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 18: When the Sugar Runs Out
Severus hadn't seen Harry at dinner time. He hated admitting to himself that he was worried about the boy. It went against the grain, and his grain had been firmly established, set in place for many years, so crossing it caused great discomfort. Knowing Harry had caused him more struggles with his own personality than he'd experienced since becoming a spy for the light.
He was worried about the boy. When Harry had fled from his chambers so soon after finally breaking down he had been concerned that he might do something drastic. He had monitored the status of the boy for the rest of the night. So he knew that Harry had had another nightmare. He thought about how Harry coped with the nightmares when he was on his own. Did he put up silencing spells? Did his friends help him? Or did he suffer by himself? Knowing Harry, which he felt did more than anyone, he knew that the boy was too proud to ask for help. Or too ashamed. Or, in this particular case, probably some strange mixture of the two.
Harry had looked fine the next morning though. Snape considered, and decided that the boy must have discovered concealment charms. But if he could hide the circles under his eyes, then what else might be hidden also? He had been subconsciously checking what parts of Harry's arms he could see every time he encountered him, but if the boy was using spells... Snape had to talk to him, to find out how he was doing.
But then he hadn't been there at dinner. Severus had been planning on taking him aside afterwards. But he hadn't been there. And as he sat there and maintained his usual glower, he was thinking about all of the trouble that Harry could be getting into. Although the charm should alert him if anything got too bad. Damn the boy for doing this to him anyway. He didn't care. He didn't!
Severus went back down to his dungeons, and tried not to worry.
Snape hadn't actually managed to read any of his book. The words just didn't make sense to him. The boy had probably just been gallivanting off for a lark. Inconsiderate brat. Making others worry. But then, all of his friends had been at dinner. And they had looked as though they hadn't known where he was. In fact the only other person missing from the tables had been Malfoy. Draco Malfoy. Who hated Harry. What if he had cornered him somewhere and hurt him? What if his taunts caused Harry to break down and no one was around to help him?
What if he was being a paranoid idiot?
He kept on trying to read his book.
Until he was interrupted.
"Hello, Severus. Just thought I'd drop by for a bit. How are you doing?"
While the question was sincere, it was not what the headmaster had come for. Snape could tell.
"I'm fine, dealing with the knowledge that I failed everyone as usual."
So much bitterness, whispered the little voice inside his head. It said that believing that he had failed everyone was no different from the way that Harry was feeling. And what had he told the boy? That others took responsibility for themselves. Don't preach if you can't practise, the voice expounded.
"What is it you want, Albus?"
The damn eyes were twinkling again
"Can't I just be concerned for you, my friend? No? Well then, I came here about Harry."
Astonishment was a feeling entirely absent.
"I was talking to him earlier about his relatives."
Severus began listening more keenly. Harry was very sensitive about his relatives.
"I told him how they had been punished. He seemed upset. I really don't understand the boy sometimes, I thought he'd be pleased that he wouldn't have to return to them. I thought maybe you could help?"
Snape resisted the urge to groan.
"His friends came to see me. They are worried about him."
Well, so they should be. The little brats showing some sensitivity at last. But telling Albus was not the best way to go forward. Harry would never forgive them.
"They had a word with Minerva too, I believe."
Ouch. Even worse. The old bird wouldn't know a trauma case if it bit her on the...Harry is really never going to forgive them.
"They told me they haven't seen him at all this evening, he wasn't at dinner, and he didn't go back to the Gryffindor Tower afterwards."
Albus looked slightly mischievous, whilst still keeping the air of sad puzzlement around him. It was an art. One which really got up Snape's nose.
"I thought as you spent so much time with Harry you might understand him a little better than the rest of us. I'm giving you first chance to go and look for him, otherwise I'll have to put everyone on alert. Tell me when you find him."
Severus hated the way that Albus just assumed he would comply. The headmaster obviously knew that he had a soft spot for the boy though. He wouldn't have asked unless he was sure that Snape wouldn't just deep fry Harry when he found him. Although Severus might still do that, as punishment for frightening him. Not that he had been frightened when he'd heard that Harry had gone missing. No. He was the stern, aloof Potion's Master, who cared only for himself. His inner voice seemed to spend a great deal of time laughing at him recently.
He went out to stalk the corridors of Hogwarts.
He came across Draco, lurking around outside the entrance to the Slytherin dorms. He was about to take points, when he remembered that Draco had been missing from dinner too. Maybe he knew where Harry was.
"Have you seen Potter?"
Malfoy gave him an unfathomable look. He took so long to reply that Snape began to grow suspicious.
Was that a lie? Told on Harry's behalf to protect him, or to spite him?
When it occurred to him, finding Harry was of course made much easier by the spell linking them. Snape adapted it to become a trace so it would lead him straight to the boy. Not really straight though. Considering all of the corners, and stairs and places where Harry had backtracked.
Eventually he found him. Half crouched into a ball against the wall, down in an disused part of the dungeons. Severus felt the now familiar protective feeling in his chest rise, and the worried one somewhat abate. He really hated the boy for corrupting him like this.
He knelt in front of Harry. He was staring into nothing again. Not a promising start.
He had to call the boy's name several times before achieving a response.
"You really should be more careful wandering around without your cloak Harry. Someone might be inclined to take points."
Harry smiled weakly, but didn't bother trying to answer.
He made the boy get up, but Harry seemed unsteady and had to rest an arm against the wall for support.
"Harry? Harry. What's wrong? Harry?"
"I..." Pause as the boy moistened dry lips. "I don't feel too good." He began to slide downwards.
Severus stopped his decent by wrapping an arm round him.
"What is wrong? Are you hurt?" Was it Malfoy?
"No I just..."
Harry sagged in his arms. Snape sighed. Why did these things always happen to him? His little voice sniggered and said that if they did always happen to him then he'd be far more practised at dealing with them than he was. He lifted the boy easily, he was still far too light.
Harry muttered something, and Snape strained to hear it. "Maybe I should have eaten something today after all."
"You haven't eaten anything all day?"
Further mumbling was incomprehensible.
"Stupid boy, can't take care of yourself."
At least his quarters weren't that far away.
They seemed to end up on the couch like this a lot. Harry in some kind of pain, and Snape trying to solve it. It was becoming natural.
He got the boy to drink some water, which seemed to revive him a little.
Then he forced him to eat. Harry didn't seem that hungry, which belied the fact that he hadn't eaten since yesterday. If he had eaten yesterday. Snape couldn't remember if he'd seen the boy do so.
He managed half a bowl of soup, then stopped. Upon further pressing from Snape, he became angry. Severus knew that the boy had reached his limit, but he was so thin. So underweight. He tried to get the boy to take another spoonful.
The soup ended up all over the floor.
Immediately, Harry cowered away as though he expected to be hit. But Snape was beginning to understand how to deal with him.
"I'm going to have to resurface all of my floors I see. Why don't you just tell me which colours co-ordinate with what you'll be spilling where, and I'll organise the redecorating."
Harry relaxed. He laughed. He actually laughed. It was only a little laugh, but it was far more genuine than those that the boy's friends had elicited from him previously.
Snape felt an enormous sense of accomplishment overtake him. He had made Harry laugh.
A house elf cleaned up the mess.
Snape switched his campaign to cookies. They were far more likely to go down well. And would make less of a stain if chucked across the room.
Harry nibbled them.
Cookies, however, did not seem to cure all of his troubles this time.
"You should get some sleep" suggested Severus.
Harry became tense. "I don't want to. I'm not tired."
"Have you been having nightmares again?"
"No, I'm fine. I'm just not tired."
Harry's eyes dropped. Severus hadn't known that the floor could be so interesting.
Snape undid the concealment charms. Harry really was becoming far too proficient in disguising his problems.
The boy looked terrible. Absolutely exhausted. His eye's were burning hollows in his face.
Severus sighed. He seemed to do that a lot around the boy.
"You have been having nightmares."
Harry still wouldn't answer.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of. You have no control over them." Which was probably why he feared them so much.
He would have to try harder then, to get the boy to rest. For he so clearly needed it.
"I left Hogwart's for a while when I was your age, did you know?"
Harry's head came up a little, he seemed interested in spite of himself.
"My parents thought that I wasn't receiving a proper education in the more important areas. Dark arts namely. So I went abroad for a time. I was always moving around from place to place, for almost a year, until my parents died and I came back here. The first place I went to was in France. There was a secret wizarding village out in the wilderness, completely cut off from everything. We had to use magic to get all of our supplies. The man who taught me there was called Arematis, and he had a really strange way of walking that made him look like a stork. Of course, the rest of him looked like a stork too, so there really wasn't..."
Harry fell asleep somewhere in the middle of Egypt, and Severus smiled in relief. The indignity of having to babble had been rewarded. He got up, careful to avoid disturbing the slumbering boy, and went to the fireplace. He told Albus where Harry was, and that he had fallen asleep there. He said he thought it would be a bad idea to wake him as the boy needed rest, so suggested Harry remain on the couch for the night. The headmaster didn't protest.
Severus went into his lab to carry on researching something that would help the boy with the visions.
Screams. He held Harry. He soothed Harry. He tried not to think about how nice it was to have someone who needed him. Who depended on him. After all, it was a heavy weight to bear.
As Harry recovered from the lingering pain, Snape delicately ran his fingers over Harry's wrists, needing to reassure himself. Harry was apparently lucid enough to notice this.
"Didn't do anything." he murmured. "I wanted to." he added a moment later.
Severus felt something inside him stir at the words.
"It's alright Harry, you didn't. That's what matters. You don't need to. You can manage without."
"Oh yeah, see me managing." came the weak reply.
Severus smiled to himself. Harry would be fine. He just needed reminding of it. And watching over. And food.
He made the boy eat another cookie.
Harry refused to go back to sleep. Snape wasn't surprised, and to be truthful didn't want to hear the screams again himself. They grated on his ears. And his heart, for he remembered similar screams coming from himself many a time.
He took the boy into his lab, and let him prepare some of the ingredients. None of the difficult ones, and he kept a close eye on him to ensure that his tiredness did not lead to clumsiness. He also kept a very close eye on everything Harry did with the knife.
Paranoia was an irremovable personality trait.