He made his way towards the dungeons, dreading his first occlumency lesson. He tried to tell himself that it would be fine, that it wouldn't be that bad, but he couldn't quite convince himself of the truthfulness of that. After all, it was Snape. By his fifth year, he knew what to expect from his most hated professor. Although, if he were being honest, he didn't hate Snape; it was Snape that hated him, and he had never figured out why.
The temperature dropped as he made his way down, and he could feel the cold around him. When he was finally in front of the door leading into the Potions room, he was shivering, whether from nervous fear, the cold, or both. He stopped, taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm his nerves, before knocking on the door.
"Enter." Snape called out sharply.
He pushed open the door slowly and walked in, feeling like he was walking into the lion's den. Or more accurately, the snake's nest. Professor Snape was sitting at his desk grading papers, probably currently in the process of making some scathing remarks and comments on some poor first year's essay.
"You're late, Mr. Potter," he commented, not looking up from his desk.
Harry looked down at his watch, which indicated it was 7:00 P.M. exactly. He bit his tongue and didn't protest. He was hoping he could make it through one hour without everything going downhill. He felt exhausted and didn't know if he could keep himself together.
"Sorry, sir," he replied. "I must have lost track of the time."
"Of course," Snape sneered, finally getting up and coming around to stand in front of Harry. "Mr. Potter is so used to everyone catering to his every need, waiting on him night and day, of course it shouldn't matter that others are taking precious time out of their schedules to help him."
He paced back and forth in front of Potter, and it was all Harry could do not to yell at him. He got the feeling that Snape was trying to taunt and goad him into responding, but he refused to.
"You WILL arrive on time every week or else," Snape said softly, fully aware that Potter had arrived on time today but wanting to make an impression.
Potter stared at him impassively but flinched as Snape leaned towards him, almost imperceptibly. The professor made a note of that. "Yes, sir," he said politely...a bit too polite, to be completely genuine.
However, Professor Snape didn't want to spend the entire hour mocking Potter, as entertaining as that might be. He was supposed to teach that brat Occlumency, and teach him he would.
"Occlumency is an ancient practice, and it is something that requires hard work, determination, and focus...something I'm not sure you have the capability of possessing," Snape sneered.
Harry could feel his patience wavering, and he knew he was at the end of his rope.
"The only reason why I'm teaching you this is because Professor Dumbledore has instructed me to do so, so that you would be protected from Voldemort, given the link you have."
No surprise there. He was stuck with someone that didn't want to be stuck with him. He had dealt with that for the first eleven years of his life, and he might have been used to it, but that didn't mean he liked it.
"I'm not any happier about this than you are," Snape muttered, seeing the expression of Potter's face, "which is why I'd like to get these lessons finished as soon as possible. If you pay attention and do exactly as I say, we won't have any conflicts, understood?"
"Yes, sir," Potter replied.
Professor Snape looked at him appraisingly, and Harry forced himself to not look away, all the while thinking about every single thing that could go wrong. But the Professor's gaze was making him uncomfortable, and he finally looked away, feeling as though Snape had just read his mind.
"I want you to clear your mind of everything," he instructed. "There should be absolutely nothing on your mind; this is the first step to mastering occlumency, and it's vital that you learn how to do this.
"Tell me when you're ready."
Harry barely managed to stifle a groan. There was no way he was going to be able to do this, especially with the unfortunate nightmares he had every night.
Everyone thought they were because of Voldemort, and that's what he had let them all believe. The majority of them happened to be of his oh so enjoyable childhood.
They had been a lot more frequent lately, and as a result, he hadn't been getting much sleep since school started. Even before that, actually.
He had started having nightmares about the night Cedric died after school ended, and after that, it had alternated between Cedric, Voldemort, his relatives, and occasionally the night his parents had died.
The lack of sleep had been catching up with him, and he was barely able to stay awake and focus in class. In fact, he was pretty sure the only reason he was still awake was due to his fear of Snape...or the persona Snape represented to him.
He tried his best to clear his mind of all thoughts and emotions, but there were so many things on his mind. It was impossible. He figured if he couldn't do this, the least he could do was to prevent Snape from seeing his miserable childhood, because God knows what he would do if he knew.
"I'm ready," he finally said, after he had pushed those memories as far down as he could.
"Legilimens," Professor Snape said, pointing his wand towards Potter.
It was so sudden, and he saw memories flashing past; memories of him with Ron and Hermione, flying on a broomstick for the first time, watching Cedric die…
Don't let him see the Dursleys, don't let him see the Dursleys, he repeated to himself in his head. He had forgotten that Snape was in his mind and could clearly read what he was thinking, especially if it was something he was focusing all his energy on.
Suddenly, he felt a presence sifting through his memories, searching for something. He tried to push him out, but it was too late. Snape had found the last thing that Potter wanted him to see, and there was nothing he could do about it.
He was helpless as Snape watched the scene from eight years ago unfold in front of him, and he was forced to relive it.
"Boy! Have you finished your chores?" his uncle yelled.
"Yes, Uncle," Harry said timidly.
"Good. Get in the cupboard, and if I hear one sound from you…" he didn't have to finish. Harry knew that if anything "freaky" happened, he wouldn't be getting any food.
Barely ten minutes had passed before he heard a loud commotion right outside his door. It sounded like Dudley and Piers laughing, but he couldn't be sure.
Not long after, the door to his cupboard was pulled opened violently, and standing on the other side was Uncle Vernon. He was so screwed; Dudley and Piers had done something, he was sure of it.
"Dudley here told me that you just did something freaky," he said angrily.
"I didn't do anything!" Harry protested meekly.
"Are you calling my son a liar?" his uncle yelled, his face turning redder by the moment.
Harry shook his head frantically. "No - no, that's not what I meant. I -"
His uncle gripped his arm tightly (it would later leave a bruise) and pulled him out of the cupboard that he both hated and loved. He knew better than to speak, so he just kept quiet as his uncle dragged him upstairs into the spare bedroom.
He was confused about what he was doing there, as this had never happened before. Suddenly, he noticed his uncle taking off his belt, and he had a sinking feeling in his gut.
His uncle grinned maliciously as he saw Harry's expression. "Since nothing else seems to be working on you, I've decided to try out the good ol' fashioned method of discipline." He didn't have to explain what that was; Harry could see it quite clearly for himself.
"Take off your shirt," he ordered. Harry obliged, not wanting to make matters worse for himself and did exactly as he was told. After he was standing there shivering, whether from cold or fear or both, Uncle Vernon ordered him to stand against the wall with both hands above his head.
In the moments before the first whip of the belt, something in him changed. He had been ignored, abused, and neglected almost his entire life, but this was different. That was the moment that he was no longer just an innocent child (although some might argue that he had lost that innocence the moment the Dursleys took him in), but something inside him changed.
The belt was like nothing he had ever experienced before. As it came down on his back, it felt like there were a fire racing down his back. To make it worse, his uncle was making sure he was hitting him with the buckle.
He honestly thought he was going to die, and by the time his uncle had finally finished with him, there was blood dripping down his back, he felt like he was on fire, and he was about to pass out.
Uncle Vernon dragged Harry back downstairs and tossed him into the cupboard. "No food tonight. Maybe it'll help the lesson sink in," he said, smirking. He slammed the door and locked it. Harry was alone in the dark.
Not for the first time, he wished his parents were still alive. He imagined how different his life would be away from the Dursleys. He never understood why they didn't just drop him off at the orphanage, if they hated him so much.
The memory faded away, but the git was now looking through other memories for...oh crap.
"Please, Professor Dumbledore. Do I have to go back to the Dursleys?" Harry asked, hating how desperate he sounded.
"Why, my boy, that's the safest place for you right now. Unless there's something I should know?" he asked.
He couldn't tell him. He simply couldn't. "No, sir."
And that led them right to his summer after first year.
"You're not going back to that freak school of yours. Your aunt and I, we've decided that we will not have a freak under our roof. We've enrolled you in St. Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys. Maybe they'll actually beat some sense into you," he said smugly, as the last bar was attached to Harry's window.
The rest of his memories of that miserable summer passed by, from doing chores everyday and being beaten everyday to the tiny rations he got that were barely enough for him, let alone Hedwig and the water he drank while doing the garden.
Before he could do anything, they had jumped ahead to the summer right after fourth year, and all Harry could think at that point was shit shit shit because he couldn't re-live this again he couldn't he couldn't and he could feel the panic clawing its way up and -
"Boy! If you wake us up one more time, you will regret that you were ever born," his uncle spat at him.
It was 2 am, and he had just woken up from the nightmare of Cedric dying. He couldn't help but feel that he had failed in some way, and the guilt was eating at him in the form of nightmares.
Unfortunately, that resulted in the wrath of his uncle as well.
He had backed into the corner of his room when he heard his uncle storming towards his room. He took off his shirt as his uncle came in, being very used to this at this point; it was routine. He stood against the wall, not saying anything.
Uncle Vernon grabbed his wrists roughly and quickly handcuffed them above his head. He couldn't help but notice that they were tighter than usual, but he didn't complain. The last time he'd done that…
He had to get Snape out of his mind, there was no way in hell he was letting him see this. He had told him to clear his mind, and that was exactly what he tried to focus on doing. It was futile.
We've fed you, we've clothed you, we've given you a house, and this is how you repay us. With your useless whining and your freakishness. Well that's it! I've had enough of this; I'll do whatever it takes to beat the freakishness out of you."
Over and over, the belt came down on his back. It hurt like hell, but he took it all without a sound. He bit down on his lip so hard that he could taste the blood on his lips. But that was nothing compared to the state of his back by the time his uncle was finished beating him into a pulp.
If that wasn't enough, he was thrown back into his cupboard for the first time in four years. Uncle Vernon tossed his shirt in. "You'll stay there until you learn to behave," were the last words he heard before the door was slammed and bolted shut.
He dragged himself to the pitiful mattress that was still sitting there after all these years and groaned as sat down in the cramped space that was definitely no longer big enough for him. His back felt like it was on fire, but there wasn't much he could do about that. Just wait for his magic to heal his body, like it always did...
Uncle Vernon opened the door to his cupboard, and he squinted, feeling disoriented. Before he was fully aware of what was happening, there was a collar attached around his neck. He grabbed it in disbelief, a look of horror on his face. Uncle Vernon grinned malevolently.
"Maybe this'll keep you in line for the rest of the summer. One step out of line and," he said, pressing a button. Harry didn't have to wait long to find out what it was for; he received a very unpleasant shock from the collar, and he paled as he realized that he was completely powerless again his uncle.
"Get started on your chores," his uncle ordered before stomping away.
He could've died from embarrassment at that point. Snape has seen one of his worst memories, and that was saying something, considering all the memories he had of his childhood. Unfortunately, it seemed like the bastard wasn't finished. He was dragged into one of his more recent memories.
"I think 100 ought to do it this time, Mr. Potter," she said, in that sickly sweet voice.
"Yes, ma'am," he replied, resisting the urge to curse her.
He took a seat at the desk and picked up the dreaded quill. He knew what he was supposed to write without having to be told. I must not tell lies. Each line was carved into his skin, a permanent reminder of the detentions. They were just another set of scars to be added onto his already existing ones.
By the end of that detention, the cut had reopened, and his hand was covered in blood. He also felt light-headed and a bit nauseous.
"Goodnight, Mr. Potter. Do try to stay out of trouble, won't you?" Umbridge simpered.
"Yes, ma'am," he muttered, wanting to get out of there as fast as possible.
As soon as he made it out of her office into the next hallway, he leaned against the wall, feeling
really hot. He knew something was wrong, and he was probably sick. He couldn't risk going to Madame Pomfrey and having Umbridge find out.
He made it up to Gryffindor Tower to find Hermione and Ron waiting for him in the common room. As soon as they saw him, they rushed over to him.
"Harry! What happened? Are you okay? You look terrible," Hermione whispered frantically.
"She really got you bad this time, mate," Ron said, shaking his head. "You do look terrible," he said, agreeing with Hermione.
"Thanks guys, really great moral support," Harry replied, letting out a chuckle before collapsing into the nearest couch.
"Hey Hermione, do you know any cures for a fever that wouldn't require going to the hospital wing?" he asked. "I don't know if I can make it through classes tomorrow," he muttered.
She placed her hand on his forehead and looked at him in concern. "You're really burning up. I'll see if I can find something, I have a book upstairs and - what happened to your hand?" she asked in shock.
"The same thing that always happens," he replied wearily.
"Harry! No wonder you're burning up! Your hand is obviously infected, and you definitely have a fever. You have to go to the hospital wing!" she cried.
"Hermione, calm down. It's not as bad as it looks," Harry said, smiling weakly in an attempt to reassure her.
She looked at him doubtfully. "If it doesn't get better, or if it gets any worse, promise me you'll go to Madame Pomfrey."
He sighed. "I promise."
Snape finally pulled out of his mind, and as soon he got his bearings, he wanted to crawl under a rock and hide forever. There was no way he was going to be able to survive after this. The Slytherins were probably going to have a party when they heard about this. Snape had seen basically all of the memories that he'd rather not talk to anyone about, especially the greasy git of all people.
Meanwhile, Snape looked at Potter in disbelief. He was too shocked at what he had seen, and he was almost never shocked. He had always thought that Potter was pampered and spoiled at home by his relatives, it wasn't even close to true. He was the equivalent of a house-elf in that house…
And the collar. It was unbelievable. That anyone could treat a child like that. You're one to talk, said a voice in the back of his head. He shook his head, but he couldn't deny it. He might not have ever raised a hand to Potter, but his cutting remarks over the years had left their mark, only reinforcing what the Dursleys had taught him. He wasn't much better than the boy's relatives.
He then remembered one of the more recent memories of detention. That witch had been using a dark artifact on children, and there was no way in hell he was going to let her continue. He marched over to Potter and made a move to grab his shoulder, but the boy flinched violently away from him.
He frowned. Living with the Dursleys had clearly left a mark. He was also troubled by how long the abuse had lasted for; he couldn't remember ever seeing such a horrible case, especially considering the fact that the Dursleys had drilled it into Potter's head what a worthless freak he was, and he - Oh, Merlin. He had only further convinced him that his relatives were right. I'm sorry, Lily.
"Potter, I need to see your hand," Snape said softly.
He looked at him in confusion, his emerald green eyes betraying the slightest hint of fear. "I-"
"I have to see if it's infected," Snape explained.
He reluctantly rolled up his sleeve so that it would be easier for the professor to see. Snape gasped when he saw his hand.
Harry turned away, refusing to look at him. Professor Snape picked up his hand gently and regarded the sentence that would always be carved into Potter's hand. He didn't know how he could have missed it. You weren't looking for it, a snide voice in the back of his head whispered. He swallowed down his guilt, knowing that was exactly what had happened.
He summoned a few potions from the closet and some basic first aid materials.
"I'm going to disinfect your hand first," he said softly. Harry still refused to look at him.
When the rubbing alcohol touched the back of his hand, he let out a hiss of pain and grimaced. Snape gently rubbed the dried blood off. He then used his wand to murmur some spells that Harry couldn't hear.
"I need you drink a few potions for me," he said.
When Harry didn't turn his head, he let out a sigh. "With the state your body has been in for the past few weeks, it would in your best interests to drink them."
"Fine," Harry muttered. He turned his head towards Snape but looked at the wall behind him.
He handed the first potion to him, which was a murky green color. "It doesn't taste that great, but trust me, you need it."
"Trust you...sure," Harry said under his breath, not realizing that Snape had heard him. Nonetheless, he drank the whole thing, grimacing as the taste got to him.
The Professor could hardly blame Potter for not trusting him. After all, he had never given him any reason in all the years he'd been teaching him to trust him at all. So why did he feel so disappointed?
After all the potions had gone down Harry's throat, Snape stood up from where he'd been kneeling on the floor. He reached out a hand to help Potter up.
Harry took it, feeling too tired at that point to really care that he was accepting Snape's help. He had already drank 5 potions made by him, so what was it to accept a bit more assistance? He was already dependent upon him by that time.
"I'm going to take you to Madame Pomfrey, and she can do a full diagnostic scan. I might be qualified in healing, but there's only so much I can do," Professor Snape explained.
Harry nodded and followed his professor out of his quarters. They made their way to the hospital wing silently. He wasn't feeling up to making conversation, least of all with Snape, while his professor's mind was reeling with everything he had discovered about Potter.
They arrived at the hospital wing. "Go sit down on a bed," Snape ordered, pointing towards the empty cots. "I'll get Madame Pomfrey."
He went into her office to find her at her desk. "Severus? What's wrong?" she asked.
"It's Potter. A few things came to light during our occlumency lesson, and I thought it would be beneficial to bring him here," he explained.
She nodded and strode out of her office towards the bed that Harry had decided to sit on. Snape followed after her.
"Mr. Potter, if you wouldn't mind lying down, I'll cast a diagnostic scan on you," she said.
He acquised and lied down, not saying anything. Madame Pomfrey waved her wand in a simple motion, and a piece of paper immediately appeared, listing all the injuries that Harry had suffered since he'd been born.
There was the scar that she'd been expecting, along with some injuries from quidditch, but after that...she looked at the list impassively as it grew longer and longer. Inside, she was felt for the boy in front of her.
However, when she saw the injury from the blood quill listed, she couldn't help but feel a sense of rage at the woman that had done that to Harry. For there was only one possible person.
"A blood quill, unbelievable. When I get my hands on that woman...," she muttered angrily.
When the list was finally finished, it was an astounding 3 feet long, filled with injuries, some of which she had never encountered. "Malnourished..." she murmured to herself.
As both she and Professor Snape looked at Harry, they must have come to the same conclusion. "Potter, you've been wearing glamours ever since you've been at school, is that correct?" Snape asked.
Harry looked him, bit his lip, and nodded. He would know if he was lying, so he might as well just tell the truth. "Yes, sir," he replied, the first thing he had said since the occlumency lesson.
"Do you think you could drop them? We need to see just how bad your body is," Madame Pomfrey explained.
He seemed to concentrate for a few moment before the glamours fell. He was scared to see their reaction, and his nervousness only increased when he didn't hear anything.
"Dear Merlin...He's like a twig!" Poppy exclaimed.
"I'm not surprised, considering what his childhood was like," Snape muttered.
"I need to talk to the Headmaster about what I've seen. I trust Potter will be okay?" he asked.
"Of course he will!" Poppy replied indignantly.
"Trust me Potter, you won't be going back. To Umbridge or the Dursleys," he said softly, almost to himself, before walking out.
And yet, in that moment, Harry had somehow heard that promise, and he smiled to himself, knowing that he could trust Snape on that.