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The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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‘That is so cool. I wish my dad was a spy.’

‘It’s really dangerous, Ron.’ Harry kept his voice low as Seamus grabbed a cushion from a nearby armchair, tossed it back down in frustration, and moved on to one currently occupied by a confused-looking first year.

‘Yeah, but at least he’s alive, mate. It was only a few weeks ago you thought he was dead anyway.’

‘But I still don’t want him getting hurt.’ Harry hunkered down to carry on trying to catch up on homework. Though with Ron’s regular comments of approval about James from his seat opposite, he was finding it hard to concentrate on the Charms essay which he was painfully aware was due first thing tomorrow.

‘Listen to you two.’ Hermione closed her book over a finger and laid it in her lap. ‘Typical boys.’

‘What d’you mean?’ said Ron.

‘“Cool! I wish my dad was a spy!”’ she said, doing her best imitation of an over-enthusiastic Ron.

‘Well, I do. My dad collects Muggle plugs and – things. Not exactly something you’d want to brag about, is it?’

‘I can’t tell anyone anyway, Ron,’ said Harry. ‘I can’t risk blowing his cover.’

‘Bummer.’ Ron gave him a look of pity. ‘You’ve got the coolest dad in the school and you can’t tell anyone.’

Hermione rolled her eyes and tutted.

Harry put down his quill and smirked at her in a sly way. ‘Potter – James Potter,’ he said, taking off a refined accent.

Hermione snorted laughter and slumped back in her armchair, forgetting to be serious for a moment. ‘He even has the same first name!’ she said. Harry grinned at her.

Ron looked at them, bewildered. ‘What? What’s so funny?’

Hermione stifled her giggles. ‘It’s a character in a film, Ron. You know what a film is? I did say you should have taken Muggle Studies.’

‘I know what a film is,’ said Ron dismissively. ‘Dad’s seen some. Says they’re nothing special – just like photos but with sound. Anyway, I’m not doing Muggle Studies just so I can get all your lame in-jokes.’

Hermione and Harry glanced at one another and burst into giggles again.

‘I’m glad you find it so funny,’ said Ron with a serious expression Harry initially took as sulkiness. ‘Harry’s dad’s out there risking his life for him, for the Order – well, for everyone, isn’t he? He’s spying on You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters, and Merlin knows what danger he’s in every single day.’

Harry sobered up. ‘Yeah, thanks for that, Ron.’

‘Wow,’ said Hermione dreamily.

‘Don’t you start,’ said Harry.

‘Sorry. Well, it certainly beats having dentists for parents.’

Harry shook his head and picked up his quill to refocus on the essay. What was that charm for making everyone believe you were their best friend? He was sure Flitwick had mentioned a wizard who had used it to con money out of people, before the man had got caught trying to charm goblins, who were well known for being immune to the spell. If he could think of his name, he might get an extra mark on this thing.

‘So, who else knows?’ Hermione had adopted her serious tone again.

‘Just Lupin, Dumbledore and Snape,’ said Harry, ‘as far as I know. Lupin said only Snape and Dumbledore knew about it all along, and Lupin just found out recently.’

‘Why have they told Lupin now?’ she asked.

Harry shrugged. ‘Didn’t say.’

‘So,’ said Ron, ‘Dumbledore can tell you how your dad is, then.’

‘I don’t think so,’ said Hermione. ‘If no one else knows anything, then it’s pretty obvious Harry’s dad goes through Snape. Maybe Dumbledore never meets him in person, just uses Snape as the go-between. That’d make his cover pretty water-tight, wouldn’t it?’

‘Bloody hell,’ said Ron. ‘If that’s true, you’ve got no chance of finding out anything from Snape, mate.’

‘Thanks, Ron.’ Harry gazed miserably at his far-from-completed Charms work.

‘But,’ began Ron, ‘how come You-Know-Who really believes your dad would want to be a Death Eater and disown you, after all he did?’

‘Yeah – well,’ said Harry, ‘Voldemort’s mad enough, isn’t he? And besides, it’s only recently Voldemort’s come back.’

‘Not according to the Ministry,’ pointed out Hermione.

‘Well, Dumbledore’s still working on that.’ Dumbledore did seem to be spending a lot of time away from the school lately trying to convince the Ministry of Voldemort’s return. If they had only believed Harry when he had tried to tell them this summer, Dumbledore wouldn’t be having to do all this now.

‘Why would You-Know-Who want to make it look like your dad died, though?’ asked Ron.

‘Maybe so no one would try to rescue him?’ Harry shrugged. ‘Who knows what goes through the mind of a madman like Voldemort? Maybe he tried to brainwash him, and Dad let him believe it’d worked.’

‘And no one else knows who your dad is?’ asked Hermione. ‘The other Death Eaters, I mean?’

‘As far as I know, they always wear masks when they get together,’ said Harry. ‘Maybe he uses a false name, too – I dunno.’

‘And Sirius doesn’t know anything?’ she asked.

‘Not a thing.’ It felt odd, Sirius not knowing when Lupin did. ‘And Lupin said I wasn’t to say anything to him. I don’t see why. He was my dad’s best friend – it’s not like he’s gonna go around shouting about it. Can’t very well do that stuck in his house anyway, can he?’

‘Harry,’ said Hermione slowly, narrowing her eyes. ‘Aren’t we missing something here?’

‘Like what?’

‘Well… Why did Dumbledore tell the Ministry that Sirius was your parents’ Secret-Keeper? I mean, your dad knew it had been Pettigrew. He must have told Dumbledore that.’

He stared, dumbstruck. With all the excitement of imagining his dad’s adventures, he’d forgotten about Sirius’s past. He worked through the implications. ‘You’re right. He would have told him, wouldn’t he? Then they’d have known Wormtail was lying, that he must have faked his own death to pin it on Sirius. Dad would never have let Sirius rot in Azkaban for all those years.’

‘But then maybe,’ she said, staying unreasonably calm, ‘if Dumbledore had told them the truth about the Secret-Keeper, it might have blown your dad’s cover – after all, who else could have let Dumbledore know other than your dad – the only one still alive, apart from Wormtail himself, out of those who’d set the Fidelius Charm?’

‘Maybe – it wouldn’t have helped anyway. But I still don’t believe Dad would’ve let that happen to Sirius, even if it might have put him in danger otherwise.’

‘But you’re forgetting,’ said Ron, ‘his cover’s so deep he probably has to go through Snape with everything. Maybe it was like that then too.’

Harry studied him. ‘You think he told Snape and Snape said nothing to Dumbledore about it?’

Ron snorted. ‘Come on, mate. Snape hates Sirius. Makes sense now why Sirius isn’t being told about all this now he’s out of Azkaban, doesn’t it?’

‘But James wouldn’t have kept quiet about it,’ said Hermione. ‘He could at least have told Dumbledore who the true Secret-Keeper had been. There’s got to be another explanation.’

‘Like what?’ said Ron. ‘Maybe he didn’t have a choice. Snape’s the one in control here. You don’t want to believe any professor would put an innocent man in jail? Remember, he nearly got Sirius Kissed by Dementors a few years back. This is Snape we’re talking about.’

‘Snape thought Sirius was a murderer, Ron.’

‘No, he didn’t, Hermione. That’s the point. He knew Wormtail had lied – Harry’s dad must have told Snape the truth. So the slimy git had to have known Wormtail had framed Sirius.’ Ron seemed pleasantly surprised at having worked that one out for himself.

The fury that had been building inside Harry was making itself felt. ‘How could he do that? He’s been even meaner about my dad this year, too.’

‘Stands to reason,’ said Ron, still basking in his insight while Hermione stayed unusually quiet.

‘Why?’ asked Harry. ‘They’re supposed to be on the same side now, aren’t they?’

‘He’s jealous, isn’t he? I bet your dad makes a much better spy than Snape ever could.’

Hermione broke her affronted silence. ‘So you’re admitting Professor Snape is a spy for us then, Ron?’

Ron waved this off. ‘I’m not saying he’s any good. All the useful stuff Dumbledore gets is probably from Harry’s dad. I wouldn’t be surprised if Snape passed some of it off as his own work to stay in Dumbledore’s good books. Plus, he hated Sirius enough to leave him to the Dementors in Azkaban, hates Harry and Harry’s dad. Not exactly one of the good guys then, is he?’

‘But if he really hated Harry’s dad that much, he’d have shopped him to You-Know-Who years ago.’

‘Yeah, well.’ Ron shrugged. ‘Can’t excuse what he did to Sirius, though.’

‘I still can’t believe that.’ Harry shook his head as he thought. ‘Because then Dumbledore would’ve known Snape had held back on him. He’d never have trusted him after that.’

‘Hey,’ said Seamus, coming up to them again. ‘Anyone seen my Charms homework? I was sure it was in my room.’

Hermione and Ron had to tell him they hadn’t, and Seamus went off to search the library, while Harry’s thoughts were returned to his own barely begun essay in front of him. He picked up his quill and leaned over his textbook with reluctance.

His attention kept wandering in the direction of his dad, his thoughts swirling around the complexities of all the subterfuge.

After reading the same paragraph twice, he sighed in defeat, letting his quill drop, and leaned back. With his mind elsewhere, he watched his friends. On the table between them, Ron was trying to balance several Exploding Snap cards, and Hermione had returned to her book. ‘You know,’ he said, now the Common Room had become quieter again, ‘it makes me feel less alone – now I know my dad’s out there somewhere trying to get rid of Voldemort. I mean, Sirius is trying, and I appreciate that, but he can’t leave Grimmauld Place. But Dad – he probably goes to Death Eater meetings, gets important information for the Order – and generally manages to pull the wool over Voldemort’s eyes.’

‘He’s very brave, Harry,’ said Hermione.

He returned her smile. ‘Yeah. I just wish I could see him. Even just for a few minutes – that’d be something – better than nothing. I’d know he was all right then, too.’

‘How far are you on your essay, mate?’ Ron held up a crumpled parchment he had just extracted from beneath a small heap of books on the floor beside him. ‘I’ve just found Seamus’s homework.’ He grinned and glanced cautiously around the room.

‘Ron!’ said Hermione. ‘I hope you’re not suggesting what I think you are.’

‘Don’t worry, Hermione,’ said Harry. ‘Plagiarism’s a mortal sin – right, Ron?’ He sneaked Ron a small mischievous smile.

‘I’ll take it to him.’ She rose from her seat. ‘He’s in the library, right?’ She snatched it from Ron and marched to the door.

Ron made a face at Harry when she left. Harry grinned and picked up his quill. He turned back to his copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Five, found his place, and began to read the paragraph for a third time.

-x-


Harry Potter was in the centre of a grim room. Damp covered its walls, leaving the greying wallpaper hanging off in places, and a bleak light emanated from a fixture in the ceiling. Cold hung in the air. A key turned in a lock behind him, and he turned around…

Potter fell back against the chair when Snape released him from the spell.

Snape lowered his wand. ‘What place is that?’

‘I dunno.’ Potter slumped, panting, into the chair. Snape had never seen anything so odd and unrecognisable in the boy’s head. Perhaps it was simply an image of a recent nightmare? Potter was reticent, and Snape had the feeling he wasn’t telling him everything.

Potter got to his feet again, bracing himself and making a feeble attempt to clear his mind of emotion in preparation for the next test.

‘Handing me weapons again, Potter.’ Snape regarded the boy’s shabby concentration, his wand already raised in self-defence. ‘Will you ever give that up? At least I don’t see that blasted dog as often.’

Snape noticed the boy swallow and his face flush. Was it possible he had been pushing forward images of his idiotic Muggle relatives to cover up something else? Something important that Potter hadn’t wanted him to see? But what?

‘Sir? Can I ask you something?’

‘It had better be something to do with Occlumency.’

Potter held his tongue. He lowered his gaze along with his wand, the former to the desk between them.

Here it comes, thought Snape. He had been dreading the boy asking questions about his father and had planned some suitable answers to possible questions. ‘That is what we are here for after all – is it not, Potter?’ He raised a challenging eyebrow.

‘This is to shield my mind from Vol— from him – isn’t it?’ Potter glanced up. ‘Sir?’ he added, plainly as an afterthought.

Snape studied the boy’s anxiety. Hadn’t he already explained this? ‘That is the general idea, yes.’

‘What for?’

Snape arched his eyebrows in mock amazement. ‘“What for?” Perhaps you want to be able to think and feel what the Dark Lord thinks and feels – to open up your mind to him?’

‘No, of course not.’

‘Then what is your confusion?’

‘I’m not confused. I’m just … I was just wondering … if Vo—’ Potter affected a sigh. ‘…if he could know what I’m thinking sometimes, too.’

Snape observed the boy for a moment. He chose his words carefully. ‘I suppose that is possible. The Headmaster did have some concerns in that area.’ While Dumbledore had mentioned something about Potter’s recent potentially aggressive attitude around him, he hadn’t specifically suggested that the Dark Lord may be using Legilimency on Potter – which, of course, required eye contact. But Snape was reluctant to deny its possibility if doing so meant the boy’s complacency.

Potter nodded hard and fixed his eyes on the desk. ‘Right.’

Where was this line of questioning supposed to be leading? Contrary to what Snape had expected, it did not seem to be about James Potter after all. The boy continued to stare resolutely ahead at the table, as though he’d suddenly found inspiration in his paperwork. More than he himself ever found.

‘Shall we continue, then?’ Snape said at last. Since he had, of course, intended it as a command, not a suggestion, Snape raised his wand.

Potter lifted his head and met his gaze. ‘Is my dad in the Order?’

Momentarily startled by the question combined with the sudden resumption of eye contact, Snape’s focus on his lead into the spell wavered. ‘What?’ he murmured.

‘I mean, technically – is he in the Order of the Phoenix?’

Snape lowered his arm. These were more like the type of questions he had been expecting. He considered his answer. The boy had most likely been told something about the original Order, so it would not be too difficult to deflect him. ‘Well, he was, wasn’t he?’

Potter was silent for a moment, probably thinking of Black’s boasts of yesteryear. ‘Yeah. But is he now, I mean?’

Snape hadn’t become the spy he was today without knowing how to not tell the truth and yet not exactly lie either. Lies had their place, of course, but they could be slippery. He knew from experience that, when in doubt, simply reply with another question as though the overly curious were dense cretins who needed everything spelt out to them in the simplest terms. Of course, Potter fell naturally into this group anyway. ‘If he was, wouldn’t everyone else in the Order know about it?’

Potter frowned in thought. ‘So he operates through you, then?’

This threw Snape off for a second; he did not like the distasteful way these questions were sounding. ‘He … what?’

‘You pass the information he gives you on to Professor Dumbledore?’

Snape inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Mmm.’ He mentally berated himself for his childish paranoia and waited for more. He supposed he might as well get as much as possible of this uncomfortable grilling over with now.

‘Does he … does he have the Dark Mark?’

Snape took a certain satisfaction in his answer. ‘Yes. Yes, he does.’ He saw the boy’s eyes move to his left forearm where his brand was, putting him on edge. As he stood there under Potter’s horrified gaze, he idly wondered whether he ought not to add a teaspoonful of sugar to Lupin’s Wolfsbane Potion to teach the werewolf to keep his mouth shut in future. Revenge truly was sweet. He smirked at his pun.

The boy chose that moment to glance up. His horror gave way to red-faced anger. ‘Why doesn’t Sirius know anything about this?’

Snape pressed his lips together in annoyance. ‘The fewer who know, the better.’

‘He was my dad’s best friend.’

Snape made a derisive noise. Not any longer, Potter.

The boy regarded him with growing dislike and moved to tighten his grip on his wand. ‘I know why he doesn’t know.’

Snape watched him with detached interest. ‘Really?’

‘Yeah. Because then you’d have to admit to him you didn’t tell Dumbledore – that you let him rot in Azkaban.’

Snape curled his lip in scorn. ‘What is this nonsense, Potter? What am I supposed to have not told Dumbledore?’

‘That Sirius wasn’t my parents’ Secret-Keeper – that it was actually Wormtail. My parents had told everyone it had been Sirius so no one would suspect Wormtail. But Dumbledore would have told the Ministry the truth, and they would have known Sirius wasn’t a killer – they’d have known Wormtail had set him up. And Sirius would never have gone to Azkaban.’

Snape stared. The boy seemed to have some intelligence after all. But why hadn’t he thought of it himself? He saw again the address the Dark Lord had shown him on their arrival in the village of Godric’s Hollow. Ink like the night on parchment bleached orange from the light of the street lamp. He had always simply assumed it had been written in Black’s hand.

‘Well?’ the boy demanded, his face still set with childish rage.

Snape looked stolidly ahead. ‘He forgot.’

Potter gave him an incredulous look. ‘He forgot?’

The boy thinks I’m lying, Snape thought. How ironic. Perhaps he should tell him the truth: His father had destroyed his chance, and everyone else’s life with it. He narrowed his eyes at Potter’s impatience. ‘The spell the Dark Lord performed on him – memory loss was one of its effects. He simply did not remember – he assumed Black had indeed been the Secret-Keeper, as everyone else did.’

Potter contemplated this in silence.

‘No need to apologise, Potter – really,’ Snape scoffed. ‘You only accused me of sending an innocent man to prison, after all.’

But the boy apparently hadn’t heard him. ‘That explains,’ he said slowly, ‘the Reverse Spell effect. Priori Inc— something.’

‘Priori Incantatem?’ asked Snape, and he saw Potter nod. ‘What about it?’

‘When Voldem—’ The boy broke off when he saw the look of warning at the name. But he was eager to go on. ‘When I met him in June, our wands didn’t work properly when he fought me – when they connected – because they share the same core.’

Had the boy mistaken him for a first-year student, Snape wondered. ‘I know all that, but what about it?’

‘I saw echoes of what he’d used his wand on. They came out of it in reverse order. I saw … Cedric Diggory.’ He paused at this to take a breath. ‘And my mum and dad. So that must have been because of the spell he did on my dad, and not because he’d killed him. Because the first thing I saw was the new hand he’d made Wormtail.’

Snape made sure his expression remained unreadable before asking, ‘And the last thing you saw?’

‘My dad.’

He studied Potter until he was satisfied the boy was not lying or holding back anything important. He thanked Merlin the Dark Lord's connection had been broken at that point. Potter would certainly have had questions if an image of him had emerged from the wand next. It might not have done, of course – since Snape’s memory was indeed of little use, he had no idea what kind of Dark magic the Dark Lord had used that day; it could have merely involved the soul transference and hence only the death of the boy's father's body.

‘So what did he do?’ Potter asked impatiently, pulling Snape out of his own thoughts.

‘Who?’

Potter screwed his face up in an ugly look of defiance. ‘Voldemort.’ His boldness increased on seeing the effect. ‘What did he do to my dad?’

The uncomfortable questioning was getting more tedious by the second; it was almost as bad as being interrogated by the Dark Lord himself. ‘I have no idea.’ He looked over at the clock on the wall. ‘Well, it seems it is nearly the end of our lesson – sadly there is no time left to start practising again now.’ Potter stayed mercifully silent as he regarded the boy. ‘It is also our last lesson of this term. Let us hope you don’t slip behind over the Christmas break. But then,’ he sneered, ‘seeing as you have made no progress at all in the weeks we have been doing this, there is little risk of that, is there?’

Potter stood where he was for a moment. ‘See you in the New Year, then,’ he said at last, ‘…sir.’

Snape watched him leave. Something about Potter’s delayed reaction made him uneasy. There had been a suggestion of purpose, some resolve, that he didn’t like.

But what could the boy possibly do over Christmas? If he was staying with his dear godfather, Lupin would very probably be there too. He would make sure the boy didn’t get any ideas about telling Black his father was alive. No, the werewolf wouldn’t dare to place at risk the special access he thought he now had to his old friend Potter.

After he had returned his memories from the Pensieve, he went back to the marking from which he had broken off for the boy’s pointless lesson.

Just being paranoid, he told himself as he plunged his quill into the red inkpot.

The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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