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The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 1]


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Harry shut the Herbology book and sat back in his chair. Most of the other fifth years around the classroom, assigned as a study room for the evening, appeared to be having the same idea. Even Hermione was chatting with Lavender. After all the OWL work over the Easter holidays – most of which had been helpfully scheduled for him by Hermione – Harry found himself looking forward to the new term and the prospect of something – anything – to break up the endless studying monotony.

He put away his books and strolled across to Ron. He was frowning at his study timetable. 'Look at this,' he said as Harry approached. 'It's just physically impossible. D'you think McGonagall'd let me have a Time-Turner like she did Hermione the other year? I mean, how can it be fair she's allowed one when she knows everything anyway?'

'Yeah, but I get the feeling McGonagall might see exams a bit different. Could be seen as cheating, you know?'

'What was that?' asked Hermione, clearly having heard a study keyword. 'If you stick to that until exams,' she said, pointing to Ron's schedule, 'you won't need to think about cheating.'

Ron did not take the bait. He folded the timetable and stuffed it in his bag while he fixed her with a sullen stare.

'No, no,' Luna was saying by the open window. 'Over there. Daddy says there must be some in the Forest. Look in that direction.'

'I know where to look,' said Neville, whom she seemed to be instructing, 'but I'm telling you, there's nothing out there.'

'Well, you're not looking in the right place, then.'

'Are those Omnioculars?' Harry asked.

Neville took the device from his eyes. 'Yeah,' he said, twiddling one of its many knobs. 'They're Luna's.'

'They're my dad's,' she corrected. 'You see, he uses them on his hunting trips and he lent them to me so I could report back on the sightings of Karpola Borogoves in this area. There's quite a buzz about it all, you know. They only come out at night, so we're using the nocturnal setting to see them.'

Harry and Ron gave each other sideways looks. 'So, er, seen any, Neville?' asked Ron.

'Nah,' put in Seamus, who had overheard this last part as he was passing. 'He's only seen the Lesser-Spotted Snape. Or should that be Greater-Spotted, with all that grease? Anyway, Neville's probably given himself enough nightmares to last till exams.'

Neville frowned at Seamus's back disappearing through the doorway.

'Bad luck, Neville,' consoled Ron in a tight voice that suggested some effort to restrain amusement.

'I wonder what Professor Snape's doing out there at this time?' said Hermione.

'Perhaps he's heard of the sightings, too,' said Luna as she gazed out at the pitch-black Castle grounds.

'He's been going to the Forest nearly every night for at least the past week now,' explained Neville. 'Luna thinks he's on to something.'

Ron gave Harry another look and bent his head in a last-ditch attempt to hold in the mirth.

'That's strange,' said Hermione, doing her best to ignore the peculiar noises coming from Ron's nose.

'It's a full moon soon,' said Luna. 'They're very difficult to find then because they don't come out during a full moon,' she said, as though it was obvious this was the reason behind Snape's night-time excursions. 'If you look over there…' she began, pointing out the Forest again to Neville.

But he promptly moved from the window and handed her the Omnioculars. 'Maybe you'll have better luck than me,' he said, frowning at Ron still trying to contain himself. 'I'm gonna check on Trevor.'

Luna sighed as he collected his things and left. She appeared disappointed. Then, in an almost melodic way, she said, 'Good things only come to those who wait.'

'Well, Snape isn't worth waiting for,' pointed out Ron.

Luna gave him a disparaging glance and flounced out of the classroom. It was emptying rapidly now; with exams coming up in a few weeks, many of the older students were retiring to their dormitories earlier so, in theory, they could cram in as much studying as possible during the day.

Closing the window, Hermione asked Ron and Harry, 'But what is Snape doing in the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night?'

'Wonder if Hagrid knows anything?'

'Yeah, maybe some of his pets have mysteriously been going missing over the past week,' suggested Ron.

'Perhaps he's meeting someone in secret,' offered Hermione.

'Whoa!' said Ron, raising his hands. 'I don't want nightmares like Neville, thanks very much.'

Hermione looked blankly at him for a second before turning pink. 'Ron, I didn't mean that kind of … Is that all boys can think of? I meant spy stuff. You know, something for the Order.'

'I guess it must be something important to risk the Forbidden Forest,' pondered Harry, 'especially at night.'

'Well he sure isn't out looking for those Crapola thingies. I bet he's up to something and Dumbledore doesn't know. He's already been softening you up for You-Know-Who with all those Occlumency lessons.'

'What?' Harry frowned.

'You always say you feel terrible when you practise.'

'Well, I've been feeling a lot better recently. And anyway, Snape wouldn't try something like that when he's helping my dad – it just wouldn't make any sense.'

'Oh, right,' nodded Ron, reeking of scepticism, 'so you really think he's on our side, now?'

'Yeah – well, maybe I do.' Snape still had not said a single word about his admission to hating being the Boy Who Lived – and Snape had had countless opportunities since then to use it to mock him, both in public and in private. It was too much to hope he had simply forgotten all about it. Then there was that odd thing Snape had said in the library about the Malfoys. He was still trying to work out exactly what it meant, but even if Snape was not on the side of the Order, it appeared he did not like the Malfoys as much as everyone, including Draco, thought he did. It was scant evidence, he knew.

But most importantly, Snape had not given James away to Voldemort in all these years, despite the two men having been sworn enemies at school. If his dad trusted Snape now, then why, Harry thought, shouldn't he too? 'He even made —' He stopped. Snape had told him not to tell anyone about the potion he had given him. But what harm would it really do telling his friends?

'What?' prodded Ron.

'He gave me something – just to stop the side-effects of all the Occlumency practice I'm doing.'

'What – like a potion? And you took it?'

'Yeah, why not? It helped.'

'Right – just Snape helping out his favourite student. It's probably poison! Are you nuts?'

'Really, Ron,' chastised Hermione. 'Who's going to know what potions to best help Harry than a Potions master who's also an Occlumens?'

'It's not poison, Ron.' Maybe he should have been more wary, but it had been obvious at the time it was not poisonous by the reluctant way Snape had handed it over. 'I've never felt better – and I've been taking it for ages now.'

'Well, it's probably a slow-acting one.'

'It'd have to be a really slow one, then, because I've nearly used it all.' In fact, Harry reminded himself, he would have to see Snape about some more soon.

'You're crazy,' said Ron. 'I bet he's out there right now meeting up with Death Eaters. Planning an attack on Hogwarts—'

Something clicked in Harry's head. 'You're right,' he cut in.

'What?' Ron blinked. 'You think he's planning to attack Hogwarts? Y'know, I was only joking…'

'Hmm?' Harry was thinking furiously. 'No, I mean about him meeting Death Eaters.' He turned to Hermione. 'Maybe you're both right.'

She and Ron gave each other puzzled looks.

'He's meeting another Death Eater spy.' But they did not seem to get it. 'Who's the only other Death Eater spy we know of, who gets his information to the Order through Snape?'

They exchanged another look, but it wasn't one of bemusement this time; rather the opposite. Both diverted their gazes to the floor.

'What?' asked Harry, whose turn it was to be confused while he tried to interpret the sudden change in their body language.

'Well,' she began, 'about that. We…' She glanced at Ron. 'We've been meaning to say something to you.'

'What?' demanded Harry, turning from Ron's downcast gaze to Hermione's troubled expression.

'Well, it just seems odd, that's all.' She bit her lower lip. 'You know, that he hasn't tried to contact you himself.'

Harry's heart sank. He did not want them to know the truth about Voldemort taking his dad's memories. 'Well, he is alive,' he said rather angrily, 'Lupin wouldn't lie to me about something like that.'

'Yeah, but,' said Ron, 'it's like you said when you looked in Snape's Pensieve. And maybe … well…' He looked to Hermione.

'Just say whatever you're trying to say,' said Harry, feeling the anger increasing.

'How did he become a Death Eater?' Ron raised his shoulders. 'After what You-Know-Who did to him and his family and—'

'He's pretending, Ron. D'you think he wanted to be a Death Eater? Voldemort made him do it, and now he's pretending.' Harry turned to Hermione in exasperation. 'Do you think my dad's a genuine Death Eater, too?'

'We just thought it was strange, that's all. I mean, he's your dad and—'

'Exactly,' interrupted Harry. 'He's my dad, and he'd never do anything like that in a million years.'

'So why haven't you heard anything from him?' Ron persisted. 'Even now – now you know he's alive? He wouldn't let a little thing like Snape stop him from seeing you. And why would You-Know-Who trust your dad, of all people?'

Harry stared at his friends' guilty faces, debating whether or not to tell them the truth. But he could not let them carry on accusing his dad of being no better than the likes of Lucius Malfoy. 'If Voldemort had done that to your family, d'you think you'd want to face up to it all?'

'What d'you mean?'

Harry drew a deep breath. 'Voldemort used a spell on him, something to make him work for him, something that made him … forget who he was, and…' He lowered his gaze. 'And now he doesn't want to remember.' He looked back up at Hermione. 'And if he acknowledged me, then he'd have to deal with all that history, and obviously he doesn't want to. I mean, who would?'

She took this in. 'Don't you think that would be a little drastic,' she asked quietly, 'to cut himself off from his past?'

'As long as he's happy, that's what's important. And anyway, he can't really relate himself to what happened, can he? So it doesn't mean much to him. But it's not his fault,' added Harry. 'He can't remember any of it because of Voldemort.'

She glanced at Ron then looked back at Harry, who was relieved to see her and Ron's previous scepticism giving way to understanding. 'Harry, why didn't you tell us this before?' she asked.

'I … I didn't want you worrying about me.'

'Don't be silly. That's what friends are for.'

'Because I'm all right with it, really,' rushed Harry. 'It's my dad's choice, isn't it? I mean, I'm not gonna force him to…' He looked away. 'Really, I'm fine,' he said, as she touched his shoulder lightly. He forced his gaze to meet hers and brought with it a smile. 'I've got Sirius.'

She smiled sympathetically.

But for the rest of the evening, Harry could not stop thinking about his father having been on the school grounds nearly every night over the past week, perhaps for the whole of the Easter holidays, without his knowledge. And he could even be there right now.

He went to the dormitory that night with his mind whirring. He had finally told his friends the truth and it was an enormous release. He should have said something earlier. But he hated being pitied for being an orphan – he had never blamed his parents for that – but when your father did not want to know you… He was just glad his friends understood he did not need them feeling sorry for him.

The last thing he wanted was for his dad to feel forced into doing something he did not wish to. It might even push him away further, hurt him. His father had been through enough, and even now, for the past fifteen years, he had been risking his life for the Order. Harry was proud of him for that alone. And he wanted to tell him so to his face.

It was with that last thought he checked no one was looking – most were still in the bathroom – and slipped into bed without changing into his pyjamas. He drew the bed curtains closed. As he listened to the room settle down for the night, he thought about Snape's potion.

It really was working; it was working so well he hadn't even realised he had stopped having those crazy dreams of men in a creaky house talking about some kind of – what was it again? – some antidote or other. He was glad of its absence – he had been getting fed up of its endless replays in his head. He wondered whether Snape's potion had some Dreamless Sleeping Potion in it, too. And he could now carry on practising Occlumency as much as he wanted without any nasty side-effects.

And he could tell his dad about what he was doing to protect him. Harry smiled in the dark and pictured what it would be like, what his dad would say to him when he saw how much he meant to Harry. He had a happy half hour imagining it.

The room had gone quiet. He sat up and reached through the curtain. On the bedside table was the Marauder's Map where he had put it earlier in the evening. He pulled it through. 'Lumos,' he whispered, using his wand behind the drawn curtains. He scanned the old parchment. There it was – somewhere inside the area marked 'Forbidden Forest' – a small black dot labelled 'Severus Snape'. Neville had been right: Snape was there again. There was no other discernable speck nearby, none labelled 'James Potter' or anybody else. Maybe Snape was still waiting for him.

He extinguished his wand. Still in his school robes, he eased on his glasses then his shoes, careful not to wake anyone. Ron was snoring lightly as he crept past. He grabbed his outdoor cloak and stowed his wand inside.

As he stole down the numerous staircases to the front doors, he wished he had kept his Invisibility Cloak a little longer. His heart was thumping at the prospect of seeing his dad for the first time since … well, ever, as far as he was concerned – everything else had been either a cruel echo or an even crueller vision of what could never be.

But the tightness in his chest was not just because of that. He was heading toward Snape. In the Forbidden Forest. After curfew. With no Invisibility Cloak. He wondered whether he had a death wish; Snape could slaughter him then and there and no one would be any the wiser. Maybe he should have told Ron where he was going first.

Too late now, he thought, as he heaved back the bolts to the main entrance. He squeezed through the gap before the old doors creaked and gave him away.

Besides, he assured himself, lighting his wand to find his way past the Quidditch pitch, the risk was worth it. Even the thought of the many man-eating creatures in the Forest could not deter him.

When he was at the Forest edge, he reluctantly put out his light – according to the Map, Snape was still around, somewhere just inside in this direction. But his dad was yet to arrive – and it was still too risky to be seen.

He trod gingerly over exposed roots of huge trees, their tall shadows crowding around, their thick crowns obliterating the stars. He eased along the path, letting his eyes adjust to the heavy darkness that closed in as he moved further into the deadened gloom. The fresh scent of damp foliage assaulted him.

From what he had seen of the Map, Snape was about twenty yards in and to the right of the path. He relit his wand to take another look. Shadows snapped into life under the strength of the light, and Harry dropped the Map.

He fell to his knees and scrabbled around the vines twisting across the ground. He found the Map – and caught sight of a second black speck near Snape's.

He held his breath and peered closer, his heart hammering. But there was no name by it like there was for Snape's. He brought the Map nearer. His breath skimmed the parchment. The dot glided to the very edge of the Map – then slipped to the ground.

Idiot. It was only soil. He swore at himself for getting excited over a stupid bit of dirt.

Burying his disappointment, he tucked the Map into his cloak and plunged into the dark with renewed determination. A dead branch nearly sent him to the ground. But he had reached the path, and he steered off to its right, gently swiping aside plants as he picked his way to Snape's location.

He was some way off the path when he heard the first twig.


He froze. It had come from somewhere to his left. He strained to listen. The darkness was stifling, the shadows overwhelming. They seemed to creep into his soul – almost like Dementors, he thought, shivering in the cold night air, but without the horrifying accompanying memories. He stood for what felt an eternity waiting to make sure there was no vicious creature or —


His breath quickened. He peered in the direction the sounds had come from. Whatever had caused them was getting closer, he was sure of it. He could see nothing but trees, their giant black figures sentinel-like, taunting him with visions of living things lurking behind their unyielding bodies. The cool wind stirred some nearby shrubbery, and over its soft hush his chest beat a fast rhythm. He carefully drew his wand and pointed it where he had heard the twigs snap. They were resolutely silent now.

It was then a wild thought occurred to him: Maybe it was his dad arriving?

The feeling evolved into a conviction, and it descended on him like a fever. Any fear he'd had of encountering a bloodthirsty beast was burned away by the exhilaration, and a daring thrill overtook him. It was. It was his dad. He knew it. Snape was only just beyond those trees over to his right, so it had to be his dad coming to meet him. It had to be. 'Dad?' he whispered, hardly daring to hope for a reply.

An animal howled on the other side of the Forest, cutting through the suffocating silence and displaying the enormity of the woods before him.

'Dad?' he tried again. 'Is that you?'


Far above, a breeze rustled through the treetops.

'It's me – Harry.' He stepped forward, setting his foot on a rock, and slipped.

As he caught himself a strong force yanked him by the collar of his cloak.

Choking as he was dragged backward, and striving to keep his footing as he went, he clung on to his wand while bramble after bramble jabbed into his sides. He tried to grab onto something. But the branches slapped at his arms and hands in admonishment as he was hauled away.

The Tortured Soul by purpleygirl [Reviews - 1]


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