I'm back to writing! We have six wonderful weeks of summer holidays right now (argh, one week is already gone), so I hope to finish this little piece by the end of August. Many, many thanks to the wonderful Cecelle for betaing! (If you haven't read her brilliant stories yet, you absolutely must do so.) And now on with the first chapter. Enjoy!

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Amoris Infinitas

by Persephone Lupin

beta-read by Cecelle

Chapter 1: A murderer always returns ...

"What shall we do now, Harry? This was the very last place on our list, and it isn't here, either."

There was a long silence. Ron and Hermione looked expectantly at the fierce young man with the lightning-bolt scar who was staring up at the deserted old monastery, obviously deep in thought. Rumour had it that Voldemort had spent some time there, researching you-wouldn't-want-to-know-what, and that the place had been haunted ever since, but there hadn't been any trace at all of the second to last of the Horcruxes, Rowena Ravenclaw's magical mirror.

Finally, Harry lowered his gaze, determination in his eyes. "We are going to Hogwarts."

"But Harry, what on earth would we want there? I'm sure neither Hagrid nor McGonagall know any more about the mirror than we do, and they are the only people left now that the school has been closed."

"I know that. But you of all people should know - the library is still there. Haven't you yourself always turned to the books when clueless? We might find something about the mirror there." Suddenly, Harry's face contorted into a hateful sneer. "And we might find something else at Hogwarts. You know the old Muggle saying, 'A murderer always returns to the scene of his crime', don't you, Hermione?"

"You – you mean Snape?"

"Yeah, Snape ..."

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It was more than strange coming to Hogwarts and not seeing a single student out on the grounds or in the castle. After having paid a short visit to the headmistress, the three friends headed for Hagrid's hut.

"Harry!" the half-giant roared happily, "McGonagall tol' me yeh'd come back, but I couldn't b'lieve it till I seen it with me own eyes!" With something in between a laugh and a sob, he buried Harry in another squashing hug, making the teen wonder whether the Prophecy had gotten things wrong after all and he was really destined to die of broken ribs and lack of oxygen.

"C'mon in, me boy, and yeh, too. Ron. Hermione. So glad ter see yeh. Yeh've come ter do some studyin' here, I've been tol'? An' stayin' at me hut ter boot! Buckb- I mean Witherwings, will be so glad ter see yeh three, he will. 'S been so lonely here after all what's happened ..."

Still catching his breath after the suffocating embrace, Harry entered the familiar hut with his best friends and sat down at the huge wooden table. Nothing had changed in here, it seemed, after Aragog's burial. Hagrid, too, looked his old comforting self. Although, was it just the effect of the flickering light from the fire place or was there more grey in his beard and hair and a strange sadness to his eyes that hadn't been there before?

We all have changed, Harry thought, and suddenly he felt old beyond his age - old and worn and tired to the bone. The dangerous hunt after the Horcruxes had taken much more out of him than he was willing to admit, even to himself, and without Ron and Hermione he would never have come so far in his quest. So much had happened after Dumbledore's burial last summer; many innocent people had died since, some had been fellow students at Hogwarts, friends ... Cho Chang, Dean Thomas, the Patil twins. And Mundungus Fletcher. He shuddered at the thought of the old thief's death. Why had he been so foolish to try to open the locket by force? If only they had found out about it earlier.

Now, in retrospective, he could not understand why on earth it had taken them all summer to figure out that the mysterious R.A.B. was no other than Regulus Alfric Black, Sirius's younger brother. That the Slytherin' locket had been hidden at 12 Grimmauld Place all those years, until Sirius had thrown it into the rubbish sack right under his very nose while cleaning out the house – Sirius, who had thought his brother a coward and a fool ... After his horrific journey to the cave with Dumbledore last summer, nobody except him could possibly imagine just how brave Regulus must have been. After all, he had had the greatest wizard of their time with him, while Regulus had been entirely alone. Of course, Kreacher had retrieved the locket from the sack and hidden it. Mundungus must have found it while sneaking into headquarters to nick Sirius's things. Nothing but blackened bones and smouldering ashes had been left of both man and Horcrux ...

Luckily, finding and destroying Helga Hufflepuff's cup had been almost easy, once they had had the idea to search the dilapidated, long since deserted orphanage, where Tom Riddle had spent his childhood years. But the fifth Horcrux was a tough nut to crack. If Luna Lovegood hadn't joined them at the Burrow over Christmas and told the tale of her great-grandmother Aurelia Ravenclaw's murder, they might never have found out about the mirror. Who would have thought that 'loony' Luna of all people was a descendant of one of the four Founders! No wonder she was in Ravenclaw ... But knowing what the Horcrux most likely was hadn't helped them much in finding it so far. And there was still Nagini, and Voldemort himself. And Snape ... There had been a few sightings of the traitor, or at least the Daily Prophet claimed there had been, but although he was on the very top of the Ministry's wanted list, neither Aurors nor anybody else had come even close to apprehending Severus Snape. He was as elusive as his master, and almost as feared. No wonder, with all the rumours that had been spreading about the country as quick as Dragon Pox. Snape must be delighted to be more infamous than even Sirius Black had been while still accused of mass murder, Harry thought grimly. But he, Harry, would wipe the sneer off that hated face, make him beg for mercy on his knees and never give it...

"... that raven sometimes does, too, after he's been sittin' watch on the Astronomy Tower or whatever he's doin' up there. Comes swooping down, sits on the tomb for a while as if carved of stone, and blimey, if a raven's able ter look sad and contrite, that one does, b'lieve me, then gives a single caw and takes off again. Strange bird, that is. Never lets me come near him, neither. Seems ter be scared as hell of Buck-… Witherwings, too. But that's all that ever visit the headmaster - McGonagall, meself and that raven."

Harry had hardly listened to Hagrid's prattle, being engrossed in his bleak musings. Only at the mention of that strange raven had he listened up. Why would a simple raven sit watch on the Astronomy Tower? And why by Merlin would it visit Dumbledore's grave? That didn't make any sense. Unless ...

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The three friends were standing in front of Dumbledore's tomb when Harry told them about his suspicion.

"You really think the raven – ?" asked Ron, his eyes wide with surprise.

"I'm dead sure it is. As I told you, a murderer always returns. The raven is Snape. And I'm going to prove it."

"But there is no way to tell when he'll come back the next time, if he comes at all," Hermione said. "You cannot possibly keep watch on the Astronomy Tower twenty-four hours a day. We have research to do in the library. And it's still rather chilly for May."

"Didn't Hagrid say he came during the day, preferably at dusk? Why don't you work in the library then, Hermione, and I keep an eye on the Tower? Ron can help both you and me, copy things, bring me books up to the tower ..."

"You really want to get him, don't you? But what will you do if he does come back, Harry? Kill him?" Hermione asked agitatedly. "Harry!" But Harry had already turned away heading for the castle.

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It was indeed much too chilly for May, Harry thought, as he was once again sitting watch on the highest of Hogwarts's many towers, huddled under his Invisibility Cloak. All morning, a thick fog had obscured the grounds and the forest and made it almost impossible for Harry to see further than his own hand. Luckily, the fog had lifted around noon, but it was still cold and windy up here. If Snape didn't show up soon ... Harry was interrupted in his train of thought by the creaking of the door as Ron entered the platform, panting.

"They could at least have a lift up here or an enchanted staircase like the one going up to Dumble –McGonagall's office," he complained, scowling at the heavy stack of books in his arms. "It's been almost two weeks now and there's been no sign of Snape. Neither have we found anything helpful about that mirror. If you ask me, we're wasting our time, mate."

"Sooner or later, the raven will show up. But if you keep on standing there, it'll be gone again the second it sets eyes on you. Get under the Cloak and stop complaining." Ron did as he was told, and the two friends spent another afternoon on the Astronomy Tower, searching through dusty old tomes for answers and getting nowhere.

"Can't keep my eyes open any longer," Ron finally groaned. "It's getting too dark anyway. And I'm starving. Let's go down and get something to eat. You're coming, Harry?"

"Wait a second, Ron. I think I saw something move at the edge of the forest."

"There's always something moving, squirrels, for example, or ferrets, or owls, or – "

"Or a raven. Shhh, it's coming!"

A huge black bird had left the shadows of the Forbidden Forest and came soaring towards the Astronomy Tower. As Hagrid had told them, it landed on the battlements, scanned the Hogwarts grounds with penetrating obsidian eyes, and then sat unmoving in the last glow of the sunset, an eerie black shadow against the orange-tinged sky.

In one flowing movement, Harry threw away his Invisibility Cloak and pointed his wand at the raven, shouting the first curse that came to his mind,


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What do you think so far, shall I continue?

P.S.: It was Cecelle who remembered that one little sentence in OoP about Sirius and the locket; this must be one of Rowling's hidden hints!

P.P.S: If any of you knows Latin, could they please tell me if that title is grammatically correct? That would be great!