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 31: When Weakness is Overcome
Draco had accepted Harry's explanation that he was claustrophobic without pushing further. The relationship between them was one of acceptance, and understanding that if he wanted to talk, then he would. It was what he needed from Draco. Quite different from what he needed from Severus. Severus who was more than willing to push Harry if it would help him. Who wouldn't take excuses. Who saw through everything. It was scary, but comforting at the same time to think that there was someone who knew him that well.
The study session they had tried to have was a last attempt to revise before the mock exams that were to be held the following week. Not much actual studying had occurred though. They had been practising transfiguration. Until Draco had transfigured a book by accident into a heap of chocolate. After spending half an hour fruitlessly trying to turn it back they got side-tracked. With eating the chocolate.
They were thrown out.
But it had been very good chocolate. Who would have guessed that a transfigurations text could be so tasty.
Draco told Harry that at least they had successfully transfigured his frown to a smile.
Harry thought that was unbearably cute. He found himself blushing. Sylrissin laughed at him. He didn't think it was funny.
They went out to the field where they had first found companionship, having totally given up on the whole idea of work. They talked about what they wanted to do after school. Harry had now firmly fixed on the possibility of a career in potions, but Draco was still uncertain.
"I don't know. What can I do? Most of my skills lie in curses and things, from all the extra tuition I got." They shared a smile at the joke. "That would make me a good auror I suppose, but they'd never have me because of my name. No where will."
Harry knew what Draco meant. Of course, he had the opposite problem. Everywhere wanted him for his name, though the problem had grown less since the defeat of Voldemort. Harry wanted to spend the rest of his life doing something out of the public eye, and being known for himself.
"Not that I'd really want to be an auror. Seems a bit boring if you ask me."
Harry smiled. "Have you ever thought of teaching?" Draco gave him an inquisitive look. "Well, I was just thinking, they have yet to find a good defence of the dark arts teacher, and we're surviving on stand ins now that the latest one got himself killed in the final battle. Beats me why they let him fight in the first place."
Harry had seen the man die, at Voldemort's hands. His own hands. His own hands had cast the killing curse at him. That's what it had felt like anyway. The professor hadn't stood a chance.
"Maybe. I don't know if I'd want to spend the rest of my life here."
Draco must feel like he lived his whole life in a cage then, Harry mused. Much like Severus does. He hoped that Draco wouldn't retreat behind a bitter mask again as the potion's professor had been forced to.
Gladly. More than gladly. For where else had he to go. Here at least there was something for him. And he knew people.
"Wouldn't you feel trapped?"
"No, never. This is home. It's the only place I ever felt safe, even though bad things still happen here."
He hadn't felt safe when he came here at Christmas. Or last night. When the darkness had taken him. But Severus had helped him. Had made him feel safe again. Had taught him that he didn't have to let the darkness rule him. Hogwarts was his home.
"Well then, maybe you should become a teacher. You could steal Snape's job. I'd love to hear his screams."
Harry thought about that. He couldn't do that. Not to Severus. Severus had no where else to go either. And his job was his life. He couldn't take that away from him. Not that he thought he'd be able to. Severus was a potion's master for a reason after all. But even though he probably wouldn't hurt Harry, too much, he definitely wouldn't be happy at the notion of someone stealing his place.
"So nice to know you love me enough to wish me a torturous death." Harry said sarcastically.
Draco laughed. "You're right. I wouldn't wish that on anybody. Well, at least, not most people. Maybe Ron." They both giggled. "I would never wish harm on you. Never. I'll protect you."
Draco slung an arm around him and gave him a quick hug, as though to ward off any irate potion's masters who might be lurking.
Harry found himself blushing again.
He decided that laughter in parseltongue was not quite so soothing as he remembered. In fact he found it quite irritating. In fact.... He threatened to do painful things to Sylrissin if she didn't shut up. She laughed even harder. Draco pulled back and asked what they were talking about.
"I was just trying to recall where exactly I put that blunt wooden spoon."
Sylrissin slithered off to find herself a mouse.
Draco was looking at him in puzzlement. Harry blushed again, that last sentence must have sounded really strange, and brushed the unspoken question away with a wave of his hand.
If he didn't want to spend the entire day being bright red...."I think I'll go back up to the common room now, see how Hermione's doing. Maybe she'll know what went wrong with the transfiguration."
Draco just nodded. He said he might go and find some of the Ravenclaw boys that he had grown friendly with.
"You like him."
Harry groaned, turned over and put a pillow over his head. Sylrissin just wriggled underneath it.
"I'm trying to sleep."
"Trying implies that you're not succeeding. That's because you need to talk to me."
"If you weren't talking to me I'm sure I'd manage much better." he grumbled. Stupid snake. He felt her tongue tickle his ear and bolted upright. The low flickering of firelight was the only illumination in the room. He reached out to where an abandoned plate of cookies lay on the table next to the couch where he was sleeping. He had a feeling he would need the sugar.
"So talk then you minx, if you must insist on keeping me up."
"You like him."
"You said that already. Yes I like him, he's my friend."
"Then why do you turn red when he talks to you? You don't do that with anyone else."
"I was embarrassed, he was teasing me. I always go red when I'm embarrassed."
That wasn't a lie. And he had been embarrassed. Sort of. Though he wasn't sure himself why he had blushed so much. All this probing was definitely making him feel uncomfortable.
The snake looked unconvinced. "It was not the same. You like him."
Harry rolled his eyes. He so didn't need to be having this conversation. "Yes I like him. He's funny. And he's been through some of the same shit as me. He understands me. He's nice to me."
Draco was nice to him. As he was to no one else. Harry had been the first person to see who Draco really was, when he stopped being Malfoy. When he stopped living under the influence of his father. Harry supposed that they had that in common too.
"Yessss. He smells nice too." was the only further comment that Sylrissin had to make. Harry let out a bark of laughter. Draco had her official approval then. Did this mean that he could go back to sleep? She had kept him up just for that? He was totally confused. He had just lain down again when the next interruption came.
"Harry? Are you alright? Why are you on the couch?"
Severus. Why was he on the couch? Oh!
"Ummm, well, I sleep better here."
"I thought that I heard something."
That would have been laughter at the random nature of the universe.
"Sorry, I was just talking with Sylrissin. Or she was talking with me. She wouldn't let me go to sleep. I didn't mean to wake you."
Severus' expression had become amused. "That is the downside to having a pet that can talk then? They never give you a moments rest."
Harry mumbled something. He wasn't sure what it was supposed to mean himself, so he was fairly sure that Sev wouldn't be able to understand it. He really had wished that he didn't speak parseltongue for a minute there.
"I'll let you get to sleep then. Oh, and Harry, I don't think that stuffing yourself with cookies is the best way to get back to sleep. And you have exams tomorrow." he said with a smile.
Harry looked down at the plate on his lap. He blushed.
"There," he said to Sylrissin, "I go red when I'm embarrassed. I told you."
"Whatever you say."
He clutched the pillow over his head again and tried to ignore the ill concealed sounds of both Severus' and Sylrissin's mirth.
It's so unfair when they gang up, he groused to himself.
The exams started. Every spare moment between them was taken up by cramming, driven by Hermione. He wasn't actually finding them that hard, due to the fact that he had been working harder in general. Ron obviously hadn't been studying, as he spent all of his time wailing about how hard they were. The enmity between Harry and the greenhead ground to a halt as Ron became too busy to torment him. And Harry wouldn't do anything unless provoked.
The potions exam was easy. Harry finished in less than half the time that everyone else took. Hermione was taking it slowly to ensure that the ingredients mixed properly. She didn't know that if you added slightly more of one of them, it sped up the entire reaction. Though it had to be done with care, or the whole thing would congeal.
Snape came by and assessed his potion. His face was stern. But Harry knew that he'd done it right. It was perfect. Severus must be teasing him then. He rolled his eyes subtly. Immediately he saw Severus' own eyes lighten with the hint of a smile, and he knew that he was right.
"Since you've finished so early, you can start making healing potions for Madame Pomfrey."
It was one of the little things that Harry appreciated, that Severus hadn't gone back to calling him Potter. Since he couldn't call Harry by his first name in class, he just didn't call him anything at all, when asking him a question he would look directly at him and obviously address him. Since Harry was always paying attention in lessons now, he was never caught out. It meant a lot to him not to hear the name Potter spoken, harshly or otherwise, from Sev's lips.
He started making the new potion. He noticed that he was getting glances from other students, whether because he had finished so early, or because Snape had deigned to trust him to prepare proper potions he was unsure. Not many knew about Harry's extra lessons. Certainly not Ron, who, if he was not mistaken, was about to fail spectacularly.
Snape shouted at Ron quite a lot. By the end the boy was extremely red, the colour contrasting nicely with his green hair, and looked as though he were either going to explode at the professor or burst into tears. Some of the things that Snape had said had been quite evil.
"See, everyone goes red when they're embarrassed."
Sylrissin told him that the fact he was arguing so much about the matter merely proved her point.
Harry was stunned. She had a point? What was her point? He hadn't noticed anything even vaguely pointy anywhere in their conversations. Which was what had confused him in the first place.
Snakes apparently thought on a whole different level. One that he was not privy to.
He lingered behind at the end, finishing up. Hermione left to immediately begin revision for the last exam, Herbology, and the only person left in the room apart from Severus was Draco.
Who came over. "So, I assume that you aced that then?"
Harry grinned at him. "It was fun."
"Some new hitherto unknown definition of fun. Hmmm. You are a strange boy!"
For a moment Harry was stung, thinking that Draco was trying to say that he was weird for liking the subject as much as he had come to. Then he realised that the other was teasing him.
"I'll have you know that I am perfectly normal for my species." he said tartly.
"Well that says it all. What are you then? What species is it that is so naturally brilliant at potions."
Harry blushed. Sylrissin told him he was doing it again. He really didn't need to be reminded. He could feel his skin burning.
"It wasn't that hard."
"Well I thought it was. How are we supposed to know what to do with blue beetle legs anyway."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Blue beetle what? Why do I get the feeling that you've done this all wrong?"
He walked over to Draco's cauldron. It was a disgusting murky grey colour. It didn't smell too good either.
"Yuck. What did you do to it to make it...wait, blue beetle legs did you say? Now if you added the marshwater before you..."
A hand came down on his shoulder.
"The exam has finished." said Severus.
"I know. I just wanted to see where it had gone wrong."
Severus smiled at him. Harry smiled back. Now here was someone who understood his need to know the reasons behind things, to know why things happened.
"However, now is perhaps not the best time."
Harry nodded somewhat resentfully, it was the truth, but he just needed another minute....
Severus chucked. "Off with you. Both of you. Harry, come to the lab after your last exam tomorrow. I've had some new pixie nectar delivered."
Harry instantly forgave Severus. He wandered out of the room, thinking about all the potions that required pixie nectar.
He turned, Draco was running to catch up. He laughed at whatever expression of apologetic dismay was gracing Harry's face.
"You muppet." he ruffled Harry's hair. Harry felt a little tingle as Draco's fingers ran over his scalp. He blushed. Sylrissin wisely did not comment.
"Were you off making potions in your head?" asked Draco teasingly.
Harry was speechless. Hadn't he said that to Severus? Did he really get the same look. He ducked his head and muttered something about needing to revise. Draco just laughed again, and said he'd see him the following day.
Harry did well in all of his mock exams, though of course his best subject was potions. He out-performed Hermione in that. She gave him a huge hug and said that she was really proud of him, and insanely jealous. He just laughed and shrugged it off.
She then immediately started revising for the real thing.
"The OWL's are really important Harry. You'll never get anywhere without them."
Harry remembered Mrs. Weasley's reaction to Fred and George doing badly in theirs. At least he didn't have anyone to disappoint like that. Though she had been keeping a close eye on him, and regularly corresponded now. He couldn't find it in him to resent that.
Ron gradually became more tolerable, settling down into just ignoring Harry. Harry treated him the same way. Though he still couldn't stop laughing inside every time he saw the greenhead go by. Ron hadn't managed to change his hair back to it's natural colour. Snape had apparently told him that a fifth year should have the skill to do so by himself. When he applied to Hermione, she managed to fall back on her traditional excuses in order to continue enjoying his new look, saying that she was sure Snape meant it as a test of some sort, and she really couldn't help him cheat. If he managed to solve it, then he'd surely pass the exams.
February passed, and March. Ron still had green hair. Hermione started going out with him in spite of it. Though she secretly told Harry that she rather liked it that way.
He asked her how long she'd been having feelings for Ron. She admitted she'd had a crush on him for most of the year, but hadn't acted because she was too shy at first, and then because she grew confused by the way that Ron was treating Harry. But now that he had proved himself worthy by stopping tormenting Harry, she had admitted that she liked him.
"How did you know you had a crush on him?" Harry asked, curious.
"Well, I just liked him. I thought he was really funny. And when he would look at me sometimes or say things I would just blush for no reason and feel all light headed. I would watch him all the time without noticing. But you had a crush on Cho didn't you? I seem to remember you blushing quite a few times around her?" she teased.
He had. But that really had been from embarrassment. He had been terrified of her, of asking her to the ball. That had been the source of his blushes then.
As he thought, his eyes drifted across the library until they came to rest on a familiar figure browsing through the shelves. Draco was frowning in concentration as he searched for a book to help them with Charms.
"I told you you like him." hissed Sylrissin.
He blushed again, this time because he finally fully understood her meaning, and decided to go and get ready for quidditch practise. That way he could blame his flaming cheeks on the cold air if Sylrissin teased him further.
Gryffindor vs. Slytherin. He caught the snitch after a hard game, winning the match. His new broom gave him an extra edge. It was amazing. Draco cheered for him from the Slytherin stands, earning the glares of his housemates and amused glances from everyone else, including Severus.
Yep, the red face was all due to the freezing wind.
"That was a great game Harry, you really were meant to be a seeker."
Harry thought it was very annoying that there wasn't a stopping point on the human body's ability to flush. This just wasn't funny. Right, draw attention away from himself.
"You were a pretty good seeker too."
Draco shrugged. "I never really tried that hard. I don't miss it that much, to tell you the truth, though I do like flying. I only ever played because my father wanted me to. Wanted me to prove myself."
"I'd hate to feel like that."
Though he had felt like that. Maybe not in quite the same way.
Some weeks later. Ron's hair was red. He'd apologised and Harry had accordingly pointed him in the right direction. Hermione wasn't too pleased.
"What did you go and do that for? Green really suited him. Though I suppose it taught him a lesson. And I am glad he apologised. So I guess it's okay. Red isn't that bad."
Harry laughed at here attempt to backtrack having stated her own selfish desires for once. He told her to tell Ron that she preferred it green. He suggested that she run her fingers lingeringly through his hair while she said so. He was sure Ron would come round to her way of thinking. She gave him a delighted look.
"Why you wicked boy. Hmmm. That could work. Do I even want to know where you get your ideas from. Please don't tell me you've been thinking about running your fingers through my boyfriend's hair."
He assured her that he had no designs on Ron whatsoever.
Though there was a silver haired boy that he'd been having dreams about he wouldn't mind trying that on.
But Draco was interested in a Ravenclaw. A girl Ravenclaw. It took Harry hours to get him to confess, as he was afraid of being teased, but Harry just gave him a look and said, "You know I wouldn't." Finally he confessed all. She of course, was going out with someone else.
It was all a big messy tangle of unrequited lust. Though Harry was getting better with the blushing now. He felt more at ease around Draco again. In fact, knowing that the other boy could not possibly return his crush even helped somewhat, as he stopped analysing Draco's every move for hidden meanings.
Maybe he was getting over it. Draco smiled at him. He felt his throat constrict. Maybe not.
"I just wanted to thank you, for being there for me when everything was looking shite. It meant a lot to me just to have someone to talk to, someone to listen, someone to be silent with. Someone who understood. It really helped."
Harry could see how much effort it had taken Draco to say that. The other wasn't the communicative sort, he didn't really like talking about his feelings. And Harry knew exactly what he meant.
"It's okay Draco, you helped me too."
No one had helped him as much as Severus though. His tutorials were now fixed at twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, but Harry usually trekked down to the dungeons almost everyday.
He would have long talks with Serminysa, about how his life was going, about his friends, about Sylrissin (who got really annoyed about being talked about when she was right there). About Severus. She thanked him for making the man happier, and causing his smiles. Harry wasn't sure what she meant, but she assured him that since he had arrived, Severus had been far more cheerful.
She gave him abstract little titbits on life, the universe and everything. Everything she could see from her portrait that is. And the others she visited. She told him all of the gossip she overheard. She wouldn't put it like that of course, being far too dignified to gossip. No, she gave him necessary information to help him to greatness. He tried not to laugh in front of her. He was glad that no one else in the school was a parseltongue, as he was sure she had some embarrassing secrets about him too.
Then he would go into Severus' chambers. They would proceed to the lab if it was a work day. Sometimes Severus just lectured him for hours on theory, until his eyelids grew heavy. Others, they would straight away start experimenting, playing with potions for hours. Harry found he needed to wash his hair a lot more often. When he told Sev this the other man laughed, but Harry noticed that Severus started doing so too, and his black locks started looking a lot less greasy. That made him smile to himself. He was willing to bet that no one had mentioned it to the potion's master before. That no one had cared.
Severus told him that he was doing extremely well, and was already up to seventh year level. Although, he had added, considering the seventh years he was teaching, that was not surprising. Harry grinned as he thought of Fred and George Weasley in potions. Severus was always moaning about them.
The other nights, when he just came down for companionship, they didn't always talk about potions, just when Harry had read something he needed clarification on. In fact, Harry had already gone through all of the potions books in the library, including the restricted section, and was now devouring Severus' own collection. Severus was always willing to talk about what he had discovered, and sometimes they engaged in fierce extended debates. Severus always won, but Harry managed to support his viewpoint and provide a valid argument.
Sometimes they just talked about what they had done during the day. Severus never failed to be entertained by the soap opera life that Harry's friends lived. Harry didn't tell him about his own crush. He was uncomfortable talking about it. And he thought he might be getting over it anyway.
Severus told him about all of the ridiculous things that the professors did when they weren't in class, and Harry was amazed at the contrast in the way that Sev and he saw them. Though he shared many of the man's views on Dumbledore.
He learned much of the news from the outside world from his professor. Though Harry had originally held the impression that Severus never noticed anything that went on outside his lab, he was proven wrong. Severus was very well informed. he made it his business to know about everything.
"Doesn't that just make you nosy?"
"I? Nosy? I think not. I merely wish to be well informed. Well prepared."
That sounded like something Serminysa had said.
And so he learned.
And at the times when the world seemed to be crashing down around him, when he could not tolerate the company of most others, it was not Draco who he ran to, but Severus.
He had managed almost a month after the incident with the cupboard, determined that he would sort himself out, that the weakness would not best him. And he did succeed, to some degree. But his smiles grew progressively more weak. And there were some things that he couldn't tell Draco or Hermione. But it hurt to keep them inside.
He had gone to Sev's dungeons, let himself in, and curled up on the couch. It had helped just being there. It represented safety to him. When Severus had come out of his lab at two in the morning and found Harry there, not sleeping, staring passively into the fire, he had made him talk. It had been exactly what he had needed. And Severus had known. All of the little things, and the bigger things, that he hid from both everyone else and himself had come pouring out.
And Sev had given him cookies. And made him laugh again.
There were times when he just knew that he wouldn't be able to sleep, not because of nightmares, as the potion cured those, but due to a restlessness of spirit. He would come to Severus' chambers, and they would play chess.
Harry always lost. But he still felt better. And the chess pieces always made him giggle. he had learned to talk back to them now, as Sev did, and they had more respect for him because of this.
And so he healed.