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 26: New
The next day Severus was taking Harry to Diagon Alley to buy new things. Draco would not be accompanying them as his life was still in danger and Albus had wanted to spend some time with him. Snape hoped that the headmaster would manage to connect and deal with this student properly, as he had not with Harry.
Harry had worried him with his behaviour the night before and he thought it would be a good idea for the boy to get out for a bit. Despite the unpleasant associations which made this shopping necessary.
Despite the boy's reluctance towards the method of transportation, they took a portkey to Diagon Alley. It was the only way to get there without trekking out to Hogsmeade. Which would have been a waste of time. And Severus was always loathe to waste time. Harry was wearing his borrowed Slytherin robes. Severus thought that they looked very good on the boy, obviously the colours that he was meant to be wearing.
Getting some money out of Gringotts was a hassle, as Harry no longer had his key. They had to go through all sorts of verification procedures, in spite of Dumbledore's letter. Snape was tempted to just get some money out of his own extensive supply and give it to the boy to save time, but knew from past experiences with Harry's pride that it would not be accepted.
Once that was done, their next stop was the robe shop. As Madame Malkin took her measurements she wouldn't stop commenting on how skinny the boy was, and Severus could see Harry growing tense. He silently willed the woman to shut up, Harry didn't need reminding of his problems. When the lack of results proved that he did not in fact possess the mythical gift of telepathy, he resorted to more mundane means and scowled menacingly at her until she shut up, thoroughly intimidated. It made Snape happy to know that his glare still carried it's full potency, since he had not used it on Harry lately. They left the shop with Harry even quieter than he had been before.
Severus might not have enjoyed his eardrums being assailed with incessant noise, but found the opposite strangely eerie and certainly abnormal for a teenage boy. He deliberately altered the route to go past the broomstick shop, and noted with glee that his cunning plan had worked as Harry's footsteps slowed of their own accord. Snape turned to find the boy gazing wistfully at the window display. He nearly smiled, but suppressed it in order to keep his cold facade up in public. For good measure he frowned indiscriminately at all passers by for a moment, which served the duel purpose of cheering his mood and giving Harry time to dream. Then he approached the boy.
"Would you like to look inside?"
He made sure no trace of the meanness he displayed to everyone in his gaze was present in his voice, for Harry was still far too sensitive to risk. The boy twitched as though only just remembering Snape's existence. His inner voice told him that he had once been once the same with regards to the sport, totally obsessed, before he fell in love with his academic work and had no time for anything else.
"No, thank you, sir."
Severus was surprised. Again. The boy didn't want to buy a new broom?
"Won't you need a new broom to play quidditch with?"
Shrug. "I can use one of the schools"
"I doubt that Gryffindor's star seeker should be mounted on one of the pathetic school models."
Flinch. Shrug. How was he supposed to deal with someone so uncommunicative? He knew that he'd hurt the boy in some way, and rethought his last sentence.
"Quidditch is something that you are good at for yourself. Not anyone else. Don't let them take it away from you."
When had he become so good at this counselling shit? The boy nodded, a movement so small that it barely registered.
"Well, perhaps a quick look?" Harry asked hesitantly. Severus nodded his approval, and they entered.
Harry looked at every broom in the place, starting with the older ones, before working his way up to the latest racing brooms. Snape watched the boy run his fingers reverently along the Starburst, and recalled looking at his own broom like that. Harry's expression prompted another internal smile, the boy was practically salivating.
"Why don't you get it?"
"It's far too expensive."
Snape snorted. He had seen inside the Potter vault. "Use your money for something you enjoy. Spoil yourself." For once.
He could see that his words had hit a nerve however, and immediately regretted adding the last words. Now Harry wouldn't buy the broom for if he did, then he would be convinced that everyone would look at it and think that of course, Harry Potter had to have the best of everything. He blamed his inner voice. Usually it told him when he was about to say something insensitive. Usually he ignored it. But it had proven invaluable when dealing with Harry.
They left without Harry buying anything. Severus decided not to push him further.
The Apothecary was next. Snape had meant what he had said. The boy did show potential with the subject. There was a certain something about the way that Harry worked, a stillness, which spoke to the potion's master. The man behind the counter shouted into the back when he saw Severus and the manager came out.
"Hello, Professor Snape."
"How can I help you? The last delivery came through didn't it? I wasn't expecting to see you for another month at least. And I'm afraid that we're all out of ladybird wings, had a big order this morning and won't be restocked for a couple of days."
Severus moved aside slightly so that Harry became visible. Gared's attention immediately switched focus.
"I'm taking this boy on as my apprentice."
Both Gared's and Harry's eyes snapped to his face in astonishment. Why was Harry surprised? He thought he had told the boy? Had at least implied it. Oh well, he didn't seem to be protesting against the idea.
"But, Professor Snape, you've never taken an apprentice!"
"Yes, yes. There's always a first time. This is an exception. He shows a great deal of aptitude, and I didn't want to waste any time before starting his training."
He allowed himself a look at Harry. The boy looked absolutely stunned. He could tell from one look in Harry's eyes that the shock came from a disbelief that anyone could find worth in him. Well, that's where the boy was wrong, thought Snape. Gared was nodding, somewhat dubiously, but obviously accepting that if the boy measured up to Snape's standards then he must be good indeed.
"What will you be wanting then?" Severus produced a long list and proceeded to argue about it with Gared for the next half hour, sketching out the potions he intended the boy to learn, and haggling over the price, as was his right being an old and valued customer. He vaguely noticed Harry wandering off deeper into the store, but remained focused on the conversation.
When he had finished, a smug smirk was settled on his face, that had been fun! He walked round the shelves of potions to locate Harry. He found the boy staring at some of the slightly more shady ingredients near the back, which could be used in illegal mixtures. Gared usually hid them better. Harry gave no sign that he heard his approach. Until he spoke.
"I did mention it before. I said that I would tutor you in potions. While you don't have to consider yourself as such, to Gared anyone that I spend time working with would be designated my apprentice."
"I'm having your new things delivered to the school. Shall we go and look at books? You will need some new texts."
Harry nodded and followed Snape out of the store.
At the book shop, Harry browsed contentedly through the shelves. Here it seemed, was something he did not feel guilty spending money on. Severus therefore encouraged him to so. While he despised shopping generally, looking at potions and books was always enjoyable. He found several tomes that would help the boy with potions, and a couple for himself. Harry had collected some books in addition to his standard text books as well, all of them were related to work though. Snape looked at them, and pronounced a few useless. They had the same educational value as anything written by Lockhart would have done. He directed the boy to more suitable ones instead. They paid, and Severus shrunk everything and cast a lightweight spell in order to make it all easier to carry.
They left the shop, and Snape was just preparing the portkey when he saw Harry's face go pale.
"Harry!" It was the Granger girl. Severus moved a few steps away, interested to see how Harry would handle this.
Weasley soon followed, his greeting even more enthusiastic. Children, thought Snape to himself, forgetting all that had gone before when a new event captured their attention. Voldemort's death seemed to have eradicated their memories of what terms they had been on with Harry before.
Severus could tell that Harry hadn't forgotten. He chatted with them for a while, but Snape could read the boy's contempt for his former friends in every line of his body.
"Oh Harry, I'm so glad that you're alright again."
Severus wanted to sneer at the girl. Then realised that there was nothing to stop him. He felt a lot better once he did, even though they still hadn't seen him as yet. Useless friends they were as well. Alright indeed. The boy was cutting himself just last night, the bandage was still on his wrist, and she had the nerve to assume that he was alright? Apparently it irked Harry too.
"I'd better be going anyway, Professor Snape's waiting."
The attention of the others swivelled to him. He let his sneer become more vicious. Weasley spluttered.
"You're staying with him? Why? And why are you wearing Slytherin robes?"
The boy didn't possess a shred of tact, did he? Severus felt a growing need to take house points.
Harry shrugged. "I was told it was the only safe place to stay."
"Yes, but Voldemort's dead now Harry. Why don't you come and stay with us? You can't possibly want to stay with him."
A great deal of house points. And many detentions.
"I'm alright where I am thanks."
Severus could see right through Harry's calm demeanour. He could tell the boy was becoming upset. Stop tearing him apart, he thought viciously at the children.
"You're not serious? What the hell's wrong with you?"
Detentions in the Dark Forest. And possibly the removal of a limb or two. Sylrissin seemed to agree with him, as she came out of her hiding place in Harry's robes and hissed threateningly at them.
"I like being at Hogwarts. And it's not that bad."
Weasley opened his mouth to say something else which could have led to him suffering the same fate as the Dark Lord, but Granger grabbed his arm. Wise girl.
"I'm sure Harry will be fine. He'll have a chance to do some studying."
Weasley was diverted. "Merlin, is that all you ever think about Hermione! Harry's being corrupted and turning into some kind of..."
Severus grabbed Harry's hand and activated the portkey before they heard the rest of the sentence.
Harry gave him a shadow of a smile.
"Thanks." He murmured.
Severus enlarged the books again, and made a new shelf in the living room so that Harry could store his belongings on it. A cupboard as well.
Now you're altering the furniture for the boy, said his inner voice, he's probably here to stay then. He told it to shut up, but without much venom.
They went into the lab, as Harry's things had already been delivered. Over the next hour Severus showed him how to sort them into groups, and store those with special requirements. Harry's new cauldron was placed into a corner.
Then Severus went through the boys' new potions books and found something suitable for working on the next day. He instructed Harry to read it and be ready to prepare it.
"I will not expect a report in from you. Nor will I be grading your work. However, I want you to understand how the potion works, and why the ingredients react to form it before you attempt it. If you are in fact interested in the subject, then you will research into it of your own accord without me reminding you."
Harry nodded. Severus knew that the boy would do the work.
Draco came back around six in the evening. Before he left, Albus gave Severus a small nod and a wink. Good. That one at least was under control then.
At dinner, Snape made sure not to push Harry into eating anything. Forcing him to eat apparently wouldn't work, as it just made Harry feel sick. He tried not to watch the boy. As they rose from the table, Harry thanked him with his eyes, but as Severus summoned a house elf to clean up he noticed that the boy had only had half a piece of bread and a little fruit. He really needed to talk to him.
Harry and Draco sat and talked about what they had done during the day. Harry showed the other boy his new books.
Severus went into his room.
It was late. Severus was trying to read. Trying to. Trying to distract himself from his thoughts. Thoughts of all the things he could have done better. If he had reacted differently in his past, then he could have saved so many.
He should have ignored Dumbledore's warning. If he had been there, then he could have taken down the death eater which killed his friend before it had a chance. He should have been there. What was the point in him hiding away, when everyone else was in danger too. He didn't need to be protected. He wasn't even worth being protected. What was he good for if he wasn't allowed to fight?
He didn't even hear the knock, he was so wrapped up in his thoughts. He looked up when a tousled head timidly poked round the door though.
"Harry." He couldn't keep the weariness out of his voice. Of all the times for the boy to come and see him. He tried to force a smile on his face, but it felt more like a grimace. The uncertainty on Harry's face solidified.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have...I'll just go and..."
"No," he said forcefully, perhaps a little too forcefully, but if Harry had dared to come and see him then there had to be a reason. It might even distract him from his own troubles. "Come in."
Harry crept tentatively further into the room. Severus tried to decide if it would be more awkward if he stayed in bed or showed off his black silk pyjamas by getting up.
He got up, pulling on a robe.
"What did you want to talk to me about?"
A mug of hot chocolate appeared for the boy, and some tea for himself. He thought he'd save the cookies until they were really needed. The hot chocolate had marshmallows in it though.
Harry seemed to have some trouble finding a way to start whatever he wanted to say.
"Was it your friends?"
The boy nodded dumbly. Severus sighed.
"Harry, they don't comprehend what you've been through, what you're going through. For them, Voldemort's defeat is the most important thing. They are only children, Harry."
"And I'm not a child?"
"No, I don't think that you are. I don't think that you ever were." Snape said thoughtfully.
"But they said, Ron said...There's something wrong with me! I'm a freak!"
Severus had a sudden flashback to the boy's uncle saying the same thing. Calling Harry a freak. He wanted to give the Weasley boy a potion that would cause him intense agony for hours on end.
"You are changing. They are not. That is why they cannot understand how you feel now, and how you act. What they think shouldn't rule you. I know that it does matter to you. That is something which cannot be stopped. But they should not be able to force you to be someone else. The way that you stood up to them today was well done Harry, it proved how much more mature than them you really are."
"It doesn't feel like that." was the whispered reply.
Harry made a move as though to leave, then paused. "Sir, what were you thinking about when I came in?"
It was a very personal question. It must have taken a lot of courage to ask. He wasn't sure that he wanted to share his demons with anybody. But then, surely Harry had felt the same way.
"I was thinking of the past. Of all the many deaths that I feel responsible for. I was thinking how I could have acted to prevent them."
"But it is too late now."
"Yes. It was all in vain. So many dead."
His own words turned back on him. The understanding in them somehow lightened his heart. Harry slipped from he room as quietly as he had come.