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The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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A thin layer of dust gathered on Snape's fingertips as he ran them along the books' worn spines. He paused at a black cover with bold silver lettering, and hastily removed his hand. That dark stain looked suspiciously like blood.

What on earth was he doing here, he wondered, letting his arm drop to his side. There had been a time when he had taken secret delight in sneaking in to pore over the treasure-trove of Dark magic in the school library. Even in broad daylight he had often succeeded in evading Madam Pince to step over the ropes marking out the Restricted Section, to hunch, undetected, in a corner and devour such collections as Secrets of Spell-Making Deciphered. Volume III: Constructing Cunning Curses had been one of the most inspiring.

But he had no use for the past.

Today he had his own healthy collection at home. It was smaller, and was duller for boasting none of the rarer older titles that as a schoolboy he had handled with precious care. But it often had its uses when any Death Eaters paid an unexpected call. And he enjoyed the image it presented. It was important, in this as well as other things, that from the outset no one was in any doubt as to what to expect from him. It saved a lot of bother later on. And further uninvited visits.

He belonged here, among these archaic texts declaring their hidden strength to those blessed few who would understand them. But he was struck by the greater meaning now in that sense of belonging. He was here today only because of the Dark Lord's magic. The surrounding books took on a macabre feel; those on necromancy were lurking on a shelf just to the left. Perhaps one day someone would write one about him. The Dark Lord was writing Snape's story still it seemed. But it was the Dark Lord's mistake to believe the pages of his own were not numbered.

He moved on to the shelves above, until his eyes fell on one that appeared promising. Extracting the leather-bound volume, he held it at arm's length so as not to breathe in the cloud of dust it released. The contents did indeed warrant further study.

Two more potentially interesting books later, and he had enough material to make a start on his research.

He gave the shelves one final cursory look. At the end of the row thick-set lettering, green against red, caught his eye. An internal debate struck up in him again. He had been toying with it ever since Lucius had first planted the tempting idea in his head. He edged closer and frowned at the spine, garish and loud as though it were audibly arguing its case for inclusion in his studies.

Although not technically Dark magic, all books on Animagi were restricted by the Ministry, plainly wishing to avoid grisly mishaps by overzealous students. It was a regulation that had not quelled his own teenage interest, of course. He had made the first tentative attempts, back then. But it had quickly become clear his time was better spent pursuing more useful subjects. From the little he knew on the topic, it took more than mere desire to successfully become an Animagus. It must be worked at, and was most easily achieved before adolescence. At his age now, he had little chance, even if he dedicated the rest of his life to the goal.

But James Potter had already done much of the work for him. Perhaps, he reasoned, gazing at the gaudy spine of Animagi: Discover the Animal Within, he would transform into a creature useful to the role of spy. If small, like Pettigrew's rat, it would give him the ability to reach places others could not. The advantage that would present would be invaluable. It was an opportunity it would be foolish to dismiss.

And if the worst came to the worst and his initial attempts led to a lumbering stag, he at least would have a base to work from, to mould into a more useful form. No doubt Potter would not make it easy for him.

He weighed the risks against the potential benefits. He would have to take care practising. But he would get to that. For now, there would be no harm in reading the book. He was about to reach for it when he sensed movement in an aisle just beyond the boundary rope.

Few students were in the library so early on Saturdays. It was why he had come here now. He peered through a gap in the shelves, catching the shadow of an old thrill as he imagined the omnipresent Pince rounding the corner. Perhaps it was another teacher although that would be little better, considering the material in his hands.

But any anxiety he might have felt was swept aside for annoyance as he saw the scrawny hair and owl-like glasses.

At least the Potter boy could not come nosing around his part of the library. But it was disconcerting to see him hovering close by. He was flipping through a thin wide book, like a picture-book or manual of some kind. Why did that infernal librarian put the Quidditch books at the back right next to the Restricted Section? It was simply inviting trouble. It was irritating to find he was trapped here, like a mischievous child. He kept watch and very still, calling easily on a skill he had first begun to refine in these very aisles.

The leisurely way Potter was leafing through the book suggested he would not be leaving anywhere near quickly enough.

It was some consolation the boy was no longer drawing attention to himself around the school at least in terms of the side-effects of his excessive Occlumency practice. There would be no relinquishing of his celebrity status, of course.

But there was the boy's strange little outburst after class the other week.

It was unsettling to dwell on. It was as though it had not been Potter talking.

Stress it had plainly been the stress of pushing the link he shared with the Dark Lord. But Snape had found nothing untoward inside the boy's head as he had prattled on no suggestion the Dark Lord was manipulating him nor any deceit on Potter's part.

In fact he had never seen a mind so open at that moment. It had seemed to rush to meet him, embrace him, so that he had pulled back as soon as he had seen enough.

It was difficult to consider just where they had come from, those words. They had not been Potter's. They could not have been further from Potter's. They belonged to neither Potter.

Indeed, the boy could not have been channelling his father his father would not have recognised his words, would have scoffed at them. Such concepts as the son had uttered had been too subtle for the father.

Still, he reminded himself as he watched a page being turned, the potion the boy now had would prevent any more unnerving demonstrations.

It seemed it would remain a mystery.

'Hiding from me?' The young voice carried a malicious edge, and Draco came into view as Potter turned.

What was this, Snape wondered: had Quidditch finally managed to worm its way onto the school curriculum?

'Why the hell would I be hiding from you?' said Potter.

'Oh, I think you know.' Draco appeared extraordinarily sure of himself.

'Yeah? Why're you following me, Malfoy? And don't say you're not. Because how else would you know where the library is?'

Draco put up a decent fight to maintain the confidence in his smirk. When it was clear he was losing it, he made some movement Snape could not follow through the small space between shelves. 'Accio.'

'Give it back, Malfoy.'

Draco's easy smirk returned as he examined the book he had summoned out of Potter's hand. 'You're gonna need all the help you can get this year,' he said, thumbing nonchalantly through what was plainly some tactic-laden Quidditch manual.

'That's what you think. Just grow up and give it back.'

'You know what? This looks like it might come in handy. Mind if I take it out first?' He shot a wide smile at an angry-looking Potter.

Snape did not need to be a seer to predict this squabble was about to devolve into a hexing match.

-x-


'I said give it back, Malfoy.' Harry reached beneath his robes.

'Potter!'

He turned with Malfoy to see Snape advancing on them, a pile of books in his arms. Malfoy looked delighted.

'What are you doing?' Snape stared at Harry.

Harry's fingers tightened around his wand. 'Trying to get my book back.'

'And as I've been explaining,' said Malfoy, 'I'll return it straight away. But it seems Potter's insisting he wants it first, sir.'

'Indeed? Be reasonable, Potter, and wait your turn like everyone else. Or is that beyond your amazing capabilities?'

Harry made an effort to rein in his now-doubled loathing.

'That's all right, sir.' Malfoy closed Sweeping the Field: Best-Kept Quidditch Secrets and held it out. 'We don't need any help anyway. Gryffindor needs it a lot more than us this year.'

'Well, take it, Potter. Very generous of you, Draco.'

Harry raged inside as he extended an arm.

'Ten points to Slytherin,' said Snape, infuriating Harry further. 'And twenty points from Gryffindor.'

Harry glared. 'What for?'

Snape returned the glare tenfold. 'For impertinence.'

Malfoy's greedy smile as Snape swept away with his books looked to be threatening to engulf his face. 'Well, I can't hang around here all day watching you grasp at straws.' He grinned and glanced at the Quidditch manual Harry was squeezing. 'Try to remember what the big field is for we don't want you forgetting thrashing Gryffindor is nowhere near as much fun without you.'

He strode away, and Harry turned to see Snape two aisles down. He wasn't going to let this pass. 'That was unfair,' he said as he caught up to him.

A sneer was curling Snape's lips. 'I beg your pardon?'

'It was obvious Malfoy had taken the book off me, not the other way round.'

'Is that so?' said Snape coldly.

'So why take points off Gryffindor?'

'I recall,' said Snape with annoying calmness, apparently enjoying Harry's anger, 'you referring to them as I quote "stupid bloody points".'

Harry stared, his reply smouldering his throat. But it was just like Snape to throw something like that back in his face. He wasn't going to lose it like he had at the end of class when they had argued over Occlumency. He had been worried about his dad then, but now all he saw was Snape's smirk of amusement.

Snape was watching him seethe. He had thinned his mouth, but Harry kept his shut.

'I suppose it does require a modicum of intelligence.' Snape's expression had turned sullen. 'Tell me, were you expecting me to deduct points?'

Would Malfoy grow up to be a world-class moron? Already this year Snape must have taken hundreds of points off Gryffindor. 'Yeah.' Harry concentrated his rage in the small hard word.

'Sir,' said Snape, finally conceding some reproof. His eyes narrowed. 'Was Mr Malfoy expecting the same?'

He ought to go now just walk out and leave Snape to his patronising questions. But he felt trapped by them: they both incensed and entranced him. 'Yes,' he said, 'sir.'

But Snape said nothing. Harry waited for the nasty punchline.

'Surely even someone as dim as you cannot fail to see a Malfoy always gets what he expects?'

His gaze was withering. But it shifted as Harry felt his own glare wane. Harry looked beyond the insult about himself, to the one about the Malfoys and Snape saw it. He set his thin mouth and held his books closer. His nostrils flared, but he was silent, calculating. Snape had told him more than he had wanted to. And he would make Harry pay for learning something about his relationship with the Malfoys.

He tried to think of an excuse to get away. Black eyes were sliding over his face. They crept across his scar. It tingled under the cold scrutiny, as though it were remembering the first day they had set eyes on each other, when Snape had been talking with Voldemort-possessed Quirrell.

'Wait here.' Snape marched away, leaving Harry in the aisle with his Quidditch book, thinking over what had just happened. He recalled Snape's reaction in the school infirmary last summer when he had mentioned seeing Lucius Malfoy in the graveyard with the newly returned Voldemort. Snape had turned away, not wanted him to see what he thought.

He must have misunderstood Snape's remark just now. He had never heard him say anything against Lucius Malfoy, or Draco. And he hadn't now, had he? Harry had misread what he had said. He was thinking too much about his dad in relation to Snape - his dad had to trick and fool the Death Eaters to spy on them, but Snape would always think highly of the Malfoys. A Malfoy always got what he expected simply because he always did. He was a Malfoy. There was no trickery there.

'Page one hundred and thirty-seven.' Snape was holding out a thin book bound in black. Its dark cover was blank, as was its spine. 'Well, find the page,' barked Snape as Harry turned it in his hand.

Harry wedged the Quidditch manual under his arm. He opened Snape's book.

'Now you will understand the real risks of excessively Occluding a growing mind and this does not even take into consideration your link with the Dark Lord which increases the dangers immeasurably.'

Was the book about Occlumency? How could he tell? It was so full of jargon it might as well have been in a foreign language.

He didn't know what Snape's problem was. He was taking the potion he had given him, and it seemed to be working. He could stay alert in classes again, and he was sleeping better than ever before. Even Snape must understand some risks were worth taking to ensure the safety of others?

He gave up after a few lines and simply pretended to read, hoping Snape would leave. He wondered if his dad did Occlumency he supposed he must, as he and Snape did more or less the same job. They worked together. It was hard to imagine. Lupin had called it 'an awkward union'. Harry thought that must be something of an understatement, considering what he had seen of how his dad had treated Snape when they had been kids. And everything Sirius said suggested Snape always gave as good as he got. 'Professor?' He blinked away the tangle of words imprinted on his retina. 'Is my dad an Occlumens?'

Snape was still frowning. 'Well, what do you think?'

'Did you teach him?'

An odd expression fell across Snape's face. His jaw twitched. 'Such discussions are not for public places.'

Harry glanced about. The aisles were empty and silent. Hardly anyone came in here on a sunny Saturday morning.

But then he heard the rustling of robes. He slammed shut the Occlumency book and slid it beneath the Quidditch manual.

'That's a restricted book.' Madam Pince was already pointing an accusing finger when she appeared. Harry stared down in bemusement, wondering how she could possibly know, since the only portion of the book visible was its dark blank spine.

'I gave it to him,' said Snape.

'You need a note from a teacher to take out restricted books, boy,' she pursued, ignoring Snape, who, Harry noticed, was scowling at her remarkably like Ron had done the other day at an ink stain that refused to shift from his Potions essay.

'He has permission from me.'

She eyed Snape with apparent suspicion. 'I must have a note. For my records.'

Harry shifted. Part of him wanted to tell Snape the book was obviously too advanced to be of any use to him anyway. But the look on his face as he glared at the librarian was so intense, Harry decided it might be best to wait this one out.

Snape was digging his fingers into his own pile of books; his knuckles stood out stark white against the rest of his sallow skin. 'I need a quill and parchment,' he muttered.

To Harry's astonishment, she whisked out from somewhere about her person a clipboard with a quill attached. Probably, he thought, used to write critical notes about students as she prowled the library, like Filch did around the rest of the Castle. But it seemed he wasn't the only one who hadn't been expecting this. An infuriated Snape thrust his books into Harry's arms. Madam Pince, oblivious to Harry's struggles under the weight of the additional books, peered at Snape as he scrawled his authorisation.

Harry wished he had stayed in bed a few hours longer after all.

He glanced down at Snape's books, unsurprised to find the topmost title in an unfamiliar language. Curiosity gnawed as he listened to the slow scrape of quill on rough parchment. He twisted the pile so he could glance at the spines. The second had fancy lettering too but the last one looked interesting. Snape was still engrossed in his tight script as Harry slipped the book out to the top. He opened the cover to the blurb inside.

THE POWER OF THE SOUL!

The Magical Core; Wizards' Bonds; Fidelius Charms; and much, much more!

Brand new for the 1906 tricentenary edition special article on the Dementor's Kiss!


'I trust that is satisfactory.' Snape was glaring as he handed the note to Madam Pince.

She took her time scrutinising it, as though it might be carrying some hidden message, then uttered a terse, 'It will do.' She shot Harry one last accusatory stare before leaving to stalk the other aisles.

After a lingering, withering look at the retreating librarian, Snape turned back to Harry. 'If anyone asks, you stole it,' he said, indicating the Occlumency book. 'No one would believe you incapable of illicit trips to the Restricted Section.'

Frowning at the guilty look Harry was trying to conceal at this reminder of his sole 'illicit trip' right under Snape's nose in first year, Snape's gaze lowered to the opened book in Harry's arms.

To Harry's amazement, Snape blanched and snatched the entire pile, slamming shut the top book before Harry had the chance to see what had made him react.

'Well?' said Snape, acting as though nothing odd had just occurred, his customary glare fixed to his features.

'Er, yeah.' Harry gazed at the Occlumency book and the Quidditch manual Snape was now clutching with the others as though his life depended upon it. 'Er my, er, books?' he said, hoping Snape would notice he was empty-handed. He wasn't bothered about the Occlumency book. Although if Snape insisted he have it, he could stow it at the bottom of his trunk and pray Snape didn't test him on its contents. But he at least wanted the Quidditch manual back.

Snape finally deciphered his gaze and looked down. With a glower, he pulled out the bottom two and handed them over. His robes billowed as he strode toward the Potions section.

Harry clasped the Quidditch book. Malfoy wouldn't know what hit him come the next game. He made his way to the check-out table. He couldn't wait for the afternoon's practice to try the new manoeuvre he had spotted. It would knock them dead.

The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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