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 9: The Dam That Burst
As the books Harry was carrying began to topple and he frantically tried to right them, a pair of hands came into view and saved the few attempting to escape. He looked up, awaiting the corrosive remarks he was sure would follow. But Snape said nothing. Slightly surprised, Harry sat down, only belatedly realising that he hadn't thanked his professor. He would appear foolish if he did so now, so Harry kept his mouth shut and considered which book to read first.
Then Snape caught his attention. "I went to get your wand today." he said.
Harry's stomach went cold, curled up and started shivering violently. Which made him feel sick. There was a roaring sound in his ears. He turned and stared at Snape. The man looked blank and emotionless. His wand... But it had been at the Dursleys. Had Snape been to the Dursleys? Or had it been found somewhere else. Maybe there was a lost property system and it had come in there? He knew his thoughts were getting more and more chaotic, but what was he supposed to think. How could Snape leave him hanging like that, with words that could mean so many things.
Though Harry's stomach was telling him it knew exactly what Snape had meant.
He choked out "But I told you it was broken."
"Yes, but a broken wand can be professionally fixed, so the headmaster wanted me to fetch the pieces."
Harry couldn't find anything to say. His mind was in turmoil.
"Harry, I met your relatives..."
Harry didn't even notice the use of his first name. So Snape knew, now they would all know, would all pity him and know that he wasn't strong. And if he wasn't strong, then how could everyone one else be.
Still he said nothing.
"Harry, there were no death eaters, were there?"
His breathing was becoming faster and faster, as though by pushing more air out he could push all of his troubles out too. Maybe if he stopped breathing Snape wouldn't pester him anymore. The roaring in his ears became a throbbing, faster and faster, as the sound of his heart pounding overwhelmed him. Now not only his stomach but all the rest of his body was trembling.
He couldn't think, couldn't feel.
Harry got up and ran to the bathroom, pulling the door shut behind him before throwing up down the toilet. Several times. Laying down, the cold tiles eased the heat in his head and he slowly calmed. Very slowly. After a while he became aware that the pounding had moved out of his head and moved to the door. After a moments pause, he realised that it was Snape. His muffled voice came through the barrier but Harry could not hear him. Would not hear him.
He dragged himself torturously to his feet, his back protesting, and stared at his face in the mirror. He wasn't sure that he knew himself anymore. He washed the foul taste out of his mouth and thought briefly of the effort the house elves had gone to, to make him eat lunch. All wasted now. He wiped his face on the towel, the texture feeling rough against his skin.
He stared at the door again and the words started to make sense. It was like a really bad reception on a radio suddenly clearing up.
"Harry? Harry come out. Now. I know you don't want to talk about it but..."
Harry leaned his sore back against the wood of the door and let the words wash over him. Snape knew. There was relief, that someone knew, that he didn't have to hide anymore. Fear, that the world would turn on him. And some anger, that it had been Snape who found out.
"Harry..." Since when had Snape called him Harry? He had always been Potter, a name spat with venomous hatred. Then Snape found out his relatives beat him and suddenly he's Harry, like they know each other better or he was just a child or something. Snape already pitied him then. He didn't want that. Even if it meant that the man wasn't being such a complete git.
He opened the door. Snape was standing on the other side, starting to look worried. Was he expecting a suicide attempt then? Not that Harry hadn't thought about it.
Harry went back to the couch, and sat cross-legged staring fixedly down at his hands. Snape obviously wanted an explanation. He didn't fancy pouring his heart out to him. He hadn't wanted to tell him in the first place. He didn't want more pity. Which brought him to...
"Why are you calling me Harry?" he finally raised his eyes to meet Snape's. They were as unreadable as always, but Snape's expressive eyebrows seemed taken aback at the question, as though he hadn't noticed he'd been doing it.
"Well," said Snape almost hesitantly. If Snape patronised Harry, he would walk out of the room. "I always thought of you as being an embodiment of fame and happiness, with a perfect life. When I found out that that wasn't true, I suppose most of my reasons for hating you were gone. I had chosen to believe what I wanted because it made my life easier. Rather than seeing you for yourself."
Oh, thought Harry. That wasn't what he had expected at all.
"But I thought it was the opposite," he gathered up the courage to say, "I thought that you were the only one who did see the real me, through the fame, and that you hated me for who I was."
Snape sounded strained when he admitted "No, I'm afraid that in the end I was just as blinded by prejudice as everyone else, though in a different way."
Harry blinked. Pity yes, but not how he'd been expecting it. Snape didn't pity him because of what had happened, he pitied the fact that no one really knew Harry at all. That wasn't as bad, it was almost comforting in a way.
He let out a small "Oh." of acknowledgement to give him time to think. He wasn't ready to talk, not like Snape thought he had to, but if he didn't what would Snape do, would he...
"You won't tell anyone will you?" he asked in desperation.
Snape looked at him incredulously for a second but then it changed to understanding. Harry felt ashamed, like the professor could see inside his head.
"Harry," he said, his tone not as biting as usual, almost gentle, "Harry I have to tell the headmaster. He needs to know."
"No!" exclaimed Harry. "He can't know, no one can know, they mustn't know, please. Please don't tell them." he begged with tears forming in his eyes.
The voice became sterner. "Harry, he has to know that there weren't any death eaters. He's been worrying too much. And he's planning on putting more defences round your house, so that you can go back. You don't want to go back do you?" was the dry question.
Harry shook his head numbly. He was being so selfish, worrying everyone. He couldn't go back. But to tell someone, voluntarily, was worse than Snape finding out by accident. And that had been bad enough. He felt his heart rate speed up again and forced himself to calm down.
Snape was watching him like a hawk. "I can't, I can't tell him." Harry managed to say, dry mouthed.
Snape nodded, as though he had been expecting this. "Shall I talk to him for you then Harry? Though he may want to question you about it."
Harry began to panic at the idea and his professor must have seen something of it in his face as he said reassuringly "Not right away, not until you are ready." What if he was never ready, thought Harry. He didn't think he ever would be.
Harry was deeply engrossed in pretending to read his book, but constantly felt the weighty glances that Snape was casting in his direction. He feared that the other would try to draw him out but at the same time longed for it. It would be so good to not have to act all the time. He was acting even now. He decided to stop.
He put the book down, not even trying to keep the place since he hadn't learned anything anyway, gave a tired sigh, and turned to Snape. He was met with an inquisitive look. Well if he wanted to know, he was just going to have to ask.
"Did you want to talk about it" Not quite the question he was looking for, he didn't want to talk about it. He shrugged. Snape appeared to consider for a minute.
"What happened?" Harry shrugged again. Not specific enough. Snape became irritated and went back to reading his book. Harry did not bother pretending to have anything more interesting to do than watch him.
After a while, Snape turned back to him. "You got a Christmas present, didn't you?"
Harry nodded, then decided to elaborate. Snape seemed surprised by his sudden willingness to talk.
"Yeah, it was from Ron. He said he'd send it a day early, so that I'd know I had something waiting for me." Harry smiled, then carried on in a seemingly unconnected thread. "The Dursleys met the Weasley's the summer before the forth year. They didn't come out of it too well." For a moment he smiled, then remembered the grief it had brought him. The expressions on there faces hadn't been worth the pain. "So they thought that the package was suspicious. Hedwig.... She couldn't deliver it to me so she took it into Dudley's room and they found it. They thought I was trying to kill them as the twins must have put some tricks inside and it exploded when it was thrown out of the window."
Snape seemed to be processing this, though Harry had a feeling he might have already guessed some of it. Then he picked up on something. "Why couldn't your owl get to you?"
Damn, thought Harry. "I was downstairs."
"She could have flown downstairs."
Why was Snape pushing this? "I was in my cupboard."
The eyebrows rose at the words 'my cupboard'. Then furrowed. "Why?"
Leave it alone, thought Harry, tiredly. Why had he wanted to talk about this anyway? "I did magic."
"In the holidays?"
Nod. He could just see Snape suppressing criticisms. Idiot boy doing magic in the holidays, his mind agreed with what he imagined Snape's assessment of him was.
Such a troublesome word. "Because my glasses were broken and I couldn't work without them."
"Yes, you know, chores."
"Why were they broken," asked Snape cautiously.
"I fell down the stairs." Seeing the disbelieving look directed his way, "No, really I did."
"Why did you fall down the stairs?"
This was going to far, he really didn't want to talk about it. Not that Dudley was so bad, his picking on Harry was annoying, but what it had led to was something he didn't want to mention. He was not sure whether his stock of excuses was large enough. Maybe there weren't any he could give that Snape would believe.
Wanting to end the conversation he said "Dudley." And turned back to his book. And he had said that he wasn't going to act anymore. He was such a coward. This provoked him into saying "My cousin, he pushed me."
Silence. At first he was glad to hear it, then he began to think about what he had told Snape. Snape! Not that he had really said anything. But the man must be laughing inside. Harry sneaked a peek at him. Snape had a contemplative look to him. He did not seem to be sneering at Harry. Maybe it was just paranoia.
When the silence was broken he immediately wished that it hadn't been.
"Pomfrey said that some of the bruises were older. She said that you hadn't been fed enough or at all, since about the end of school." said softly, like Snape was trying not to scare him off.
But Harry wasn't ready to answer that question, even if it hadn't been a question. He couldn't tell of the day to day hatred, and starvation and hardships, couldn't talk about the years it had happened for.
He just shook his head, and kept shaking it. No. That he could not do. He got up from the couch, but doing so too fast felt dizzy and swayed. He felt a hand placed on his back in support and yelped in pain, flinching away from the touch and falling to his knees. Snape stood beside him.
He thought he wouldn't be able to speak, like in the hospital wing, but suddenly his tongue was no longer stuck to the roof of his mouth and he could.
"My back," he muttered, "It hurts. I couldn't reach to put the salve on."
Snape sighed. "Fool boy. You should have said." But though the words were harsh, there was no ill feeling behind them, and Harry thought that maybe Snape did understand. "Take your top off, I'll get the bottle."
Snape disappeared into the bathroom and Harry struggled to get the overlarge T-shirt over his head. He was so stiff. It had taken him ages to get undressed the night before, and dressed this morning. And now, because he was in a hurry, his back seized up and his arms felt weak and he could not lift the top up much higher than his waist. He felt a tear trickle down his check. He hated being helpless.
Then there was someone kneeling beside him, and gentle hands took the top from his uncertain grip and carefully pulled it off, pausing as he winced in pain. Then he was turned around, and he heard another sigh, then quiet incomprehensible murmuring. It didn't matter anymore who it was with him. He closed his eyes. Someone cared. However little. He was manuvered onto his front on the rug and there was a shock of cold as the salve was poured onto his back. As hands rubbed it in, he writhed in agony, but was held down.
"It's your own fault, silly boy." said the voice, but the hands were gentle. And the pain faded away. And the hands slowly warmed. And he began to feel very tired.
And then the voice said "I am sorry about the owl." awkwardly. And another tear fell. And he fell asleep.