah. It's been busy lately, I can tell you, but I think I've escaped
for the weekend," Ron said. He looked past Harry towards the kitchen door.
"Hi, Hermione. How's it going?" he asked, casual and friendly.
"Fine, thanks." Hermione came into the room. "Can I help you, Ginny?"
"No, no, sit down, you're a guest," said Ginny, peering at her book of
"You sound like Mum," said Ron to his sister. "And how come I have to
chop these, when I'm a guest too?"
"You're my brother," said Ginny, with the air of one who has had the last
"Something odd happened in Hogsmeade just now," said Hermione. "Harry
thought he saw Snape."
"Snape?!" Ginny and Ron exclaimed together. Ron narrowly missed chopping
his own finger. "Where?"
"It might not have been him - there was a crowd outside The Three Broomsticks,
and I just got a glimpse. He had a cloak and hood on, but I was sure it
was him for a moment," said Harry.
"I wonder -" Ron said thoughtfully, going back to his task. "Why would
he come here? There are plenty of people around Hogsmeade who'd recognise
him. Maybe I should send an owl to the office, get a patrol up here to
check it out-"
"You can do that tomorrow," said Ginny firmly. "Now we've got you here,
you're not allowed to do any M.L.E.S. stuff for the rest of this evening."
Ron opened his mouth to protest, and shut it again. "I suppose tomorrow
will do," he admitted.
"Tell us about Hogwarts instead," Ginny asked Hermione. Harry saw Ron
glance towards Hermione as she shrugged and agreed. Watching his friends
with interest, Harry pushed thoughts of Snape to the back of his mind
as they all joined in the chat and helped to prepare the dinner.