Disclaimer: I am not JK Rowling and I make no money off of this
Warnings: minor swearing, mentions of abuse,
Hello everyone! Thanks to all of my reviewers, followers, favoriters- you are all amazing. I'm flabbergasted. Someone should tell me because I'm not quite sure how to reply to you all... I try to reply and I send off a message yet I don't think that works? Anywho, here we go...
It had taken three days. Three pain-staking days to finally come to a conclusion. Three days spent nervously weighing the pros and cons and three nights spent peering sleeplessly at the stone ceiling from his four-poster bed. Finally, three quills snapped in frustration and three dozen times of nervous pacing later, the boy knew that now was certainly not the time for indecision.
After looking blankly at the formidably large mahogany door in front of him for at least five minutes, Harry gathered his courage and knocked meekly on its surface. He clasped his fidgeting hands behind his back and waited for the deep, baritone voice to say: "Come in."
Steeling himself, the boy expanded his chest with air in a show of false bravery and cautiously pushed the door open to greet none other than Professor Snape. The man raised an inquisitive eyebrow at Harry momentarily, before looking inattentively back down at the papers strewn across his desk and dipping his quill into a bottle of black ink.
Harry shuffled his feet, thinking that with each step he took he grew more unable to turn back and run. You still could, his mind said, you don't have to do this. He shook his head imperceptibly as if trying to wave off a pesky fly because rationally he knew that this was the only way out- that if he walked away right now the things he had been avoiding would still happen, if only perhaps more slowly and a lot more painfully. It would be much better if he could have this happen cleanly, quickly and then just be able to sweep it under the rug.
He felt the cold air slide down his throat and make his stomach curl. "I think it's time to tell them," the boy said almost inaudibly but with a steady voice nonetheless, before adding more loudly, "My friends, I mean, about... about what happened this summer before I got here."
Snape had his quill poised strategically above a piece of blank parchment and turned his head up slowly to greet the boy, not caring that steady drops of black ink were pooling onto the crisp page. Harry watched the ink expand as it was absorbed by the paper, somewhat surprised that the man who was always so precisely calculated in his movements let his shock cloud his need for precision. He'd never seen Snape let even a dot of ink splash onto a paper before, the boy realized with a shiver. His essays, always scratched and dribbled on, contrasted so sharply with the harsh cursive strokes that the teacher left on them every time they were handed back. Although it was such a small thing, Harry understood that the man letting a perfectly good piece of parchment go to waste was a statement of how much this affected him. Whether this was a good or bad sign, the boy did not know yet.
The professor straightened his back and gestured to a dining chair just before his large, intricately carved desk, indicating that they should talk more in depth about this. Snape's eyes bored heavily in his with an undisguised light of approval, "I am glad you have taken my advice. This is a step in the right direction, Potter." he described aptly, "Just whom are you going to tell now about the abuse?"
Harry's shoulder jolted uncontrollably in air at hearing the word abuse, yet he pretended as if it hadn't. "Hermione, I think. Not the others just yet."
"Ah, I see, just why not?" he queried with a softened tone, "How do you think the others would react?"
Harry shuddered, whether it was due to a sudden gust of chilly dungeon air or the question itself was debatable. "I will, in time. I care about everyone and I don't necessarily favorite Hermione over them or anything, but I just don't know how they would deal with it..." he trailed off, voice crumbling in a breathy whisper, "It's just extremely embarrassing to let everyone know what happened 'cause, it's hard to tell people... cause... I don't..."
His lower lip quivered and he took a deep, trembling breath in an attempt to reign in his emotions. "I don't want the world to know that no one loves me," Harry whispered while shutting his eyes to keep the tears at bay, "that I'm virtually unlovable. That I'm a freak."
It had happened so fast that, at first, the boy didn't know what had occurred and before he knew it, firm arms had wrapped around his shoulders and his chest heaved. "Don't say that," the professor hissed threateningly in his ear, "If I ever hear you saying that again, I will not hesitate to assign you two weeks of detentions."
Harry bit his tongue, trying to hold in his sobs. The man had already seen him cry once, there was no need for it to happen a second time. "Don't you dare believe what those damned slugs have told you," he ordered, "They are the freaks for daring to hurt an innocent child, you did not deserve such treatment and you're deluded if you truly believe that you are unloved."
The boy dug his face into the man's shoulder, trying to smother his wrenching tears. "Okay," he replied noncommittally, "Okay."
They stayed like that for a while until the professor finally pulled away with a grunt and infinitesimally reddened cheeks at the show of emotion. He then proceeded to guide the boy up from his seat and lead him to a comfier, couched area with an ornate red rug and a dark wood bookshelf lining part of the wall. Snape took the chair directly adjacent to the boy, still in a position where he was close enough to provide more comfort if it were needed.
Harry took copious amounts of tissues from a box on the end table to his left and buried his red face in them, partially to hide his growing embarrassment and partially to hide his tears. He ended up crying again in front of the man for what seemed like the hundredth time- why was it that he could squeeze this reaction from the boy? The harshest words spouted in potions class did nothing to affect the boy yet the simple kindness of telling him that he was in fact loved made him sob like a baby. It was counter intuitive and frankly very worrying for him.
"When are you planning to speak to Mrs. Granger?" the professor interjected with a tone that was considerably warmer.
Harry pieced himself back together, crumpling the tissues in his sweaty palms. "Uhh," he stammered, "tomorrow or the day after probably."
The man nodded with a harsh jerk of the head, "The sooner the better."
The boy swallowed in response and straightened his back, "I know I didn't have to tell you all of this but I was wondering if you'd..." he muttered, pausing briefly in the middle of the sentence, "If you'd maybe wanna be there with me when I tell her?"
Snape leaned backwards, startled by the proposition, and stared dubiously at the boy. Potter wanted HIM to be there while he told Granger? What for; could it be he was expecting him to tell the girl?
"It's okay if you don't want to, I'm sorry, it was stupid..." the boy looked down at his lap, recoiling at the man's seemingly lackluster response.
Suddenly the professor realized that Potter was looking for comfort. From him. From the 'greasy git'. From his most hated potion's professor. The idea startled him further into silence as he thought about the implications; very firmly ignoring the warmed feeling in his chest, he pondered just how much their relationship had changed throughout the summer. The fact that their bitter rivalry of five years, starting with the first step the boy had taken into his classroom, had since ended in the span of a few weeks, left the man in awe. He blinked and cleared his throat unusually tight with emotion, "You misinterpreted my reaction," he said, "I in fact would not mind being there to provide support for you as I understand that you have gone through a rather harrowing experience."
Harry smiled grimly, feeling less dread simmering in his gut that at least there'd be someone cool headed to make sure Hermione wouldn't react... however she'd react. While he knew she was a great friend, he didn't know how she'd feel knowing that he has concealed this for years and that... that he was not wanted. Of course you are, an unfamiliar voice denied in his mind.
"I think I'm going to write her a letter now." the boy said in an implied goodbye, swiping discreetly at his eyes and getting up from his seat. "I'll floo you when I have the news."
Snape nodded, laying a firm hand on the boy's shoulder until he made it out of the door, "Goodbye, Potter."
The moment he had stepped out the door, Fawkes came sailing through the air and landed on her usual spot- his shoulder. Enthusiastically greeting the bird, Harry then made his way to a classroom that, excluding the large desk with spare pieces of parchment tucked into one of the drawers, was rather empty.
After coating the floor with crumbled balls of parchment, Harry finally settled on a vague, yet pleasant letter. Meanwhile, Fawkes flew lazy circles over his head.
Hey! I'm writing this letter to ask you if you'd like to come to Hogwarts on Saturday and hang out. I would really like to see you, it's been lonely without a walking encyclopedia being within a five mile radius of me and I'm sure you'd like to explore the completely empty library. There are some things that I want to talk about with you.
He folded the letter very precisely in half and tightly rolled it into a stout scroll. Holding the thing very firmly in his palms, he grabbed a full roll of twine and headed off to the Owlery to visit Hedwig.
All too soon he had made it there, greeted by the musky smell of owls and a scenic view of the Hogwarts grounds. As his eyes wearily followed the sloping, lush green hills he thought about what he was going to do. He supposed this was a defining moment in his life, seeing as how he was consciously choosing to confide something this serious with someone other than himself. Whether or not this signified the end of his hurt or the beginning of a very long struggle, Harry did not know. And he was utterly terrified of it- of not knowing what could happen, or what it meant for him and others.
"I'm scared Fawkes." he whispered, the words spilling forth from his mouth seemingly without control. He felt surprised he had said that aloud but the words, spoken so quietly yet so firmly, seemed to fade and ride over the misty hills in the distance. "I don't know what to do. I'm in the dark here." he added, referring to more than just the upcoming meeting with Hermione while eyeing his hands.
The bird snuggled closer to the boy's shoulder, turning his head slightly to nibble on Harry's ear comfortingly. "I don't know if 'Mione is still going to want to be my friend after I tell her, much less Ron, or anyone for that matter." he admitted, "and I hate not knowing."
The morose teenager gripped his hands pained with the feeling of boiling liquid magic to the cold stone columns and sighed in minute relief. He should stop getting so worked up, he knew it just made his hands ache more. He sucked in the chilly air of dusk and tied very tightly a note to Hedwig's leg, who seemed to act coolly towards him ever since Fawkes had started spending time with Harry.
"Hey, girl, can you take this note to Hermione? I know you've been mad with me and I'm sorry, but this is really important to me. Wait for a response, if you can." the boy pleaded sheepishly, feeling a tinge of guilt that he hadn't really visited the poor bird as often.
Hedwig peered at him for a moment, nipping his finger just a little too harshly before taking off in flight. He could only hope that it ended up in the intended recipient's hands.
As Hedwig soon became just a little black spot in the distance, Harry felt both liberated and afraid.
Suddenly he looked down towards the Great Lake, shivering as he stared into the swirling waters. Funny, they hadn't seemed so calm nor so blue when he had been down there... bashed in the head by a giant squid and drowning. To think that something as small as a mere lake had nearly killed him when, year after a year, a vicious madman had failed to do so, made Harry chuckle just a little bit. Even though the lake was quite a distance away from him at this moment and it was not as imposing as when he had been nearly drowning to death in it, it still made him shiver in remembered fear. Instead of peace, it had now reminded him of the mantra that rung through his head when he sent the letter off just a minute ago: It's too late, there's no going back now.