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Nie wyrażamy zgody na kopiowanie i umieszczanie naszych ficków i tłumaczeń na chomikach itp.
Ariel & Gobuss
| Chapter 20 - "Depression" |
Beta Reader: Ailslin Avalbane
I'll pick you up when you're feeling down
I'll put your feet back on solid ground
I'll pick you up and I'll make you strong
I'll make you feel like you still belong
It'll be allright, I'll make it allright*
That night Harry couldn't sleep. He was tossing and turning, trying to drive away the images and words haunting him. He was suffocating from memories of the hatred he'd seen in Severus' eyes, he was tortured by hundreds of questions to which there was no response. Harry was filled with grief and anger because of how he'd been treated. He tried to suppress those feelings, but the seed was sprouting, stretching its roots to every thought he had in his mind. He was lying in the dark, cursing Snape, cursing himself, cursing everything that had happened in the Potions Master's chamber. When he finally got rid of the anger consuming him, and his resources of curses reached their limits, he could finally analyze the events of the evening staying almost calm.
Why had Severus treated him like that? It had been a while since Harry'd seen him in that kind of mood. The unbridled rage emanating from the man must have been flaring in him before Harry came to see him. And his arrival at that moment had turned out to be the fire that lit the fuse. And Severus had exploded in anger.
The more he thought about it, the more he was sure of one thing - Voldemort had to be the reason for Snape's mood. Maybe Severus had been told to do something that was bothering him very much? And even if it had nothing to do with Voldemort, there were plenty of other reasons that could lead Snape to such anger. Something had to have happened - something very bad, so Snape had taken it out on Harry - the first person who appeared before him. He hurt him with gestures, bit him with words, and did everything just to cause him pain.
Harry thought about it for a moment. In fact ... he could understand that. After all, he himself remembered the unceasing, poisonous rage he'd felt last year, after Sirius' death, when he'd been speaking with Dumbledore. He then had flown into such a rage that he demolished half of the office. He remembered how he'd wanted to pounce on the Headmaster, hurt him, cause him the pain he felt at that moment. He had been ready for anything, he couldn't control himself at all.
And apparently, Severus had been in the same state.
Harry also remembered how a few moments after that unceasing fury which had almost led him to throw at Dumbledore, all seething emotions cooled down, the rage was gone, leaving only a shame for what he'd done or said. And - he held his breath, remembering - he saw the same thing in Severus' eyes when the man returned. Then, he'd had the impression that it only seemed that way to him, but now, when he closed his eyes, he saw it so clearly... He looked at Snape's eyes and saw... shame in them. Could it possibly be... a pang of guilt? Was Severus capable of such feelings? Harry then had been in such shock that he immediately rejected this option, persuaded himself that he must have misinterpreted, because it was too... unlikely. But all his anger at Severus had evaporated as if that look had completely blown it away, and Harry couldn't be angry at the Potions Master any more.
The boy sighed, wanting to slam the door to the chaos which was continually trying to break into his mind. Everything was too complicated, and he was still tortured by questions he couldn't find answers to. The worst thing in all this tangle of emotions, however, was the slow oncoming of the inevitable - of what he had to do, the choice he had to make. The awareness of this was annoying him like a sore tooth, and despite trying to forget, his thoughts always returned to that theme, like the tongue which was touching that painful spot, unable to stop. Knowledge that the tooth would finally need to be pulled out was even worse.
But he had decided already. Now there was no turning back. The pliers were prepared, and the chair was waiting... He only needed to get the nerve up to sit on it and resign himself to the inevitability. But he still lacked something, or someone to push him to it.
Snape fell away. He had laughed at him when Harry told him what he was going to do. Nasty bastard! But what else could he expect from him? Encouragement? Patting on the back? Oh no, not from Severus.
This had only led to another discord. When it seemed that everything was fine between them, Snape had gone berserk again. And why? Just because Harry said that he intended to kill Voldemort. What was so wrong with that to provoke such a stormy reaction from the Potions Master? He should care about it too. When Voldemort died, they could be together and nothing would threaten them. But seeing Snape's behavior, one would get the impression that he didn't want it ...
Harry sighed again, rolled over onto his stomach and pressed his face into the pillow, cursing Snape as much as he could.
In all this chaos, however, there was one thing that could lift his spirits - he found Severus' secret laboratory. Apparently he managed to discover one of the Potions Master's secrets. But what it meant and what it led to was never discovered. Maybe it would be easier to understand everything if he knew what the other strange Pensieve was and what it was for. And what could be written in the book lying on the table? What was in the broken vial? And most importantly - what was Snape brewing there? And why was it all hidden? Harry had to admit that he was consumed with curiosity.
The worst thing was that he couldn't ask anyone about it without raising suspicion and leading to uncomfortable questions. He wondered if it was feasible to steal the book when Severus was out and show it to Hermione, but he quickly dismissed that idea. First of all, Harry didn't know whether he would be able to at least get to Snape's chambers - the man certainly sealed the door carefully when he went out, and Harry didn't know the password. The possibility that Snape would leave him alone again for so long was equal to zero. Besides, the man would have surely noticed the lack of the book. No, it wasn't an option. The only way was to look for something in the library. The mystery of Snape was eating him like an annoying bug, and gave him no peace.
After all, Severus was his partner - he shouldn't have any secrets from Harry. Even if he was doing something for Dumbledore, Harry after all was the most important person in the ranks of Voldemort's enemies, and it was he who had to fight him - so he had to know everything! Though the Headmaster also loved to hide many things and he didn't share them with Harry, but Snape was something entirely different.
And what if he was doing something for Voldemort in his lab? Dumbledore probably knew it, and Severus certainly had no choice but to execute his orders. But why, then, was he was hiding it? Harry wasn't a big mouth - he wouldn't tell anyone.
Oh, enough of this!
The boy turned over and covered his head with the duvet. He managed to fall asleep only in the morning.
When Harry came down to breakfast in the morning he was yawning so much that he feared he would dislocate his jaw. Hermione and Ron couldn't wake him and had finally gone alone.
When the Gryffindor entered the Great Hall, he immediately noticed that something wasn't right. Most students began to look at him inquisitively. Some whispered something to each other, and the rest giggled, pointing at him. Strong discomfort tightened a noose around his neck, but tried not to show it. Hundreds of different reasons explaining this behavior flew through his mind in less than a second, and each of them only added the anxiety to fear that overcame him. He noted that some people were looking at him with pity. Several were shaking their heads in denial, as if they couldn't believe what they'd heard. Harry had the impression that the floor turned into a sticky and slippery mud which began to suck him down, and every step was a huge effort for him.
One scary thought had washed through his mind as he walked between the rows of students whose heads were turning after him:
They knew about him and Snape!
No, it's impossible.
Before he reached his seat he was so jittery and nervous that he could barely stand on his feet. He saw that Hermione quickly closed the Daily Prophet and put it in her bag. Harry frowned, sat down and gave her an expectant look.
"What is it, Hermione?" he asked, trying to keep calm. He looked at Ron who immediately looked away. The girl sighed resignedly.
''You would find out anyway... "
"Find out what?" his voice sounded almost shrilly. He felt that one more minute and he would explode with nervousness, and the explosion would be so strong that the foundation of the Great Hall would be shaken.
"We know that it's not true, Harry. We know you very well," Hermione said in a nervous voice, reaching into the bag for the newspaper. "Don't worry about what's written. It's complete nonsense."
"Yeah... " Ron added. ''They just want to drag you through the mud. No one in their right mind would have believed it."
Harry eagerly snatched the paper from her hands, feeling that in a moment he would tear to thousand little pieces. Ignoring his frantic heartbeat, he opened the paper in a one nervous motion, hands trembling, and froze after reading the headline on the front page.
HARRY POTTER - THE HOPE OF THE WIZARDING WORLD OR A COWARD?
He quickly looked through the article and opened his mouth in astonishment: "...he does absolutely nothing in the fight against You-Know-Who, as if he doesn't care about the fate of thousands of families who hope he will save them. He’s holed up at Hogwarts, and apparently is not prepared to put up a fight. He is not interested that the entire Wizarding World needs him and is counting on him. Harry Potter - The-Boy-Who-Prefers-to-Hide-Than-to-Fight..." - Harry shut his mouth and shook his head in disbelief, feeling the anger pumping through him like hot oil in a pan and in a moment it was going to start boiling. - "...Or is it even more than that? Maybe he is so afraid of joining the fight, that in the end, to save himself, he will join the ranks of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Maybe he has already done it? Who knows what he may hiding?..." - red like blood fury flooded his eyes, flared in his heart, destroying all his senses. He was too stunned to think straight. From behind the curtains surrounding him with rage, a familiar voice broke through his mind:
"Enough already, Harry."
Someone tried to take a newspaper from him. Not taking his eyes from the text, he pushed the intruder away with full force, as if it vented his fury for him. He heard the surprised cry coming from Hermione but didn't pay attention to it and continued reading: "...Our reporter, Rita Skeeter, who conducted the interview with him before the Triwizard Tournament, remembers his behavior: "Potter was horrified that he had been taking part in it. While the other players were looking forward to the challenges awaiting them and couldn't wait to compete, Potter looked like a tiny, terrified child who was afraid of his own shadow. He cried when he was talking about the Tournament. When I asked him... " Harry closed his eyes, feeling the red-hot embers under his eyelids. He opened his eyes for a moment, and his gaze fell on the last sentence of the article: "So many people were killed already... How many more victims are needed to finally make him emerge from hiding and do something for us?"
Harry crumpled the newspaper. Rage was burning in him like a hissing, crackling fire right towards the ceiling. He jumped from his seat, wanting only one thing - to run away. Hide in a place where no one can find him, and where he couldn't harm anyone.
He looked around seeing blood before his eyes, and noticing that now almost everyone was watching him, he roared:
"What are you looking at?!"
He turned and ran to the exit.
"Harry, no! Wait!" he heard a distant cry of Hermione. She caught him at the door and grabbed his arm. "Listen, Harry... "
"No!" he barked furiously, freeing his arm from her grip. He turned to look at the sea of faces watching him and saw Severus at the other end of the Great Hall, rising from his seat, not taking his eyes from him.
"Lessons are going to begin right away, Harry. You can't... "
"Tell them I feel sick. I'm not going to class today," he said quickly, wanting to finish this irrelevant conversation as soon as possible. He wanted to just disappear. Rage boiling in him meant that he was barely able to control himself. He didn't want to take it out on friends, but this would probably happen if he stayed here. "Don't look for me," he added, turning to run away.
"It didn't help you... " Hermione began, but Harry had already disappeared around the corner, not waiting for her answer.
He had to find some place where he could be alone.
The article had tore at the wound that had already been torturing him for a long time. It scratched it and pulled everything to the surface, hitting the most sensitive points with such force that he could barely breathe.
Now Harry knew where to go to be alone.
He had no trouble finding the Room for Requirement. There was semidarkness inside. The fire was crackling in the fireplace, and the large green armchair stood in front of it.
Everything looked familiar...
He was embarrassed when he realized whose chambers it resembled exactly. But most important was that there was peace and quiet in here, and no one would find him.
He fell into the chair and closed his eyes, stretching his legs toward the fire and throwing his head back.
How could they? What was the author who had written this rubbish article been thinking about? Had they wanted to sink him? To mock him? To provoke him? To blame him for everything that had happened? For the fact that Voldemort was winning the war?
Right. They had to lump the blame onto someone. Harry already saw the headlines of following articles: "You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters have killed the Muggles. Why didn't Harry Potter prevent it?", "The Ministry of Magic has been overthrown! It's Harry Potter's fault!", "You-Know-Who won the war. And where was Harry Potter?" Yes, it was all his fault. Voldemort won - Harry was to blame. Voldemort killed - his fault again. The Wizarding World was falling apart - Harry failed again. Someone fell and broke his leg - who was to blame? Of course Harry.
But why did it always have to be him? Why couldn't they leave him alone? The answer was surprisingly obvious - because he had a scar on his forehead. The scar itself was his fault. As if it was written on his forehead: "Guilty, guilty, guilty." Guilty of everything.
He realized that having succumbed to the growing anger and frustration, he began hitting the armrest. He had to find relief somehow.
Everyone wanted the uneducated teenager to fight Voldemort and the whole army of Death Eaters. To find a way to defeat the strongest and most dangerous wizards ever. They would have sacrificed him without doubts just to avoid the fight. They were the cowards. They wanted Harry Potter to win this war for them, for the entire Wizarding World.
He had no chance ...
A small light appeared in the long, dark tunnel. Harry remembered Severus' words. Suddenly he realized that Snape understood it. He understood that Harry was too weak to do it, and he didn't expect anything from him. He was the only one who didn't pressure him, or force, or persuade him that he must fight. In comparison to the rest of the Wizarding World, he didn't want to sacrifice him.
In this light the whole conversation of yesterday gained an entirely different meaning for him. He had been angry at Severus for not believing in him. Now, it filled him with immense gratitude.
For a short moment that light scared away monsters lurking in the dark, but the tunnel was long and very dark. Light couldn't reach everywhere...
Sitting in silence and staring into the fire, Harry felt like shadows started creeping into his heart again when the remembered the fragments of the article, and even the light couldn't chase them away.
They’d called him a coward... He wondered how would they feel in his shoes. In his mind, he already saw Rita Skeeter going to fight Voldemort, knowing that she would probably die. He already saw how being very noble, with courage and pride, she was devoting her life to save the world...
Yes, she could laugh, lambast and humiliate, but do something else? If only he could get her in his hands, then ...
...what, Harry Potter? You'd kill her?
Harry took several deep breaths, trying to calm down. It was hard enough to accept what was coming - the fight and possible death. He had been struggling with it for so long ... And when he finally gave up and resigned himself to his fate ... they had to attack the thin, unstable bridge that he had built between his dreams and the inevitable destiny. They wanted to smash it into dust, to make Harry drown.
No! He would show them all that he wasn't a coward! He would fight as he had decided! He would do everything to defeat Voldemort! Today, he had to start studying. If Snape doesn't want to train him, then he will find a way to gain the necessary knowledge himself. He would sneak to the Restricted Section and find something that would help him.
Yes! He would do it. He just had to wait until the lessons started and the library became deserted.
Harry threw three heavy, dusty tomes in black covers at the table near the chair. He took off the Invisibility cloak and fell into the chair, sighing with relief. He had almost been caught by Mrs. Pince when one of the books started persuading him to choose it because it contained the most secret, black-magic spells. Harry would be happy to take it if it wasn't so talkative.
When he reached the first of the books, he felt heat in his pocket. Sensing troubles, he picked up the stone and read the message:
Where are you, Potter?
Harry closed his eyes and sighed.
So Snape had already found out that he didn't attend lessons.
Harry clenched the stone in his hand and sent:
It doesn't matter. I just want to be alone.
He already knew Severus well enough to know that he wouldn't give in so easily.
He wasn't mistaken. After a moment he received the answer:
When you are done self-pitying, you have to come to my office. Is that clear?
Harry was only able to close his eyes and sigh. Why couldn't Snape leave him alone? Why did he have to pester him now? Only yesterday he had thrown him out of his chambers, so now he could stop pretending that he cared!
Harry hurled the stone away angrily. Then he pulled his knees to the chin, put his arms around them and leaned his forehead against them, sighing heavily.
He was alone.
Nobody would help him. Nobody.
Harry put his book on the table and braced himself up. All his bones hurt. He had been sitting here all day, trying to learn something from those books he'd brought from the library, but he didn't understand any of them. There was information about the superiority of black magic to white, about its usage, emblems, amulets and potions, but nothing about spells. Other books were all the same. However, he learned how to cast a curse on any subject, but first - great power was needed for that, second - the soul had to be corroded by evil, and third - it wouldn't have given him anything. After all, he couldn't send Voldemort a cursed bouquet of flowers as a gift. And besides, for every curse you had to have a "soul corroded by evil", he had less and less hope to learn anything. But he wouldn't give up so easily!
The silence prevailing in the room was suddenly broken by a sound as if someone nearby had turned on a jackhammer like the one Harry often heard on the road during the holidays at the Dursleys. He touched his empty stomach and took a deep breath. He hadn't eaten anything today, and it was already after dinner. Maybe he could slip into the kitchen and ask the elves for something to eat? He didn’t think they would refuse him.
When he rose from his chair and reached for his Invisibility cloak, his eyes stopped on the shimmering greenish stone, lying in the corner. He walked over and picked it up off the floor. The moment he touched it, the stone glowed. There was the message from Snape. Almost faded.
I'm waiting for you, Potter!
Interesting, when did Snape send it? Probably a long time ago, and now he was sitting in his chambers, angry because Harry still didn't come.
He didn't know why, but the thought made him satisfied.
Harry already knew Snape well enough to understand that he had no chance of avoiding the meeting. But he had no intention of letting himself again be hauled over hot coals. He decided that he would go to Snape only for a moment to tell him that he didn't want to hear his malicious comments. He really didn't feel up to it. He was hungry, tired, and still could see the article from the Prophet before his eyes, and each time it hit him as badly as the first.
Now everyone would think of him as a coward who preferred to hide at Hogwarts instead of fighting... Wonderful perspective. He much preferred to sit here, alone, protected from those hostile glances. When he left here, fighting would be the only thing awaiting him... Fighting not only with Voldemort, but also with all those people who believed the article.
Harry threw the Invisibility Cloak on himself and headed for the dungeons. He walked slowly, allowing thoughts to swirl in his head, and each of them was a burden to him, weighting him down against the floor and barely letting him shuffle his feet.
Or maybe it was true? Maybe he really was a coward? A coward who prefered to hide rather than face reality? A coward who values his life more than the lives of others? He knew it would happen sooner or later ... But why had the opportunity to fight against the biggest enemy been such an exciting experience to him before? He had been looking forward to it despite his fear and lack of knowledge. Why would he have gone to war without batting an eye before, and now the decision was so difficult for him?
Because he really was a coward. A coward who had finally found someone he wanted to live for...
The door leading to the office opened for him as soon as he touched it. He walked slowly across the room, taking off his Invisibility Cloak, but before he could even touch the wooden surface of Severus' quarters door, it suddenly opened, and there stood Snape.
Harry looked away, not wanting Snape to see in his eyes everything his soul was screaming about.
"Where have you been all day, Potter? The whole school was looking for you. But why should you care, right? What else could be expected from such an infantile... "
"Stop it!" Harry said quickly, raising his voice and closing his eyes. He sighed and continued. "I came here just to tell you that I had a really bad day today, and I don't want to hear your malicious taunting and mocking remarks about me. So if you plan to continue saying such things, then farewell... " he turned to leave, but after taking a few steps he heard a sharp growl:
"Come back here, Potter!" Harry stopped and waited. After a moment he heard Severus' muffled voice, as if the words had barely passed his throat: "All right. Today I'll try to be a little... nicer for you."
Harry couldn't believe his ears. Had Snape really said that? He turned, glancing at him briefly and, as usual, at that moment when he looked in those intent black eyes, his heart started beating harder.
He looked down and nodded. Severus approached him and Harry saw the outstretched slim hand with slender fingers. His hand went almost arbitrarily in its direction, and long fingers curled gently around it. A jolt of electricity shot through the Gryffindor's body.
Snape led him into the room and pointed to a dark armchair. When Harry sat down, he saw a plate of food on the table . His mouth instantly began to water. Severus waved casually toward the plate:
"I didn't attend the dinner, so one of the elves brought it to me. I'm not hungry, so if you want you can take it."
"No, thank you," Harry said quickly. "I don't want to eat your meal. And besides, I'm not hung... " the rest of the sentence was drowned out by a very loud rumble. Harry blushed. He almost saw the mocking smile on the face of the Potions Master. Then he saw Snape moving the plate in his direction:
"You have to eat it, Potter, or I'll push it into your mouth."
This remark made Harry blush even more. Why did Snape's comments sound so ambiguous to him?
"Well... " he uttered finally. "Maybe just a few bites."
He grabbed a fork and began to eat, trying to ignore that Severus was looking. Before he knew it, he had devoured almost everything. He was so hungry that the meal seemed to him the tastiest ever. He felt as if he hadn't eaten anything in a week. When Harry glanced at the man sitting in front of him, he could swear he saw a wandering smile on his lips. But this could just be shadows caused by the flickering flames.
When he finished, he pushed back the plate and mumbled a thanks. For a moment there was an awkward silence. Harry would love to tell Severus everything that was needling him, but he didn't know whether the man wanted to listen to his problems. But after all, he himself wanted Harry to come and stay. He'd said he would be nice. It seemed genuine. Perhaps it meant that he wanted to hear what Harry'd been thinking all day. And what he'd been doing.
Could he tell him?
He must. He must confide in someone, because if he stayed quiet much longer he’d go crazy. And no one understood him better than Snape ...
"I was in the Room of Requirement," he said quietly, looking into the fire, sighing. "I needed a bit of solitude. And now... " he glanced at Snape who was watching him with searching eyes "...and now I would like to stay here." He sighed again, lowered his head and laced his fingers into the hair . "When I return, everyone will laugh at me. I don't know what to do. This article... Everyone read it and certainly many people believed it. They always do. The same thing happened last year when everyone thought I was a liar. Now it’s even worse. Now, they consider me a coward. And they may be right... " Harry closed his eyes tight. But after a moment he raised his head and looked at Severus who was now looking at him under half-shut eyelids. "So do you think so, too? That I'm a coward?"
Snape closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again, he said in a very serious voice:
"Come to me, Potter."
Harry, a little surprised, stood up and slowly circled the table. He stood in front of Severus whose gaze plunged deeply into his green eyes and a slim hand stretched out towards him. When the Gryffindor touched it, long, cold fingers clenched his hand and gently pulled on it. Following the silent command, Harry sat down on Snape's lap, dismayed and totally surprised. Severus’ intense gaze was captivating his eyes like a black hole. When Snape started talking after several moments, his usually harsh voice seemed unusually mild to Harry:
"I think, Potter, that you certainly don't lack the courage. And don't let anyone tell you something different." Something flickered in Snape's eyes. "I doubt that anyone else would dare to seduce me in front of the whole class, during a lesson, or write down these feeling on a test." Harry frowned, not knowing whether Severus was talking seriously or he was just mocking. "I also doubt that anyone else would dare to approach me at a distance less than the length of the wand." Snape's eyes flashed again, and Harry thought for a moment what "wand" exactly Snape had in mind. "And besides, Potter, you're probably the only person who is not afraid of provoking me. I suspect that your bravery will lead you to disaster one day. And if not you, then me, definitely," Snape finished, smiling crookedly.
Harry stared at Snape, trying to make sense of the words he'd heard. Did it mean...? Had he just said...? So Severus didn't consider him a coward?
Harry couldn't be more glad if he heard such words from Sirius, or from his father. Because Snape said them - Snape, someone who always spoke sincerely, without care of the feelings of others. The only person who could tell him the truth, without even knowing how much his opinion mattered to Harry. The moment he heard those words his heart filled with so much peace and joy that before he could control himself, he grabbed Severus' face and pressed his mouth to the thin, sweet-tart lips so hard that he almost crushed them. His body stiffened momentarily, pierced with a current so strong that he almost jumped. His heart trembled in his chest, and he had completely lost his breath. He was kissing Snape hard, absorbing the moisture, taste, and flavor of his mouth.
Only when Harry felt a hand touch his knee and slowly begin to move toward his thighs, he realized what was happening. The shock was so strong, and brought him back to reality so suddenly, that when he finally tore his mouth away, his head was spinning, and for a while he could see only dark spots before his eyes. The air burst into his lungs, and the whole world suddenly stood still.
Harry blinked a few times, driving off the delusion, and with dismay looked at Severus who had a strange expression on his face. In the dark eyes, he saw a spark of movement, something indefinable. Something that for a moment put him in consternation, but it disappeared too quickly to let him look at it more attentively.
Time started up again, and Harry felt his face flush. He looked at the floor, mumbling apologies and cursing himself for this moment of weakness that led to what he'd done. He could lose everything, because Snape had clearly said that he wasn't allowed to do that. How could he allow this moment of weakness? He had to fix it!
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to... Really. It's just suddenly... Please, don't throw me out. I'm sorry."
"I had no such intention, Potter," Snape drawled, his voice very, very controlled, given the circumstances. Harry lifted his head and looked at Snape's face. That face, which was speckled with wrinkles, so close to his own that he could lift a hand to touch the cool skin, which seemed to be so incredibly smooth. Harry had the impression that time stopped flowing again, the space had become soft and delicate, rocking him like waves, calming the mind and swaying his senses. Harry stared at the two dark, almost endless tunnels that were Severus’ eyes, at the end of which tiny lights shone. Those eyes absorbed him in theirs immeasurable depths every time he looked there. They touched and played with him, attracted him and and made him surrender, and he was unable to protest, to turn away from them, to resist their magnetic force. The delicate wrinkles at the corners gave them an even greater depth, and the eyebrows... as black as pupils. So many times had he watched as they frowned or lifted, expressing so many different emotions. Sometimes just because of them he knew what Snape thought or how he felt - if eyes were the window to the soul, then those eyebrows were a frame.
Slowly, Harry raised his hand and touched them. They were thick and rough. Fascinated, he watched the wrinkle appear between them, that wrinkle which he had seen so many times, but was still unusual to him. He touched it, feeling its unevenness, as if it was carved by thousands of thoughts and feelings that ran through the man's mind, and it was the only thing that showed their force and intensity.
Harry's gaze wandered down. Not paying attention to the heart beating so fast and hard that he could almost hear it, being completely absorbed in the examination of every inch of this incredible face, he touched the expressive, distinctive nose. Slowly, Harry ran his finger across its length, reveling in its texture and every bulge. Sharp, curved, it was an excellent complement to Severus' face. It gave it a dangerous, predatory look. It was... perfect.
Harry was starting to breath faster, but now he was so absorbed and enchanted that he didn't notice. It seemed to him that a sigh escaped the man's mouth when he gently touched the cold cheek, but it almost didn't reach his ears. Severus' skin was smooth, had a sallow, mat tone, as if it was too often exposed to vapors from potions, but the longer he looked at it, the more he was convinced that it was exactly as it should be. He couldn't imagine anything more beautiful. He stroked his cheek tenderly. Once, twice. As if he couldn't stop. As if he was afraid Severus was going to disappear, that it was all just his imagination, illusion which could dissolve into nothingness in any moment. His hand froze, and then his fingers slowly slipped down and stopped at the pale, thin lips which parted slightly under his touch. So many times had he heard sharp, deeply wounding words coming from these lips. So many times had he heard these lips moan... In those moments they seemed softer, fuller, moist... It filled him with pain when he remembered that they were the only part of Severus which he would never have, never taste the flavor of, never feel the texture and softness... He would never get it. He had only memories and desires that were burning him to ashes, desire which nothing could quench. And also a quick, unexpected, sudden attack on those ever-clenched lips, during which he would explode with the emotions filling him. Attacks for which he would almost certainly be paid with pain afterwards.
So not enough.
And so much.
Awareness of all of this was cool. It rushed into his mind like a bright light through the open curtains in the morning and awoke him from his lethargy. He blinked a few times, not knowing where he was and what happened. He returned to reality, and the time started going once again.
When Harry looked at Severus, he was struck by his facial expression. Total surprise, mixed with disbelief. Something he saw on his face only once - when he took the potion Desideria Intima. And although this sight was undoubtedly a very exciting one, it paled beside the embarrassment that was slowly creeping into his mind. He understood what he'd done and how it looked... He had completely forgotten about the whole world, shut down, overwhelmed by emotions that for sure were visible on his face. What Severus could have seen on it?
Harry was afraid to even think...
Overcome by shame, he looked away, at the floor. He expected Snape to say something, but apparently he was too stunned and just as embarrassed as Harry. Although, in truth, the Gryffindor couldn't even imagine that Severus could ever be embarrassed.
No, he had to be the first to break the silence. To stop this thick, tense atmosphere that slowly began to overwhelm him. He cleared his throat, trying to find his voice which was apparently so embarrassed that it hid in the farthest corner of the throat.
"Thank you for what you told me," he murmured softly, glancing at his hands. "That you don't think me a coward. It really means a lot to me."
"I managed to note," said Severus, and an ironic tone trembled in his voice.
Harry winced and glanced at Snape.
It was a strange statement. What did he notice? What if he saw something that Harry didn't want him to see? Or perhaps he wasn't aware himself what was happening in his soul? He felt lost. Confused and shaken. The whole day was so tiring...
Harry looked down and sighed heavily, trying to clear his mind of all thoughts and just live in the moment.
Then he felt a gentle touch to his chin and his head was raised. His eyes were locked in the overpowering look Severus was giving him which was gentle and yet firm.
"What’s this face mean?" he asked. His voice wrapped Harry with a pleasant warmth. "You're not allowed to worry when you're with me. Is that clear?"
Harry nodded, surprised by these words, and looked at Severus with eyes wide open. Snape frowned and said:
"Has the Prophet managed to do something that couldn't be done by anyone else before - to break the famous Boy-Who-Lived? I guess I should send them a congratulatory letter."
Harry frowned. He didn't like the mockery.
"They didn't break me! It just... "
"It just so messed up things in your head that you've decided you are incapable of anything. A coward, a traitor and an egoist," Snape finished for him. "To tell the truth, I would gladly add a few terms that the Prophet missed, but why bother since a few lines made up by incompetent idiots plunged the famous Potter into depression."
Harry pursed his lips.
"They didn't plunge me into depression," he growled. Snape's words annoyed him like a rag to a bull. "It's not nice when someone hates you, and drags you through the mud. Especially when that "someone" is the entire Wizarding World."
"Oh, it's actually a reason for the devastation. I, then, should have landed at St. Mungo’s a long time ago." Harry blinked, hearing sarcasm in Snape's voice. "Since when does the Prophet write the truth, Potter? And the fact that some idiots believe the nonsense written in it means that they have Longbottom's level mind. Am I to understand that you also believed it?"
"Of course not!" Harry quickly denied. He didn't relish the prospect of being compared to Neville, although he liked him. "But ... "
"But still, you fear that everyone will believe it?" Severus interrupted him. It seemed like he was reading his mind. "Including your dear friends? If so, congratulations on your choice of them, Potter. There is nothing like taking close to heart what a mindless gang of halfwits thinks. Nothing else can affect your self-appraisal like that," the man finished ironically and snorted with contempt.
"I don't care at all what they think of me!" Harry burst out, feeling that Snape's words ignited a fire in him that had been smoldering all day. "They can think whatever they want! To hell with them! I just care about what you think!"
"But you know exactly what I think," growled Severus, frowning and thrusting a sharp look at him.
"Yes, I know," Harry said, then hesitated. He wanted to add something, to deny, but all arguments faded. Snape had neatly beaten all of them. "You're right," he finally said. "I was stupid to worry about this bullshit."
He saw Snape nod solemnly. Something in his eyes flickered.
"So I hope the next time there is such an article, you won't behave like a complete idiot with no self-esteem at all, and you won't shrink into some hole for the whole day like a frightened, kicked puppy with its tail tucked between legs."
"Okay, that's enough," Harry mumbled. "I got it."
"Glad to hear," a crooked smile appeared in the corner of Severus' mouth. Harry felt a cramp in his stomach. It suddenly dawned upon him.
Well, of course! After all, it was obvious! All Snape had said... he said it because he wanted to...
Harry realized that he was too amazed to squeeze out a single word. His lips stretched into a broad smile. He didn't know why, but suddenly he felt just amazing. Despite the lump in his throat, peace and joy poured into his heart, washing away all his cares and problems.
Severus was worried about him. He really was worried. That's why he had told him all these things. He couldn't bear the fact that Harry was sad... And despite his obvious inexperience in comforting, Harry felt absolutely affected by his care. It was... so touching. He couldn't control the buttery smile that spread across his face and his eyes shone brighter than stars in all their glory when he stared at Severus, still unable to believe what he'd heard. He noted that man's corners of mouth twitched slightly.
He didn't know how, he didn't know when, but he felt that he had managed to cross another barrier. He’d won something that, until recently, had seemed to be completely out of his reach. Until recently... Harry's feelings were the last thing that would have occupied Severus' head. Severus, someone who had hurt him so many times with words or actions, who hadn't cared about his pain at all. And now...
Harry remembered all the thoughts that had prevented him from refuge after drinking Veritaserum. Then, those thoughts had seemed to him impossible dreams:
You can't give up now. With your devotion you will manage to break him. You will finally win.
If he had given up back then... now he wouldn't be sitting on Snape's lap, feeling like the happiest person in the world. He wouldn't be looking into his incredible eyes, wouldn't feel the touch of his hand. Wouldn't feel this warm, steady breathing... He wouldn't exist.
Harry reached for Severus' hand, drew it to his face and kissed the slender, curved fingers several times. He couldn't resist. He couldn't stop.
"Thank you," he whispered between the kisses and closed his eyes. He didn't have to see, the most important thing was his ability to feel.
And he felt the heat. The fire was burning in him, bright and firm. He felt it inside and all around him and he knew that this time no storm could blow it out...
Harry sighed and rested his head on Severus' shoulder. He pressed his face in Snape's collarbone, feeling wrapped with his pleasant smell.
Oh, why couldn't it always be like this? Here, with him... he felt safe.
"Be... there for me," he whispered softly, caressing Severus' shoulder with his hot breath, then nestled against him even stronger. "Always... "
There was no response. Instead he felt the man's arms wrap around him, pulling him closer, pressing him into the black-clad, ginger-scented body of the Potions Master.
Harry breathed in a blissful smile.
Just a few moments ago, he felt like a bird with broken wings. Now, thanks to Severus, he felt as if he was given new, better and more beautiful wings that could beat every storm and take them both to a place where they would finally be safe.
When Harry was on his way to the Common Room, hidden under his Invisibility Cloak, he couldn't stop smiling. He managed to negotiate a meeting with Snape on Saturday, and on top of that, Severus promised that he would be "nice" to him. Tomorrow afternoon he was going to sneak to Hogsmeade. Everything would be great. Finally, on Saturday there would be a special day - Severus' birthday. Harry knew what to give him as a gift. He knew what the man liked and even though it required a great amount of courage from him, he was determined to overcome his fears and give Severus a gift which he would never forget.
Harry smiled to himself.
But all of it wouldn't happen until Saturday, and now he had a fight awaiting him. He had to face it. But now, at least, he had a protective barrier around him. He was prepared for anything that could wait for him from his former mates.
Thanks to Severus.
He took off his cloak under the portrait of the Fat Lady, took a deep breath and entered. The first thing he heard was a screech, and the horizon was obscured by a stock of auburn hair.
"Harry!" Hermione cried, hugging him with enough force it nearly broke his ribs. "We were so worried about you. Where were you? Everyone has been looking for you! How could you just disappear? For the entire day! Didn't you think that we would be out of our minds with worry?"
"Hermione, let him go, or you'll suffocate him and we won't know anything," Ron said, emerging from behind the Gryffindor. Hermione pulled away from Harry and gave him the look which usually Ron's mother used when Fred and George did something wrong.
"I needed to be alone for a while," Harry said quietly, rubbing his neck. "I was in the Room of Requirement."
"You see? I told you," Ron said proudly. "I told her that you're all right," he turned to Harry. "But you know how girls are."
"Sorry for making you worry," Harry said softly, trying to ignore the curious glances which were thrown at him by all people in the Gryffindor Common Room. Mocking grimaces appeared on a few faces. In some student's hands there were morning Prophet copies.
"What you did was irresponsible and reckless, Harry!" Hermione said loudly, as if she wanted to have the last word, then straightened up and looked around the room angrily, as if to challenge to a duel anyone who wouldn't agree with her.
"Can we talk upstairs?" Harry asked.
"Of course, mate," Ron replied, and walked across the room. Several students shifted to the side when they passed, but before they reached the stairs, Harry heard the voice of Seamus:
"So that's it, Potter? You really are such a coward that you were hiding in some hole for the whole day, too afraid to show your face in front of us? No wonder you’re afraid of meeting with You-Know-Who. If you run away from us..." he spread his hands out, pointing to the students around him who looked at Harry with a mixture of contempt and pity.
Harry closed his eyes. He had expected this...
Then he turned around and gave Seamus a hard look.
"You haven't read the article attentively, Seamus, have you? What if I join up with Voldemort soon? So be careful, because I don't think you'd like to have me for an enemy."
The Gryffindor paled and clenched his teeth with rage. Harry looked around the room as if searching for the next person who would like to say something, but no one spoke. When the three of them climbed the stairs though, Harry heard a bunch of hostile and angry epithets about him.
"Don't worry about them, Harry," Hermione said, when he entered the dormitory. "They’ll eventually get bored of it and stop.”
"Yeah... " Harry muttered, sitting down on the bed. "As bored as they've become to call me a liar in the last year."
"Maybe it won't be that bad this time?" Ron muttered.
"But we will support you, Harry," Hermione added. "Right, Ron?"
The redhead vaguely muttered something in reply.
"Thanks," Harry sighed. "What did I miss today? Were the professors very angry?"
Hermione at once grew serious.
"McGonagall get mental. She said that what you did was irresponsible and childish and that we should tell you as soon as you arrive to visit her."
"Doesn't sound good."
"What did you expect?" she threw rhetorically. "Tonks, Binns and Sprout are all right, though. They didn't say anything about this."
"And Snape was looking for you either," Ron added.
"Snape?" Harry tried to fake indifference.
"Yeah, right after the first lesson. He was also pissed that you'd disappeared. It's strange, because today we had no Potions."
"Was I being given a lot of shakedown?" Harry asked, wanting to quickly change the slippery topic. Ron nodded sadly, and Hermione bit her lip.
"Mostly Slytherins and Gryffindors. Someone has even created badges that some students intend to wear. Something about you being a "stinking coward," or something like that," said Ron with shame. "It seems that once again they decided to taunt you. As if they got nothing better to do."
Harry nodded. Ron was absolutely right. He had noticed long ago that as soon as something unflattering appeared in the press about him, the whole school fell into mass hysteria and united together in a desire to trash him. That happened two years ago right before the Triwizard Tournament, and the last year when everyone considered him a liar. It also happened less than two months ago, when they found out that Harry Potter's greatest desire was the Potions Master hated by everyone. They behaved as though, no matter the cost, they did what they could to humiliate the Boy-Who-Lived. To lower him to their level and destroy him. As if they were envious. As if there was anything to be envious of...
"We tried to get McGonagall to intervene, but she was too angry with you to do anything about it," said Hermione.
"Slytherins made up a song about you. They sang it during dinner and all the time laughed at you, and Snape didn't even pay attention!" Ron said indignantly.
In Harry's mind, something clicked.
"Snape was at dinner?" he asked, amazed.
"Of course he was," said Ron. "And he did nothing to silence them."
Sudden understanding struck Harry with the force of the Whomping Willow. In his head rang Severus' words:
I didn't attend the dinner... one of the elves brought it to me... I'm not hungry... you can take it...
Harry felt a pleasant warmth pour into his heart.
Snape had prepared that meal for him. He didn't want Harry to be hungry.
It was so... so...
"Harry, are you all right?" Hermione asked, worried. "Why did you suddenly start smiling so strangely?"
The Gryffindor cleared his throat and immediately became serious.
"Sorry. I'm just a little tired. I'll go to McGonagall. You don't have to wait for me." He rose and threw the Invisibility Cloak on himself, trying to get out as soon as possible and to enjoy this incredible feeling that crept into his heart and took possession of it.
McGonagall was really pissed at him and gave him a very long, very irate speech on the behavior worthy a Gryffindor, but in the end Harry managed to soften her enough to not give him another detention. When she calmed down a little, she admitted that this article had made her extremely upset, too, and that she would wait for Dumbledore to return and then send the letter to the Prophet with a request for disclaimer and apology. And Harry shouldn't worry, just get down to learning and not running away any more of course. The boy promised that this would never happen again and the whole affair ended quite amicably.
But the next day brought to him, unfortunately, only a mass of nerves. As predicted, Friday turned out to be an ordeal to him. At every turn he met harassment, malicious comments and teasing. At first he tried to repel them, but after some time he realized it made no sense. He didn't want to waste his health and nerves, and when he allowed to draw himself into some exchanges, the attacks on him intensified even more and, even trying, he had no chance to win. After each such situation, he fell into depression and even Ron and Hermione's support didn't help much. Several times he caught glimpses of the badges with his name and vulgar epithets on them. Seamus throughout the day looked at him with such hostility and hatred as if the only thing he dreamed of was to wipe Harry off the face of the earth.
Luckily, Harry was not alone in this fight. In addition to Hermione and Ron, Neville and Luna as usual stood on his side. And also, to his surprise, Ginny, who, paradoxically, helped him most, and pulled him out of the depression in which he’d plunged into after another altercation with a bunch of Slytherins singing the insulting song about him. It was she who inherited the warped sense of humor along with her twin brothers and persuaded Harry to take revenge in a very devious way on everyone who bullied him, and the excited Gryffindor agreed with her.
During the break, in the most crowded corridor, Harry suddenly started screaming and grabbed his arm. Ginny ran to him first. She turned pale and asked, trembling:
"What is it, Harry?"
"Call... " Harry moaned loudly enough to get everyone hear it. "From You-Know-Who."
Before he knew it, it became very quiet and empty around them.
At the next break, Harry was stopped by the appalled Professor McGonagall, who informed him that she had been visited by many students with extraordinary news that Harry had the Dark Mark. When Harry expressed his astonishment, she asked him to choose a little less spectacular way to defend himself against stalkers and walked away, shaking her head in pity.
When Harry, unable to stop giggling, told Ron and Ginny about it, the three of them almost lost their breath from laughing. Unfortunately, Hermione said it'd been a childish thing to do and in very bad taste. Neville asked Harry in fright if he really did have the Dark Mark, and Luna was too busy stalking the Hooked Rumblers to pay attention to them. She only said that she's about to eat something.
Before the last lesson of the day arrived - Potions, Harry was in a pretty good mood, considering the circumstances.
Snape, however, was known for his ability to spoil the humor for everyone and in a very short time. When they arrived at the class, he stated that he would give them an unannounced test which consisted of brewing an extremely difficult potion. Harry sat with Hermione, who did everything so carefully, as if her life depended on the outcome.
Harry didn't want to spoil this elixir. He knew that Snape would have been angry at him, and he wanted him to be in a good mood tomorrow, so everything he'd planned would work. He focused on his task as much as never before. Some time later Snape started walking through the classroom, looking inside the cauldrons. Harry was very proud of his potion, which at this stage had almost perfect color and texture. Now, all he had to do was add the last ingredient. He went to the store to get the valerian root, and when he went back and looked at his cauldron, he almost dropped it. His potion, which a moment before had had a straw yellow color, was now putrid-greenish. Harry moved closer to Hermione and whispered in an undertone:
"Something happened to my potion. A moment ago everything was still ok, and when I returned - look for yourself."
Hermione looked into his cauldron and turned pale.
"I don't know what happened, Harry. The whole time I was focused on my elixir. I didn't see anything," she whispered in an perturbed voice.
"Somebody had to destroy it on purpose," Harry whispered, feeling his own nervousness turn into a burning anger.
He had been working so hard!
He looked around the room and then saw Seamus, who sat two benches behind him, and now he was smiling at him vindictively. Harry felt the anger start to bubble, releasing toxic fumes of rage. Before he could react, he saw Seamus write something on a piece of paper, quickly roll it, and send it to him. Harry caught the note, opened it, and, ignoring Hermione who was trying to look over his shoulder, read:
Now you are also going to prove you're a coward and inform Snape? Or will you accept defeat with honor and show that after all you are brave?
Red spots appeared before Harry's eyes. He wanted now only one thing - to kill Seamus. To crush him and turn him to dust.
So much depended on this good result. He absolutely didn't want to disappoint Snape. He wanted tomorrow to be a unique day...
"What did he write?" Hermione hissed in his ear, grabbing the paper from his hand. When she read it, she also turned red with anger.
"How could he? What a cheeky bastard! After all, he was once your friend!"
"It doesn't matter," Harry said quietly, trying to pick up the note, but she was faster and pushed his hand away.
"How can it not matter? He destroyed your potion. You want to put up with it?"
"I just want to be finally left alone. It makes no sense to provoke an even greater war. I'm a coward to them and nothing will change it, but I won't report on him, because then we will be enemies for good."
"Well, then I will report it!" Hermione hissed to Harry and before he could protest, she cried to the teacher who was now leaning toward Zabini's cauldron:
Severus stood up and stabbed at her with a suspicious glance.
"What is it, Miss Granger?"
"Hermione, no!'' Harry hissed softly, his eyes begging her to stop. When Snape went to their bench, Harry tried for the last time. "Don't do this. Everything's fine."
Hermione pulled her hand from his grasp and growled:
"I will not let you ruin the potion because of your foolish pride!"
Snape raised his eyebrows, hearing these words, and looked at Harry who had fixed his gaze on the bench.
"Here," Hermione gave Snape the note and said: "I saw Seamus send it to Harry. And just before that, someone destroyed Harry's potion. It was definitely him."
Harry looked up and saw Snape's face changing when he read the message. The black eyes flashed with anger, his features sharpened, eyebrows pulled together. Snape looked at Harry's potion, then at Seamus who tried to look confidently, but fruitlessly.
"She's lying!" he shouted, his voice breaking, trying at all costs to save his skin.
"Mr. Finnigan, Gryffindor lost thirty points today because of you," Snape said, his voice flowed with chilling rage. "The potion you have destroyed is now yours, and I give you "troll" for that. For you detention you will go see Professor McGonagall. Take your things and get out of the classroom. Now!"
When Snape finished, the class fell dead silent. All eyes turned to Seamus who was as pale as ghost. He opened and closed his mouth as if he couldn't believe what had happened. Seeing Snape's glare, he decided to no longer wait. He packed his belongings and, escorted by student's curious glances, hurriedly left the room.
"Get back to work," Snape roared when the door slammed, then turned to Harry. "You, Mr. Potter, will join Miss Granger and finish the elixir together. Is that clear?"
Harry just nodded, too stunned to respond. A moment ago rage had been boiling in him like water in the kettle whistling and tossing the lid, but now he felt so much relief and happiness as if he had passed all OWLs with "outstanding", to say the least.
He leaned over and whispered to Hermione:
"Thank you. Now I know why Ron repeats so often that he loves you."
The Gryffindor blushed and looked down:
"But don't say it when he's near because I don't want him to be jealous."
Harry smiled and thought that as much as her, he would like to thank the other person too...
He glanced at Severus who was giving a dressing-down to Neville over his potion and felt that tomorrow would be a really unique day...
His thoughts were interrupted by a boom. He jumped and looked toward the Slytherin table, just like the rest of the class. The smoke was coming from Zabini's cauldron, which the boy, choking, tried to push away with his hand. Snape went to the bench of the Slytherin and stared at the ruined potion.
"Why didn't you report that Finnigan had also destroyed your potion, Zabini?"
The Slytherin's eyes widened as if he didn't know what's going on, but he quickly got hold of himself. He frowned and glanced at Hermione and Harry:
"I didn't want to squeal, sir," he said in an innocent voice.
"Praiseworthy," the Potions Master replied, raising one eyebrow. "Ten points to Slytherin and Gryffindor’s lost another thirty points."
The Gryffindor side murmured in indignation. Harry stared, unable to believe in such an overt injustice.
"Enough talking. Get back to work!" the teacher snapped, then turned and walked to his desk.
Harry clenched his fists.
No, Snape would never change...
* "Alright" by Reamonn
| Komentarze |
dnia listopad 05 2014 10:07:26
Potter behaves like such...! Thanks for this chapter.
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