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 28: Normal Life
".....move back up to the Gryffindor Tower."
Severus thought Harry stayed remarkably composed, though he could tell that the boy was affected by the news. He wished that Harry would say something, he was entirely too good at hiding his feelings.
But all he got in reply was a nod.
He thought that the boy would be stable enough to not be constantly monitored now. He trusted Harry not to do anything else, knew that he would be alright. It was the effect that his former friends might have on the boy that he worried about. He had thought about requesting for Harry to stay in the dungeons with him, but reasoned that this might bring him further grief from his classmates. And the boy could not stay down here forever. He would have to face the world again at some point. The benefit of the time spent here was that, hopefully, Harry now knew he did not have to face it alone.
He got no argument at the news from the boy, but Harry became noticeably withdrawn over the course of the afternoon. When Draco returned, Severus saw him looking askance at Harry, wondering what had changed. He knew the headmaster would have already informed the other boy about the event, so did not need to broach the subject again.
The next two days passed quickly. Draco was still spending much of his time in Albus' company, trying to sort out the legal problems which had arisen with his parents receiving the Dementor's kiss, and the hounding that he was sure to receive from the press.
Severus stepped up his tutelage of Harry, they were almost always in his private lab. Within that short space of time he easily covered the syllabus for the entire year, then started to move onto more specialised, complex potions. He felt confident doing so because of the aptitude the boy displayed. Harry seemed to have a feeling for potions, sometimes adding things on impulse. Yes, Harry was definitely not the slow witted trouble maker he had always believed, when properly taught and motivated the boy's progress was amazing.
Snape found himself enjoying the work they did together. It had been so long since he had taught someone competent who did not need to be reminded of the simplest things and make the mot foolish mistakes. Someone he did not have to watch all of the time. Soon he began working on his own experiments as Harry did his. The boy was always inquisitive, demanding to know what Snape was doing. So they would stand, side by side stirring their potions, and Severus would tell Harry of the latest research projects and breakthroughs. He hadn't had anyone to talk to in this casual way for so long. He had missed it. Had missed having someone who listened.
Then school started.
This time, he was not ashamed to agree with his inner voice when it said he missed the boy's presence.
He kept a distant eye on Harry over the next few days. The next potions class was not until almost a week later, and Harry did not come to see him in the meantime. He was worried. It was impossible that the boy could have returned completely back to normal and not be depressed at all. If he wasn't confiding in Snape, then that meant he probably wasn't telling anyone. Certainly not his friends. Fester, fester, fester, said his inner voice.
Although when he saw Harry in the great hall the boy did seem to have made up some of his differences with them. While Snape noticed that the Weasley boy was awkward and didn't know how to act around Harry, who responded accordingly coolly, Granger seemed to be making a real effort. From this Severus assumed that Harry had told her the truth. That was definitely a good sign, and the fact that she seemed to have accepted him as he was was even better. At least Harry would have someone to keep him company.
The boy was eating at least. Not very much, but he was still eating more in a single mealtime than he had previously been doing during a whole day. Snape told himself that he wouldn't watch Harry, that he was fine. But still his eyes were drawn to the boy, his ears seemed tuned to the still somewhat rare sound of his laughter.
And Harry didn't come to see him.
Potions with the fifth years came around at last. He had just had an aggravating first year group who had managed between them to ruin the floor of the lab, fill it with fumes, and send two students off to the hospital wing. It hadn't even been a dangerous potion! Incompetant fools. Why he ever agreed to teach...
His class filed in, looking nervous at the ominous expression the potion's master wore. Only Harry seemed unaffected by it, as he cheerfully got his equipment out. Then again, thought Snape, Harry was the only one who understood the cause, and knew that it would not be taken out on him.
Severus felt free to take out his anger on everyone else, though he made another exception for Draco. He had noticed that the Slytherins had been tormenting the other for his betrayal, and, though he had spoken sharply to his house over the matter, it had not served to make a great deal of difference. So he felt no need to make Draco's life more miserable. Maybe he should talk to the headmaster about him?
As the class opened their texts to the prescribed experiment for the day, Snape walked up behind Harry.
"Since you have already successfully completed this experiment there is no need for you to perform it again. Continue on with what you were doing when we last met." he murmured, then added, "And stay behind at the end."
Here then was a chance for him to finally talk to Harry. He noticed the sideways looks that the boy was receiving from Granger. He noticed that Weasley didn't appear to care at all....and was about to make the whole classroom explode. He corrected the problem. And took points. Lots of points. It relieved the unresolved tension he had felt before, his anger towards the brat flowing into it's proper channel.
Weasley opened his mouth. It might have only been to yawn, but on the off chance there was another, more deadly purpose behind it, such as speaking, Snape took more points. Merlin, that felt good.
By the time the class left, Gryffindor was almost in negative figures for house points. Weasley was looking as though he would throw himself off the nearest cliff, and Severus was sure that he had seen a wicked smirk cross Harry's face at what the other boy was going through. Granger looked slightly dubious when Harry said he was remaining behind, but seemed to understand, and left without saying anything.
Harry moved towards the front. Before Snape could say anything, the boy launched into a seemingly never-ending stream of questions about the potion he had just made, wanting to discuss it's applications and why it had to be prepared in a certain way. Severus could not stop a smile, his inner voice told him he had once been that eager, still was sometimes. When Harry finally ran out of things to say, he was sat comfortably on one of the desks facing Snape, swinging his legs. He seemed quite cheerful.
"Why haven't you been to see me?" It was so hard to ask that question. Because of the meanings. Because he felt ashamed of missing Harry's company.
"I didn't know when you wanted to work with me again, you didn't tell me."
That hadn't answered the question that he had asked. Had avoided it quite neatly whilst pretending to cover it.
"You need to practise regularly." Still, it was partially his own fault, he had forgotten how unsure the boy still was of everything. "I was expecting you to come when you were free."
"Well, we can start again tonight. Have you been studying?"
"Then we will work on the Arerenas potion."
The eyes lit up. The smile came back. "Really? Cool!"
"Come down after dinner. I'll be waiting."
As he had been for many nights now. Ever since talking to the boy had somehow become an irreplaceable part of his days.
Harry came through the portrait hole without knocking. For a moment Severus was startled, had Albus been giving the boy lessons? Then he remembered about the snake in the picture.
They went into the lab. While Harry was working Sylrissin moved up to his neck and half coiled around it, freeing his hands and guaranteeing her a good view. It was a sight that Snape had grown used to.
As they talked Severus found himself relaxing in a way that he hadn't all week. Here he could just be himself, with Harry he didn't have to scowl and bark. Not that he didn't enjoy doing so, but it was nice to have a break. He smiled at the little jokes the boy made as he worked, and Harry slowly began to open up and talk about what his life was like back at the Tower. He said that Ron was still being somewhat of an ass, he went around with a look on his face like he knew he should apologise but was too much of a proud bastard to do so. When Harry mentioned the similarities between that look and the one Ron had when constipated, Severus almost choked laughing. He might have made that comparison himself.
"Hermione's alright though. I sent her a letter back telling her everything, and she's been really nice about it. She doesn't bother me about it, and I don't talk about it with her, but it's good having someone there who knows, and who sort of understands what I'm feeling some of the time."
Snape more than agreed. He couldn't help a small pang of jealousy however, that Harry went elsewhere for reassurance now, which was why he hadn't come to see him, but squashed it firmly, not wanting to analyse it further. Anyway, said his inner voice reasonably, the boy said that he didn't talk to her. So Severus was still the only one who really knew everything.
"And most of the others in the tower are the same as they ever were. Since they found out about the points you took off him earlier though, they've been a bit peeved with Ron. They reckon no one could loose that many, even from you, without having done something to deserve it."
"He did do something to deserve it."
Harry went quiet, and for a while they worked in silence.
"I see Draco sometimes. He doesn't like staying in his common room so much anymore, so he comes down to the library a lot. I usually meet him when Ron and Hermione are hanging out in the common room for a while."
"So Granger is still speaking to Weasley even after his obnoxious behaviour?"
"Well, yes. They are friends after all. Just because Ron is too stubborn and childish to admit he was wrong doesn't make him a different person. He's still the same boy she was friends with all along. It wouldn't be right for them to give that up, though I think she nags him about me a lot. I wouldn't really want to go back to being best friends with him now anyway, I don't think I could. I get on far better with Draco than I do with him."
"How is Draco?"
"Coping. I think."
"Your idea of coping is perhaps not the most reassuring."
A quick grin. Severus was infinitely pleased that Harry could stand to joke about it.
"No, he's coping way better than I did. I think he'd tell me if anything... I mean, we don't talk a lot. We usually just sit there and read. But I know he'd tell me."
"And how are you coping?" he hadn't wanted to have to ask. But he needed to be sure.
Harry's eyes came up and gazed steadily into his. The expression in the green orbs was absolutely honest.
"I think I'm doing alright now. I haven't.... I haven't done anything if that's what you mean." the boy's voice had become defensive at the end.
He reached out and gently squeezed Harry's shoulder. "I didn't think you had." he said seriously.
Harry looked at him for a moment longer, then turned his attention back to his potion.
They cleaned up. It was getting late.
"You'd better go then, big quidditch game tomorrow."
Harry smiled apprehensively and left.
He watched the game closely. Though he was generally annoyed at the biased comments that the announcer always tended towards, he had to admit that the ones focusing on Harry were justified. The boy was playing on one of the useless school brooms, Severus could just picture the Gryffindor team's expressions when they had found out, but was still amazingly good. His skill during this game proved that his abilities had not been reliant on having the latest model of broom, they had merely been heightened by the fact. He still swept the opposition off the pitch, and Snape was glad that it hadn't been vs. Slytherin so he didn't have to appear quite so dour after the win.
He had seen Harry fly past the stand where he had been sitting, and got a good view of the boy's face. It had the same concentration he saw there when Harry was making a new potion, coupled with an intense joy that seemed to make him glow. As he had watched Harry zoom around the pitch, Severus had suddenly understood what drew Harry to this. It was the same reason he himself had loved the sport.
When he was flying, Harry felt free.
At first he wasn't sure what had woken him, he was a very light sleeper. With his good night vision he blearily scanned the room. Nothing. Then he heard a small rustle coming from beside the bed.
He sat up, brandishing his wand. And then relaxed.
Harry was curled up against the wall beside the bed, with one arm lifted to shield his eyes from the sudden light. Severus dimmed it a little.
"I didn't mean to wake you." said the boy. Still timid, Snape noted. Probably afraid that he would have gone back to being a stern teacher again. Despite the talk they had yesterday. But he came. He came. He trusted him.
Blinking with drowsiness, Severus yawned. "What did you want?" His mind starting to function on a slightly higher level, he remembered his manners. "Would you like something to drink?"
Harry shook his head. Snape wasn't sure if that was good or bad. It could either be because the boy felt so depressed that he felt sick at the thought of consuming something, or it could be because he didn't feel bad enough to require the comfort of hot chocolate. Or it could just be because he isn't thirsty, mentioned his little voice.
"How are you feeling?"
"Better I guess."
"Then why are you here?"
The boy shrugged. That gesture was so infuriating. But Harry had sought his company, there must be something he could do.
"Did you want to talk? Sometimes it's better than letting things fester."
Oh, now there was a line taken straight from his inner voice. He didn't have to worry about disclaimers, did he?
Harry looked up. "How are you feeling?" the boy asked.
What? "Very well thank you." Cheeky boy. "Better I guess." Which was true.
"Are you sure that you aren't festering too?"
Severus laughed softly. The counselled counselling the councillor. He's got a point, said his inner voice. And a sense of humour even when down.
"Maybe a little. But I know that I cannot change things. And I do not know that overall, they mightn't have turned out worse had I acted differently then. How do I know that other deaths might not have occurred had I gone to the battle?"
Harry appeared to be thinking for a moment. "That sounds like something the sorting hat said to me."
Snape frowned, he did not remember...
"When I was waiting for the headmaster after my vision. It talked in my head. It said that I would have been better in Slytherin, and that some of the bad things in my life wouldn't have happened. But then it said, that I would probably have had a whole different set of other troubles, and that different people would have died. And I guess that I can't tell whether that path would have been better or worse than this one. But I try not to think of it, most of the time. For there is nothing I can do."
"Harry," he said gently, "Why did you come here?"
The boy paused and took several shaky breaths.
"After the game. I overheard some people talking. About Cedric."
"What did they say?"
"Nothing important." Severus was about to pursue this, but Harry continued. "They were just talking about what a good player he had been. But it made me think, of all the things that he would never get to do. Do you know that when I came back after the summer there many people who blamed me for what happened? I blamed myself too. I got a letter from his parents. They said that Dumbledore had explained everything to them. But I knew what they were really feeling. I remember how proud of him his father was."
Harry shuddered slightly, and Snape wasn't sure if he had finished speaking. He knew that he shouldn't try and press Harry into talking further. He had to wait.
So he waited. And was rewarded.
"I heard his screams again tonight." came the whisper so soft that Severus thought he might have imagined it. But he knew from the words that he had not.
"Oh, Harry. Did you not take the potion?"
"Yes, yes I did."
Snape felt a wave of trepidation take hold of him. "It wasn't a vision was it?"
"No, at least I don't think so. You can't have visions of the past anyway, can you? It was like, it was struggling to break free of the barriers I had put up against it, and the potion could only hold it for so long. I.... Is there a stronger version of the dreamless sleep potion that we could make? I thought that I remembered reading about one somewhere?"
"Yes. The only problem with it is that it cannot be taken often, designed like that to prevent addiction. I suppose that we could modify it...." Severus trailed off as he began mentally tallying the ingredients they would need and the different alterations that could be made to the recipe.
When he looked up again, he saw that Harry had a small smile on his face. He raised an eyebrow in query.
"I like it when you do that. When you drift off and I can tell that you're making potions in your head. It just reminds me who you really are."
"Who I really am?" he repeated astonished.
Harry looked hesitant for a second, afraid of overstepping the boundaries, but overcame it and spoke.
"Yes. Not the Professor Snape everyone else sees in class. They think that you are like that all the time you know?" Yes, he did know. "But you aren't. When there's no one around for you to scowl at, you just forget about being mean and become Severus, as you are now. Severus who has a thick, luxurious carpet in his bedroom and a sense of humour and can I add a really twisted chess set." Severus smiled. "And when you are thinking about your potions, you are totally relaxed. I bet no one else has ever seen that."
No, no one else ever had. No one had seen the real him, since Dumbledore irritated him to much for him to not want to snap at him. But Harry knew him, had got close enough to even understand him to some measure. When had that happened? When had he stopped being Professor Snape with the boy and started being Severus?
That would be when you were trying to get him to trust you so that he didn't commit suicide, said his inner voice. And when you comforted him during his nightmares. And when you sat on the couch and read to him and ate cookies. And when you took him on as an apprentice because you saw something in him that no one else did either.
"Thank you." he acknowledged quietly.
They sat some more. Severus started to doze off, then suddenly remembered something.
"Oh, well done on winning the game, by the way."
Harry grinned in response. "It was great fun."
"You certainly looked as though you enjoyed it. And see, even on a school broom, you showed your quality. That says a lot, you know. Those brooms ought to be used for firewood."
"So now that you've proved to yourself that you're more than the broom you ride on, why don't you get yourself a new one and spare me the happiness of watching my own house win. It hasn't happened for so long since you came to the school that I don't know what I'd do if they did."
He wasn't sure if he should have said that. Sleep was clouding his brain. Had he said something foolish or not?
"I guess I will. For a while I wasn't sure why I was playing. Ever since I found out that my dad played....Well, I've been wondering if that's why I was doing it. Trying to live up to expectations. But when I was playing today, I realised that I really did enjoy it. So yes, maybe I will get a broom after all."
Severus smiled, knowing that everything would be alright. "Good, make sure you get a nice one. A star something. Get that. It had a good magical signature. Try not to fall off."
He was falling asleep. He hadn't fallen asleep in anyone else's presence before. It required a degree of trust that he had never felt. But now.... He yawned again.
"Goodnight." he heard murmured, then the shutting of a door, then he slept.