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 15: Playing Potter
Harry sat with his friends in the great hall and picked at the food on his plate. Ron was telling him about how great his Christmas had been, and of all of the presents he had received. Harry was feeling bitter, as he had spent his Christmas unconscious, courtesy of Ron. Not that it was Ron's fault, the present coming like that, but still, he couldn't stop irrational anger from welling up inside him.
Hermione, unlike Ron, was more astute than the average block of wood, and figured out that Harry was being a little too quiet.
"Harry, are you alright?"
Hmmm, interesting question. Not exactly original though.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just tired. I had to get up really early this morning for some last minute packing."
He was lying again. He hadn't had to do that for a few days now, while he was staying with Snape, and he felt an almost physical pain at slipping back into the habit. It's what they need to hear, he told himself. That didn't make it any easier for him to bear.
Unfortunately, Ron seized hold of the change of subject enthusiastically.
"So, how was your Christmas then Harry?"
"Oh, you know, the usual."
Meaning so many things. It was almost the truth.
"Did you get my present? How come you didn't write?"
Was that Ron's way of asking why he didn't get a present? Very subtle.
"Yeah, I got your present." Yeah I got your present, and a whole lot of broken bones and bruises, and a dead owl, and can never go back to the Dursley's again unless I'm completely suicidal. "Thanks a lot. Sorry I didn't get you two anything but I didn't really get a chance to go out much."
They accepted this, and he appreciated it, though he couldn't help comparing their reactions with Snape's. Snape would never have believed him if he said that. But then Snape knew far more about him than either Ron or Hermione. Now that was a depressing thought, his best friends knew nothing about him and how he was feeling inside at all.
They hadn't seen Sylrissin yet, she had stayed in his pocket. She complained of course, but he didn't think that the dining table was the best place for introductions.
When they got back to the common room he brought her out and showed her to them. Their reactions were typical. Harry could read them so well. Ron ran across the room in fright at first, but after Harry explained thought that she was extremely cool and wanted to know if she did tricks. Sylrissin asked if she could bite his tongue off, since he made far too much use of it in her opinion. Hermione got excited and immediately fled to research what kind of snake she was.
Harry really did feel tired. And being with his friends was more exhausting than he remembered. Did they never stop talking?
Ron wanted to stay up and talk, but Harry blocked him out, took the dreamless sleep potion and cast a silencing spell in what had become his ritual before bed. Then he went to sleep, Sylrissin curled up by his ear.
He woke up in the usual way, by throwing himself out of bed with the force of his tossing and turning. This time there was no one there to comfort him, he had allowed himself to grow used to having Snape there when he woke up. So he sat on the floor by himself and shuddered as he fought to dispel the remainders of the darkness haunting him. After ten minutes, he figured out where he was. After half an hour, he managed to stand up.
He looked at his bed in trepidation. he knew from experience that if he tried to go back to sleep now the darkness would suck him straight back in. And he didn't want that. He went and sat by the window for a while, staring at the stars. He felt his eyelids start to droop.
Harry forced himself back up and, grabbing a book, went down to the common room. he sat by the fireplace and tried to study. Sylrissin, curled round his wrist again, still hadn't forgiven him for disturbing her sleep, so wasn't speaking to him. He attempted to study for a while, but in the end gave up and started staring into the fire. It was familiar and soothed him, and he quickly fell asleep sprawled on the rug in front of it.
His friends found him there in the morning. He was surprised he had had no further nightmares, and told them that he had woken up early and wanted to read for a while, then must have dozed off.
It was almost the truth. Almost. This was what most of his life at Hogwarts had been like, stretching and bending the truth so that it would suit others. This was what his life was for, the good of others.
He excused himself and went into the bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror, he stared at his reflection. He looked around reflexively to see if there was anything he could cut with. There wasn't. And he hadn't cut himself again, not since just after Sirius died. He was still working on convincing himself that he didn't need to.
His reflection. He gazed deep into it's eyes and began to think of all the things he should be. He was The Boy who Lived. He was the son of Lily and James Potter. He was a good quidditch player. He was brave. He was bold. He was a Gryffindor. He was Harry Potter.
Harry Potter joined his friends and walked down to the great hall with them, laughing.
Professor McGonagall found him after breakfast. She had obviously heard about his staying over the holidays, though he doubted that she knew the real cause.
She inquired after his health, and how he had been doing with his studies. It was so easy for Harry to lie to her. She accepted everything he told her. Why wouldn't she believe Potter after all? It was Harry that couldn't be trusted. But Potter was a lie. Harry was in a maelstrom of confusion. McGonagall left. He had a feeling she barely restrained herself from patting him on the head.
His own head of house didn't understand him at all. He got on far better with Snape.
Class was the same as usual. He understood many of the topics a lot better after his Christmas studies, but wasn't about to volunteer answers, so kept quiet. He worked hard to stop himself from falling asleep in History of Magic, as he feared the consequences.
He handed in all of his homework, which he had actually completed in time without Hermione there to push him. The things he had resorted to when there was nothing else to do! But now there were other things to do. His friends would be expecting him to spend all his time with them, holding extended conversations about topics he now found meaningless. There would be no more quiet time with just his books and Sylrissin. And Snape.
It was as he was walking to lunch that he heard a call in parseltongue. He looked down at Sylrissin, but it hadn't been her. He finally saw Serminysa in one of the portraits nearby on the wall. She had shoved the regular occupant off to one side and the knight was giving her a peeved look. Harry approached.
"Hello, little snake. How do you fare?" she asked
"I'm fine thanks. How about you?"
"I am free. But you lie. I can smell it. I can hear it. You never lied to me before. Why do you do so now?"
Harry felt his walls falling and grasped them desperately. He couldn't lose them now. His friends could not know. They were looking at him strangely, he motioned them to go ahead but they wouldn't leave. He was Harry Potter. He was Harry Potter.
"I'm fine." he said more forcefully. He lifted up Sylrissin and showed her to the painting. As he had intended, the snake was distracted.
"Oh, look at the little one. She is beautiful, is she not."
Sylrissin preened herself, if snakes can preen. The intent was there. Serminysa laughed.
"All young snakes are vain." Her gaze lingered on Harry. "Though I had not thought you so. You have changed, and it is not a good change. Hiding under rocks merely means that you will be caught unawares when the tiger bites your tail. And there is nothing but darkness where you hide. You will never find a light like that."
Her stare switched back to Sylrissin. "Take care of this man-snake, little one. For it seems he cannot be trusted to take care of himself." She left.
Harry ignored his friends inquiries as to what was going on and what the snake had said and carried on down their path. He did not want to think on what she had said. It cut too deep. He would never find a light like this. Never find hope.
Then he would have to live without it. He was everyone else's hope. That would have to be enough.
Harry ran straight into Malfoy on the way down to Potions. By the time they had picked themselves up off the ground the other boy's face was set in a sneer, blatantly copied from Snape, and Ron was standing at his shoulder, looking for a fight.
And Harry felt nothing. There was no hatred for Malfoy, who had made his life a misery, and there was no gratitude for Ron, who was sticking up for him. He just felt weary.
"Potter, I see you fall back down to grovel in the dirt at every opportunity." said Malfoy in a provocative way. Harry saw Ron's fists clench. But he didn't care. What did it matter?
But then, Ron was staring at him, waiting. He was Potter. He fought Malfoy. It was what he did. It was who he was.
"Just because it's your natural habitat doesn't mean that you have to pull the rest of us down with you to make yourself feel better." It was a good comeback, but Harry didn't feel pleased at all. Ron was happy. He was still Potter.
They walked on.
Potions was a class that Harry had been dreading. No more Mr. Nice Snape. He would go back to being the usual scowling professor who hated him.
The professor was horrible to every one of the Gryffindors. When he made derogatory comments about Harry's skills it got to him in a way that Draco's shallow insults hadn't. The more so because he knew that he didn't deserve these comments. His work was perfect. He had studied particularly hard to make sure he got his potions right.
Snape had gone back to treating him as Potter again. Which was what he had wanted from everyone, but somehow it hurt more because Snape had been the one person to see his true self, to see Harry. And if Snape was treating him as Potter, that meant no one saw him as Harry. Harry was beginning to disappear under the mask of Potter. He reminded himself again that that was what he wanted, no one needed Harry, but they depended on Potter. Harry had to go.
So he sat there in potions class with the two halves of himself clashing. Harry wanted to cry. Potter would never cry. He stared at the floor stoically.
Then he realised he hadn't heard anything that Snape had said in the last ten minutes, and the professor was glaring at him. The rest of the class was staring. Harry wanted to run away and hide. but Potter would never do that.
Snape told him to stay behind after class. Everything was back to normal then. Harry Potter predicted himself many weeks of unpleasant detentions. After all, he was Potter, and the person he had just annoyed was Snape.