It was just past midnight when Harry slipped into the dark and eerily silent library. He had to walk slowly, trying not to make too much noise. He knew that Filch was in a particularly abominable mood than night, having been intercepted by Professor Dumbledore just as he was about to inflict a particularly filthy punishment on an errant First Year.
The Restricted Section was just ahead, and Harry's heartbeat quickened. Maybe this time he would find what he was looking for.
He had no legitimate reason for going into the Restricted Section, which was why he had come into the library under the invisibility cloak.
At least he didn't need a light. Someone had left one of the large windows undraped, and the moon was bright enough to see by.
Several days earlier he had overheard Professor Lupin's conversation with another member of Hogwarts staff. It had disturbed him greatly, so much so that he couldn't even sleep at night. He had lain awake that night, anger and confusion washing over him, until he couldn't stand it another minute.
Lupin was temporarily back at Hogwarts after the sudden disappearance of the new Defense teacher. Harry frowned at the recollection. They'd had a new Defense teacher every year since he came to Hogwarts, but apparently those were no longer even lasting through the first quarter.
Not that Harry was complaining. The new Defense teacher had been horrible. She had shown up with a slew of creatures, most of which were on par with Hagrid's old skrewts. She had assigned more homework than any of their other instructors, and singled out students for reprimand with almost as much malice as Snape.
He had reached the Restricted Section and stepped carefully over the rope that separated it from the rest of the library.
His eyes passed right over the first few shelves. He wasn't looking for hexes . . . not potions . . . and information on banned magical plants wouldn't be much use to him either.
There, he had found it! History of the Ministry of Magic.
Why were these books here? There was an entire section on the subject in the general library. Why put these particular books where very few students could have access to the information contained within their pages?
It had been by chance that Harry had remembered that he had seen the books there the last time he visited the Restricted Section under the cover of night. He hadn't paid any attention to them that time, but this time he seized the first of the books eagerly.
"Mr. Potter," came a chilling, slimy voice from behind him, and the next moment the book was plucked out of his hand at the same time as his cloak was pulled away roughly.
"Well, well, well," Snape continued as Harry turned slowly around to face him. "What have we here?" He turned the book over to read the title. "Did you feel a sudden urge to catch up on your History homework, Mr. Potter?"
Harry gritted his teeth and didn't answer. What awful luck! Of all the people he could have run into, of course it had to be Snape!
"Don't have much to say for yourself?" Snape sneered. "Perhaps you will be more talkative after a good night's sleep," he smiled a most unpleasant smile, knowing that the rest of the night was ruined for Harry. "My office, Mr. Potter, tomorrow before dinner," he smiled again, thinking that he had outdone himself -- now Harry's dinner would be spoiled as well. "Now, if you please, return to Gryffindor dormitory, where you belong."
With Snape's piercing black eyes following him, Harry turned and fled from the library.
He was shaking with fury and indignation. Snape had his cloak! Harry couldn't imagine how he would get it back. Not to mention that he would probably have detention for a week, and that's only if Snape couldn't manage to come up with something more sadistic.
Creeping into his bed, Harry lay awake, anger and disappointment preventing him from closing his eyes.
All he had wanted was to find out the truth!
A few days earlier, he had been delayed in study hall, which is what they had been having instead of Defense, and overheard snatches of conversation coming from an office down the corridor.
He had heard his mother's name. Any thought of consequences or principles immediately vanished from his head. He stopped and listened.
He was amazed to head Lupin's voice, but couldn't figure out whom Lupin was talking to. Lupin was doing nearly all of the talking, his voice getting angrier and louder. When the other person spoke, it was in a voice so soft that Harry couldn't hear any distinguishable words.
So that's how Harry had found out about the accusations against his mother. He had stood there and listened to Lupin's angry voice demand to know whether there was any truth to them. As far as Harry could figure out, a Death Eater had once accused his mother of consorting with Voldemort.
His mother! Harry felt his anger boil over as he thought about it. His mother had died fighting Voldemort -- died to protect Harry! Why was Professor Lupin even considering this absurdity?
He had lain awake in his bed that night just as he did now. Whenever he closed his eyes, his mother's last words repeated inside his head.
The following morning he had been far less surprised than his fellow Gryffindors to find out that Professor Lupin was back at Hogwarts and going to take over the stalled Defense class.
Harry loitered after class that day, but his courage had failed him under Lupin's eager greeting and ready smile. He tried again following dinner, but the words wouldn't come. He remembered how sad Professor Lupin's eyes became every time he was reminded of James and Lily Potter.
The following morning between classes, Harry had gone to the library to see if he could find the information himself. Trials were described in several books, and if any accusations had been made, perhaps they would be there, along with a solid refute.
He had found nothing.
For a moment he had considered asking Hermione for help, after all, who knew research methods better than she? But this was a private matter, one that hurt him bitterly, and he couldn't bring himself to share it with his friends.
Now, after his failed excursion to the Restricted Section, Harry was no closer to the truth. He sighed in frustration.
It couldn't be true. Of course not. But just the thought of his mother being accused of something so terrible would give him no peace until he was satisfied that it was a cruel lie, just a pathetic attempt to stay out of Azkaban.
Snape wouldn't stop him, Harry was determined. What was detention when he was on a mission to find the truth? He would find it, whatever it took.
But as he tossed and turned in his bed, Harry was miserably aware that if Snape had his way, he would have many uncomfortable days ahead of him.