Warnings: child abuse, depression, suicidal tendancies
Summary: Devoid of the will to live, Harry decides that it is simply time to end it all. Too bad for him that one of his professors had to come and screw it up.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. I am simply borrowing them; therefore, do not sue me.
Chapter 10: Shedding Scales
Severus gazed down at the boy sleeping soundly on the rug before him. The reactions of Harry tonight were quite different from the one's he would have imagined Potter to have, which merely emphasised how blinkered he had been when it came to the boy. He could not forget the moment when Harry had whimpered in helplessness as he found himself too weak to even undress. The boy was so vulnerable. So very easy to scare and hurt. What hope then, did he have against Voldemort, or any of the death eaters? What hope was there at all?
The boy would have to be coaxed out of his shell, and listened to with sympathy. And comforted. And hugged. And then made stronger. That was not something that he could do, nor would he want to. He would have to talk to Albus, and soon.
Harry couldn't sleep on the rug all night. Severus levitated him and transferred him to the bed. As he covered the boy he renewed the now almost constant linking spell to inform him of Harry's condition, and then made his way to the headmaster's office.
Albus was waiting for him.
"Cup of tea, Severus?"
He shook his head and moved to the chair in the corner, the one which made him feel like he was being interrogated the least. Students never felt that way with the headmaster, but his manipulations were too subtle for them to detect. They were very obvious to Snape, however, and he avoided the traps set as often as possible, which was to say, so far, never. At least he tried.
"Now, what is it you have come to talk to me about then?" inquired the old man.
Unpleasant as the news was, Severus knew that to shock the headmaster was rare, and the expression which would doubtlessly soon grace Dumbledore's face would keep him amused for months. There is a silver lining on this rain cloud after all, he thought. He drew the moment out, savouring the anticipation.
His inner voice told him sharply to get on with it. It said he was being immature.
"Albus, I have something of great importance to tell you as regards young Harry Potter." he started, then stopped, unsure of how to continue.
Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling, Snape thought with confidence that they wouldn't remain that way for long.
"What mischief has Harry got himself into now? I assure you Severus, I doubt it was done with ill intent, and I do not think it appropriate to take house points or expel him during the holidays." he said teasingly.
Snape was thrown for a second, before remembering that he had a fairly predictable track record when coming to see Dumbledore about Harry.
"No, I...Harry lied to us." There, that was the best opening he could think of. Now Dumbledore would ask him what about, he would tell him, and then he could leave.
"I see." said Albus gravely. He did not say anything else. Snape knew his was doing this on purpose. It was impossible to have a proper conversation with the man, as he never reacted as he should. Which was why he always won every argument. Severus knew that the headmaster could outwit him so after a long pause gave in.
"There was no death eater attack. Harry's own relatives beat him. I believe that the abuse has been going on for some time."
"Are you sure of this, Severus, absolutely sure?" the intensity in the tone of Dumbledore's voice startled Snape.
"Yes. The uncle confessed it, boasted about it indeed, how they hoped to beat the magic out of him. And just now, when I confronted Harry, though he was evasive, he eventually started to admit the truth. He was very upset at my discovery of it."
Albus slumped back in his chair heavily, his expression distant and disturbed. "But Harry...Oh Merlin." He brought up his hands to cover his face.
Snape judged how he was reacting then added, "And Harry begged to stay here over Christmas, didn't he?" The headmaster looked up again. "And you told him that Christmas was a time for family, didn't you?" he hissed, angry that Albus, who always seemed to know everything, had let something of this magnitude past him. Angry at himself, for feeling guilty about what had happened.
He had not finished. Now that he had begun his accusations they flowed so easily. "They nearly killed him. Harry Potter nearly died because he was forced to live with people who hated him. And he never told us. How much do you think he trusted us then, and how well do you think that we knew him?"
Dumbledore's voice was swamped with guilt also. "I made him stay there. I never checked on him, I should have checked on him. Oh Merlin, Harry, Harry why didn't you tell us what was wrong?"
Snape interrupted the headmaster's self-recriminations. "He is crushed, Albus, I am not sure how much of the boy we knew before even exists now." He hesitated, before deciding that there was nothing more he could do here. He had taken out his frustrations on Albus, and Albus would hopefully take them out on the Dursleys.
"Here are the pieces of the wand," he laid them on the desk, then uncertainly said "I'm not sure if he's ready to talk yet, maybe you should give him some time." But in his mind Snape thought that Harry had already had years to get ready to talk, the problem was unlikely to improve with further delays.
Severus was just falling asleep when he heard the cry. The spell informed him that Harry's heart rate was increased. Which meant he was in danger. Theoretically. Considering the revelations of the day, as well as yesterday's experiences, he had a sneaking suspicion of what was really happening. Rushing out into the other room, he was proven correct.
Harry was tossing and turning restlessly on the bed, occasionally making small noises of distress. Snape moved to his side, not knowing what to do. This nightmare was obviously not the Cruciatus curse, from the lack of screaming, and there was little he could do to help with normal nightmares now. He would brew some dreamless sleep potion for the boy tomorrow, he decided. For now Harry had become quiet again, curled up on his side and shivering since he had kicked the covers off. Snape picked them up off the floor and draped them over the boy, then went to his own bed.
The next day he applied the salve then left Harry to his own devices and went into his lab again. Making up a stock of dreamless sleep potion for both Harry and also for Pomfrey's stores took up most of his day.
After that he went to see Albus again, now that the wards were nearly finished he had a lot more free time. He greeted Severus with a smile, though it was a sad shadow of his usual one, and they discussed Harry. Eventually the decision was reached that forcing Harry with a spell or potion of some kind to talk could destoy any trust he had left in them, so Snape was delegated to convince the boy to open up and be more willing to talk to the headmaster.
That meant the boy would have to trust him, thought Snape. Why on earth would Harry do that? He stole some of Dumbledore's sweets as he left to give to the boy. Perhaps bribery would work if all else failed.
He went back to his rooms secure in the knowledge that the Dursleys would soon be taken care of. Maybe Albus would let him watch.
That evening was a quiet one. Snape and Harry ate dinner then sat on the couch reading. Snape thought about ways to try and get the boy to talk for a while, decided that none of them would work, so became absorbed in his book and blocked Harry from his mind.
However, ignoring the boy became impossible when the linkage alerted him to Harry's heart speeding again. With a sigh he turned, expecting him to be asleep. He wasn't. Harry was just staring into the fire, the hand holding his neglected book had fallen to rest on his thigh. Blank staring.
"Harry." said Severus. No response. "Harry?" louder. No reply.
Snape reached out a hand and gripped the boy's shoulder. Like a statue coming to life Harry stirred, then looked around at him sluggishly. Severus was alarmed at the glazed look in Harry's eye's, and shook him hard.
Harry seem to slowly to rise from the daze he was in, he became focused and the linking spell calmed down. Severus stopped shaking him.
"What were you doing Harry?" Snape asked, needing to know what had set the alarm off so badly.
"Nothing, just thinking." came the nonchalant answer.
Thinking. The boy must have a hell of lot going on inside his head behind that facade. This incident had worried Snape, as well as Harry's ability to just brush off whatever it was as though it was nothing when quite clearly it was something.
Said it would fester, his internal voice commented. Snape wondered if it was a conscience. He didn't think so.
He gave the boy the sweets. This didn't seem to help, so he left him alone.
Albus came round later. Snape felt Harry's heart began to pound again. He really was terrified of talking. Still, feeling Harry panic every few minutes was annoying, and no longer necessary. He cancelled the spell on Harry so that he could get some peace.
Harry wouldn't even talk to the headmaster. He took his wand, now once more fully operational, back in silence. As soon as Dumbledore had left the boy ran to the bathroom. Snape thought he might want to cry in private. Which was just as well, as it made him uncomfortable when Harry cried in front of him, made him feel responsible. And guilty. And something else.
When the boy returned he looked perfectly composed. Of course, with his new knowledge of Harry's acting skills, that didn't mean much.
Severus slept well that night, with no interruptions. When he got up in the morning he saw that Harry had not, by the darkened circles under the boy's eyes. This puzzled him, the boy had not had nightmares, as Snape had given him some of the potion. Anyway, he himself was a very light sleeper and would have been woken if the boy had screamed or made any noise at all. He had even left his door open slightly, just in case.
He decided to take the headmaster's advice, and allowed Harry to try some of the practicals which he had failed in lessons. Which meant letting him into his lab. Yet another sacrifice.
Harry seemed distracted. He kept making the most foolish mistakes. Snape, growing irritated by the boy's clumsiness, was about scold him when he saw that Harry's hands were trembling. He assessed the boy's face and knew it must be from tiredness. He really couldn't understand the boy. Knowing it was pointless trying to do any more, he called off the experiment and they went back and sat on their accustomed places on the couch.
Having Harry there was definitely not as bad as he had first thought it would be. The boy was passive and quiet, almost too much so, he never touched any of Severus' things. While personally Snape preferred him this way, he did realise that it meant something was wrong with the boy. No one was this submissive naturally. Not without it being drummed into them with sharp objects apparently, said his little voice. He didn't argue with it.
Harry lay out on the rug again for Snape to smear Pomfrey's potion on. Tonight would be the last time they would have to use it. The boy's back looked much better, and it was easily discernible from the way that he moved that it hurt much less. When Severus had first seen it he had been shocked, not just at the extent of it and thinking how much force it would have taken to do such damage, but that Harry had managed to live with it for so long before asking for help. The boy seemed determined to cling to the shreds of his pride sometimes, then completely abandon it at others. His behaviour did, unfortunately, make sense to Snape, he had seen abused children before, even been one, to a much lesser degree, himself, but he still had no idea how to deal with one.
He rubbed the lotion in gently, taking his time, feeling Harry slowly relax. Maybe the boy is coming to trust me after all, he thought. As he worked his way down Harry's back, he pondered over whether Harry would ever pluck up the courage to speak to Albus. Snape knew that he had to do so, for in this matter the headmaster would not be a patient man, Albus thought that he had created the problem, and was determined to fix it. As soon as possible. By whatever means it took. And Snape felt that rushing the boy was the thing most likely to drive him away. But not doing anything didn't seem too wise either. It was so complicated.
He went to sleep undisturbed by Harry again, and was pleased that his potion had some personal benefits as well as helping the boy.
It didn't last. He had a nightmare and woke up in a cold sweat, the expression in Voldemort's eyes as he had seen them when he was discovered a traitor burned into his brain. He lay there for a minute, attempting to go back to sleep, but soon realised that it was impossible. He slid out of bed with a sigh, and thought that maybe he should take some of the dreamless sleep potion for himself.
Severus stepped out into the main room and warmed his hands in front of the fire for a few minutes. It comforted and soothed him to watch the flames flicker. He turned, about to go to his lab and fetch a bottle of the potion, when he stopped, astonished at the sight before him.
Harry was exposed on the bed as the covers had been kicked across the room. His back was arched, his hands clawing at the air. His mouth was open in a silent scream.
Severus was at his side in an instant, raising the lights. At first he thought that the boy might be having a fit, but as he looked down upon him he saw the drop of blood leaking from Harry's scar. Finally comprehending what was happening, he cast a general dispel. The sound of tortured screaming was instantly audible.
He accioed several potions to him, and a pitcher of water. The water went over Harry's head, and as the boy woke up, gasping and choking, the potions went down his throat before he became aware of what was happening. Then he began reacting to what had happened.
His shuddering and jerking was far more pronounced this time, noted Severus as he grasped Harry's shoulders worriedly to steady him. The potions would take a minute to start working. Harry suddenly crumpled into a ball and seemed to be attempting to crawl inside himself. For a moment Snape felt a deep connection, as he remembered how that felt, after Voldemort cast that curse on him, then he was on the outside looking in again, trying to get Harry to uncurl.
Even as the potions began to make Harry calm down, he was still obviously terrified and confused. Snape thought wryly that waking him up with cold water definitely didn't improve the boy's recovery, even if it had released him quickly from the nightmare.
The boy was still trembling. Severus wasn't sure if he even knew where he was. Harry hadn't been this bad before, and it scared him. The boy was clinging to Snape's robes now, desperate for contact. Knowing that he needed to be grounded, Snape wrapped one arm around the boy's shoulders and placed the other on the back of his head as he pulled him close to his side.
Eventually the harsh breathing became more even, and Snape sighed in relief. He looked down into clear green eyes.
"I'm sorry I woke you."
Snape blinked. That was the last thing he expected the boy to say.
"Didn't the potion work?" he asked with a certain amount of professional curiosity.
"No, stupid visions, it never does." Harry seemed to be falling asleep again, the combined effect of the potions Snape had given him overwhelming his system. Just after he closed his eyes, Severus heard him murmur, "Have to practice silencing charms more then."
He laid the boy down. And renewed the link to him. Harry, it seemed, still had far too many problems for Snape not to be monitoring him.