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The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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Moody’s bright blue magical eye rolled around in its socket before coming to rest on Snape again.

Snape was not fooled. He met its gaze. If only you could see right into people as the rumours would have us believe.

It was no secret Mad-Eye Moody distrusted him more than any other member of the Order – including Black – but Snape could not resist a wry inward smirk at the thought of concealing from the Auror a secret no amount of room-ransacking could have uncovered. Oh, he knew it had really been a Polyjuice-intoxicated Crouch who had turned over his office last year. But that did nothing to lessen Snape’s loathing for the man now sitting opposite. Either it was merely his own paranoia, or Moody’s detection of it, that the demonic eye was pointing in his direction more often lately. Constant vigilance indeed.

‘Thank you,’ said Dumbledore as Arthur’s report came to an end. Glancing around the kitchen table over his spectacles, his gaze came to rest on Snape.

Anyone else, Snape considered, might have gone insane long ago reporting regularly for both sides. Double that of everyone else, exponentially more so this past year since the Dark Lord’s return. And teaching on top of that, which was arguably no less stressful. Not to mention keeping an eye on the boy. But there was something satisfying about having his mind so occupied. Indeed, in all likelihood there was no better guarantee of sanity.

‘Severus?’ said Dumbledore.

Snape felt all eyes move towards him expectantly as their link to the heart of the Dark Lord’s plans. All expectant, that is, except for Moody’s magical one and, to its right, Black’s suspicious two. ‘It seems,’ he began, relishing the attention his duties attracted, even if it was from this ragtag assembly, ‘we were correct in our suspicions. The possibility of a planned attack is becoming more and more apparent.’

‘Possibility?’ said Black. ‘Don’t you know?’

It was odd, Snape reflected, how Black habitually questioned his loyalties and yet remained eager for definite news from him. ‘It appears the plans, as always, are not well thought-out,’ he told Dumbledore, avoiding Black’s stare. ‘Their talk is mostly in the form of bragging about the destruction they will cause. Nevertheless, I believe it is almost certain the target is Hogsmeade.’

There was a thick silence as the group took this information in. Dumbledore broke their uneasy thoughts. ‘And are you any nearer to ascertaining a specific date?’

‘No. But I have a hunch it may fall on one of the school-outing days.’

‘Indeed?’ said Dumbledore. ‘That would be most serious. What makes you believe this?’

‘Because I’ve noticed a certain pattern of questioning by some, about the school routine. The trips to Hogsmeade in particular. Their dates, who normally goes on them. Of course their own children attend Hogwarts, but it isn’t normally the topic of choice among the Death Eaters.’

‘So the scum are after innocent children, eh?’ said Moody gruffly. Molly made a light noise, and Arthur covered her hand.

‘What if they’re planning on a particular student being there?’ said Nymphadora to Lupin’s left.

Snape inwardly groaned. It was only a matter of time until a reference to the pint-sized celebrity was made during an Order meeting.

‘Well,’ said Dumbledore, ‘it certainly does seem odd to plan for a day when most of Hogwarts will be there. As you say, many themselves have children attending. And with the teachers there too.’ He surveyed Snape. ‘Are you sure? It would be rather strange if they expected you to be there supervising the students.’

‘Of course I cannot be certain. All I can say is there has been recent interest in the school routine, and the planned raid appears to be on Hogsmeade. Whether the two are linked…’

‘Unless,’ said Dumbledore slowly, ‘they are planning on your attendance.’

‘Maybe you’ve been rumbled, Snape,’ exclaimed Moody, his magical eye staring across the table. Snape could have sworn Black had sniggered.

‘We have to consider the possibility they expect you to be there, if indeed this plan is set for a Hogsmeade trip.’ Dumbledore looked gravely at Snape. ‘You must attend them as usual. And remain neutral if anything does transpire. By not taking part, there will be less chance of you being suspected.’

Black muttered something that sounded like ‘useless’.

‘Perhaps you would like to be kept informed, Black, so you could help out when a raid occurs?’ said Snape. ‘Ah, no – I forgot – you must remain here to brew the tea for when we return with our reports.’

Black’s eyes glistened with fury.

‘Do you think that’s wise?’ said Minerva, deftly glossing over the tiff, and curtailing Snape’s pleasure. ‘Wouldn’t it seem stranger if Severus did attend, with his knowledge of the attack?’

‘But Severus does not know of the attack,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Merely assumptions of where and when it will take place. If we knew specifics, perhaps I would agree with you, but as it is … I think it best if we follow that plan until we do know more. Agreed?’

Snape nodded his assent under the watchful gaze of Moody’s blue orb. Dumbledore was right, of course. He could not be seen fighting alongside the Order. And it would be risky even to pretend to fight against the Order merely to keep his cover. He could later cite his continued worth as spy on Dumbledore for his lack of participation, and his aversion to aiding the Order as the reason for remaining neutral.

The meeting came to an end, and with a clatter of plates over the hum of the room, Molly cleared away the remains of cakes and biscuits and half-drunk tea.

‘Severus, I have this report I would like you to go over.’ Dumbledore handed him a parchment. ‘It provides further details of January’s breakout at Azkaban. Alastor, Kingsley, could I have a word?’ He turned back to Snape. ‘I shall return shortly,’ he said, and retreated in the direction of the drawing room followed by Moody and Shacklebolt.

As the remaining Order members left, some by the front door, some using Floo powder, Snape retook his seat at the kitchen table and studied the untidy, almost illegible, writing of a Ministry quill-pusher.

From what he could gather, it appeared rumours the Ministry was losing control of the Dementors were true; they were hardly contributing to the search for the escapees. It would not be long, Snape speculated, before the Dark Lord claimed the Dementors as among his followers.

His face scrunched in concentration. Squinting at the scribbled words under the poor lighting, he caught a glimpse of familiar shabby robes. ‘Lupin, spell the lights up. I can barely read this appalling scrawl.’

Through the silence that followed, Snape continued attempting to interpret the lazy writing – until the unmistakable voice of Black growled, ‘Why don’t you do it yourself, Snape?’

‘That’s all right, Sirius, I’ve got it,’ said Lupin as Snape raised his head to see Black, arms folded, staring at him from across the room.

‘Something wrong with your magic, Snape?’ spat Black, while Lupin spelled the lights brighter.

Snape was sorely tempted to tell Black exactly what was wrong with his magic.

Clearly misinterpreting the pause as confirmation, Black taunted, ‘So, you really are useless?’ and raised his eyebrows.

Snape felt unnervingly as he had done at Hogwarts years ago when Black and Potter used to corner him while Lupin watched from the sidelines. In fact, he thought ruefully, only the rat’s presence was needed to complete the picture.

‘Very convenient,’ said Black, ‘wangling your way out of helping the Order in any attack.’

‘And you’re the expert on that, aren’t you, Black?’ sneered Snape softly.

He ignored the jibe. ‘I suppose you’re going to use your inadequacies in the magic department as an excuse, too?’

‘Inadequacies? If I have any inadequacies, I wonder just whose fault they are?’

‘Well, they’re certainly not Remus’s – so stop using him to make up for them.’

‘He’s not using me, Sirius.’ But Black was keeping his gaze fixed on Snape, who could almost hear the horribly bright smile as Lupin tried another tack. ‘Anyone fancy some tea?’

‘Perhaps Potter’s, then?’ Snape whispered.

‘What! Trying to pin something else on Harry … Snivellus?’

‘Not that Potter.’

As soon as Black pulled out his wand, Snape shot from his chair and did the same. He flicked his eyes between Black’s wand and his reddening face.

‘How dare you speak ill of the dead!’ Black circled the table. ‘You make me sick, Snivellus!’

Snape fixed a malicious sneer to his lips. ‘Dead?’

‘Both of you, stop!’

Snape took his eyes off Black for a second to jeer back at Lupin, ‘I thought you wanted me to tell him?’

Lupin turned his weak resolve to their outstretched wands. ‘Not like this.’

‘Tell me what?’ He threw a questioning glance towards Lupin, who avoided his gaze. Black stared back at Snape and raised his voice further. ‘I don’t want to hear any more high-blown tales about how you supposedly risk your neck for the Order, Snivellus. I couldn’t give two Snitches!’

‘Now, now,’ bellowed Moody from just outside in the hall, and when Black had reverted to a simple threatening stare, a clump, clump could be heard as the veteran Auror entered the room. ‘We’re all on the same side.’ He turned his magical eye on Snape. ‘Aren’t we?’

Snape gritted his teeth and replaced his wand. Grabbing the Ministry report from the table, he strode into the hallway, where Nymphadora and Molly were chatting in a corner in hushed tones.

Why should he fill Black in on the facts, and give him the satisfaction of knowing his old friend Potter had succeeded where he had failed in his attempt to kill the object of their ridicule?

‘Ah, could I have a brief word, Severus?’ said Dumbledore from the drawing room doorway.

He moved past him into the room, and heard a click as Dumbledore closed the door.

Curious as to why he needed such privacy to discuss the Ministry’s report, Snape turned to see him remove from his robes a small bottle.

‘What is it?’ said Snape. Its silvery contents swirled within its glass confines, and he recognised it at once. He took the proffered vial, wondering why the man was handing him his memories.

‘While at Azkaban recently,’ said Dumbledore, ‘I took the opportunity to visit Flintoff. I persuaded him to relinquish it.’

Snape frowned at the swirling memory. ‘What is it of?’ But he knew as soon as he had asked – for what other memory belonging to that Death Eater meant anything to him? – and answering his own question, the shards dislodged from his throat. ‘Godric’s Hollow.’

At Dumbledore’s silent confirmation, he exclaimed, ‘And why do you think I would wish to see this?’

‘You do not have your own memory of the events. You were incapacitated—’

‘I rather think the word you mean is “deceased”.’

‘Severus, I think it would help you to see things objectively. Sometimes, I find the use of a Pensieve aids me a great deal. But it is your choice. You may dispose of it as you wish.’

Dumbledore’s reference to choices crystallised his jumbled thoughts toward Lupin’s earlier comments on the Headmaster’s opinion. Now would be as good a time as any to bring the subject up. At the worst, he could only confirm what Snape believed the old man thought anyway. He drew a few determined breaths then said, ‘Why do you trust me?’

Those infuriating clear blue eyes, as unfathomable as the deepest ocean, looked startled for a moment, then quickly focused on him appraisingly. ‘You know why.’

Snape felt a lip quirk. ‘No, Dumbledore. That was not trust. You spotted an opportunity, and you took it. Fourteen years have passed since then.’ He resisted the urge to shake the vial in the man’s face. ‘And the Dark Lord has returned. So I ask again: why do you trust me?’

Dumbledore studied him. He knew he had never asked this before, not in all these years. But everything was different now.

‘Whenever have you given me reason not to?’ said Dumbledore at last. His dismissive reply maddened Snape; he made it sound as though it were obvious.

‘Answer my question.’

‘But I can give no other answer.’

‘Perhaps it is this –’ and now Snape did wave the memory in the air, so that wisps of it eddied inside the glass ‘– this that proves my loyalty.’

Dumbledore frowned. ‘I do not see how that can be—’

‘No? But you must see how things have been. I have not had the tarnished soul of a Death Eater all these years. It is him. It is him you trust.’ He felt like shoving the vial down the man’s throat. But instead he squeezed it in his fist as he watched Dumbledore watching him, and hoped it would crack.

‘Do you really believe James’s soul to be faultless?’

Snape felt a heat spring to life low in his belly. ‘Don’t you see it? Him! He was the reason … Him, not…’ The fire was rising now, snatching his breath.

Dumbledore seemed finally to understand – something, at least. ‘Choices,’ he said. ‘It is our choices that define us. You of all people know that.’

‘But—’

‘No.’ He held up a hand. ‘You know your own reasoning, over the years. Only you know why you made the choices you did. Were they – are they – James’s memories you call upon? Those memories most precious to you – you have more of them than even he had.’

Snape stayed silent. The old goat knew exactly how to pull his emotional strings. It was he who had handed that power to him, after all.

Dumbledore provided his own nod of confirmation. ‘I think, then, the reasons were yours.’

Snape scowled. He would not be manipulated so easily.

‘I think you would benefit from an objective viewpoint.’ Dumbledore gestured to the vial. ‘Which is partly why I procured this for you.’

Snape glared. ‘So… The werewolf has been talking?’

‘Remus did express some concern. But not on the issue of trust. You must learn to put more faith in people’s sincerity.’ Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. ‘Including your own.’

Snape scrutinised the vial without seeing it. No, he would not be manipulated so easily. Not by Dumbledore, not by anyone. Least of all that big-headed idiot James Potter.

In fact, if anything, it was him controlling Potter, not the other way around.

He smirked to himself. Perhaps Lucius had been right after all. It was indeed poetic justice for the man who had pervaded his life when alive. In death, Potter was simply making up for injuries.

No, it was plain nothing of any of this was Potter’s doing. Because Potter’s biggest concern had always been Potter. He’d had no sense of practicalities.

Practicalities. Perhaps he would take a look at that Animagi book after all. It was about time James Potter showed himself useful for something.

‘It may be best,’ said Dumbledore, bringing Snape out of these promising thoughts, ‘if we told Sirius the truth – it could help to prevent difficult moods developing during meetings.’

‘What? Black would only hate me more. And if he didn’t…’ He could hardly bear thinking of that possibility. ‘It's bad enough with Lupin – but if Black began to treat me like an old friend as well, like I was one of their gang, the mindless Marauders… I shan’t be held responsible for my actions.’

And he wouldn’t be. He’d blame it on Black’s old friend, and Black could go hang.

Dumbledore sighed. ‘Well, perhaps you will change your mind if you decide to take a look at this,’ he said, indicating the memory. ‘And if you obtain further information on this potential raid, please inform me straight away.’

When he had gone, Snape took a moment to fold the Ministry report and tuck it with the memory into a pocket of his robes. He swept out into the hallway.

‘Everything all right?’ asked Lupin as Snape removed his travelling cloak from the stand.

‘Utterly wonderful,’ he drawled. He noticed Nymphadora disappearing through the front doorway as he fastened his cloak, her hair a drab brown. ‘Babysitting Black again?’

Lupin stole a glance at her retreating back. ‘He’s lonely cooped up in this big house.’

‘And the Dementors were perfect company for him in Azkaban, I suppose?’

Lupin frowned.

‘You’re a fool to fritter your life away minding Black.’

‘He’s a friend. Why shouldn’t I be worried about him?’

‘How touching. But if the Dementors couldn’t contain him, then I doubt you stand a better chance, not if he truly wants to leave the house and endanger the Order.’

‘I have to try. He keeps threatening to leave – and you’re not helping.’

Snape snorted. If Black wanted to risk being caught or killed now his Animagus form was widely known, that was his call. He was an idiot to have allowed himself to be seen in plain view on the station platform at the start of school, since he was still a wanted murderer – and he would die an idiot’s death, Snape was certain of that.

‘Well – good luck.’ Snape strode out into the cool night air.

As soon as he had stepped beyond the harsh orange beam of a street lamp, he Disapparated to the gates of Hogwarts.

A brisk walk across the school grounds later, he reached the privacy of his dungeons office. Setting his cloak down on a chair, he pulled from his pocket the Ministry report, dragging with it the bottled memory it had become partially wrapped around.

He still had the Pensieve for Potter’s Occlumency lessons. He could use it tomorrow.

He gazed at the vial, transfixed by the feathery mass bathed in candlelight. It appeared insubstantial, floating inside its glass cage. But it was weighted with meaning.

He peeled his eyes away.

He had already made his decision. He would no longer be dictated to by James Potter. No – Dumbledore had made it clear tonight it had never been the case. That last shred of doubt lifted from him like the retreat of a Dementor. And he felt the last vestige of control James Potter had over him evaporate with it.

He looked back at the bottle. There would be no point indulging in sick fantasies of watching Potter being forced into resurrecting his favourite school prey.

But it would not do to dispose of the memory just yet. The Ministry may find some heinous crime Flintoff had been responsible for. The incarcerated Death Eater could be condemned to the Dementor’s Kiss at any time, closing his memories off from the outside world forever. Watching Dumbledore’s ghoulish gift rise and fall against the glass, he decided upon the perfect place to store it securely.

In the small square cabinet fixed to the wall, he set down the silver memory next to the vial the Dark Lord had given him the previous evening.

He gazed at the two bottles on the top shelf. A contrasting pair, he thought dryly as he observed their contents – one light and silver, one a dense black liquid. The Dark Lord had charged him with keeping the latter safe and close at hand until he required it. Snape had carefully checked the contents, which were harmless enough, but extremely difficult to brew, and perhaps why he had requested its close protection. He had learned long ago not to question the Dark Lord’s logic – nor Dumbledore’s, for that matter. Both bordered on insanity at times.

It was certainly lunacy to resurrect me, wasn’t it, my Lord?

He locked the cabinet carefully, closing the door on one assignment from the Dark master, one from the other. Neither of which would he touch.

The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 0]

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