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 33: Brave New World
The real exams passed. With the amount of studying Harry had been doing, they barely registered. He found them no harder than the usual tests in class. There were far more challenging things to think about, like his work in potions. And far more interesting ones, such as quidditch. Gryffindor had won the quidditch cup. Again.
When Severus congratulated him private on his success in the game, Harry felt so proud that he could have burst. After all, it took a lot to impress his professor.
His friend. For Severus was definitely a friend to Harry. They spent time together, they laughed and joked, Harry felt truly comfortable around the other. He got the impression that no one had ever been comfortable around Sev for a long time. They wouldn't see past the sarcastic exterior. But then, Severus was very skilled at projecting it.
When he was called up to the headmaster's office a week before the end of the year, he assumed that it was to discuss arrangements for over the summer.
Severus was there. Harry wondered if he would get his own room this time, if he was staying for the whole summer. If he would be allowed to decorate it. If Sev would laugh if he copied his fireplace.
"You will not be staying at Hogwarts over the holiday Harry."
Had he just heard that right? Not staying at Hogwarts? But there was no where else for him to go. Where would he go?
Severus seemed to be thinking the same thoughts. "Albus...."
"Now, I know that you were expecting Harry to stay with you, but I have placed him with Remus Lupin for the summer instead."
Harry watched as Sev's jaw shut with an audible snap.
"I thought that Remus was still on the run?" he ventured.
"No, now that the Voldemort situation has been entirely cleared up he is free of danger. However, I think it best that the two of you stay quiet, no point in attracting unnecessary attention."
Severus seemed to have marshalled his arguments. "Albus, the boy is my apprentice. I have the care of his instruction. I will not allow him to go haring off and forget everything." he said with ill concealed vexation.
"I'm sure you can give him a reading list." The mild tone of the headmaster's voice seemed only to irritate the professor further.
Truth be told, Harry would have preferred to stay here too, and work on his potions. He noticed that no one was asking his opinion. Dumbledore continued, "Also, Remus will be able to give him instruction in defence against the dark arts while he is with him."
"I could do that." exclaimed Severus.
Harry almost laughed. Although he now knew that the rumours of Sev wanting that position were unfounded given his love for his current subject, it was true that he was more than qualified.
"It has all been arranged." spoke the headmaster soothingly.
"Yes, all been arranged without Harry's consent I might add. Did you never think of what he might want?"
That was one of those little moments that reminded him Sev cared. He'd thought that the two others had gone off into their own conversation and completely forgotten about him, then Severus hooked him in again. Severus, unlike the headmaster, actually seemed to mind what he wanted.
"I'm sure that he'd be more than happy to stay with his Godfather's closest friend. Wouldn't you, Harry?"
The guilt factor again. They were both looking at him. What could he say if Dumbledore had already organised it all? If he said no now then the headmaster would be disappointed. As would Remus. After all, when Lupin had come to see him while he was in the infirmary Harry hadn't even said hello.
He was sure it would be fine.
But he didn't want to go. Didn't want to leave this safety.
"Whatever you think is best." he eventually answered, turning his head away slightly. Whatever was the least trouble for them. He hated the thought of other people having to accommodate him.
"It's all settled then. I'm sure you'll have fun Harry, it's a brand new world out there, after all."
Severus would be on his own too then. Harry looked over at him to see if could read those eyes, if he could see any disappointment. They were blank.
Maybe Severus was inwardly rejoicing. Thanking the gods that Harry would not be able to ruin this holiday as he had the previous one. After all, the man did like his privacy. And Harry knew that he had been a burden.
"Stop thinking bad thoughts." hissed Sylrissin. She always seemed to know when he was becoming depressed. Perhaps she could smell it. Fine, he would be brave. He could take this summer. He would do what they all wanted him to until they finally left him alone again.
He wondered if Remus played quidditch.
Harry went down to the dungeon the day before he was due to leave. Serminysa let him in without any of her usual chatter.
Things were slightly awkward. Then more awkward. The bite of Severus' wit became progressively more harsh over the evening. Harry could take it, knew what caused this reaction in the other man, and tried to give back as good as he got, but when he was roundly scolded for something he had forgotten to add to the cauldron, even though it still wasn't too late to do so, he had to stop and take a breath to compose himself before continuing. He compared the cutting comments to the usual casual corrections that he would get.
When they finally finished the potion to the professor's satisfaction and left the lab, Harry headed for the exit. He did not think that there would be any talking tonight.
How long was it since he had called Severus sir? Yet it was more than appropriate for the way he had been treated today. He could not reconcile this hard taskmaster with the friend who had fought for Harry's right to choose what he did.
He did understand, on some level, why the other was doing this, but that didn't make it feel any better. Sev didn't know how to act any differently after all. So Harry would do as he had always done, and suppress everything. Obviously he could not share now.
He halted instantly. The word had been a command, of the type he had been subjected to all evening, but the rasping tone underlying it was far more compelling to Harry than the actual order.
A presence behind him. For a second he tensed, the ghost of the expectation of a blow overtaking him, then forced himself to relax again. He hadn't needed to do that in a while. The effect that Severus' cruel behaviour was having on him was bigger than he liked.
A hand, on his back between the shoulder blades. He thought for a minute that it would propel him forward out in to the corridor, but it remained still. They stayed like that, an impasse, for at least a minute. Harry could feel his hair being ruffled slightly by Severus' breathing. He could practically feel the air space between them thrumming with unspoken words. Feel something being relayed through the point of contact between them on his back.
Softly, so softly as to almost be unreal. "I'm sorry."
The voice was so hesitant, sounding almost broken. Harry had heard those words from Severus before. But they had not meant so much. Had not been so heartfelt as they were now.
He did not turn. Just gave the slightest nod of his head to show acceptance. To let Severus know that his message had been received. The hand slipped from his back, the communion between them ceased, and he left, not looking back.
In the morning, he found that a huge pile of books had been delivered to the foot of his bed during the night.
He didn't see Severus again before he left. He hadn't expected to. That didn't stop him looking around for a glimpse of swirling black robes.
He said goodbye to his friends. Hugged Hermione, and handed her a supply of the green hair potion, which, when not combined with the green skin effect, had to be regularly administered. He and Draco just shared a smile, the other boy was staying with some friends of Dumbledore over the summer who were apparently going to train him in non lethal curses, the only kind missing from Draco's repertoire.
Remus looked better than he remembered him. Slightly more cheerful at least. They took a portkey, to Harry's extreme distaste, to the village where they would be staying. Small, isolated, middle of nowhere. Safe.
Just because there were supposedly no death eaters left didn't mean that being Harry Potter was without dangers. He still had to be careful of being mauled by fans wherever he went. The fact that his scar was gone made his life somewhat easier, but since there had been an article about it published along with a new picture of him he was still afraid of recognition.
He wanted to change his appearance. At the very least it would reflect externally the internal changes that he had been through. One thing had already gone, the glasses. The next, he decided, should be the hair. It had always stayed determinedly the same length and style, a carbon copy of James Potter. But Harry was no longer trying to be his father. He had his own style. He began researching a way to change it. It wasn't as though he didn't have enough books.
Remus was really nice. It made him feel guilty that he had not wanted to come, guilty for the way he had treated this kind man, who was after all lonely too. When Lupin locked himself away in the cellar for the transformation a few days after they got there, Harry had to admit to being more than a little scared as the howls resounded through the house. he could understand why Severus had been so terrified.
Most of their time was spent doing nothing. Other than the hour or so of shielding training that Remus made Harry do, he wasn't strict at all. He was very playful in fact, always wanting to play games and romp around and do silly things. Very much a marauder. But then, he was the only one of them left, so he probably felt he had to represent all of them. It made him fun to be around.
Harry beat him at chess. All that training paid off. He discovered that he missed Severus' wicked chess pieces, their twisted little comments added zest to the game. He missed playing chess by that fireplace. On that rug. With cookies.
He missed Severus.
Sylrissin was there for him to talk to, but it wasn't the same. He couldn't talk to Lupin. He got to know him quite well, but he didn't connect with him. Not like he had with Severus.
He really missed Severus.
Especially late at night, when he couldn't sleep. There was no one to talk to here. Remus generally went to bed quite early and slept like a log. Harry wouldn't want to wake him. And it was harder talking to someone who didn't know things without asking, the way that Severus always did.
He had his books. He spent a lot of the days reading, determined to do well. He found one that might do for his hair, it was a good thing that he had brought all of his things with him. Remus abandoned the house when he started making it, saying that the smells were to horrible for his delicate nose. Harry brewed for seven hours straight.
It was worth it. He woke up the next day. And his hair was a little longer. The day after that it was longer still. It progressively grew until it was a couple of inches past his shoulders, then it stopped. It had also developed slight kinks, and become wavy, almost curly. Harry liked it, and took to tying it back in a thong. It was a pain when he was trying to play quidditch. Which they did fairly often.
Remus had brought his broom with him. They usually just played catch in mid- air with a muggle ball, but it was still great fun. Flying was always fun for Harry. Something he never grew tired of.
But he missed Severus.
Like when he was reading the books he had been given, and thought of a thousand questions he wanted to ask as he went along. They had no owl at the house, and were supposed to remain out of general contact, so Harry could not confer. Harry missed being able to talk to Severus. Although sometimes he felt doubtful as to whether the professor would even reply had he sent an owl. After all, he had practically thrown Harry out the last night there. But he had apologised. And meant it. Harry knew that he had meant it. But that didn't stop his lingering uncertainty.
Remus must have noticed his slight depression, for he did everything possible to bring Harry out of it. Even though the other man must still be downhearted over losing Sirius. His best friend. Lupin was really trying. But sometimes Harry would rather have just been left alone. Severus would have understood.
The first time he lay awake for the whole night, Sylrissin tried to hiss him to sleep. It didn't work. Obviously she was not all powerful. Another one of his illusions dispelled. He couldn't stand it, lying there in the dark. Thinking. He couldn't stand it.
As though she realised what was going through his head, and some things he hadn't even known were in there himself, she tried to talk him out of the pit he was mentally digging.
While what she actually said was full of wisdom, and couched in fancy language, what it basically amounted to was, don't kill yourself, it's not worth it, and the other one would be really pissed off if he did do something stupid.
She couldn't have been talking about Lupin, she didn't like his wolf smell at all. At first he thought she meant Draco, for she had mentioned him before. It wasn't till a few weeks later, as he came to realise how deeply he missed Severus, that he knew the potion's master was the one she thought would be most distraught. They were good friends. And they provided comfort to the other. But Snape had made him leave. But Severus had apologised.
His mind went round and round in frustrating, never ending circles, broken only by working and playing with Remus, sporadically managing to find sleep, and sometimes becoming so absorbed in his texts that he forgot to angst about the man who gave them to him.
He had to admit, that apart from the brief moment when Sylrissin reminded him of her previous teasing, he hadn't thought of Draco at all, except to wonder if he was generally alright. There were no more dreams of him. Maybe it had just been a passing thing. Maybe he wasn't gay? Okay, maybe he was, after all, some of those dreams.....And even if the feelings hadn't lasted, he was pretty sure that there had been something there.
He didn't really have a problem with this discovery. He hadn't been expecting it, but it did explain the awkwardness with Cho. And his embarrassment at girls chasing him in general. He knew that it was considered perfectly natural in the wizarding world. Look at Crabbe and Goyle. Okay, bad example, very bad example. Moving on. Seamus. Better. Far less distressing. And also.......available? No, he really didn't think of him that way. Really didn't think of anyone that way, despite his acknowledgement that Draco was, well, gorgeous.
But no, there wasn't anyone in his year that he thought he could give his heart too. They were all too immature. Hadn't seen a fraction of the things he'd seen. He would just have to wait, till he found someone that he could really relate to.
Harry returned to Hogwarts early, about a week and a half before term started, as Remus had to go on a mission abroad for the headmaster.
Severus was waiting for him in the entrance hall. When he saw Harry his brooding expression lifted somewhat.
Harry just grinned. He was home again.