Chapter 5: Can Not, Will Not
Harry looked at his Head of House for several long moments. The nurse who had left only minutes earlier had seemed nice; if not painfully thorough in her examination of him (and he knew she had told this man everything, not that he had eavesdropped or anything); and she had assured Harry that while Professor Snape came off as a little harsh, he was in fact a very kind and understanding man, and that he only had Harry's best interests in mind, which is why he required this kind of treatment for his first year students.
"Both," Harry mouthed.
Snapes eyes widened in surprise.
"Can you read? Or write?" he asked, to which Harry nodded. "Good. That will make this a little easier. Would you write your reason for your non-verbal state, if I provided you with parchment and quill?"
Fear overcame Harry again. Uncle Vernon had told Harry, had made it painfully clear, that under no circumstances was Harry to ever mention anything that went on behind the closed doors of Number 4 Privet Drive, lest he be brutally punished for his transgressions.
Harry simply shook his head and looked down.
"Harry..." Snape began and then stopped. "Harry, I cannot help you, if you don't tell me what is wrong. I know that your relatives have hurt you, and it is my duty as your Head of House to report that to the Ministry, but they will need to know exactly what happened. If you write down what the Dursleys have done to you, I promise I will do everything in my power...to make sure that you never go back."
Harry looked up at him, wide-eyed.
"Ever?" he mouthed.
"Ever," said Snape pushing a quill, ink pot, and long piece of parchment towards him. "I need you to write down everything, Mr. Potter. Anything they have ever done to you, or said to you. Anything they may have called you that hurt your feelings. I need to know what they did to hurt you. Did they hit you with their hands, or what kind of objects they used to punish you. Take as long as you need, I will send notes to your instructors to excuse you for the rest of the day. And I will summon a late lunch from the kitchens. You may stay here in my office, but touch nothing. If you run out of ink or parchment, I shall be in my classroom preparing tomorrows lessons, understood?"
Harry just nodded, looking at the parchment before him, thinking on exactly how much he would convey.
To say that Harry had a long memory may not be entirely correct. Harry did, however, have an eidetic one. He was able to recall, with painful clarity, every book, or picture, or conversation he had ever come across. He could recount to you, with absolute precision, the conversation he had had with his Aunt Petunia before his first day of Primary (some 6 years ago), down to the position of the second hand on the wall clock in the kitchen. The problem wouldn't be telling his Professor that his relatives had abused him; it would be how much detail he was willing to let go.
Harry was a smart child. He knew from a very young age the difference between right and wrong. He knew the things the Dursleys did to him were wrong, and that what Vernon did to him was absolutely criminal. He knew that the one time he had reached out for help; he had almost met his end.
October 3rd, 1987 had started out just like any other day. Harry had gotten up at 4am, gotten dressed in his same old hand-me-downs, and had quietly left his cupboard to start breakfast for the Dursleys. Everything was going perfectly, until the chair Harry was standing in toppled over with him in it and had sent him crashing to the floor, eggs and all. Vernon had been furious and had given Harry a thorough lashing until Petunia reminded him that Harry still had three more days left of school before Fall Break. Harry, of course, was denied breakfast that morning, and was forced to go to school in his now dirty clothes as Petunia said that she would not allow him to waste a perfectly good outfit just because he had been clumsy.
The teachers did not question Harry's appearance, or the lack of participation in class; his Aunt and Uncle had already informed the school that Harry was an odd child and that in order to prevent him lashing out at either of them, or at Dudley, they had to tolerate his random 'spells' from time to time, as to not encourage their nephew to become 'violent'. Harry doubted anyone would have cared at all, but Mrs. Alberts was absent that day, and their substitute, Miss Jamieson, had pulled Harry aside and asked him if he were alright. He smiled and explained that he had dropped his scrambled eggs from his plate that morning because he lazed about in bed, and had tried to eat his breakfast super-fast so he wouldn't miss the bus, and didn't have time to change even though his Aunt Petunia had said she would hold the bus for him. Unfortunately Miss Jaimeson saw the bruises on his shoulders where Vernon had jerked him up, and then noticed the slight shadow on his jaw that was actually finger prints from the incident that morning.
She had assured him that if he told her what was wrong, she would help him; told him that what his aunt and uncle were doing wasn't right, and that it was her duty to report it, and to make sure he got help. Being young and naive, he had told her everything, and she in turn, reported it to the Children's Bureau, who came out and did a full investigation, but found nothing, and apologized for the inconvenience, making a few suggestions to the 'wonderful family' to prevent their 'troubled nephew' from making such horrid, and 'obviously false', accusations again. Harry never spoke another word after that night.
His aunt had gotten to him first. She sent Dudley to Piers'' house to play, and proceeded to give Harry the lashing of a life time. Vernon came in to Petunia beating Harry to a bloody pulp and demanded to know what was going on. Petunia calmly told him about the visit from the Children's Worker, and how she had been able to convince the man that Harry was a horrid child who acted out, and told lies, going so far as to harm himself, to try to get them in trouble, simply because he was jealous of his nephew Dudley. Vernon flew into a rage. Everything within reaching distance became a weapon. The beating lasted for hours (it had felt like an eternity). He had remembered vaguely wishing he would die, but for some cruel reason, death never came. His uncle hit, and kicked, and bit him. Stripped him naked and prodded him with the hot fire poker. Did horrible things to his private parts; things he had forced himself to forget...things he knew went far beyond wrong, and criminal. When it came to an end, Vernon had sat on him, trying to crush the life out of him. He remembered hands on his throat, feeling things crush and collapse; feeling the air leave his body, and his brain shut down. He had almost rejoiced in the fact that the torture was as good as over, and had welcomed the darkness like a friend.
Days later, he would realize, he awoke in his cupboard, still in excruciating pain, and unfortunately, very much alive. He was allowed out of his prison to wash up, and everything that had been in that room was burned, and life went back to normal, or as normal as it had ever been. He never uttered another word, and he never asked anyone else for help. Bad little boys...freaks like him...they didn't deserve help. They deserved to be punished and beaten, because they were everything unnatural, and everything that was wrong in the world.
Two hours later Harry sat looking at the three feet of parchment before him. It had felt therapeutic to get it all out; to confess, if even only to the paper, every wrong that had been visited upon his person. Now all he had to do was decide if he was going to turn it in or not. He sat there in the quiet for several long moments, before ripping off the bottom foot of his parchment and writing several more questions which he ultimately decided would have to be answered, in the correct manner, before he told anyone anything. Harry had absolutely zero trust in adults, and that wasn't about to change unless the adults earned it first.
There was a knock at the door and then Professor Snape entered.
"Are you finished?" he asked.
Harry nodded, and handed Snape the list of questions.
"What is this?" Snape countered, raising an eyebrow.
Harry looked at him like it should have been the most obvious thing in the world.
"I assume you want me to answer these before you hand over your missive?"
At Harry's nod, Professor Snape gave a long suffering sigh, and sunk into the chair behind his desk.
"It is obvious from these questions, that you do not trust adults. It is also obvious that you reached out for help sometime in the past, and were denied. Tell me, when you told someone that the Dursleys were abusing you, were you ignored?"
Harry shook his head and scribbled something on a piece of paper, then handed it to Snape.
"I see," his Professor said sagely. "Petunia always was very...slippery. So you told a teacher, who then reported it, and they took the word of your relatives over you."
Harry nodded and the fear was still painfully evident in his eyes.
"I can assure you that will not happen here. The Wizarding world is very different from the Muggle one. We have different laws; different ways of handling things. Our Children's Service has far greater tools at their disposal for investigating claims than the muggles do, and due to our Magic, claims of abuse are taken more seriously here, especially when it is a claim that a muggle family abused their magical child."
"How does it work? What happens here that doesn't with the muggles? How do you know it's different? Why should I trust you?" Harry wrote furiously.
Severus had just opened a can of worms he would now delicately need to close. He was a very private man, and not many people knew his whole story, or even the important parts of it. His students most certainly had no idea what he was like beyond his teachers mask, and he did not make it a habit of discussing personal matters with anyone, Albus Dumbledore included.
"It's...complicated, Harry. The WCS has several magical means they use in investigations. They of course will have you evaluated by a Ministry Approved Healer, but then they will also interview your relatives, and neighbors; your former teachers, and friends; I suspect they will wish to speak with Hagrid, Madame Pomfrey, and myself. They will collect memories and review them in something called a Pensieve. They will take a look at your home environment, and look into your school and health records. They will look to see if there have ever been any open cases or investigations with the WCS or CB before. They will probably have a Child Psychologist, or a Juvenile Mind Healer come and speak with you. Because you are underage, and untrained, they will look at this case in a serious light, because your magic may have been adversely affected. It is a wonder you haven't had a violent outburst of accidental magic due to stress or self-preservation."
"You didn't answer my question," was the statement evident in Harry's glare.
"Mr. Potter, I have been a teacher here at Hogwarts for nine years, and Head of Slytherin house for eight. I have seen my fair share of abused and neglected children, from all sorts of homes, muggle and magical alike. I made it my sworn duty to ensure that any claims of abuse were thoroughly and properly investigated in both worlds, and that a satisfactory outcome was executed upon the investigations conclusion. It is my job to protect you, and I promise you that if you help me, I will help you."
Harry heaved his own long-suffering sigh and slowly handed over the parchment to Snape.
"Thank you, Harry. It is almost dinner time, and then your year mates have detention. I suggest you join your house for dinner, and then spend the rest of your evening completing your class assignments from today. I will review this and if I have any questions, I will let you know."
With that, Severus dismissed his student, and settled down to try and unravel the mystery that was Harry Potter.