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 8: Puzzle Pieces
Snape apparated to the same spot as before, behind a hedge, dressed in a muggle shirt and trousers. It was broad daylight after all, and there was no need to attract unnecessary attention.
However, beyond these measures he would not put himself to any further effort at being inconspicuous, so marched straight up to the door of 4 Privet Drive and rang the bell. The window, he noticed, had been mended.
The thin, shrewish woman who opened the door was Potter's aunt, he supposed, she had an air about her which immediately irked him.
After a stand-off in which he only just managed to prevent himself from saying anything alienatingly rude to her, he was invited inside.
"I am here about Mister Potter." he began.
The woman went chalk white, he supposed that she must have been worried about what sort of trouble the boy had got himself into now.
"Vernon." she screeched, "Vernon!" The giant rhinoceros of an uncle came stamping out into the hall.
Snape hated repeating himself, that was mostly why he got annoyed with students, they never listened the first time round. "I am here about Mister Potter."
The effect it had on Mr. Dursley was completely the opposite to how his wife had reacted. He went dark red, and his whole face seemed to swell in rage. Snape admired the result, and had a sudden urge to shoot him, stuff him and mount him on the wall. Not in his own chambers though, for he had far better taste.
"There is no one by the name of Potter here." Vernon bellowed.
He could state the obvious if he must, thought Snape, but he doesn't have to get so upset about it. Did he know he was spitting? At me? Whilst wishing the man would just have a heart attack and keel over, he said, somewhat impatiently, "I know that, he left. I am here to collect his things. And his wand."
The man just stood there gaping at him. Snape imagined himself hacking away at his head with an axe. It was a soothing image, but upon consideration, the axe would probably bounce off.
"He's alive then is he," Vernon snarled unpleasantly, "We all hoped he'd died and disintegrated in the night like I suppose your kind do."
Snape stared at him. Something was wrong here. He couldn't process what he was hearing. It wouldn't fit into his head. The puzzle pieces jarred with each other.
The odious man continued, "We never want to hear from him again, he was doing magic, and tried to kill our Dudley with a bomb. But we beat it out of him."
Vernon carried on ranting, but Severus blocked it out as the whole of his world suddenly rearranged itself. The fragments of information which had seemingly contradicted each other made sense. Potter had lied. Snape had known it, but hadn't pursued it.
There had been no death eaters. The boy's own family had caused his injuries.
There had been no death eaters. His mind leaped through all of the evidence. A bomb, the uncle and the boy had said? The explosion had been on the road. The tag from a Christmas present. If it was from a Weasley he wasn't surprised that it had contained something dangerous. The owl. The shattered glass. The locks on the cupboard. The untreated wounds.
There had been no death eaters. And by the look of things, the Dursleys appalling treatment of the boy had been continuing for a long time. The photos on the wall. The boy had in fact never been the spoiled celebrity that Snape had always presumed he was. At that moment, Severus saw for the first time, the existence of Harry, the frightened abused boy. There was such person as Potter, Snape had made him up to suit his own needs.
There had been no death eaters. Oh, and Merlin, the boy had known, had known something like this would happen, which was why he had begged so hard to stay at Christmas. Severus had guessed right when he thought Harry was putting on an act, but it was the happy, cheerful boy that was the fake one, rather than the depressed one.
There had been no death eaters. Harry had lied. Harry had known of the treatment he would receive, and had told no one. Harry had been abused for years and had told no one. Harry had been very badly beaten, and almost died, and still told no one the truth.
There had been no death eaters.
The uncle was still talking. Snape wanted to hurt him. Very badly.
"... So we burned all of that freak's things, course that stick wouldn't burn so we buried it..."
Snape advanced on him. He knew he looked intimidating, it was a something he had practised. Lily's sister retreated upstairs. Snape focused all of the energy he had into putting one foot in front of the other as the podgy man backed away before him. He felt that if he did not keep his concentration, he might do something unforgivable to him. In more ways than one. This man, a muggle, had beaten a wizard. A wizard! The saviour of the bloody world no less, no matter how much Severus resented it.
This man had beaten Harry, an innocent, if at times relatively annoying, boy. Nothing the boy could have done would have deserved such treatment. Nothing.
They were in the kitchen now, and Snape saw some very tempting knives lying around. He indulged himself in imagining skinning the man and selling his blubber on the black market, but then reminded himself that he did actually have some self control. Possibly.
Pomfrey said some of the bruises had been old. So it had not been an isolated incident. And severely malnourished. His anger was reaching a peak now. If Harry Potter was treated like this what hope was there for the rest of them.
Out the back door. If Severus was brutally honest, which he suddenly didn't want to be, a great deal of the anger he was feeling should have been directed at himself. He, who prided himself on his clear head and accurate assessments of people, had been so utterly wrong. And he, who prided himself on his deductive skills, had not thought of abuse even when all of the signs had pointed to it. Now that he thought of it, Albus had handed Harry the perfect excuse on a plate. Death eaters indeed!
But there were no death eaters here. Only a monster of a different kind. Snape raised his wand, and Vernon went flying backwards with the force of the curse. He landed hard on his behind in the middle of the vegetable patch. When cursed again, he landed in the compost heap.
Leaning down close to the terrified man, ignoring the smell, Snape willed him into submission.
"Where is the wand?"
The man crawled out of the heap and, thoroughly cowed, made his way over to a corner of the garden where he began scrabbling in the dirt. Snape stood, impassively watching until finally the pieces of the wand were deposited in front of him. He cleaned them of filth with a spell and placed them in his pocket.
Then he turned to the other man. His icy glare was trained on him for a full minute before he felt in control enough to speak.
"I will not be seeing you again, Mr. Dursley." he said, perfectly composed.
He would not. But the Dursleys would be punished. He would let Albus deal with them. He was not sure if that was not a worse fate. For Albus was fond of the Golden Boy. And his temper when roused, though very rare, was formidable.
He sat in his room for the rest of the day, and mused over all that he had learned. He was in turmoil over what to think and do. How was he supposed to act around the boy now. Just because he knew the truth about Harry's life didn't mean he could start treating the boy totally differently. It was hard to imagine that his dislike of him was based solely on prejudice. There had to be another reason.
But maybe he could be slightly less harsh. If that was possible. And no more comments about the boys fame. Since at home he didn't have any. Maybe, unless he was provoked.
He would have to make the boy eat more.
He would have to talk to Albus.
He would have to talk to Harry.
He would talk to Albus after he talked to Harry.
How had he got involved in this mess?
Severus thought that he heard something. He was instantly alert and waiting, planning what to say.
It was nothing. The boy did not come through the door. He settled back down again, tense as a taut wire. He decided to let the boy do the talking, after all it was Harry who had all the explaining to do.
He was not made to be a councillor. He was far too antisocial. And it wasn't as if he even cared. The boy would get over it, already had by the look of it.
But it will fester, said the little voice in his head. He told it where it could go shove itself. It said that was where he was thinking out of anyway so it didn't really need to move. He ignored it, it sulked, he considered obliviating himself...
There, he was sure he had heard a noise that time. Of course! The wretched boy would have forgotten the password. Done just to irritate him, he was sure. Then again, it had be designed to be hard to remember, so maybe it wasn't Harry's fault after all. What a novel idea!
He opened the door. The boy was indeed standing there, looking insolent. For a second Snape wondered if he was actually looking insolent or if it was just habit to villanise him by now, and then something moved in the corner of his eye. It was the painting. The snake was moving. It had never done that before, in fact he had thought that there was more than one. It hissed, and he started.
Harry laughed. Damned boy, Snape thought, no respect. Then the snake and Harry talked for a while. It was fascinating to listen to, parseltongue, the indecipherable words and syllables flowing into each other. Hypnotic even. Severus knew that this was yet another thing he envied Harry for. How was it that a Gryffindor inherited a Slytherin trait?
As they finished the snake coiled into a resting position. Harry precariously balanced the books he had with him on top of each other. Snape felt no inclination to help, the silly boy should have levitated them. Then he remembered Harry didn't have a wand. Then he remembered why.
As the boy staggered past him, he reached out and grabbed the top couple of books which threatened to fall, and placed them safely on the floor. There. Guilt assuaged. His good deed for the day. Though not the hardest.
He sat down. Harry sat down. This was a good start he decided. Now how do I say this tactfully. How would Albus say it. No, cannot begin to understand his mind. I'll have to do it my way. Maybe I'll let the boy assume things, and see what comes out.
"I went to get your wand today." he said, and Harry's head whipped round, his eyes going wide in shock.