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The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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‘Hey, Harry.’ Neville leaned across the Gryffindor table with a skewered sausage on his fork. ‘You going to the library tonight to do some OWL studying?’

‘Erm, no, I can’t. I’ve got, um … to see Snape.’ Harry kept his eyes on his plate.

‘What for?’ Neville took a bite. ‘You didn’t get detention again?’

‘Um … no. I’ve got, er…’ He glanced along the table. ‘I’ve got remedial Potions,’ Harry whispered.

Neville stopped chewing. His eyes widened with wonder and – Harry thought – unease. ‘Boy, I didn’t know you were that bad.’

Harry felt horrible he couldn’t tell him the real reason for his extra lessons with Snape. Neville was picking at his food worriedly. Since it was him who ruined the most potions on a regular basis, Harry imagined he must be terrified Snape might decide he also needed one-on-one Potions tuition. Neville would probably have nightmares for weeks.

He forced down his guilty sympathy and stuffed his mouth with potato. He had only told Ron and Hermione the extra tuition was to teach him Occlumency. He didn’t want to tempt Snape’s fury. Those private lessons were bad enough as they were.

He’d had three over the last couple of weeks, but it wasn’t getting any easier to clear his mind. The overwhelming distrust he now felt around Snape wasn’t nearly as comforting as the hate he’d nurtured for him over the years. Just the thought, never mind the sight, of Snape triggered visions of the horrific things his dad might be going through, the dreadful places he was being held against his will, and images of him lying in a hospital bed somewhere not knowing he had a son, or even who he was himself.

He did his best to push them away. Snape was relentless in rifling through his memories. It was as if he was deliberately not telling him how to do this Occlumency thing properly. Watching Snape view every personal and private thing, both with the Dursleys and at Hogwarts, then enduring his ugly sneers, was humiliating. But it would be a disaster if he found out he knew his dad was alive. He might never see him again.

He saved up until night his daydreams about seeing his dad. Bedtime usually began with a brief period of irritation when he remembered Snape’s instruction to clear his mind before sleep – and then he put thoughts of Snape aside for better things.

Now Dumbledore and Lupin had found out the truth, they would make sure his dad was safe and well, he was certain of it. And they would find a way for him to make contact with his son.

He had never really known his father. He only had the still-new feeling instilled by Sirius to go on when it came to family. But that was surely nothing compared to what it would be like when he and his dad were finally reunited. He could barely imagine it.

Still, he tried to, every night. And he would until the day it became real.

But in the meantime he had the continued mental torture of private lessons with Snape.

‘I feel sick at the end of every session,’ he told Hermione between classes when she asked how his Occlumency was going.

‘Well, you’ve only had them for a few weeks,’ she said. ‘And you should practise like Professor Snape tells you to.’

‘It’s not that. It’s with all the tension of knowing he knows exactly where my dad is – and trying to keep those kinds of thoughts out of my head in case he sees them. And they’re just like Potions classes – every time he takes a stab at me or my dad, I just want to throttle the truth out of him.’

If he could practise drifting off to sleep with a clear mind, maybe he would find it easier to shove Snape from his head during those lessons; but he could as much let go of his fantasies about his dad as he could his hate for Snape.

Still, the odd thing was, though he fell asleep dreaming of such things as standing with his dad cheering on the Chudley Cannons, he sometimes woke to very different visions.

‘I’ve been having these weird dreams recently,’ he told Hermione as they walked across the grounds to Care of Magical Creatures, ‘where I’m in a really creepy place – like a house.’ He hung his head in thought. ‘It’s strange, because in my last lesson with Snape, I cast a Shielding Charm when he used Legilimency and I actually broke into his thoughts for a second. Maybe that’s what that place is all about – what if those dreams are something to do with the Legilimency he’s doing on me? Maybe it’s where my dad is.’ He let out a frustrated breath. ‘If only I knew where it was.’

‘Sounds a bit too vague to me,’ she said, her brows furrowed. ‘And it’s not like you actually saw your dad in his thoughts, did you?’

The only person he had seen in Snape’s head he had recognised had been the strange little boy who had cried as his parents argued.

‘So you don’t know that’s where he is,’ said Hermione. ‘I mean, you’re trying your best not to think about your dad when Snape’s looking at your thoughts – that’ll be what he’s doing too.’

‘Yeah, I suppose. He puts some of his memories in Dumbledore’s Pensieve before every lesson so I can’t see them. I’ll bet at least one’s about where my dad is…’ He stopped, thinking furiously. He was mad at himself for not considering this before.

‘I don’t think I’m going to like this somehow,’ said Hermione, pulling back to where he stood in contemplation.

‘If I can get Snape out of his office in tonight’s lesson…’ He pictured his plan. ‘It’ll give me the chance to take a quick look in the Pensieve at one of his memories.’

‘You don’t know for sure he put—’

‘Hermione, one’s bound to be about my dad – Snape’ll do anything to stop me finding something out.’

‘Well…’

Though she looked uncertain, Harry wasn’t going to let her give up so easily. With Lupin and Dumbledore apparently sworn to secrecy, this could be the only way to find out where his father was. ‘So, if you and Ron can create a diversion tonight…’

‘Oh…’

‘Please, Hermione?’

‘Well… You know you’d have to be really quick? I mean, Snape’s bound to be suspicious of you, isn’t he?’ She hesitated, taking a moment to study him with concern, then sighed. ‘I’ll think of something,’ she promised reluctantly.

He grinned in relief. ‘Thanks, Hermione.’

That evening he found himself once again on the dusty floor of Snape’s office, thinking he was getting rather familiar with the stains there and their various shades of black from years of potions and who knew what else.

‘That dog again? Get up, Potter. Let’s start over.’

His head spinning, Harry tried to focus on where the ground was beneath his hands. ‘I need a break,’ he said hoarsely as he heaved himself up.

‘Funny, I don’t believe the Dark Lord allows for tea breaks.’ Snape pointed his wand as Harry got to his feet. ‘One … two—’

‘Stop!’ Snape and his wand were swaying. That really wasn’t normal.

‘Extraordinary.’ Snape lowered his arm as Harry leaned on a nearby chair. ‘All those years of training my mind from intrusion, when a simple demand for a reprieve would do. Why didn’t I think of that before – I could have saved myself years of time and effort.’

Harry dug his fingers into the back of the chair and glared at Snape while his wand was still down.

‘Why don’t you just admit it, Potter? You are not practising like I told you to! I would have thought emptying your mind would have been an easy task – you’re always at least halfway there already in my classes.’

‘I’m trying,’ Harry said through gritted teeth.

Snape sneered. ‘Yes, you are – very trying.’

He was raising his wand again, and Harry hurriedly pushed out all thoughts on what Snape might know about his dad’s whereabouts and forced himself to focus instead on the Dursleys. Maybe he was overdoing Aunt Marge’s dog. It was just easier to concentrate on such a reliable event that didn’t feature a Dursley directly. But it wasn’t as if he had a shortage of other memories Snape would be satisfied with. Dudley making him stand in the toilet, the spiders in his cupboard… He broke out in another sweat, his heart pounding as he met Snape’s sour gaze.

‘Let’s hope for your sake I don’t see the dog again, Potter. After three—’

Before he could start counting down, the door burst open, spilling the bulky form of Crabbe into the room.

‘Sir,’ he said around quick, rasping breaths, ‘Draco.’ Crabbe, who hadn’t noticed Harry, and was a person of few words at the best of times, appeared about to dash out again before he’d explained what the matter was.

But Snape didn’t seem particularly worried. He looked more inconvenienced than anything else. ‘Potter.’ He turned stern black eyes to Harry. ‘We shall resume from this point next lesson.’

As Crabbe darted out into the corridor, Snape added quietly but forcefully, ‘And make sure you practise clearing your mind!’ At that, he turned and followed Crabbe, dark robes billowing.

Harry slid to the doorway and listened to Snape’s echoing voice probing Crabbe as their footsteps receded down the corridor.

Turning to look at the soft shimmer on Snape’s desk, he hoped this was the diversion Hermione had promised him. He carefully closed the door and took a decisive step toward the Pensieve, its contents summoning him like a beacon in the murky dungeon.

-x-


It was Hermione who spotted him first as he entered the library afterwards. She placed her book down on the table and fixed a questioning look on him as he drew a seat next to Ron, slumped behind a Quidditch manual. ‘Well?’ she asked.

Ron straightened as he sank into the chair. Both quickly caught on to his disappointment. ‘You didn’t see your dad?’ said Ron.

‘I saw him,’ said Harry, not feeling ready yet to meet his or Hermione’s concerned gaze.

‘And?’ pressed Ron.

Harry shrugged. ‘He’d just finished his Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL exam.’

Ron’s expression twisted into one of confusion, but Hermione seemed to understand. ‘You saw him when he was at Hogwarts?’ she asked.

He nodded, still refusing to look either in the eye. What he had seen hadn’t been what he had expected. Not at all. He still didn’t know what to make of it, ten minutes after he had exited Snape’s memory and office unseen.

‘So you’re still none the wiser,’ stated Ron.

Harry sighed; he hadn’t been able to see anything that could have given him the remotest idea of where his dad was. Once in Snape’s memory, he had been transfixed with being so near to his dad – amazed he had looked so much like him when he had been his age – and seeing him with Sirius, Lupin – and even with a young Wormtail. And his mum, with her auburn hair caught by the summer’s breeze, facing off to his father by the lake’s edge. ‘I only had time to see one memory. Didn’t see that house.’

‘What house?’ asked Ron.

‘Oh, just a dream I’ve been having. Probably nothing.’

‘Dream? So why’d you expect it in Snape’s memory?’

Harry didn’t really know – but the dreams had started around the same time as Occlumency lessons.

‘Maybe he planted it in your head,’ said Ron when Harry told him this. ‘Just to give you nightmares.’

‘I don’t see why he’d do that, Ron,’ said Hermione. ‘What reason could he have to do that?’

‘Because he hates Harry. What other reason does Snape need to do anything?’ He shook his head as though despairing at her faulty logic.

Harry was back in Snape’s memory, hearing his dad shout, ‘Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?’ and the answering yells, his father’s feral grin, and then…

‘Look, why don’t I try my dad—’

‘No!’

‘Shhh!’ The shrill voice of Madam Pince cut through the room, her stern features staring them down. A group nearby who had been happily whispering across their table now seemed to be trying to disappear into their seats.

Ron pretended to have his nose in his book. ‘Why not?’ he muttered, eyes following Pince’s suspicious gaze. ‘They might know something…’

‘I don’t want this to get out. What if he doesn’t know anything? You can’t go round asking about someone who’s supposed to have been dead for years. It’s too risky.’

‘So what now?’

‘Well, we can’t try Snape’s memories again,’ said Hermione. ‘He won’t swallow another distraction.’

‘Maybe I don’t want to anyway.’ The words had escaped his mouth before he could stop them. He folded his arms and frowned, unsure whether he felt more angry at himself or his dad.

‘What do you mean?’ said Hermione.

Harry dragged a book across the table and flipped through a few pages.

‘Harry?’ she persisted, bringing her book down a little when he made no move to reply.

‘He was with Sirius and Lupin,’ he conceded flatly after a moment, his attention still set on the random pages he held open. ‘And Wormtail. And my dad was everything Snape says he was – arrogant, vain – and he was a bully.’

‘But it was Snape’s memory you were looking at, right?’ said Ron.

Harry looked up. ‘Yeah, but it still happened. And by the sound of it, it wasn’t the first time.’ He turned back to his book. ‘It was Snape they were bullying, actually – my dad and Sirius.’

‘So what?’ said Ron. ‘I bet he deserved it.’

‘That’s not the point,’ said Harry. ‘He was a thief, too.’ At Ron’s puzzled look, he added, ‘He’d stolen a Snitch.’

Ron shrugged. ‘So your dad wasn’t a saint – who is?’

‘Why are you letting this get to you?’ asked Hermione, a faint line between her brows.

‘It made me think, that’s all.’

‘Think what?’

‘I’d just assumed the reason he hasn’t tried to get in touch with me was because he couldn’t. But maybe … maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to.’

Her frown deepened. ‘Why on earth wouldn’t he want to if he could?’

‘I don’t know.’ He shrugged. ‘It’s just – well, when I saw him in that memory, I realised he’s just – a man – you know? Someone with his own faults. So maybe he got scared when Voldemort found him and my mum? What if he … you know.’ He felt himself redden. It sounded a stupid thing to say now, but it was weighing on his mind after witnessing his dad’s immature behaviour. ‘What if he ran away?’ he blurted to the creased, grubby-edged leaves of the book he gripped.

‘And faked his own death?’ asked Ron. ‘Are you off your rocker?’

‘You weren’t there,’ said Harry, his face burning. ‘You didn’t see what I saw in that memory!’

‘Shh,’ whispered Hermione, glancing over her shoulder. ‘Keep your voices down.’

‘He’s lost the plot,’ said Ron worriedly, jabbing a thumb in Harry’s direction.

‘Harry’s upset, Ron, he’s—’

‘I’m not crazy,’ said Harry to a startled Hermione. ‘It’s just I can’t believe no one knew anything – anything – in all these years. Dumbledore and Lupin have only just found out he’s alive, and—’

‘So now you don’t think Snape’s got anything to do with it?’ interrupted Ron, his face still showing incredulity.

‘I didn’t say that, I just—’

‘So Snape helped your dad fake his own death,’ Ron ploughed on. ‘Is that what you’re saying?’

‘No, of course not, but… Look, I don’t know what to think any more. I’m sick of all this.’ In exasperation, he threw down the book and slumped back in his chair. ‘He’s my dad – I have a right to know the truth.’ His distracted glare rested on a first-year poring over his homework at the next table.

‘Look,’ began Hermione after a moment. ‘I have an idea. You’re not going to like it, though – but just hear me out.’ She waited for Harry to return his attention to their table. ‘Lupin’s still at Hogwarts, right?’

He nodded. Lupin had been visiting the castle a lot lately. He assumed it must be either something to do with the Order now it had been re-formed, the Wolfsbane Potion or his dad. Or maybe even all three. ‘Yeah. But he’s not going to tell me anything, is he? He promised Snape enough times.’

‘I know. But didn’t he also keep trying to talk Snape into telling you?’

‘Yeah.’ He eyed her warily. He couldn’t be more certain hell would freeze over before Snape decided to confess what he knew to him. So where was she going with this?

‘Well?’ and she waited, as though it were obvious. She added at his questioning look, ‘So it wouldn’t be so much of a surprise to Lupin if you told him that Snape had told you, would it?’

Harry frowned and Ron appeared equally baffled. ‘How’s that going to help?’

‘Act like you know everything. Be vague and see what Lupin says.’ She looked from him to Ron and back again. ‘Well, does anyone have any better ideas?’

‘You mean,’ Harry said slowly, deliberating exactly what this would entail, ‘lie to Lupin to see if I can get him to let slip something?’

She noted his disbelief. ‘I told you you wouldn’t like it.’ She picked up her book with a frown, leaving him staring across at the cover of Defensive Magical Theory.

‘It might be the only chance you’ve got, mate,’ whispered Ron in his ear as he retrieved his Quidditch manual.

Harry turned the idea over in his head as his unfocused gaze stayed fixed on the bold lettering of Hermione’s book. ‘You’re right,’ he said after a while.

She peered over the pages with a questioning look.

I don’t like it, he thought. But instead he said with a shrug and a faint smile, ‘I don’t have any better ideas.’

She pressed her mouth together, its corners lifting a little in reassurance.

After all he had seen that day, and with the horrible prospect of lying to Lupin ahead of him, Harry felt he really needed cheering up right then. He shifted on the hard library seat to get at least halfway comfortable, finally settling on leaning forward to rest on the table. ‘So,’ he said, giving Hermione and Ron an earnest look. ‘Tell me what you did to Malfoy.’

Hermione’s smile broadened.

-x-


‘I’m certain the Dark Lord is planning something.’

‘I’m sure he is,’ said Dumbledore.

Snape turned to him. Down one end of the Great Hall there was a peal of childish laughter. ‘Something he’s not telling me.’

‘You mustn’t expect to be in his confidence all the time, Severus.’

‘He hasn’t yet told me about…’ He waited as Pomona Sprout, trampling by where they stood, made it known how delightful today’s shepherd’s pie had been. Snape took Dumbledore’s cheerful acknowledgement away from the line of the staff table. ‘He hasn’t yet informed me he restored me to life.’

Dumbledore’s smile was overshadowed for a second, before he blinked it back. ‘Choosing his moment?’

‘I think there is more to it. I think he’s deliberately holding back.’

They observed goblets being refilled as empty plates were pushed aside, Dumbledore with a grave look. ‘Then you must find out.’

‘Are you aware of the ease with which Flintoff was captured?’

‘Flintoff?’

‘The Death Eater who witnessed it all. I asked you for the report on his capture.’

‘Ah, yes – you found something?’

‘I found nothing of interest – which in itself is interesting. Flintoff has been evading capture for decades, crossing Europe under various names. And yet here he is, just as the Dark Lord returns, in England, right under the Ministry’s nose.’

‘But not a coincidence? He would want to be at his master’s side now, wouldn’t he?’

‘He’s no easy prey. Tell me, what other useful information has he yielded?’ If it had not been weighing on his mind, Snape might have found satisfaction in the falling away of Dumbledore’s doubt as his thoughts deepened. ‘As I thought,’ said Snape. ‘And I would guess it didn’t take him long to divulge his little secret about me. I shouldn’t think he’d have needed truth serum to tell it, either. Only when made to confirm it.’

‘But if you’re suggesting he allowed himself to be captured to deliberately leak this – why take the risk? What could be gained from it? Severus, I understand this is a subject you feel strongly about. But perhaps Lord Voldemort—’

‘It’s a test.’

Dumbledore did not seem convinced.

‘He set Flintoff this task. Rather than inform me directly. He knew you would do so almost as soon as you’d heard. As in fact you did.’ Snape let some of the lingering bitterness consume his worry.

‘But that doesn’t question your loyalty – he knows you have my confidence regardless.’

‘Even so. It opens the question of how I treat your confidence.’

Dumbledore turned his thoughts onto a group of giggling Ravenclaws by the door. ‘But if that’s true, it would mean … He doesn’t trust you entirely.’

‘He’s given no indication. But my delay to him this summer, and the incidents with Quirrell…’

‘Of course. We knew you must tread carefully. But this is something else.’ Dumbledore studied him. ‘He expects you to mention what you’ve learned.’

‘I don’t believe he does,’ said Snape with more certainty than he felt. ‘His intention isn’t to see how open I am, not on this subject at least. His interest lies only in information he regards as useful to him. And he would not expect a loyal follower to question or comment on his actions. No, I believe he merely wants to observe my reaction to the news. How I take it.’

‘I see. Giving you a push, as it were?’

‘Indeed. Very helpful of him.’ It was some relief Dumbledore was not reminded of his somewhat foolish earlier decision to leave Hogwarts, which would have done nothing to alleviate the Dark Lord’s suspicions.

Dumbledore nodded uneasily. ‘You must continue to take care, then. In light of this, I rather agree it’s wise to keep the others uninformed.’

Snape found himself pleasantly surprised Dumbledore viewed his concerns this way. It lessened the larger worry he might yet go behind his back to Potter. He should have thought of it before: To Dumbledore, maintaining his spy in the Dark Lord’s circle trumped almost everything.

‘Speaking of which,’ Dumbledore said, as the last few straggles of students loitered around the tables. ‘How is Harry’s Occlumency coming on?’

Snape scowled. ‘“Coming on”?’ He refuses to practise. It is essential he clears his mind at night if he’s to make any progress at all – and plainly he isn’t. If I see that dratted dog chasing him up that tree one more time…’ At Dumbledore’s raised eyebrows, he added, ‘His Aunt Marge’s dog, apparently.’

‘Perhaps –’ Dumbledore sighed ‘– he needs more of an incentive?’

‘Incentive?’ The Headmaster’s naivety when it came to the boy was infuriating. ‘Isn’t shielding his mind from the Dark Lord reason enough for him?’

‘Well,’ Dumbledore frowned in thought as Snape turned his eye on a cosy-looking clutch of Gryffindors, ‘quite.’

The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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