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The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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'Is it prison visiting hours again so soon?'

'What?' Remus closed the door behind him. 'Well, perhaps if you ventured out of these dungeons more often…' He made a show of peering around, eyebrows raised, at the windowless room.

From the shadows by the wall Snape looked up from the cauldron he was stooped over. His sharp glance said they both knew what Snape had meant. But Remus wasn't about to humour him. Snape straightened and began chopping something using the knife Remus hadn't seen him holding.

Amid the decisive tap-tap-tap, Remus took the usual seat. He had learned by now it was pointless waiting to be asked. 'I don't know how you can do that in this light.'

Snape made a soft noise. 'Extraordinary how one gets used to dwelling in the dark.'

'But one can grow so accustomed to it, one becomes afraid of the light.'

'Are you here simply to talk in thinly disguised metaphors?'

'Well, it makes a change from Sirius's more blunt remarks.' Remus's smile was lost in the dimness as Snape gathered up what he had been cutting. He deposited the root-like objects into a jar, carried it to a shelf, and returned to study the cauldron.

Now Remus's eyes had adjusted to the more than usual gloominess of the room, he saw the delicate white haze. It swirled from the brewing potion and glimmered as it rose in the soft light, before edging into the shadows.

'You might as well know. The Dark Lord has told me.' Snape had moved to the side. The light caught a jar of knotweed he was holding up to examine.

'He told you what he did to James and you?'

'Not the details, of course. And not why he has decided to tell me now. He is satisfied I think nothing of it – because I had not thought it worth mentioning I already knew from Flintoff's capture.'

'Well – I suppose that's something of a relief for you.'

There was a clunk as Snape put down the jar. 'He believes Potter knows.'

'Harry? But is that a problem?'

'Not for me, certainly. The Dark Lord wants Potter to know the truth. Why? Is it for more than to simply hurt him emotionally?'

'To hurt him?'

'But the Dark Lord doesn't know him. Potter would revel in the truth.'

'Sounds like you don't know Harry, either.'

'I've known the boy longer than you.'

'But how well do you really know him?'

Snape had picked up a stirring rod; he lowered it slowly into the cauldron and seemed to use the moment.

'You see him as James.'

Snape's head moved swiftly in reply. Under the dark stare, Remus felt suddenly small, like a child in the Potions Master's class who had scored badly for the twentieth time in a row.

Snape had a way of highlighting stupidity without needing to say anything. Remus had first tasted it while a student at Hogwarts – when, for some reason he had long forgotten, he had been left behind after one of James and Sirius's bouts with Snape.

As then, Remus glanced away from the accusation.

This time, he turned right back again. 'There's nothing he can do to hurt Harry. Except keep the truth from him.'

Snape sensed the victory despite his words. 'Really? Do you suggest, while I'm at it, I should fill him in on some important details about his dear father's past you and Black no doubt failed to mention?'

'You know stories are just that.'

'Precisely. It is always the truth that hurts.'

Remus looked with curiosity at his bitterness. It seemed to run deeper than he had thought, into some gully he did not recognise. 'Not always.'

For a long moment Snape held his gaze; it was lengthy enough for Remus to begin to wonder, his heart quickening, if he might be seeking to shape some of that depth into words. But then it was broken before Remus could discern anything. Snape's attention was back on the cauldron. And beyond the curtain of lanky hair, Remus saw him reassert his usual reticence.

He understood why Dumbledore had chosen to tell him – Remus was someone for Snape to confide in, someone who had known James but did not hold great prejudices against Snape. He supposed he was 'neutral' in that respect, and he imagined he should take that as a compliment. But it was also a painful reminder of his deliberate neutrality at school when he had turned aside from his friends' more unpleasant games.

He found he was often disturbed from the simple joy of knowing his old friend had not gone completely, by wishing Dumbledore had told someone else instead. Minerva McGonagall perhaps. She would have known what to say, and wouldn't have minced her words about it either. If only Dumbledore could spend more time at Hogwarts instead of at the Ministry trying to convince them Voldemort had returned. But Remus suspected his selection as Snape's confidant was also due in no small part to his lycanthropy, which even today he had to keep reminding himself wasn't the true him.

He sat up in the hard chair. 'When my friends finally found out I was a werewolf – I can't tell you what a relief it was.' He struggled to see if this was having any impact. 'It's been months, Severus. The longer you leave it, the harder it will be – I know. I became more and more afraid of being discovered as time went on. But their reactions couldn't have been more different to what I'd feared. Look at me – is it so bad that I know?'

There was no reply. He saw a powdery substance fall from Snape's hand into the cauldron.

He hated lying to Harry. Snape would have to tell him the truth one day, and it would be far better sooner rather than later. But he was at a loss as to how to persuade him. Snape was a master at hiding himself from others – this, to him, was no different. But he was hiding so much more than just himself this time, and Remus felt a twinge of anger. 'James would not want this.'

Snape's eyes were on him. 'Is that so?' His mouth twisted into an ugly shape. 'Why don't you ask him?'

Remus held his gaze despite feeling the blood in his head betraying him. He shouldn't have given in to his anger. But that did not make Snape right. 'You're forgetting it wasn't just you who had no choice in what happened.'

'Him!' said Snape wildly. 'It is always him!' Although his fury subsided, Remus noticed his jaw remained clenched. 'And choices. What about those?' He looked back at the simmering potion. 'You know about choices, werewolf? Does choosing to turn from those who could have been saved damage the soul?'

The silence fell like a weighted curtain. The implication was obvious, and Remus felt the blood desert him just as swiftly at being thrust into unfamiliar territory. Death Eater territory.

'Dumbledore is so fond of choices.' Snape's voice was distant; he was speaking to himself from beyond the gulf he had opened. 'But what choices do I have now? My soul – mine – what chance is there for me to heal it now?'

Remus fixed his eyes on the hard desk and unwillingly found himself wondering how far Snape had gone over the years.

'And has it affected my judgement?'

'How do you mean?'

Snape pulled a sour face. 'I've had an undamaged soul all along.'

'We all make our own choices.' Remus said it almost automatically. But he wondered about his own sincerity. Because where really did James end and Snape begin?

Snape was sneering at the obvious regurgitation of one of Dumbledore's pronouncements.

'But really,' said Remus, pushing on, 'how do you know your soul is not being healed? I've always thought the normal rules don't apply … wherever it is. None of us know how all this is supposed to work.' He certainly didn't. Was Snape James with Snape's body and Snape's memories? That was how Remus thought of it. How simplistic, and complicated, it seemed. Snape did not appear to have heard. Remus breathed deeply. 'Do you know anyone who does?'

Another uneasy moment passed, and then Snape dipped his head and moved the stirring rod. Remus felt its renewed motion steering them back into easier waters.

'What was his Patronus?'

The shadows of the last subject had not yet retreated, and Remus did not feel comfortable speaking about James. But how stupid that was. James was right here. 'I don't remember there being one. Not a fully formed one…'

This seemed to bring Snape back. His mocking glance evaporated any trace of lingering tension. 'Really?'

Remus felt a sudden duty to defend him. 'James was only – what – twenty-one when he…' He considered how best to phrase it. Not died, as such. Passed on?

But Snape was still thinking. 'So he wasn't able to produce a full Patronus,' he said as though Remus had confirmed it. 'It doesn't surprise me at all.'

'I didn't say that.' He thought about mentioning Snape's Patronus – or lack of. Snape always used other methods of communicating with them in the Order, ostensibly to preserve his spy status. 'I simply said I couldn't remember witnessing it. Why do you want to know anyway?' Silence again. 'You know, you really should let go of your hate.'

'Should I?'

'Yes, you should. It took me years to stop hating that part of me that transforms every month. Hating it for what it was, the dangers it brought, the way it affected my life. But there comes a point when you have to accept it as a part of yourself. How else can you move on?'

Snape turned a disparaging eye on him. 'Hardly the same thing.'

'No, it isn't. You don't lose self-control every month. That is,' Remus added, lowering his defences a little, 'I did until the Wolfsbane Potion.'

'Self-control? I dare say that isn't what he thinks.'

'Dumbledore?'

'Not about me.'

'I'm sure that isn't true. You know as well as I do Dumbledore believes it's our choices that make us who we are.'

'Whoever I am.'

They had returned to this difficult subject. What did Remus really expect, coming here? Did he think James would become clearer in time, that the more often he presented himself the more likely his old friend could be teased out, as though they were ten and he was calling at his house to ask if he could come out to play? But Snape was a determined keeper.

'I must attend to this potion. I haven't made it in a very long time.'

It was the usual curt dismissal. Remus had got used to it by now; he'd had to. 'Promise me you'll talk to Dumbledore if it's bothering you?' he said as he got up.

'Why should I be concerned with what he thinks?'

Remus sighed; it was pointless to force the issue. At the door, he remembered something he had been wondering about. He looked back into the shadows. 'Does Wormtail know?'

He thought he saw Snape grimace. 'Thankfully not. I dread to think what the rat would do if he did. Beg for forgiveness on bended knee or something equally nauseating. At least it would provide the opportunity to give the traitor what he deserves.'

Remus was glad Peter did not know. But he felt a certain sadness too. Peter had made his own choices, and was paying the price for them.

But he knew Snape was making his own as well. He knew it, despite the wait for James's presence to wake from his passive state. It may be James's magic he was using, but it was clear Snape was wielding all the power. Where were a person's decisions made but in the past, on the lonely island of memories? The ocean from James's seemed too far to cross.

Remus wished he could reassure him the way Minerva or Dumbledore would surely do. It would not hurt them to find the truth that was beyond Remus's capability. He only hoped Snape would one day understand it for himself.

And perhaps make the choice to be open with Harry as well.

-x-


A small group of Ravenclaws had stopped in the corridor to watch the show. But their fun did not last long. Several Slytherins were shoving them aside, eager not to miss out.

'Potty, Potty, Crackpot Potty,' screeched Peeves as he whirled in front of Harry.

'Go pick on someone more transparent,' yelled Ron.

'Ooooh, who's more transparent than Potty Potter?' howled Peeves.

'What's that supposed to mean?' demanded Ron, giving him a hefty swot as he somersaulted over their heads.

Harry had had enough. He drew his wand. 'Waddawasi!'

A piece of gum a third-year Slytherin had been happily chewing as he looked on flew out of his mouth and shot up Peeves' right nostril.

'Great shot!' cried Ron as Peeves yelped.

'Well, I was aiming for the other side, but never mind.'

Peeves shot away.

'Making a spectacle again, Potter?'

They turned around to see Snape's black figure sweeping toward them. Glancing back, Harry was disturbed to see a few of the younger Slytherins staying behind waiting to see if this turn in events would result in something more to their liking.

Ron noticed Harry's nervous look. 'We haven't done anything wrong,' he said to Snape, who had now caught up to them. 'It was just Peeves.'

'Was I speaking to you, Weasley?'

It was their first encounter since their last Potions class, since Harry's reckless outburst. Harry's stomach was churning itself to ribbons. He was at Snape's mercy. Harry hardly seemed to care about the half a dozen Slytherins watching expectantly. It was somehow worse that Ron was here, and that he would learn his true feelings when Snape chose to throw them back at him.

Snape's black eyes slid to Harry. 'My office, Potter.' And he marched through them, forcing the dawdling Slytherins to stand aside to let him past. Harry was as relieved as they were disappointed.

'I'll see you in the common room,' he said to Ron, who wore a worried frown. But Harry was glad the belittling would take place in the privacy of Snape's office. Or maybe this was about his father, he wondered as he followed Snape. Perhaps he had written to him after all? Or – his stomach lurched again – maybe something had happened to him?

The dungeons weren't far, and before he knew it Snape had closed the door after him with a click. He stood in Snape's office and waited for the bad news.

Or, he thought hopefully, Snape was just bored and wanted to rub his face in the fact his father had cut all ties with his past, and then try to make him stop 'overdoing' his Occlumency practice again.

And, of course, to ridicule him about how he would just love to get away from everyone, change his name, his identity – to run away from his responsibilities of being the Boy Who Lived.

'Sadly,' said Snape, 'no cure has yet been discovered for arrogance.' He paused to enjoy the opening insult, and Harry got the feeling he had been practising, along with the sneer. Though it did not seem to last as long as usual. 'But since you plainly have no intention of heeding my warnings on excessive Occlumency practice, then you will take this.'

It was then Harry noticed he was holding a vial. He eyed the turquoise liquid that half-filled it. 'What is it?'

'It will relieve the pain.'

'You mean for the headaches? I managed to get some off Madam Pomfrey the other day.'

'Madam Pomfrey's are merely for general aches and pains. They will be next to useless in this case. Occlumency is a delicate art – it involves subtleties that cannot be appreciated by those who do not practise it. And those who mispractise it.'

'It's a potion specially for Occlumency headaches?' said Harry immediately with scepticism. But what he felt was glad. It meant the headaches were not completely abnormal after all.

'Yes, Potter –' Snape curled a lip '– it seems they can arise due to some weakness in the head.'

Harry took an odd sort of comfort from the smirk – things were already back to normal after his outburst a few days ago. But what was exciting was what this potion seemed to mean. 'Really?' He gazed in awe at the liquid in Snape's hand. 'It'll really stop my headaches – so I can carry on doing Occlumency practice?'

Snape's fingers closed around it jealously. 'It's temporary.'

'Until when?'

Snape thinned his mouth. 'It should last you several weeks.'

'Then what?'

Snape's jaw tightened. He said softly, 'Be grateful I'm giving you this, Potter.'

Harry stayed silent and stared instead at Snape's fist where the potion firmly remained.

'This does not come without a condition,' Snape said at last.

Harry looked up.

'I am not to hear from any professor that you've been practising in their class.'

Not even History of Magic? He had finally found some useful way of relieving the sheer boredom of Binns' class. 'All right.' Harry reached to take the potion. But Snape kept it back. His glare was infuriating. 'All right, fine. I won't practise Occlumency in anybody's class.' Except maybe Binns', he thought. If he didn't have a body, it didn't really count, did it? Besides, Binns wouldn't even know it if he woke up in a new one.

It was all Harry could do to stop himself grabbing the bottle Snape was now slowly arcing forward. The threat of swift removal was made real by the keenness of Snape's eye, as the bottle inched closer. He was giving Harry every chance to make a move. But he held out, and with great effort Harry simply unfurled his palm when it was too near for Snape to do anything but plant it there with a sour expression.

The instant Harry felt its solidness in his hand, he wanted to run with it to his trunk by his bed so it could not be taken back. The cool glass and the lightness of its weight were deceiving: This little bottle was a life-saver – maybe literally. He would not have to worry about Occlumency again, or his dad.

'You are to take three drops two to three times a day with water – no more,' intoned Snape. 'You will not let it into the hands of anyone else, because it is specific to your needs and may be dangerous for others. And you are to tell nobody of its existence. Are you listening to me, Potter?'

'Wha—?' He looked up on hearing his name barked. 'Yeah.'

Snape's eyes narrowed. 'How much should you take?'

'Three drops two or three times a day. And no more,' he added at Snape's glare.

'Tell no one. Understand?'

'Right. Because then they might figure out why I'm doing it and find out about my dad.'

Snape's look was withering, almost weary. 'That's right.'

'But there isn't much here,' Harry said, holding the bottle perfectly vertical and peering at the line of liquid that sat stolidly at his thumb. 'Should I come back to you when—'

'It is temporary only.'

'But—'

'You are not to be dependent on something such as this.'

'But I'm not going to stop. It's important.' Harry clutched the vial that guaranteed he would not slack off from making sure Voldemort could not get into his thoughts and discover he knew the truth about his dad.

'It's a temporary solution,' Snape repeated. But he seemed less certain. He turned on his heel and strode to the door. 'Who knows,' he said with more confidence, pulling the handle, 'something might even stick this time. I suppose stranger things have happened.'

Harry decided not to press the subject. There was always a point with Snape when it was best just to let it go. He sensed this was one of those points as he stepped into the corridor holding the bottle close to his chest. He felt Snape's eyes on him as he passed; the glass was now warm and moist in his hand. It was already his.

Maybe he was planning on coming up with a better potion? That must be it. It was the least Snape could do after putting his dad in danger by trying to make him reduce his Occlumency practice.

He didn't even care that Snape was obviously saving up what he had learned from what Harry had blurted out the other day for another, more public, occasion. It didn't bother him that Snape wanted to make him sweat some more on that. He felt like a burden had been lifted from him. His steps back up the stairs were as light as the bottle in his hand.

The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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