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 35: Understanding Serpents
Harry slowly awoke at some time in the morning cocooned in warmth and comfort. He never wanted to have to move again. He savoured the sensation, since it was one that he had rarely experienced, then began to wonder what was causing it.
He opened his eyes. Stared up at the ceiling for a while, then expended the enormous amount of effort it took to command them to look around. He was in Severus' chambers. On Severus' couch. On Severus.
He nearly jumped up at this startling revelation, he remembered that Sev had held him until he fell asleep the previous night, but had expected that the other man would have levitated him back to bed. Severus must have fallen asleep too then, the work had been exhausting.
The work. Harry saw the journal lying on the other end of the couch and tried to reach for it, thinking to try and do some further research. He found that his movement was constricted however, by two long arms wrapped around his middle.
Oh well, it looked like he had no choice but to lie here. He wouldn't want to disturb Severus, who got little enough sleep as it was. Not that Harry got any more. In fact, this had been the best he had slept in weeks, possibly months. The feeling of safety which surrounded him now was what he had been missing, why he had not been able to rest. He trusted Severus to watch over him and keep him from harm as he did no one else.
His eyes were too heavy to keep open much longer. Maybe just a little more sleep then. He shifted slightly and snuggled down into the warm human pillow beneath him.
Before he became totally unaware of the world, he thought he heard a soft sigh, and the movement of a hand from where it lay on his chest up to stroke his hair again. He knew that touch. He slept.
Woke again. Refreshed as well as relaxed this time. He tilted his head back so that he could see the man who held him so tenderly. Sev was asleep, his eyes closed, his breathing even. He looked so much less burdened and weary in his sleep, less tense and unhappy. He looked good. Harry resolved to try and make him look like that more often when he was awake.
Harry knew that he should move, he had indulged himself for too long with this lie in. But he had never been held like this, had never felt like this. Felt loved. What if it didn't happen again? He would have to engineer situations to make Severus hold him. It was obviously the only way he would ever get any asleep.
Managing to extract himself reluctantly from the arms which encircled him, Harry eased off the couch and went to have a quick shower. It seemed pointless going back to his own rooms when this was closer. As the rivulets of hot water ran down him, he wondered if Severus had woken up yet. Had a sudden thought that the other man might not know that Harry was still here and come into the bathroom.
He checked the door. It was locked. After another minute, he was reminded of the fact that Sev had opened the door by force before. What if he thought Harry was trying to harm himself and came in? If he came in then he would see Harry in the shower. That wasn't an unpleasant thought. In fact, he was beginning to feel a tingle, much the same as the ones previously caused by Draco's presence. But stronger. And deeper.
He couldn't have a crush on Severus could he?
He remembered how it had been to be held in those arms. To wake up in those arms. To be worked on by those hands. Those hands.....
Okay, bad thoughts, stop now.
They didn't stop.
Maybe he did have a crush on Severus.
He eventually emerged from the shower, relieved and disappointed at the same time that Sev hadn't come flying through the door, and glanced towards the couch in trepidation. Still asleep.
Outside the portrait hole, he found that Serminysa was absent, she must have gone on one of her tours of the castle again. Harry would just have to work this out by himself then.
Severus hadn't moved. Harry found himself smiling softly for no particular reason, and moved back to his usual seat, careful not to alert the other occupant of the sofa.
He picked up the book and started to read through it. Though it was harder to read parseltongue than it was to speak it, especially as he was still learning to use his own gift rather than Voldemort's, it was very enjoyable. When he wasn't trying to translate it and just let the words and their meaning flow through him, it all made more sense. Maybe the error had come in trying to translate it literally word for word. If he read it properly and understood it, then he would be able to tell Severus roughly what it said.
The introduction was interesting, actually some comments about parseltongue. It hinted that contained within the journal was a potion that enabled a person to understand parseltongue. Harry didn't think that was very helpful when you had to speak the language in the first place to be able to read the recipe. But still, it sounded fascinating. Sev would.....
He looked over at Severus. Still sleeping.
Back to the book. He carried on reading, though it was becoming a bit heavy. He couldn't help himself from glancing up every minute or so to see if Sev was awake yet.
"Stop it." he muttered to himself in parseltongue.
He got a reply. From the only other one in the room who could speak the language.
"Again? Will you be going red next man-snake?" Harry promptly blushed. "Snakes should not change colours, so it must be a man thing. You like this one too?"
Harry hissed something uncomplimentary. Which provoked laughter.
"I know it is true now since you protest so vehemently. This one is good for you. It is well that you like him. And he likes you too, I can smell it."
Stupid snake and her smelling things. Wait, what did she mean Sev liked him? Was that in her special sense of the word or the normal one? He tried not to look too interested. She laughed again and went to sleep in a coil.
Severus stirred slightly, and Harry's attention immediately switched to him. Then he realised that he didn't want to be caught staring so went back to determinedly focusing on his book. He would not look. He would not.
"Good morning." came the sleep filled voice from the other end of the couch.
The way that the words rolled off the other man's tongue sent a shiver down Harry's spine. He'd never noticed that voice before. Well, actually he probably had, but only now that he seemed hyper aware of Severus did he analyse his own reaction. He turned.
"Hi." he said in return, offering a shy smile.
Sev smiled back and stretched. Harry made a concerted effort not to look, and in the end forced his rebelling eyes back to the page in front of him.
A soft chuckle. Oh Merlin, that voice really was amazing. "I see that you're already hard back at work. A Gryffindor just won't be defeated will he?"
Harry loved this, the teasing battles they had. Where it didn't matter so much who won.
"And when a Slytherin's path is blocked he finds another way." he countered. Sev's small nod acknowledged his point. "I wasn't thinking too clearly last night."
"Actually, that would have been this morning."
Harry blinked. Oh. That would explain why he had been so tired.
"Right. Well, now I thought that if I read through it myself and understood it, then I could explain it to you without translating it precisely, which was what I seemed to be having problems with."
Severus nodded in agreement. "So, what have you found out so far?"
"Oh, well there's a general introduction. Darion mentions a potion that will allow someone to understand parseltongue. Maybe we could make it, then you could read the book yourself?"
Harry saw the other man's face light up with eagerness as he shook off his drowsiness. He knew that look. That was the look that Sev got when he was deep into his potion making. That excitement, so rarely if ever seen by anyone else, was what made Harry love Severus so much.
Sev practically dragged him into the lab and stood by impatiently while Harry found the appropriate section. Not long ago Harry would have quailed under the pressure, but now he just laughed to see Sev being so impatient, acting so childish in his delight at the idea. He fixed the instructions in his head firmly, remembering not the words but rather images of what needed to be done, then indicated to Sev to talk to him in English so that he would switch languages. He kept the pictures of the necessary ingredients clear in his mind, and told them to Severus, who started collecting them and then preparing them.
It was a potion that Harry couldn't do by himself, so he definitely needed the other man's help. He looked at the next step. Then his eyes wandered over to see what Sev's long, elegant hands were doing. Severus looked up at him and their eyes met.
Hastily Harry turned back to the book. Fennel and martin pine root. Did that look mean anything? Did Severus feel anything? No, he couldn't. He would never be interested in Harry. There wasn't much about him to be interested in.
He kept strictly to the recipe, making sure that every step was perfect. Sev wouldn't be impressed with him if he got this wrong after all.
They had completed most of the potion now, and had to leave it to simmer for at least twenty hours. He placed the lid on carefully, tidied up, and was about to move out into the other room when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He didn't even feel the hand so much as the accompanying ripple of warmth which moved throughout his body. He was going to blush. No, he mustn't.
Slyrissin was laughing at him again.
He gathered the courage to look up to Severus' face. Brave, strong Gryffindor.
"You did really well today. Thank you." said that voice.
The most incredible rush went though harry. Sev was proud of him. He was worth something after all.
He couldn't stop grinning like a crazy person.
Sylrissin couldn't stop laughing. He had given up on trying to stop her, threats only seemed to provide encouragement.
"I have to go out for a while, there are a few ingredients that I need to restock. I'll be back in a couple of hours."
The euphoria drained away slightly. Sev didn't want him to go with him?. Maybe he'd been to much trouble the last time the other man took him shopping. Severus probably didn't want to be burdened with an obsessive quidditch freak.
He nodded agreeably, not wanting to be any trouble if Sev didn't want him to be around. "Sure, I can go back to my room and catch up on some reading. Or carry on trying to translate the journal."
Severus gave him a slightly surprised look. "You are welcome to stay here."
Was he? Was Sev just saying that? He did love the fireplace here, this room had come to feel like home. But he supposed that he shouldn't get used to it. These were Severus' rooms. Not his. He gave a little shrug of indifference.
Maybe he could stay here for an hour or so, then go back to his room before Severus returned. He didn't want the man to think that he was always pestering him, didn't want Sev to feel obliged to spend time with him. He had thought...... But no, Severus obviously didn't want to talk or anything today. Maybe he wasn't feeling well. Harry was starting to feel a bit off himself.
He crawled back onto the couch and attempted to read some more of Darion's book. The words swam in front of his eyes. He wasn't very dedicated was he? What would Severus say? He tried again. To no avail.
He tried reading the quidditch book that Hermione had given him. The pictures of people swooping around on broomsticks didn't manage to capture his interest.
He mused on what Sev might be doing. If he was just going to the apothecary again, why wouldn't he ask Harry to go? Harry was supposed to be his apprentice. Sort of. Didn't that mean that he should go along and learn things?
Maybe he was reading far too much into this. Maybe Severus just hadn't thought to ask him along. But that would mean that Sev didn't consider him important.
Deciding that this was a war with himself that he would never win, he took the advice of Sylrissin who recommended that he went and made a potion to relax himself. Just making the potion was calming, and soon Harry managed to suppress his worries. Though he couldn't stop himself thinking about Sev every now and then.
Harry started and almost poured the entire vial of goat's blood into the cauldron. Which would have been a very bad idea.
"In here." he answered distractedly, staring at the amount of potions he had made since Sev had left.
Perhaps he had become a little carried away?
Severus walked into the lab and greeted him. "My, you have been busy."
Harry shrugged, feeling embarrassed for no reason. "I was feeling restless."
Well, that was true.
"Are you finished here?"
Harry looked at him sharply. "Yes."
Did Sev want him to leave?
"Then would you like to play chess? I'm sorry I was so long, but I took a detour."
Harry hadn't noticed the time. He looked at the clock as they entered the living room and saw that it was almost five in the afternoon. His stomach agreed with the timepiece that it was long past time for him to have eaten.
As he set up the chess pieces, Sev arranged for food to be delivered. Harry blushed, the man had obviously heard his belly rumbling.
There were cookies. Harry felt better almost immediately. He was beginning to think about writing a book on the medicinal values of cookies, they were really under-acknowledged as therapeutic agents.
The chess pieces cheered him up too. At first they ran roughshod over him, but pretty soon his courage railed and he fought back.
"I can bloody well feel him up if I want to." he shouted back at the bishop.
Oops, maybe he shouldn't have said that. And so loud. He sneaked a despairing peek at Sev, only to find the man choking with silent laughter. He smiled tentatively himself. Maybe it was alright then.
They had almost finished the game. Harry was once again convinced that things were fairly normal. Severus didn't seem to be avoiding him after all, it had been the other who asked him to play chess.
He looked up from contemplating his next move to see Sev regarding him nervously. He would have thought this as a distraction tactic, the kind they often pulled to try and put the other player off, but that Severus looked very earnest.
"I.... I got you a birthday present. I'm sorry it's late." Sev held out a small package covered in silver paper.
A present. For him.
Severus had got him a present! Sev cared enough to.....Oh! That was where he had gone earlier. That was why he hadn't wanted Harry to go with him. Harry felt so stupid, for doubting the other man. Sev had got him a present.
He blinked and came out of his daze when the hand started to withdraw, Severus' face looking even more uncertain.
"Sorry. If you don't want it I can...."
"No!" How could Sev think he would not want it? "You got me a present? I don't.......I,.......Why? Thank you! It's wonderful."
That earned him a chuckle. And more shivers down his spine because of it.
"You haven't even opened it yet."
"It's still wonderful." he said quietly.
And it was. The idea that Sev had gone out and brought him a present, even though it wasn't even his birthday any more......Wow!
He unwrapped it slowly, carefully, taking his time. Loving every moment. If there had been a fifty pence piece inside he wouldn't have been disappointed. He might have thought that Sev was going insane though.
"Oh." he whispered, the only sound he could articulate. It was beautiful. A silver clasp for his hair, shaped like a small snake. As he reverently ran his fingers down it, the metal warmed under his fingers and came alive, rippling and uncoiling.
"It's beautiful. So beautiful."
He looked up, eyes moist with tears. Sev was smiling at him, and the expression in those dark eyes was soft.
A hand reached out and picked up the present. Sev moved behind his chair and removed the old leather thong, placing it on the table and then stroking his hands through Harry's hair. Harry leaned into the touch instinctively. That felt so good. His hair was gathered and retied with the new gift.
Sev came round and stood in front of him again. Harry managed to stand up, though his knees were slightly wobbly.
"Thank you." he said quietly.
The words were woefully inadequate. He stepped forwards and Sev's arms embraced him, holding him tightly. His head came to rest nuzzling against Severus' neck.
"Thank you. Thank you. It means.......I......" Harry gave up on speaking and just held on to the man's shoulders tightly, trying to communicate his gratitude.
"You're welcome, Harry." came the soft, silky tones, warm breath whispering past his ear causing him to shudder slightly.
He pulled back, so that Sev could see how he truly felt in his eyes. Then realised that might not be such a good idea considering exactly what it was that he was feeling. But it was too late, he was trapped by that glorious swirling blackness, utterly hypnotised.
And whether or not Severus could read his thoughts became irrelevant when the man bent his head slightly and brushed his lips against Harry's.
The last thing Harry was aware of was the chess pieces cheering them on in the background and saying that they would now finally get some peace.