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 27: Feelings
It was just after breakfast when the mail came through the fireplace. Harry was amazed at the number of letters there, Snape got post very rarely aside from the deliveries of potion's ingredients. As the professor picked the bundle up a bright red envelope signifying a howler became visible. Snape's expression turned sour. The man dumped the rest of the pile on the table and retreated into his room with the letter. Harry and Draco waited with baited breath to see who would actually send a howler to Snape.
Just before a silencing spell cut in, Harry made out the irate tones of Mrs. Weasley. He still remembered the howler that Ron had received in the second year, and he was sure that the voice was the same.
A few minutes later Snape stormed out of his chamber and scowled when he found them openly staring.
"I shall be absent for a time. I trust that you will behave appropriately while I am gone. Do not destroy, burn, disintegrate, transmutate or cause any damage in any way to my property. The same rules apply to each other. And the rest of the school." He paused in thought for a moment then added further clauses, "Though you may have free reign with anything belonging to Gryffindor and also Professor Trelawney. I think that she would be spectacularly well suited to the form of a bat, but if you want to poison her instead then you can find the appropriate ingredients on the shelf at the back of the lab."
He strode into the fireplace at the last. Harry and Draco stared after him, dumbfounded.
"Haven't seen him like that before." said Harry.
"Oh I have," replied Draco airily, "That's how he gets when he's really pissed off but trying to contain it. So lucky he wasn't angry with us."
The other boy picked up the post and shuffled through it. There were three letters for Harry. Three! And two for Draco. Draco looked as though he didn't want to open his. Harry was starting to have a sneaking suspicion who his own might be from. He opened the first. It began:
Bloody hell Harry, what were you...
Harry threw it into the fire, not bothering to read the rest. Ron's opinion just didn't matter to him anymore. He stopped to consider before opening the next.
I heard that you met up with Ron yesterday. He told me that you weren't acting like yourself. Are you alright dear? Are you being treated well at school? I hate to think of you all alone in that big castle. You know that we'd love to have you come and stay with us, it's always nice to see you. Please let me know how you are doing,
Love from Mrs. Weasley.
Well, that explained the howler then. Ron had obviously convinced her that Harry was being mistreated. In a way Harry knew that getting help from others was what a friend would do, but it wasn't what he needed. He needed understanding, and he certainly hadn't got that from Ron. He got that here. Mrs. Weasley had gone to a lot of effort though and deserved a reply. He just couldn't think of anything to say at the moment. And he had no owl. So he would leave it until a little later.
Over the top of the paper, he saw Draco cautiously tearing his letters open, as though he expected poisonous gas to come out. When he read them the boy's face went slightly pale. Harry considered asking him about them, then decided that Draco would tell him if he wanted to.
His last letter then. Hermione had been far more understanding than Ron, she seemed to know him much better. She deserved to have her questions answered.
I realise that you're angry with us for not understanding what it is that's troubling you. I know that you have reasons for acting the way you are. I may even be able to guess some of them. Would you like to tell me? If you don't then that's okay, but I thought you might want to share it with someone. Ron isn't exactly the most sensitive of people. I'm glad that you're there at Hogwarts, for I think that you are the most likely to be happy there. It is your home. I'm always willing to listen, and will do my best not to judge.
She wasn't trying to push. She didn't say anything insulting. She really was a true friend, and he had treated her terribly, just because he had been feeling bad at the time.
He thought for a while, then to Mrs. Weasley he wrote a note telling her that he was fine, and that others were staying at Hogwarts as well, so he had company. He thought that would alleviate her concerns. And he thought that Snape might have already talked to her.
To Hermione he told the truth. He said that he had had a very bad time with his relatives over the holidays. He knew what she would read into that, and it was easier than actually telling her the details. He said that Sirus' death had tormented him. He told her about how bad the dreams had been. He admitted that he had tried to kill himself. Sort of. It did feel better, telling everything, even if it was just on paper. He reassured her that he was getting all the help he needed here. He knew that she would accept that if he said so.
He put the letters on the table ready for delivery. Then he considered what to do with the rest of the day. It didn't look like Snape was going to be back anytime soon. Sitting around and thinking was not an option. He could read...
Draco was staring blankly out into space, as though he were trying to avoid thinking about something. Looking round the room, Harry was struck by inspiration.
"Do you want to play chess?"
Maybe he did still have some Gryffindor traits after all. Sacrificing his own dignity to lose to Draco. Still, it might cheer the other up.
They set the board up. It appeared that the comment Harry had received from a piece when last he played it had not been an isolated incident.
"Oi! Get your fingers off my knob!"
"Keep your hands on the table where we can see them!"
When he translated their remarks to Sylrissin, she found them amusing, though added that she found the pieces barbaric and uncouth.
"Take the queen. Take the queen. Then the king will be free at last and the bishop won't forbid some knocking around."
"It's the class difference really, can't have a king having kinky sex with a mere knight."
"I rather thought that the fact that the king was already having an illicit affair with the other bishop would put a damper on his chances."
"Frederick! You aren't! My own twin! We who share everything!"
Draco and Harry burst out laughing at the discovery that the bishop was called Frederick.
"You're just jealous. Do you fancy a threesome then?"
"Might have to make it more than that if the filthy human can't keep it's hands to itself."
"Who does he think he is, listening to the tales of our sordid sex lives?"
"When they come to the chess set looking for excitement, that says something about their lives, Hmmm?"
"Awww, look, he's blushing."
"Did you say a threesome?"
"Oh, he's going to move now. No, wait, don't put me there! That castle and I had a really bad breakup once. I smashed his walls down."
"Hah, bloody Hah! Just because you couldn't control your perverted urges."
"Don't call me perverted. That one with the dark hair who keeps feeling up the pawns, now he's perverted."
Harry snatched his hand away. Draco just sniggered.
Harry lost. As they sat back and watched the pieces crawl around and squabble amongst themselves now that the game was over, Harry couldn't help but wonder where Snape had acquired such an unusual chess set. And where the pieces had acquired their unusual sense of humour.
Playing the game seemed to have loosened Draco up a bit.
"I got a letter from my family."
Harry looked at him in surprise. He'd thought...
"No, not my parents. My grandfather. And I know I should ignore what it says. How disappointed in me they are."
"But it still matters."
"Who was the other one from?"
"Anonymous. It was a hate mail. They're like howlers, except that they only play in your head, and they look like ordinary letters. It was from someone who thinks that I still serve the dark lord. Nothing I ever do will be enough will it?" by the end of this rant Draco's voice was filled with despair.
"No, it will never be enough. You can never please everyone else. So just do what matters to you."
"Just sounded like something he would say to you. Like something you would need to have said to you too."
Harry gave a little half smile. "Well, maybe. You did the right thing you know."
"Is that supposed to be comforting?"
No, Harry thought. There is no comfort. There is never any comfort. Except that which we find in others.
"No, just the truth." he said seriously
Draco snorted unhappily. "Truth!"
The conversation was starting to edge into things Harry wasn't sure he wanted to explore. What he really wanted to do was play around with his new potions things. He had been reading his new books the night before and found some things he was dying to try out. But he probably shouldn't go into the lab until Snape...
Stepped through the fireplace. He didn't look in any better a temper than he had when he set out.
"Harry, the lab. Draco, The Headmaster wants you."
The chess pieces made insinuating commentary about what precisely the headmaster wanted Draco for. Harry picked up his potions manual and moved through the door.
Snape's mood improved drastically once they were in the lab. Harry knew that the man was happiest surrounded by his cauldrons. How then did he manage to look so miserable when teaching? Maybe it was all a front? Considering Neville's history of incompetence, maybe not.
His professor merely sat down on a stool in front of a workbench and gestured for Harry to get on with it. Harry wasn't sure if this was good or bad. What if he completely messed up the potion? Snape wouldn't think he was good enough anymore. His hands were getting slippery with sweat. He would be thrown out.
The glass vial of worm plasma he was holding fell through his fingers.
He watched it drop in slow motion, horrified. Relying entirely on his instincts, he brushed his fingers against the wand in his pocket and speedily muttered a levitation spell. The tube stopped just above the floor. He dragged his eyes up, awaiting censure.
There was nothing but a raised eyebrow. "Good reflexes. All that seeker training?"
He picked it up and carried on, relieved that Snape had not seen fit to punish him. He didn't seem to be going back to his classroom persona. Which gave Harry no end of relief.
Soon his mind was entirely focused on his potion. Add the dandelion seeds now, they would react with the acid. He had almost finished. Just a pinch of lemongrass to increase the potency and make it smell better. Stir it again. Bottle it. Label it.
He straightened, and looked at the clock. He had been in there for two hours. And it barely felt like any time had passed at all.
"Why did you add that last ingredient?"
Was that a trick question? "Wasn't I supposed to sir?"
"It was not in the instructions. Why did you add it?"
Shit. Shit. He had done it wrong. He had proved he couldn't even follow simple instructions. He was useless.
"It made sense, it would make it stronger. I'm sorry sir, I'll study more carefully."
Harry prayed internally that Snape would let him get away with it this once. He would try harder next time.
"No. You made a superior potion to the one described. Although your accuracy was off, your common sense and knack for potions have been shown to be very good. As long as you can justify any alterations you make, then playing with the recipes is not amiss."
Nod. It was alright. He was safe. Snape wasn't angry.
"I might ask that you warn me, however, before experimenting. It could be dangerous."
Now that Snape seemed more relaxed, Harry worked up the nerve to ask him about earlier.
"Was that howler from Mrs. Weasley?"
Snape looked at him sharply. "How did you...? Yes. She thought that I was torturing you down here and demanded to speak to me. It was not a pleasant conversation."
Harry felt sorry for Ron's mum, he rather liked her. Though perhaps from the state of him, he should be more sympathetic towards Snape.
"And it was all that young Weasley's fault too. I have a mind to..."
"I got a letter from him today."
Snape looked at him again, this time there was a slight tinge of concern in his eyes. It was moments like this which reassured Harry that the professor was genuine, that he could trust him.
"I threw it in the fire after reading the first line. I didn't really feel like reading the rest."
"I'm sorry. But he won't be doing that again. Not after what I said to them."
"Did you tell them?" Harry whispered. He wasn't sure that he had wanted Ron to know everything.
He nodded again. Now he would get even more pity. And Ron wasn't one to keep his mouth shut. Snape rose and stretched.
"Now, I think we missed lunch. Let's have something on the couch, I think Draco will be staying with The Headmaster."
"I'm not really hungry." he protested as Snape ordered food from a house elf. He received a glare, though it didn't make him quake in terror as it would have done just a few days ago it was still fairly powerful. "Well, I'm not." he repeated.
"And why is that Harry? You need to eat more. You know you do."
"It just makes me feel sick, that's all."
Snape seemed to be getting frustrated. "Why on earth would it make you feel sick? I would have thought that not eating would have had that effect."
"Well, I feel sick all the time, It just gets worse when I eat."
"You feel sick all the time? Why didn't you tell someone?"
"It's not that bad! I didn't want anyone making a fuss."
Snape sighed. "You must tell me if there is something wrong Harry. Now, how long have you felt this way?"
"Ummm. I think I first noticed this weird pain in my stomach when I woke up here after I left the hospital wing, after I...."
His professor thought. "I doubt Pomfrey would have, hold! Harry, you didn't swallow any of the basilisk poison did you? Even a tiny bit? Just brush your finger over your mouth?"
"I don't know. I can't really remember."
Snape fetched a potion. "This should purge any residues from you. Whatever it is, this will get rid of it. If that doesn't work then you could be ill. We'll have to take you to the infirmary again."
"No." Harry protested, swallowing it obediently, trying to block out the foul taste. He felt dizzy immediately and leaned back on the couch. When his head stopped spinning he was feeling better. He thought he might try and eat something. at least the smell of food wasn't nauseating anymore. He nibbled on the things that came, though he still didn't eat too much, his stomach being unused to it.
Snape watched him. He seemed pleased that Harry was trying at least.
"I feel better now sir. I think the potion helped.
"You wouldn't just be saying that to try and avoid being outfitted in those hospital pyjamas again, would you?"
Harry laughed. "No, sir." He would never do such a thing. Well, maybe he would. But he honestly did feel better.
Sometime later Snape appeared to remember something, and broke some news. "School is starting up again in a couple of days, and you're going to have to move back up to the Gryffindor Tower."