AN: Another chapter, folks. School is really easy for me right now, so I've been writing a lot. I've gotten a few chapters done, so hopefully I'll be updating again soon. There's a lot of angst in this chapter, so be prepared.

Warning: Graphic self harm scene- if this topic triggers you, please don't read this chapter. I don't want anyone to be hurt because of my writing.

Chapter 18
Severus POV

It was as if alarm bells were blaring in his head, panic making his chest close up when he walked into Harry's room in the morning to find the bed empty and Tiddles fast asleep in the chair.

"Tiddles!" he shouted, looking frantically around the room. He opened the bathroom door to find it empty as well. "You were supposed to be watching him!" He looked through the bathroom to Draco's room, which was just as deserted as Harry's.

"Merlin," he breathed as he pushed past the blubbering house elf and raced down the stairs. The library, he thought, and when he reached the door he threw it open with such force that it slammed against the wall. His jaw dropped when he saw Harry and Draco curled up next to each other on the large couch in the center of the room. Harry has startled awake when the door hit the wall, but Draco was still fast asleep… with his head leaning on Harry's shoulder.

Relief flooded him at seeing Harry safe. "That's something I never thought I'd see," he muttered, chuckling at the sight of the old school rivals together on the couch. Harry looked frightened, seeing him burst into the room looking so livid, but relaxed when he saw Severus calm down.

"When did you come down here?" Severus said quietly, collapsing in the chair across from them.
Harry held up three fingers, apparently still unwilling to break his silent streak. "Couldn't sleep?" Severus asked. Harry shook his head. "We should wake Draco and have breakfast. It's eight o'clock."

Harry nodded and shook the other boy slightly. Draco woke quickly, bolting upright and falling off the couch. He stared at them with terrified eyes before realizing where he was and scrambling to his feet, looking embarrassed. "Sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry for," Severus told his ward before standing himself and heading for the door. "Breakfast in ten minutes," he said over his shoulder.

Harry POV

Breakfast had been uneventful. Harry had sat in silence as usual, while Draco and Severus talked about the last book Draco had read. The darkness was holding him in its claws the whole time, but it wasn't until he got back up to his room that he finally allowed it to crash over him. It was too exhausting to keep pushing it away.

He flopped down on his bed. The darkness was ripping his insides to pieces, and his head was starting to ache. Tiddles was sitting at his desk chair, humming to herself and swaying along to the music that was playing in her mind. Harry wished he could do that. Just… escape, if only for a little while. But no, he was trapped inside his head, which felt like a battlefield right now, blow after blow coming at him in the form of the horrific thoughts that never left his mind- but they were worse now. The quiet of the room was suffocating him as his mind screamed at him. Failure. Useless. Weak. Killer. Hermione and Ron's faces filled his mind. My fault. My fault. He needed to cut. Yes, that would make it stop. But the wards will go off, he thought. It took only a moment for him to dismiss the thought. He didn't care if Snape found out, as long as the thoughts stopped. He had taken one of Harry's blades after his attempt assuming it was the only one, but he still had one more.

He stood, feeling like there were hundreds of pounds tied to every limb as he walked slowly across the room. He grabbed a towel and the other blade from his trunk, careful to hide it from Tiddles. He cradled it in his fist and it brought him considerable comfort. My fault. My fault. My fault.

"Shower," he whispered to Tiddles, the word crawling painfully out of his throat. He didn't know why he could speak so easily to Draco, but talking to anyone else made him feel too vulnerable. His past and his mind were too dark to speak to anyone about. He couldn't put that kind of pain on anyone. My fault. My fault. My fault.

"Okay, Master Harry. I will be right here if you need anything. Anything at all." She looked up at him with her huge eyes and Harry felt a stab of guilt, knowing how angry Severus would be with her once the wards went off. Closing the bathroom door swiftly behind him, he turned on the shower and slid down to the floor next to the sink. My fault. My fault. My fault.

He couldn't cut his wrists anymore, what with the wounds and stitches that still hadn't healed. He rolled up his sleeve and chose a spot on his shoulder instead. My fault. He took a deep breath and cut into his arm. Immediately, a high-pitched, screeching noise filled the room- the wards. Quickly, he made another cut, and another, slicing into his skin repeatedly, fully aware that Snape was likely already running up the stairs as he did. Staring at the blood as it streamed down his arm, he began to laugh softly. He was crazy. Absolutely mental. The darkness had lifted from his chest, but he knew it would be back soon. It would never leave. My fault. My fault. My fault. On the other side of the door he could hear Tiddles crying, and a loud "Alohomora" before the door burst open.

It was Snape, obviously, looking disheveled and worried. He realized that he was still laughing, but as Snape knelt beside him, the laughing turned to sobbing. He leaned into Snape's chest and cried as the professor wrapped his arms hesitantly around his shoulders. My fault.

He didn't know how long he sat there crying while the man held him, rubbing his back slowly as his cuts bled all over him. At some point he realized that this was Snape hugging him, but the darkness was already back and choking him again and he found that he didn't even care. Eventually the tears dried up and Snape pulled back, staring at Harry's red, puffy face. A moment passed, then he stood, pulling Harry up with him.

"Let's get you cleaned up," he said. He grabbed a hand towel and pressed it against Harry's shoulder, leading Harry from the bathroom and down to his lab, or office, or whatever it was. Sitting him down on one of the hard chairs in front of a cauldron, he took the towel off his arm and murmured a spell to clean off the blood. Harry watched vacantly, feeling heavy and miserable. He heard Snape sigh. "You need stitches," he said, walking away to find a suture kit.

Alone for a moment, Harry felt his face crumple again and more tears leaked from his eyes. When Snape returned with the kit, he merely placed a hand on the top of his head, running his fingers through the tangled locks a few times in an attempt to comfort him. He opened the box and pulled out a needle and surgical thread. Harry allowed him to prod his arm, and tolerated the four sharp pains in his shoulder before Snape closed the kit and put it back where it had been.

Harry stood, expecting to be led out of the room, but Snape pushed him gently back down. "Sit. We need to talk about this." Harry didn't have the energy or motivation to get back up or run from the room, so he stayed put as Snape took the chair across from him.

"Why did you hurt yourself?"

Harry merely stared at him, trying to ignore the darkness that was weighing down his stomach, just waiting to crawl out of his mouth and infect everything around him. You keep it to yourself, he thought, or risk making yourself more alone than you already are.

Snape gazed back at him for a few silent minutes before he pulled up the left sleeve of his robe and began to unbutton the cuff of his black collared shirt. "Harry, you think nobody understands you, yes? That you can't speak because you'll pollute everything around you with the darkness inside of you?" Harry narrowed his eyes at him, not wanting him to know how close to the truth he was. "Well, you don't have to worry about polluting me. And you definitely don't have to worry about me not understanding." He finished unbuttoning it and rolled it up to his elbow, revealing dozens of pale white scars littering his entire wrist.

Harry could feel his jaw drop, and he looked at the man's face to find only sincerity. This was the last thing that he would expect from the potions' master, though he supposed it made sense, remembering their conversation days ago about his father. "I'm sorry, sir," he whispered, breaking his vow of silence towards him.

"There's no reason to be sorry. It's in the past. I want you to put it in the past." Harry looked down. "So, Harry, why did you hurt yourself tonight?"

Harry curled in on himself, wrapping his arms around his midsection and letting his shoulders slouch. He shook his head. "I don't know," he whispered, barely audible.

"Yes, you do," Snape said gently.

Harry closed his eyes tightly to prevent the tears from falling. "It just…" he whispered. "It just hurts. It hurts so badly I can't breathe."

Snape sighed and Harry heard his chair scrape the ground as he stood, walking over. The tears were falling freely now, and he felt the man's arms encase him again as he let out a sob. His first instinct was to push him away, but he was too weak, and cold, and miserable. "I know," the man said. "I know."

"It hurts." His arms hesitantly wrapped around Snape's back.

"I know."