Monday, February 10, 2014

Chapter 7: Questions and Doubts

I am a huge Harry Potter Fan. Besides reading each book over and over again, I have read a lot of fanfictions from all over the places. So, I decided to try and write one myself. I know that its going to be nothing compared to the original series, yet I would love it if you read and review it for me.  Note: Anything that you recognize in this story belongs to J.K.Rowling.  _______________________________________________________________________________ 

With each passing day, Harry was starting to feel more and more restless. Tired of reading through the books at Grimmauld place, he had started to practice few new curses from the books he had received on his birthday. Ron also joined him. Hermione insisted that there had to be something that they had missed, continued going through the library and would join them only occasionally. The trio had managed to learn a number of new defensive spells. Besides, they also helped Mrs. Weasley around the house. Ginny had returned from Hogwarts after completing her O.W.Ls. It seemed that Harry had been worried for no reason as it later turned out that Fred and George had been at Hogwarts on guard duty and they had kept Ginny company. Since she was still underage, she could not practice the defensive spells with Harry and Ron. So, she continued with Hermione’s research. Ginny had insisted on seeing the remaining memories and so Harry, true to his words had seen them with her and later told her hat Dumbledore had told him after each memory.
The Order was quite busy in the ongoing war. They had managed to stop a number of death eater attacks and had even managed to capture a few death eaters. The new recruits in Voldemort’s death eater circle seemed mainly young blood and Harry was not surprised when Theodore Nott, a Slytherin at Hogwarts, was captured during a death eater attack on a muggle village. The Order was still looking for Charlie and there was still no news on that particular Weasley’s condition. The Order also had a false alarm about giants attacking Hogwarts. The Order had leapt into action only to find that few giants, who disagreed with their new Gurg, had come to join Dumbledore. Though the group was only a small part of the total giant population, the Order had gladly welcomed them. The Weasley twins had informed the trio that it was a sight to see when Hagrid and Grawp guided them into the Forbidden Forest.

About a week after Ginny had returned from Hogwarts, Harry and Ron were practicing a particularly difficult spell when Hermione came rushing into the room. “I think I know where we might find another horcrux.” That caught the two boys’ full attention. “And I think it’s the Hufflepuff’s cup.”
“Just wait till Ginny is here. I’d rather say this just once.”
“Oh come on Hermione, get on with it. We can tell Ginny later. She is busy helping mum right now.”
“I called her. She will be here any minute. After all, she came up with the lead.”
“What lead?” asked Harry. Instead of answering him, Hermione gave him a ‘be patient’ look. “This is great stuff, Hermione. No need to create suspense. Just tell us.”
“Tell ‘us’ what?” Ginny entered the room. Hermione turned to her eagerly and said, “Remember the lead you came up with? Well, I think you are right.”
“Really? Do you think there might be a horcrux there?”
“Uh! What are you two talking about? Care to enlighten us?” Harry asked looking from Hermione to Ginny. “Well, Ginny had this idea that a horcrux might be at Hepzibah Smith’s place… if it still stands.”
“Why?” Ron asked.
“Well, we know that Voldemort hid the horcruxes at the places that were important to him.”
“Don’t you see it? We had decided that the orphanage he grew up at could not be one because he was not attached to that place. He has too many bad memories of that place. There could be one at Riddle House since that is where he murdered his father and grandparents. But then again, he did not really like them because they were muggles and because his father was the reason his mother gave up on her life. So, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that there might be a horcrux there.”
“We know these points Hermione. We have gone over them so many times already. Just tell me why do you think that there might be a horcrux at Hepzibah Smith’s place?”
“That’s what I am getting at. So I started wondering what other places we know that might be important enough to Voldemort. After Harry had shown Ginny the memories, we started working on that. That is when Ginny came up with the idea. Hepzibah Smith’s place would obviously be important to him because that is where he acquired two of the founders’ relics. Slytherin’s Locket and the Hufflepuff’s Cup.”
“But how do we know where she lived and what condition the house is in? Most importantly, how do we know if there is a horcrux there?” Harry asked. He obviously was not sure if this was a good lead. “After Ginny came up with this idea, I looked for some answers. I found out where Hepzibah Smith lived. Her descendants still live there and a part of the house has been turned into a museum of sorts… in her memory. With all the relics there, it is a perfect place to hide a horcrux. I personally think that we might find the Hufflepuff’s cup there. No one would ever think of destroying the cup there.” Everyone in the room quietly considered the possibilities. Finally Harry spoke up, “But after her death, the Cup was found missing right? Don’t you think that people would know if it turned up? It would be big news.”
“Not necessarily Harry. Was it big news when it went missing? No, it was not. I checked all the newspapers during that time. Hepzibah Smith’s murder was reported but neither of the relics were reported missing in the papers. If it turned up later, people would just think that they had overlooked it earlier. After all, it belongs there and wouldn’t look out of the place.”
“Granted. Then how do we find out if it is there or not. And if it is there then how do we get there? You said that they have turned a part of the house into museum and her descendants live in the other part of the house. Even if we manage to get there, we will need a miracle to be able to get the horcrux out without alerting anyone.”
“I can try to find out if there is any mention of the cup being there at the museum. But for the rest I have no idea.”
“The order will never allow us to go out on our own. I guess the only way is to sneak out at night,” said Ginny. Ron jumped up at this, “US? You are not coming with us. There’s no way we are taking you with us!”
“You don’t expect me to sit at home, helping mum while you all get to go on all sorts of quests, do you? I agreed to o back to Hogwarts, but that does not mean that I’ll just sit back at home while I am still here.”
“Oh yes you will…” Seeing that Ginny was flaring up, Harry took matters into his hands. “Stop fighting you two. First, we do not know if the horcrux is there or not. So we still do not know if we are going at all. Secondly, even if its there, we have no idea how and when we will be going. So we will have to decide who is going and who is not when time comes okay?” Ginny nodded while Ron wanted to comment on it. Harry, however, did not give Ron a chance to speak and continued, “Besides we can’t just sneak out at night… It’ll make things so much easier for Voldemort, ‘coz when your mum finds out, she will simply kill us herself!” This put a smile on everybody’s face. “I guess I just have to wait for Lupin to return. Wonder what he is up to...”
“You don’t think that the Order has sent him back among the werewolves, do you?” Hermione asked nervously. “No, I don’t think so. Last term he fought against the death eaters at Hogwarts. They all know that he is with the Order now. Fenrir and his pals would simply tear his head off the moment they spot Lupin.”
“Then where could he be?”
“Dunno. Guess all we can do now is wait for him to return.”
“But we can’t wait forever.”
“I think he’ll be back soon. After all, he promised me that he would take me to Godric’s Hollow after I get my apparition license.”
“Yes. But, if he is gone on Order business, then there is no telling how long that may take him.”
“I’ll have to corner Tonks. She might have some idea about his whereabouts and when he will be back.”

The Order seemed busy and even though there were meetings held almost everyday, Harry did not get a chance to talk to Tonks alone. Death eater attacks seemed to have increased by ten-folds and the Order was having a tough time coping up. Everybody seemed to be on their toes all the time and hardly anyone had any time. Harry caught a glimpse of McGonagall one day. She had dark circles under her eye. Clearly, the pressure of Order duties and responsibility of Hogwarts were taking its toll on her. Even Hagrid turned up at Grimmauld place one day. He spent quite sometime with them after the meeting and could not stop raving about how well Grawp has turned out. Apparently Grawp was now helping him to teach English to the other giants. “Yeh al’ should’ve seen him teaching them. He is a natural. Yeh know what I mean!” Harry tried to grill him for some information about the Order but it was useless as he would not talk about anything but the giants. All they could get out of him was that the Order had not yet used the giants yet as they want to make sure that they were somewhat under control. Also, the Order wanted to keep them handy in case of an attack on a bigger scale. “There ain’t enough Order members to tackle the whole lot of death eaters an’ the ministry aurors are of no use. So they want teh use them only when it’s absolutely necessary.”

One evening, when Harry and the others were helping Mrs. Weasley clean the kitchen after the order meeting, the twins arrived with two huge packages. “Here you go Harry.”
“We got all the books that you asked for.”
“Yeah even though we do not think that big buffoon is worth it.” Hermione turned around. “What books Harry? You did not tell us that you were going to buy more books. I thought that you were done through reading.”
“Which big buffoon?” added Ron.
“I did not get these books for us. These are first year course books and they are for Dudley.” Ron and Hermione stood rooted to their spots. “You bought all his course books for him?”
“Yeah. I forgot to wish him on his birthday even though he was here with us. So I thought that I could make up a bit for it this way.”
“It’s a very good idea Harry. Dudley will need the books once Remus returns and starts teaching him. I was thinking of getting the books myself.” Mrs. Weasley said with a warm smile on her face.
“What’s in that other packet? They all can’t be books.” Harry asked Fred.
“Glad that you asked.” Said Fred.
“Yeah these are samples of our latest updated defense line stuff,” replied George.
“We upgraded a lot of our old lines, like the shield hats and cloaks. They now can shield off a greater number of jinxes ad curses.”
“We tried to work on the unforgivable curses too but couldn’t test for them.”
“Besides, we have also managed quite an impossible feat.”
“Yeah being the geniuses that we are…”
“It was only a matter of time before we managed this.”
“What are you talking about? What have you managed?” Ron asked impatiently.
“Patience brother, patience.”
“Why don’t we give you a demonstration?” George said opening the package and taking out a particularly weird and revolting hat. “Why don’t you try it on, dear brother?”
“There’s no way I am ever going to wear that foul looking hat. Never mind what it might do to me.”
“Don’t ever go for looks brother dear.”
“Yeah. Sometimes the worst things in life come in beautiful packages…”
“And the best things might look like this…”
“Besides it doesn’t matter how this hat looks…”
“No one will ever see what you look like wearing it…”
“I told you, am not wearing that.” Harry who was now getting curious about the hat said, “Give it here. I’ll wear it.”
“Ah! Our noble investor.”
“The invincible boy-who-lived…”
“Shut up that nonsense George. Do you want me to try it out or not?”
“Yeah.” George replied and handed Harry the hat. Harry took a nice look at the hat and put it on. He was surprised when nothing happened and expected this to one of the twins jokes. But he was amazed to see a look of awe in Ron and Hermione’s faces. He turned to find the twins wearing a particularly ecstatic look.
“Wow! How did you guys manage to do this?” Hermione asked. “I mean remember those ‘headless hats’, or whatever you called them, that you people made in our fifth year. That was something… But this is… this is just genius.”
“Thank you Hermione.”
“That means a lot to us, especially coming from you.”
“And for that, you get a hat for free.”
“Now what do you have to say Ron?” Fred asked. Harry was totally lost. ‘What are they talking about? Nothing happened.’ He had to ask, “What are you guys talking about? I didn’t feel anything.”
“Look down at yourself Harry.” George said with a smile. Harry looked down at himself… only he could not see himself! “Remember those hats we made at school that made your head disappear along with the hat?”
“Well, we just worked on it and upgraded it so that the charm works on a wider range.”
“Wow! This is like an invisibility hat then. Great!”
“However, these are not perfect. There is a slight hitch.”
“This’ll work on only the average built people.”
“Like it works on Harry and us. But I doubt if it will cover the likes of Ron or Bill completely. Hagrid is out of the question.”
“Come on Harry, lemme give it a try.” Ron said eagerly. Harry took it off and handed it over to Ron, who put it on immediately. “Oh no! Why couldn’t it work on me too? It worked on Harry!” Ron had become invisible up to his ankle. “Hey, its not my fault that you are taller than me,” retorted Harry. Mrs. Weasley hugged the twins. “This is brilliant, Fred, George. Have you shown this to your dad? This is going to be big at the ministry.”
“We haven’t showed it to dad yet. We just finalized it. We’ll show it to him when he gets back today.” Fred replied.
“In fact that’s why we are here.”
 “But mum, we have decided not to tell the ministry about these. Not yet at least.”
“But why? The ministry will only be too happy to buy a whole lot of it for its workers. Besides, don’t you want to get the recognition for coming up with something as exceptional as this?”
“We will tell the ministry later on. After the war maybe. But certainly not now.”
“Why not? These will come in handy to the ministry during the war.”
“There are leaks in the ministry mum. Do you honestly want the death eaters to know about these or maybe get hold of a few of these?”
“No way mum. These are only for a few of the Order members… the members we are sure about.”
“Whatever you say. But I think you should reconsider this decision of yours’. This could save a lot of people.”
“We’ll see what dad says about it.”
“Now mum can we have some starters?”
“Yeah mum. We are really hungry after all this hard work.”

Harry gave the books to Dudley later that night. Dudley had looked surprised. ‘Consider them to be a belated birthday present from me,’ Harry had said. He had also told Dudley that he would be glad to help him in case Dudley wanted to start studying before Remus returned. There was still the problem regarding getting Dudley a wand. They had to get him registered before they could buy him a wand. Mr. Weasley had taken the responsibility to get Dudley registered and was waiting for an appointment with the concerned department. Harry planned to buy him the wand too.
Harry’s restlessness was now starting to turn into frustration. He was frustrated about everything, whether be the fact that he was forced to stay within the four walls of Grimmauld Place or the fact that they were stuck with their research regarding the Horcruxes or the fact that no one from the order cared to tell him what they were up to or that he still had no idea about where Lupin was. He was angry with everyone and everything and was always on the verge. Even his friends had started to avoid him. He spent most of his time locked up in his room or teaching Dudley the basics of magic.

He had started to plan his escape from Grimmauld place. If Lupin did not return by the end of august, he planned to start his search on his own. He would find out Godric’s Hollow. The he would also search for the Riddle manor, the orphanage where Voldemort was born and raised and Hepzibah Smith’s place. True, he had no idea where the latter two places were located… But searching for the places would be better than what he was doing now – sitting within the four walls of the house that Sirius hated so much. The cup, something of Ravenclaw and Nagini were still out there somewhere.

One evening, when Harry was sitting in his room, staring blankly at the walls, Ginny came up to him. “Harry?”
“Are you busy?”
“Does it look like I am doing anything?”
“No. I mean we wanted to ask you something. Would you mind if Hermione and Ron came up too?”
“Whatever.” Ginny disappeared and returned with Ron and Hermione within minutes, looking apprehensive. Though Harry could feel them fidgeting, he did not bother to turn and face them. He continued staring at the walls. After quite some time Hermione spoke up, “How are feeling Harry?”
“We can understand how you are feeling right now. But believe me…” Harry whipped around and cut Hermione’s words, “No! You have no idea how I am feeling right now. Not even inkling. You are not the one with a destiny to kill. You are not the one Voldemort is after and you are not the one who is stuck within these stinking four walls when you are supposed to be out there destroying the horcruxes. Innocent people are not dying all over the world because I am not doing anything to stop Voldemort. Don’t you get it Hermione? I am the ‘Chosen One’! Not you. I have to murder someone. Not you. So save this lecture about how you can understand what I am going through and leave me alone.” Harry’s sudden outburst left everyone speech less, but only for a moment because the next moment Ginny rounded up on Harry. “YOU ARE SUCH A PRAT, HARRY.” If Ron and Hermione were surprised by Harry’s outburst, then they were shocked by Ginny. Ginny continued raving at Harry, “Stop feeling all miserable thinking that the weight of the whole world is on your shoulders and that no one understands you or your condition. True, none of us is the “great-boy-who-lived” or “the-chosen-one”. But that doesn’t stop us from understanding the position you are in because believe it or not, we are your friends and by being your friends, we share your destiny. If you are destined to fight Voldemort, then we are destined to fight by your side. If you are destined to murder Voldemort then any one of us may very well be destined to murder those filthy death eaters. If you think that you are the only one who is involved in this and the only one whose actions affect the war then here is some news for you – YOU ARE WRONG! Ron and Hermione have been involved in everything that you have done, right from their first year. Tom possessing me through the diary got me involved in my first year too. We have been through everything with you so far and we have no plans to change things any time soon. Put yourself in our shoes Harry… maybe then you will realize that, we not only have Voldemort to worry about, but also a bloody-stubborn-thickheaded-prat to deal with!” When Ginny stopped, the room went silent. Harry stood motionless with his head hung low and Ginny was still staring daggers at him with her hands on her hips. When it became clear that neither Ginny nor Harry was going to say anything, Ron nervously spoke up, “She is right you know. We are with you in whatever you do. You are not alone in it mate.” There was silence once again. Finally, not looking at anybody, Harry said, “I am sorry. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you people. It’s just… just that…”
“It’s okay Harry. We know.” Hermione smiled up at him. “This is what we, friends, are here for… to share, to understand and to shout at!” All four of them smiled.      “So what did you want to ask me?” asked Harry. Hermione looked nervous again and glanced at Ron. Noticing this Harry said, “It’s okay Hermione. I am done shouting… at least for today. You can ask me whatever it is.”
“I… I was wondering if you could show us the memory of that night.”
“Which memory? You have already seen all the memories.”
“I mean your memory… your memory of the day you went to that cave with Dumbledore and then of what… what happened back at school.” Harry stared at Hermione. “You mean you want to see the cave and Snape murdering? Why?”
“Well, you told us about your trip to the cave. I just want to see it to try and understand what kind of magic Dumbledore used to find the entrance to the cave and to find the boat. It might be useful for later, when we find out the remaining horcruxes.”
“Oh! But I don’t know how to take it out of mind and put it in the pensieve.”
“Don’t worry mate. Hermione knows how to do it,” supplied Ron. Harry took a moment to think and then agreed, “Well, then go on.”
“Okay Harry, you need to think about that night very clearly so that the memory is in front right in front. I’ll do the rest.” Harry nodded and closed his eyes. He thought of the night and when he was sure that it was right in front, he opened his eyes and nodded at Hermione again. She came up to him with the pensieve. She pointed her wand at his temple and muttered an incantation. Slowly, a thin silvery thread came out with her wand and she pointed it at the pensieve. Harry felt light in the head for a moment and then he was back to normal. “Okay here it is. Lets see it then. Will you come with us, Harry?”
“No you all go on. I don’t think I can watch Snape doing it all over again.” They nodded and one by one entered the pensieve.

When Ron, Hermione and Ginny finally emerged from the pensieve, each of them emerged with different expressions on their faces. Ron was scowling. Ginny seemed torn between being sad and furious. But Hermione’s expression puzzled Harry the most. She seemed to be lost in deep thought. “So?” he asked.
“Wait till I get my hand on that slimy git. Forget my wand, I’ll kill him with my bare hands,” Ron said, rubbing his hands together as if he was getting ready to attack.
“Too bad Ron, you’ll have to get in line. Though I don’t think there’ll much left of him when I am done with him. And oh! You forgot to say ‘greasy’.” Now it was Harry’s turn to be torn in between two emotions… being angry with Snape and laughing out loud at Ginny’s words. He settled with a chuckle and was joined by Ron. However, Hermione seemed to be oblivious of what they were saying. She sat down on the edge of Harry’s bed with furrowed brows. They turned to her, “what is it Hermione?”
“What is it?”
“Oh! Nothing.”
“You are not going to get away with it. Spit it out.”
“Well, I was just thinking that the way Dumbledore felt his way through to the boat is amazing. I mean, he can feel traces of Dark Magic. I have never heard of anyone being able to do it.”
“Dumbledore wasn’t the greatest wizard for nothing.”
“Yeah. I guess it’s his experience.”
“But we won’t be able to do it. I mean I have no idea how one can feel the traces.”
“That adds another thing to our list of ‘to find out’ then,” groaned Ron. No one knew what to say to that and everyone went quiet. “But that’s not what is bothering you, is it Hermione? What is it then?” after few moments Ron asked staring at her.
“No. There’s more.”
“What is it?”
“I was wondering… wondering if it all was planned.”
“What was planned?”
“Snape’s actions that night.”
“Of course it was planned. It was all planned Hermione. Snape had planned to kill Dumbledore. He had made the Unbreakable Vow, remember?” Harry reminded Hermione.
“That’s not what I meant. I meant if it was planned between Snape and Dumbledore that should the situation arise, then Snape should do it.”
“What? Are you crazy Hermione? Why would a man plan his own murder?” Ginny, shocked by Hermione’s words, asked her.
“It was a plain cold-blooded murder and nothing else,” said Harry as he felt his temper rise again. “Calm down Harry. I was just wondering if that was a possibility.”
“Are you bloody-unhinged Hermione? Do you even realize what you are saying?”
“Yes Ron, I know what I am saying. If you had paid attention to the memory maybe even you’d wonder it!”
“We all saw it. Snape betrayed Dumbledore’s trust and murdered him. MURDERED him Hermione.”
“Will you all calm down and listen to me?” They all shook their heads; sure that Hermione had gone mad. Hermione however continued, “When Snape arrived on the spot, did you all hear what Dumbledore said?”
“Yes. He said ‘Snape Please’. Dumbledore practically begged,” Harry answered. “But did that… insufferable excuse for a human do? He went on to murder the man who always defended him!”
“No and yes. Dumbledore said ‘Severus please’ and not Snape and yes he begged Professor Snape.”
“That’s exactly it Hermione…! That Snape murdered an unarmed, helpless and outnumbered man and all you can think of is if Dumbledore said Severus or Snape?”
“Will you just calm down for moment? Hear me out and then please think rationally before you answer me. Do you people believe that Dumbledore was a coward? Do you really believe that he was ever scared of death? And most importantly, do you people think he was a man who would ever beg for his life when facing death? Finally, do you really believe that Dumbledore had no means of getting out of that situation if he really wanted to?”
“Hermione he was sick, outnumbered and wandless,” Harry said desolately. He was not really in the mood to talk about Dumbledore’s death since he still had trouble accepting the fact that he would never have the twinkling eyes to turn to with his problems. “How can anyone survive in that condition?”
“He is not considered to be the greatest wizard ever for nothing.” Hermione replied solemnly.
“Are you trying to say that he could have survived that? How?”
“I can think of a way or two. I will get to it later on. But before that answer my other questions. Forget about that night for sometime… can you imagine, even if it is in your dreams, Dumbledore begging for his own life? Can you really? Think!”
“No. Dumbledore was not afraid of death and I know it for a fact as he referred to ‘death’ as the ‘next big adventure’. In fact, that is the first thing that distinguishes Dumbledore from Voldemort. They couldn’t be more different on that front.”
“You see… that is exactly what struck me when I saw your memory of that night. While with Draco, Amycus, Alecto and Fenrir around, Dumbledore was quite himself. He talked to them as if nothing was wrong even though he could barely stand up on his feet. That’s Dumbledore… the Dumbledore we know. But his demeanor changed the moment Snape arrived on the spot. Why? Why did he beg Professor Snape? Why didn’t he tackle the situation when he could have easily done it? I mean with his given condition, he could have never fought four death eaters at the same time. But he could have easily managed to get out of there knowing that the Order members and Hogwarts staff were there to tackle them. Alive, he would have been more helpful than being… being gone. His life was worth more than all witches and wizards present there that day. He knew that very well. Yet he chose to stay and beg Professor Snape.” Hermione stopped, looking around the other three. Ron was still shaking his head, while Harry and Ginny were trying to take in everything that Hermione had just said. “But how could he have escaped from there? He didn’t have his wand. And we all know, as you keep telling as, no one can apparate or disapparate within the Hogwarts grounds… except the elves.”
“First of all Ron, I assume you have heard of wandless magic?” When Ron nodded, Hermione continued, “Dumbledore didn’t necessarily need a wand to perform magic. So not having his wand on him doesn’t count. Now, if we are to assume that he was too weak to perform any sort of magic at all, which he was not since he undid the enchantments and cast the freezing charm on Harry, and then too he had a way to get away. Can you guess?” When no one said anything, she continued, “Do you remember how he escaped from being arrested by Fudge back in our fifth year? There is no need to use any sort of magic for that. A phoenix always knows when his master calls for him. I also remember Harry telling us how Fawkes had suddenly appeared at the ministry and intercepted the killing curse intended for Dumbledore. Don’t you think Fawkes would have appeared yet again?” This gave the youngsters something to think about. Finally Ginny said, “I admit you have a point there Hermione. But you must have also realized that Dumbledore would never run away from a fight.”
“I am not saying that he would have ‘run’ away. But he could have lived that day if he wanted to.”
“No Hermione. Dumbledore wasn’t a coward. He would never run away, leaving others to fight it out for him,” Harry said.
“There is a difference between to simply run away and falling back to return to fight another day.”
“No. He would never leave until he knew that everyone was safe.”
“Oh! So you are ready to believe that he begged for his life but not that he could have survived that day to return to fight another day when he was not already weakened?” Harry could think of nothing to say to that. “I have been thinking about it a lot lately and I’d rather place my trust in Dumbledore than the rest of the world on this matter.” At this the other three protested furiously. “How can you even think that?” shouted Ginny. “I can’t believe that you are actually trying to defend that bloody murderer!” said Ron. Harry was too livid to say anything at all. “I have enough reasons to actually believe in Dumbledore’s judgment.”
“Snape murdered Dumbledore right in front of me Hermione. What can you say to make us think otherwise? You are not suggesting that I was hallucinating that night, are you?”
“Harry, you yourself told us that Dumbledore knew about the Unbreakeable Vow that Snape made to Draco’s mother. Right?” Not waiting for his answer, Hermione continued, “If Dumbledore knew about it then he also knew that in case Draco failed in his task, Snape was bound to do it on himself. From what Dumbledore said to Draco that night, it is clear that he knew what Draco’s task was. Is it impossible that Dumbledore had planned this whole episode with Snape? It would explain why he begged Snape. He pleaded Snape to play his part.”
“Once again Hermione, why would Dumbledore plan his own death?”
“Don’t you see Ron? This way, Draco not only survives but also gets a chance to turn to the right side. Snape survives and gains Voldemort’s confidence. Dumbledore not only saved two lives but also made sure that his man stays close to Voldemort.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“Right from our first year you have doubted Snape but those suspicions always proved to be unfounded. Besides, Dumbledore himself said that it was Snape whose ministrations saved him from death when he was injured because of the ‘ring’ horcrux. It would have been much easier for Snape to let Dumbledore die then because no one would have suspected him. Finally, it all comes down to whether you trust in Dumbledore’s judgment or not.” No one spoke for a while and when Harry finally spoke, he spoke in a hoarse voice, “I can’t forget what I saw that night Hermione. If Snape was truly loyal to Dumbledore then he should have rather died than murder Dumbledore. I will never forget the look of hatred and disgust that he had on his face when he fired the curse…” With that, Harry walked out of the room.

As Harry reached the bottom of the stairs, he realized that order meeting had just ended. There were quite a number of people bustling around. Harry bumped into someone while searching the crowd for Tonks. “I am sorry,” he mumbled and looked up into the smiling face of the person he was looking for.
“Wotcher’ Harry! How’s everything going?”
“Fine. Listen, I have been looking for you. Can we talk somewhere more private?” Tonks looked at him with a measuring look on her face and then nodded, “Sure Harry. Will the library do?”
“Yeah.” Harry agreed and followed Tonks to the library. When they entered the room and Harry had closed the door behind him, Tonks rounded up on him. “What’s the matter Harry? Is something bothering you?”
“Yeah. I was wondering if you could tell me where Remus is and when he will be back.”
“He is out for some order business.”
“So I keep hearing. Where is he? The order has not sent him among the werewolves, have they? Fenrir saw him fighting with the order last term. If Remus turns up there now, they’ll kill him straightaway.”
“No, no, no. He hasn’t gone back there… Well, not exactly.”
“What? What do you mean by ‘not exactly’? Tonks shuffled on her feet and said, “I can’t tell you Harry. I know you must be worried about…”
“Not you too Tonks. The order treats me like a kid even though I have faced much more than most of them. I didn’t think you’d treat me like one too. Come on Tonks; please tell me what he is up to. The order need not know that you’ve told me.”
“Well, I suppose it can’t hurt for you to know... You know how Fenrir has been attacking people for some time now, right? Since Remus could no longer go back among them, the order thought that it is worth a try to recruit the newly infected ones. The ones who have not joined the dark side yet. So, Remus is somewhere out there trying to convince Fenrir’s latest victims to join the order.”
“But that is as risky a walking up to Fenrir’ gang. If they get a wind about what he is doing then they won’t waste any time in tracking Remus down and…”
“I know Harry. But its gotta be done and who is better qualified than Remus for this case?”
“But he could get killed!”
“There’s a war going on Harry. Everything is risky… A person could be killed even if he is hiding in his house. We all have to do what we can. We all have to take some risks.” Harry let out a sigh and surrendered. He had had enough for an evening. “Fine. When will he be back?”
“Can’t say. He can turn up right now or even take months. No idea.”
“So what else is the order doing?”
“Well, we are trying to stop the death eater attacks whenever we can and also capture as many of them as we can. Besides, we are also trying to recruit more people into the order… our numbers have decreased a lot and currently we are well outnumbered by the death eaters.”
“Outnumbered? But I thought that this time we were better prepared than the last war. At least that is what Remus had said couple of years back. What happened?” “Well, don’t forget that Voldemort has been recruiting quite a lot recently. But the main problem was caused by Dumbledore’s death. After his death, quite a number of people thought that without Dumbledore we have no chance… So they left the order saying that they would rather spend, whatever time they have, with their families. We really need to bring in some foreign wizards too. Charlie would have been great help that way, but unfortunately…”
“There is still no news of him?”
“No. We don’t even know if he is dead or alive.”  Both Harry and Tonks remained quiet, thinking of the Weasleys. Finally Tonks broke the silence, “You know, with Dumbledore gone , nothing seems to be right. No offence to Mad-Eye, he is a good leader, but without Dumbledore the Order seems to be lifeless. Dumbledore knew to how to motivate each and every one of us. Now, even the smallest hurdles seem so big!... Oh! Look at the time. I must get going now. You don’t worry Harry, we will make it through.” Harry nodded and turned to leave but Tonks called him back. “Harry.” He turned to face her. “Please take care of yourself and… and don’t rush into anything. Wait for Remus before you decide to go off by yourself, okay?” Harry frowned. ‘How did she know that he was planning to take off?’ As if reading his mind, Tonks said, “Remus told me about how you wanted to visit your parents’ graves. He promised to take you there as soon as possible, right? So be sure that he’ll be back as soon as he can.”

Later that night, a very confused Harry went to sleep with his head buzzing with a number of questions and doubts. Harry lay on his bed, staring at the window and thinking. No matter how many times he had called Hermione ‘crazy’ that day, Harry could not help wondering if she was right. She sure had her reasons… Yet the look of pure loathing that Snape wore that night kept Harry convinced that Snape was a traitor. No matter how good an actor he was, nobody could ever fake such an expression. Snape hated Dumbledore… Where was Charlie?  Why hadn’t the order managed to find him yet? Then there was the matter of Lupin… When would he return? Should Harry wait for him a bit longer? Or should he take off on his own? He had no idea where to Goodrich’s Hollow or Hephzibah Smith’s place was or where to find the remaining hocuses. Where could they be? Darkness took over as Harry fell asleep… not knowing that at least one of his questions would be answered very soon.