The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]
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He agonised over it for days, but he couldn’t keep putting it off. The full moon was coming up in a few weeks – and Christmas break – and he might not see Lupin again for months.
It wasn’t as if he was hard to find nowadays. Harry had already seen him around the castle on several occasions since school started. ‘Order business’ he always said when they ran into each other. But Harry knew just what that ‘Order business’ was, since Lupin was spotted more often than not in or around the dungeons.
He didn’t like the idea of deceiving him. Lupin was his friend, and his father’s too. But it wouldn’t be much of a lie – in fact, it wasn’t a lie at all. Not really. He just wouldn’t tell him the truth. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
When he overheard McGonagall tell Trelawney she had just been talking to Lupin in the staffroom, he decided it was now or never. As he made his way down the corridor his stomach was still complaining from bolting his lunch. Or maybe it was nerves.
The stone sentries on either side of the staffroom door stared down at him accusingly. He didn’t have to lie. Just be vague, he told himself.
‘Talking to yourself, Potter?’
He turned to see Malfoy eyeing him with hateful glee, flanked by a sniggering Crabbe and Goyle.
‘First sign of insanity. Don’t want to end up like Longbottom’s parents, do you?’
Crabbe and Goyle grunted laughter.
‘Get lost, Malfoy.’
‘Looks like you’re the one who’s lost, Potter. Idiot Tower’s that way.’
Malfoy clearly wasn’t going anywhere, but Harry wasn’t going to let the Slytherin stop him now. He turned back to the door and knocked, hoping Malfoy would take the hint.
‘Not in trouble again?’ sneered Malfoy as Harry kept his gaze fixed on the door. ‘But I suppose you’re having problems with homework and need extra lessons. How’s your remedial Potions going?’
Harry spun around. How had he heard about that? Not from Neville or the few others who knew.
But then he noticed Crabbe grinning like a madman in a heat wave – Snape must have told Crabbe when Hermione had created the diversion for him the week before.
‘How’s your rash, Malfoy?’ He strained to peer behind Malfoy in mock concern. ‘Madam Pomfrey give you enough cream for it? I hope Goyle’s not too squeamish. If you need a hand, lads, just give me a shout.’
Malfoy turned an ugly shade of red, and Goyle and Crabbe lost their oafish grins. They stood fast by Malfoy’s side as he drew his wand.
Just as Harry pulled out his own wand, the door opened and Lupin appeared. His initial pleasure at seeing Harry fell away on noticing his raised wand. With a frown, he followed where it was directed toward the three Slytherins and their readied wands.
‘Don’t you boys have any classes to go to?’ He smiled politely at Malfoy and his two sidekicks.
Malfoy glared at him, showing no intention of letting himself be told what to do by an ex-teacher, much less one who also happened to be a werewolf.
‘I may not be a teacher here any more, Mr Malfoy,’ said Lupin, ‘but I can still talk to the Headmaster.’ He extended another courteous smile.
It only intensified Malfoy’s scowl. But he had no choice – Lupin wouldn’t buy it if he tried to blame Harry, and Malfoy knew it.
He lowered his wand, still glaring at Lupin, and Crabbe and Goyle followed suit. He shot Harry a fiery glance as he passed that let him know he’d deal with him later.
‘All right?’ Lupin asked when the three Slytherins were out of earshot down the corridor. Harry nodded and replaced his wand, and Lupin said, ‘Was it me you wanted to see?’ He looked at his watch. ‘Because I’m in a bit of a hurry, I’m afraid. I’m needed back at Order Headquarters after I see Professor Dumbledore.’
In the confrontation with Malfoy and his goons, Harry had nearly forgotten what he had come to find Lupin for. Now, on remembering, he felt his voice stick in his throat. He glanced down the empty corridor. ‘I…’ he began, his voice sounding shaky. Be vague, he thought, recalling Hermione’s advice. He took a deep breath. ‘Professor Snape told me,’ he said in a rush before he lost his nerve.
Lupin was searching his face, which Harry was certain must be growing redder by the second. ‘Told you what?’
‘He … told me … about…’ It was all very well being vague – but what then? He glanced up, but to his dismay, Lupin was simply waiting for him to continue. Harry turned his attention to the staffroom door, unable to look Lupin in the eye. ‘About … everything. You know, about my dad … that he’s not dead, and…’ He stopped then and waited for Lupin to fill in the gaps.
He seemed to be doing just that, though not out loud. A few tense moments passed, then Lupin let out a breath that sounded to Harry’s ears like relief. ‘He told you?’ Lupin reached to scratch the back of his neck. ‘Well, I never thought he would actually tell you…’ He glanced anxiously at his watch again, then looked with interest at Harry, whose wait for important hints was fast turning into an unendurable test of patience. ‘You seem to be taking it quite well.’
Harry’s heart thumped a stronger beat. It wasn’t really that bad, was it? Was his dad in that much trouble? A slow terror took hold of him.
‘You know –’ Lupin’s close gaze was becoming suffocating ‘– Severus isn’t finding it easy to come to terms with. So I hope you and he can get along better now you know. It might help. Maybe that’s why he finally decided to tell you.’
‘Right,’ was all Harry dared to say. He had to say something.
‘Look, I’m sorry, Harry – I really do need to go. I promise you we’ll talk soon. All right?’
It was disheartening he hadn’t discovered anything significant, anything useful. He had only succeeded in making matters worse. He looked desperately at Lupin, knowing he would mention this encounter to Snape. And then both men would know he’d been lying. Lupin’s disappointment would pale in comparison to Snape’s fury.
‘I hope,’ said Lupin in the mild teacher-like tone he used to use in class, ‘you and Draco Malfoy can get along better as well, now you both have something in common – in a way.’ He flashed a tentative smile.
‘Do we?’ He couldn’t help the question. Lupin’s suggestion was so utterly unexpected – and bewildering. What on earth could he possibly share with Draco?
A group of chattering Hufflepuffs appeared around the corner, fast approaching them. ‘Yes,’ said Lupin hesitantly, readying himself to leave. He seemed amused, and grinned as if the joke was obvious. The students passed by, drowning Lupin’s whisper in a wave of noise. ‘Well, as Draco’s father is a Death Eater? Anyway, I’ll see you later.’
Harry stood and stared at Lupin’s head as it bobbed among the Hufflepuffs until the greying hair was swallowed in the maelstrom.
Later that afternoon the staffroom’s gargoyles found themselves on the receiving end of a glare so stony it made them feel almost animate in comparison.
Snape strode into the panelled room in a foul mood. Which was perfectly normal after teaching a tiresome class of second-year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws.
He made for the low oak table pushed up against the far wall and turned an impatient eye on the two battered canisters of tea and coffee. He didn’t consider himself a coffee person, preferring the calming properties of tea over the reinvigorating powers of caffeine. But there was only one thing worse than first-year dunderheads, and that was second-year clowns.
‘Ah, here you are, Severus!’ Lupin sounded excruciatingly cheerful.
Definitely make it coffee, he thought with a grimace as he heard Lupin close the door after him. He reached out and grew aware of a grinning Lupin hovering next to him. ‘What?’ he demanded, swiping the canister from the table.
‘You’ve done the right thing, you know.’
Snape examined the container in his hand then looked to the one on the table. ‘Why? What’s wrong with the tea?’
Lupin let out a loud laugh.
And then the werewolf actually slapped him on the back.
The liberties Lupin was taking were fast becoming intolerable. He would murder Dumbledore for telling the werewolf about the Potter that would not go away. The other one.
‘You know what I mean,’ said Lupin, still beaming in the face of Snape’s outrage. ‘Telling Harry.’
‘Potter?’ He put down the coffee. ‘What about him?’ What was the boy up to now?
‘You know what about,’ insisted Lupin with an infuriating smile. ‘I saw him earlier – he seemed to be taking it quite well. You see – I told you there was nothing to worry about.’
Snape studied Lupin’s triumph for clues; he felt the hackles on the back of his neck begin to rise. He looked him in the eye. ‘What did Potter say to you?’
The werewolf’s jubilant expression twitched with doubt. ‘He said you’d told him.’
‘Told him what?’ breathed Snape. But as soon as he had asked, he knew he did not want to know the answer.
Lupin laughed feebly in a poor attempt to dispel the tension. ‘Well, come on … you know,’ he said uncertainly. ‘What we talked about.’
Snape intensified his glare. ‘Lupin – what did Potter say to you exactly?’
Thankfully, no evidence was now left of the werewolf’s earlier joy – but it had been utterly usurped by anxiety, which inspired little confidence. ‘He said … that you’d told him.’ Lupin paused. ‘He said he knew that … that James isn’t dead.’
If Snape’s stomach hadn’t already been turning for the past few moments, he was sure he would have felt it lurch at this. But he was less sure whether it was solely because the boy had somehow discovered something, or also because of the simple, casual remark that affected him so deeply. ‘Is that all he said?’
Lupin’s nod was hesitant.
‘Yes. You did … you did tell him, didn’t you?’
Snape stared at his naivety. ‘Did I not say – many times – that I would not tell the boy?’
Lupin’s deepening confusion was testing Snape’s patience. ‘But,’ said Lupin, ‘if you didn’t … How did he find out?’
‘That is what I would like to know.’ Potter always managed to get himself into mischief by some means, just like his father before him. But the method was irrelevant; of higher priority now was to ascertain exactly what he knew. He studied Lupin’s dazed expression. ‘Well? What did you say to him then?’
‘I, er, I was in a hurry. Dumbledore wanted to see me before London. I don’t—’ His eyes widened. ‘Oh … oh, no.’ He blanched.
Lupin was gripping the edge of the table. ‘I have to find him.’ He turned to leave.
In one swift movement, Snape blocked his way with an angry stare. ‘Lupin. Tell me what you said to the boy. If by some merciful chance you managed not to blurt the whole lot out, I am not about to let you fill him in now.’
‘Let me past, Severus. I am not going to let him think…’ He tried to move away, but Snape forced him back, pinning him to the table edge.
‘You are not going anywhere until you tell me what you said to him.’
Lupin did well to evince an almost pleading gaze through his obviously painful tension. It took a moment for him to realise he was never going to win this one; his grip on the oak at his back loosened as he released a breath. ‘He and Draco Malfoy were arguing in the corridor. I thought maybe if I … I was just trying to lighten…’ His look was pained. ‘I thought you’d told him everything – I would never have said it otherwise.’
Snape narrowed his eyes. ‘What about Draco?’
Lupin swallowed. ‘I pointed out he and Draco have something in common.’ His voice was low and grating. ‘That they both … that Draco’s father’s…’ He ended with another awkward bob of the throat.
‘Is a Death Eater?’ Snape finished for him.
Lupin’s nod was watchful, Snape noticed.
‘That is all you told him?’
‘Yes,’ said Lupin, a touch of relief in his voice. ‘I had to go then. Some students came by – we didn’t get a chance to talk further.’
Snape eased back from him. ‘Listen to me, Lupin—’
Lupin shook his head. ‘No. I have to tell him. I’m not going to let Harry think his fa—’
‘Listen! First of all, you will find out how and what he knows and what he thinks my involvement is in this. Then – if he doesn’t already know everything – you will do this, Lupin – you will tell him James Potter is working undercover for the Order, and that is all. You got the boy into this mess,’ he added at Lupin’s dejection. At least it meant he had won this battle. For now. ‘You will tell him he is working for Dumbledore, and nothing else. Is that plain?’
‘I don’t like lying to him.’
Snape sneered. ‘Potter had no qualms about lying to you.’ He moved away to a mismatched armchair and rested his hands on its back to think better. ‘But we must be economical with the truth.’ He dug his fingers into the worn upholstery. ‘Tell him Dumbledore and I alone knew these past years, that he had to remain undercover – and still does.’
‘Well, that’s not true, is it?’
‘For pity’s sake. Potter obviously went to you with the aim of finding out the rest of what, hopefully little, he had already discovered. His intention was to catch you out.’ He glared at Lupin. ‘Which clearly worked. You should be thankful I’m permitting you to tell him even this.’
The werewolf’s cogs were moving – but plainly deciding it was best not to argue the point further, after a moment he straightened and strode to the door.
‘Meet me in my office afterwards,’ Snape called out as Lupin left.
He had to wait over an hour.
He had already made a start on rearranging the ingredients on his shelves for the second time when Lupin slumped into the nearest chair. ‘I told him.’
Snape put down the jar of half-rotten lizard tongues he had somehow missed earlier. He scrutinised Lupin’s heavy look. ‘How much does he know? How did he find out?’
‘He knows very little. He overheard us the day Dumbledore told me.’
‘You and Dumbledore?’
‘You and I. In here.’
‘In here?’ Were there no bounds to the boy’s arrogance? He seethed at Lupin’s melancholy. At least the boy hadn’t been prowling around his memories during an Occlumency lesson – that was what he had feared the most. ‘Sneaking around again, poking his nose in other people’s business, the foolhardy—’
‘DON’T talk about him like that!’
Taken aback, Snape observed his distress for a second. Then it occurred to him: ‘He must have used that Invisibility Cloak.’ He scowled at Lupin’s squirm of confirmation. ‘I should confiscate it from him. After all, it’s more mine than his, isn’t it?’
The werewolf’s overwrought look intensified into something resembling anger.
Snape ignored it. ‘Can he be trusted to keep what he knows to himself?’
‘I don’t know why I… I’m only here at all because Dumbledore asked.’
By the tightness around his mouth, it was plainly meant to be righteous anger. But Snape wasn’t about to let him have the monopoly on that. Not after the mess he had made today. ‘Because he told. Because he told you what he had no business to tell you.’
‘I want to help. But you don’t tell me anything.’
‘Tell you what? Are you my confessor, werewolf? Is Dumbledore paying you a wage? Merlin knows you need it.’ Lupin’s face burned as Snape raked his eyes over his shabby clothes. ‘Say whatever it is you want to say.’
‘I didn’t know you were with Voldemort at Godric’s Hollow.’
Snape’s mind was a forest floor in autumn swept clean by a gust. Dead leaves, sleep disturbed, chased each other away, until the forest was straight and still again. He floated his voice down the gentle waters of its stream. ‘It seems plain you do know.’
‘I didn’t before Dumbledore told me.’ Lupin appeared eager to make full use of the small foothold he had found. ‘What else have you been keeping to yourself?’
‘Are you accusing me of knowing all along?’
‘No I’m not—’
‘Do you think it gives me pleasure, that my soul is not mine but Potter’s? Do you think I would have chosen it, if the Dark Lord had given me the choice?’
Lupin was blessedly silent.
‘I have no memory of what happened to me. I was dead for a time. Dead. No –’ he said as Lupin made to speak ‘– no, I don’t remember my own death.’ He paused to take in Lupin’s discomfort, savoured it for a second. ‘I suppose Dumbledore has told you it was Potter who killed me – or did he spare you the gory details?’ Lupin was shaking his head now – whether because he had not been told or did not want to listen again, Snape neither knew nor cared. ‘Oh yes, your dear friend Potter. And when he took my life, that moment went with it. The only witness left was the Death Eater with us, the one now in Azkaban. The Dark Lord was finished that night, remember? Or so we all thought.’
Lupin’s ludicrous indignation had died down, replaced by an equally unbefitting determination to prove some point. ‘But surely you must have wondered why? Why you didn’t remember? Why there was a gap in your memory—?’
‘I have no wish to relive that night!’ He had raised his voice – an unforgivable lapse – and Lupin showed surprised. Snape turned away.
Though he had no wish to relive it, it seemed his sleeping mind had other plans of late.
Sleep – now there was a novelty. If the Dark Lord’s return was not bad enough, he now had this knowledge to deal with as well. He had stopped taking Dreamless Sleeping Potion. It had loosened the mind during the day – useless if thoughts and emotions were to remain disciplined. He could afford no distractions; he had to reclaim his mind for his own. But the nights did not belong to him.
He hated dreams. They were the thoughts that resisted control, buried emotions that clawed their way back. Only this morning he had woken from an especially vivid one of the recent run. It had begun as they usually did with Dumbledore once more demonstrating the test on his magical core. In Snape’s hand his wand had pointed out his fate again. He had refuted it. He had turned away. He had slammed the door behind him. But instead of the spiral staircase outside Dumbledore’s office, there was the sparse cottage hallway as though it had been lying in wait. His gaze had fallen on the body of James Potter.
Potter’s glasses lay broken on the floor, his naked eyes staring up at the low-beamed ceiling. The Dark Lord’s voice, shrilling through Snape’s body, was giving the order to find the boy. He stepped over Potter to reach the staircase. But he had barely placed one foot on the narrow wooden steps when he felt the hand grab him. He was dragged down and forced around. ‘THIEF!’ Potter was shrieking, hazel eyes wild without his glasses, hands moving to grasp Snape’s neck. ‘Give me back my soul! Thief! THIEF!’ Fingers tightened around his throat; he was being shaken sharply back and forth as though Potter were trying to loosen and release from him what was rightfully his.
It was then, as he struggled to find his breath and stem his rising horror, Snape noticed the Dark Lord was watching. He appeared as he did now, with slits marking the place where a noble nose had once been. His laughter was echoing around the small house and growing both in volume and depravity as Potter’s anger and grip intensified. It ended only when the constant shaking sent Snape stumbling back against the hard stairs.
It was merely a senseless dream. He had no way of knowing what had really happened that night. He had never questioned his hazy memory – why wouldn’t he have cast off some parts? That was what he had assumed he had done.
But now the gaps haunted him. What did they contain? His mind, so restless it broke free from the constraints of Occlumency he imposed at night, was only too willing to fill them in for him.
'I suppose that’s why the Dark Lord gave me Potter’s life in return – he plainly thought it was the least Potter could do.’ Of course he knew his true reasons had been otherwise. The Dark Lord had brought him back from just beyond the brink of death simply to continue using him as a spy against Dumbledore… But instead the Dark Lord had succeeded in making sure Dumbledore had his spy against him. Snape could have smiled at the irony. He looked back and saw Lupin's face was grim.
'The Darkest magic…'
'Yes, the Dark Lord would have enjoyed using it.' Snape let the heavy silence stand for a moment, then returned to his earlier question. ‘Can the boy be trusted to keep what he knows to himself?’
Now he had exhausted his collection of bones to pick over, Lupin’s pause was telling. ‘He wanted to talk to Sirius.’
‘Black?’ Snape held his breath. That was the last thing he needed, Black knowing about this. Thank Merlin they had caught Potter before it was too late.
‘He wants to, but I told him it was important he tell no one, not even Sirius.’
‘Especially not Black,’ Snape corrected.
Lupin glared like a defeated child. ‘Now he’s having lessons in Occlumency, what harm would there be in telling Harry the truth?’
‘You seem to be under the illusion he’s making any kind of progress.’
‘He will improve.’
‘Really?’ He let his gaze wander to the shelves and felt himself relaxing for the first time that afternoon. ‘Highly doubtful – certainly not at this rate. He doesn’t do as he’s told, just like his fa—’ He left the rest unspoken on remembering the man he had managed to forget for one glorious moment. He turned to his desk. ‘In any case, I have a feeling the Dark Lord expected Potter to be informed by Dumbledore as I was. It is better the boy knows as little as possible.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I think all this was leaked purposely by the Dark Lord. As a test,’ he added at Lupin’s frown.
‘To test Harry?’
Sometimes the werewolf’s idiocy was testing enough. ‘Why would he want to test Potter? To test me.’
Lupin blinked, confusion falling back to concern. ‘He thinks…?’
‘Perhaps. I don’t know. We shall see. Best not to tell Dumbledore of your stupidity today,’ he said, turning a sneer on Lupin’s shallow worry. ‘You might find the castle barred if it’s decided you’ve made one mess too many.’ He watched the conflicting emotions play over him. ‘Everything must be as normal,’ he said.
As normal as can be, he thought, now the boy believed James Potter lived, and to be a spy among the Death Eaters.
The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]