Welcome back dear reader. In the last chapter, Severus hurried Harry to Madame Pomfrey when his excursion to the Room of Requirement didn't work out as he had it laid out. It gave them a chance to bond, while we learnt a bit more about Severus' past. Unfortunately, that also means that Severus' idea to therapy Harry didn't work out at all and that he has yet to think of something else. Let's see what both are up to once Harry has recovered a little...
Please Come For Me - Chapter 21 – Sympathy
Severus was sitting in his study and cast a look outside the window. The rainstorm had been raging for hours now and didn't appear to be stopping anytime soon.
It was uncharacteristically cold for this time of the year.
He had sent Harry to his bedroom to get some rest. Naturally the boy had protested, and eventually Severus had given him permission to take a book with him. After all it couldn't harm if he read a little and did something for his education.
A sudden pop drew his attention. The fireplace had sprung to life. Seconds later, Poppy's head was beaming at him.
'May I step in?' she inquired friendlily.
'Certainly,' Severus nodded, rising from his chair.
'I am sorry to intrude on your privacy, but something has been on my mind I wish to discuss with you.'
For a moment, Severus' gaze lingered on the robust lady, then he signalled her to follow.
'I suggest we go to the living room, you will find it more comfortable there.'
With a smile on her face Poppy nodded and followed Severus through the halls of the grand mansion.
'Your mother's place, I assume?' she inquired.
'Are you still taking care of the other property in Spinner's End?'
'There is no necessity.' The answer was curt.
'What do you mean?'
'I have not returned to this place for a very long time and, frankly, I don't care whether it has become a decrepit ruin by now.'
'So it is abandoned now?'
'I don't know,' Severus said indifferently.
'Oh, Severus!' Poppy exclaimed. She had come to a halt in front of a large picture in which the tree tops of a distant forest were swaying peacefully. 'You can't tell me that after all those years you haven't been there once?'
Severus cast her an icy look. 'Is it that you wished to speak to me about?'
He felt the urge to turn on his heels and manoeuvre the medi-witch right back into the fireplace, but Poppy shook her head.
'No. Well, not quite. It is about the boy.'
'Naturally,' Severus sighed and waved his hand along the floor. 'Please, let us proceed.'
Moments later, Poppy had entered the spacious living room. 'Can I be straight with you?'
'By all means. Would you like a cup of tea?'
'That would be very friendly of you,' Poppy beamed and seated herself in a comfortable chair next to a small desk. Severus snapped his fingers, and instantly a little house elf appeared.
Again, Harry's comments on keeping slaves around the house returned to his mind, but he shook them off angrily. Having misinterpreted her master's gesture for impatience, the house elf fell to her knees, sobbing instantly.
'Me so sorry, Master! Ellie was just dusting the shelves in the kitchen!'
Teary eyes were looking at him and before he was even aware of it, he shook his head lightly and said
'This wasn't directed at you.' Tapping his fingers against the top of the small table, he added, 'Fetch us some tea.'
Instantly, the elf scurried away and reappeared only moments later with a tray laden with two steaming cups of tea, sugar, and biscuits. She placed the tray on the little table between the two wizards and retreated quickly.
'I see you kept her,' Poppy noticed, helping herself to some biscuits.
Severus raised his brows. Of course he had! He couldn't just have abandoned the elf because his mother wasn't there anymore.
'Naturally, she is a helpful servant.'
'Of course, she is,' Poppy nodded friendlily, now adding sugar to her tea. Gesturing towards a cushioned chair close by, she added, 'Seat yourself.'
'What is it you wanted to speak to me about, then?' Severus asked, refusing to move. 'Be blunt.'
'Very well then,' the little medi-witch replied, putting her cup down. She fidgeted a little in her chair.
'I contacted an old friend of mine who is more than willing to assist you in dealing with Harry's issues.'
'And why would you think that I needed any assistance.' Severus' voice was again very cold.
'Oh please, Severus!' the medi-witch shook her head impatiently. 'You haven't even dealt with your own childhood trauma. How are you supposed to straighten things out for this child, then?'
Her face turned rosy under the look Severus bestowed upon her, yet her voice was strong when she looked up into his hardened face. 'You asked for blunt, young man.'
Severus opened his mouth, but was interrupted by the resolute woman in front of him.
'This is not about questioning your abilities! I was merely following my heart and did something I should have done a long time ago.'
She bowed her head and, for a moment, Severus saw that some tears glittered in her eyes. It was impossible to knock the stuffing out of such a person, even when he felt anger rise inside him.
'Let me hear your brilliant plan, then,' he said brusquely.
'I talked to Bathilda.'
'Bathilda!' Severus exclaimed.
'Yes!' Defiance spread on Poppy's face. 'She is perfectly suited for this and you very well know why!'
Unwilling to play along, Severus did not comment.
'She is the most empathic person I know, she has known Harry's whole family from a very early time, and I trust her unconditionally.'
Severus raised a brow at the implication of it, but still didn't say a word.
Although every string in his body was rebelling at the thought, there was some truth to it. He had attempted to deal with the issue professionally, read books. Up to this point, books had never failed him. And still things had gotten out of hand. Maybe it was time for a new perspective. From a professional point of view, of course. And he could not help but appreciate the brilliance of Bathilda's mind.
'What have you had in mind?' he inquired politely.
'Well,' Poppy replied, pleased that her expectation of being shoved right into the next fireplace for a one-way-trip back to her office hadn't eventuated yet. 'That depends on you entirely.'
'You said that you wanted Harry to be able to confront his fears, correct?'
'Well, apparently it didn't quite work out,' the medi-witch stated.
'Get to the point, woman!' Severus felt that it was completely unnecessary to point this out.
'You can't paint without colour.'
'I SAID get to the point,' Severus repeated slowly.
'You cannot confront fears without the equipment to deal with them. You can't put the cart before the horse.'
'That's ENOUGH of your wisdom for one day!' Forcefully, Severus slapped the tea table in front of him, causing the cup to clatter loudly.
A stern look met the Potion Masters' eyes.
'Don't you lash out at me simply because you are frustrated by your own shortcomings, young man!'
'Poppy!' Severus explained. He didn't appreciate being adressed like a naughty school boy.
'I will make it short then,' the medi-witch continued, her cheeks flushed now. 'I asked Bathilda if she were willing to help you, just to provide some guidance and share her experience with those matters, purely professional of course. And,' she added, 'the decision is – of course – entirely up to you.'
After a while, she added with a significant pause
'And you haven't considered the most important aspect of it yet.'
'And what would that be?' Severus asked.
'She is currently housing the boy's aunt and cousin. Dudley is his name, I think? I believe that would be immensely helpful.'
'Another confrontation?' Severus raised one brow.
'Not necessarily. Actually, I thought that this way Petunia would be able to take into consideration several perspectives.'
At this, Severus snorted.
'Who cares about the perspective of this wretched woman!'
With disgust he remembered Petunia with her horsey face, her ignorance to everything magical, and her deep envy and hatred.
'And this is EXACTLY why you need help!' Poppy scolded. 'How are you supposed to help the boy when you keep away the only chance of reconciliation from him! After all, she is his aunt and he is bound to love her.'
'Love her!' Severus slammed his fist on the table in front of him, finally sending the empty cup to the floor where it shattered to pieces. Poppy had sprung to her feet.
'Don't you DARE talk to me like this, boy!'
Severus clenched his fist and gave a curt apologetic nod towards the resolute woman.
'Of course, he loves her! She is his aunt! And if you allowed yourself for one second to regard your childhood realistically, not in that twisted and contorted way you appear to deem manageable, you would appreciate that even you must have felt love for your parents at some point. Craving for their sympathy, their recognition, their praise!'
'ENOUGH!' Severus thundered, grabbing the armrest of her chair forcefully.
Poppy looked at her troubled counterpart and smiled.
'It is entirely up to you. She ensured me that whatever your decision will be, she will accept it.'
Again, Severus nodded curtly.
'Don't you do that to me,' Poppy shook her head slowly.
'What are you talking about, woman?' Severus was unnerved.
'You can't fool me,' the witch said and then added, very quietly, something that sounded very much like 'hard shell, soft core.'
'I must be going then,' Poppy suddenly said, springing to her feet. 'I thank you for your time and the tea. Just before I leave,' she added, 'would you allow me to see after my little patient once more?'
'Certainly,' Severus nodded. 'I sent him to his room. To get some rest!' he added quickly when the medi-witch cast him a stern look.
'Very well, after you,' Poppy smiled.
She had to hurry to keep up with the quick strides of the Potion's Master who seemed determined not to slow down at all. In silence they ascended the steps to the top floor. Stopping next to Harry's bedroom, Severus knocked twice. When no one answered, he grabbed the door knob and opened the door silently.
The sight hit him like a shock. On the floor lay countless pages of A History Of Magic, apparently ripped from the binding with a lot of force. A chair was lying upside down next to the window. The doors of the wardrobe hung open. It looked like everything that had been neatly hung up inside had been thrown to the floor.
Altogether, the room left the impression that a rhinoceros had gone berserk recently. Yet there was none to be seen. Not even a little one.
Severus looked at Poppy who stood terrified at the door, her mouth hanging open.
'Harry Potter!' Severus shouted, but nothing moved.
Trusting in the Unbreakable Charm he had placed on the window, he brushed away the thought that Harry had yet again done something stupid to hurt himself. And after all, of course, there was no broken glass this time. Crouching to his knees, he peeked under the bed. Curled up in the far corner lay the familiar ball of pity that had been added to his household so recently.
'Harry, please come out!' he said with as much reassurance in his voice as he could muster.
Rolling his eyes as he had to go over all of this yet again, Severus started his monologue somewhat mechanically.
'Whatever it is, I am not mad. Please come out, so we can talk. I will NOT hit you, I will NOT hurt you. I JUST want to check that you are alright.'
Impressed with the resilience Severus was showing, Poppy closed her mouth and with crossed arms leaned against the door frame, watching the scene intently.
Severus just started to wonder what he was supposed to do when Harry wouldn't come forth voluntarily – certainly he couldn't start counting again! – when he heard a little shuffling noise. Slowly the tiny ball edged forwards from its hiding place underneath the bed and halted a good arm's length away from Severus.
The boy didn't look up. Actually he didn't move at all and was rigid with fear.
Severus put a reassuring hand on Harry's shoulder, but it only caused the boy to tense. Resisting the urge to pull back the hand, he instead put his other hand on the boy's other shoulder and shook him lightly.
'Please look at me!'
Nothing happened. The boy seemed to brace for a blow.
For Merlin's sake!
'I said I won't HIT you!' Severus said, his voice unnaturally high.
Poppy coughed slightly.
Instantly, Severus let go of Harry's shoulders, at a loss of what to do. He gave the medi-witch a pleading look and, not without a smile, she walked to his side, patting him on the shoulder. Severus rose and seated himself on the bed, watching the scene before him.
Poppy stood next to Harry who seemed to have taken no notice of her as of yet. Even now he seemed to be completely oblivious to her presence. He simply sat on the floor and stared into nothingness, his eyes cloudy.
With a groan, the medi-witch slowly seated herself next to the boy. There she sat and did nothing for a while. Severus didn't move a muscle as he watched the two of them.
After a while Poppy said in a conversational tone 'Sometimes we all get mad.'
Harry had started to rock back and forth slightly, yet there was no indication whether he was even listening.
'You know, sometimes there are days where I feel really exhausted and then even the tiniest mistake drives me angry. Such feelings often bottle up and at a certain point, that bottle is simply full.'
When the boy didn't react, Poppy gently reached for his hands that grabbed into the fabric of his trousers forcefully and patted them lightly.
'I think you did quite an impressive job.'
At this, the boy stopped rocking and withdrew his hands from her touch, crossing them into a tight hug around his own chest. Severus didn't miss the gesture.
'Indeed. I am impressed that you managed to tear apart such a big book. I might add that the sheets seem to have parted company with their binding for good!'
Poppy heard some shifting sounds that came from the bed. Severus had sat up straight and gave her an incredulous look.
Ignoring him profoundly, Poppy redirected her attention to the boy.
'You really found a way of channelling your frustration here! I must say that I am impressed.'
For the first time, Harry looked up. His eyes were teary and his voice was shaking when he finally spoke.
'Who are you?'
'Oh, my dear boy. I am sorry. My name is Poppy. I am the medi-witch of Hogwarts. I took care of you when Professor Snape over there brought you to the hospital wing after you had left the Room of Requirements.'
Harry scrutinized her carefully. 'So, you are a doctor?'
Well, normally Poppy Pomfrey certainly wouldn't have compared her healing skill to that of a non-magical doctor, considering their limited options, but as of now, the comparison surely sufficed.
'You might put it this way,' she nodded politely. 'Why did you hide underneath the bed?'
Slowly Harry leaned a little closer towards the friendly old woman and whispered
'Because Mr Snape will get mad.'
Poppy couldn't suppress a grin at that address. 'Does he look mad?' she asked, jerking her head towards the Potion's Master who now looked at them with an incensed look on his face.
'Erm…' Harry cringed as he met his guardian's gaze, and his voice ebbed away.
'Mind to tell me what happened then?' Poppy asked.
The boy shook his head ever so lightly.
'I came to check on you, Harry,' she continued unperturbed. 'Are you in any pain?'
Again, the boy shook his head.
'I will not bother you for long, but please do me the favour and lie down on the bed so I can check whether the medication has taken the desired effect. I just want to make sure that you are back to your best form.'
Instantly, Severus rose from the bed and retreated to a corner, making space for his little ward.
Slowly Harry lay down on his back, holding his breath. Severus noticed how the boy slowly lowered his body to the sheets as if anxious not to cause additional pain. And although he was certain that Poppy had healed Harry to the best of her ability, it seemed to be just one of those habits you couldn't shake off easily. Behaviour that had turned to habit because it had been resorted to so often, Severus thought with a lump in his throat. The boy was carefully watching every of the medi-witch's moves as she ran her wand across Harry's Body swiftly. 'A nice necklace you have got there,' she commented. It only caused the boy to grab the panther's fang and tear up, yet he didn't speak.
'Who gave it to you?'
Pressing his lips together, Harry's gaze wandered to the window.
With a sigh, Poppy finished her examination and looked at Severus who shrugged his shoulders.
'I can assure you that I have nursed him back to health and that, physically speaking, he is as good as new. As to the other issue –'
Hand upheld Severus silenced the medi-witch, nodding politely and happy that she appreciated Harry to be a difficult case. It helped to feel less inadequate. 'I will contact Bathilda tonight.'
'Oh, Severus!' Poppy cried out. She walked towards him and threw her arms around the Potion's Master. Mechanically, he patted her on the back.
With a look at Harry, the little witch added
'You are doing the right thing, my boy. Bathilda will be very pleased. I will find my way, don't worry!'
And with that, she walked out of the room, humming a little tune.
Severus looked at the boy who was still lying on the bed, grabbing his fang for solace. It pained him to see him like this. And there was something else. It wasn't jealousy. Severus Snape was not even capable of being jealous! Yet the feeling nagged him that, despite all his effort, Harry didn't even want to be here. All he wanted was to get back to the doctor!
When Severus crossed the space towards the bed in a few long strides, Harry jerked up, retreating to the far corner of the bed.
'What is it now?' Severus asked, cursing himself inwardly.
'I can feel that you are mad,' Harry whispered.
Severus sighed. Annoyed by the lack of his ability to conceal his feelings and frustrated by the obvious misinterpretation that had let the boy – yet again – to the assumption that he was in trouble, he was at a loss how to react.
'I am not mad.'
'Yes, you are.'
'No backtalk, BOY!' he said, more sternly than he had wanted to.
Instantly, the boy sat up very straight, watching the man opposite him guardedly. 'I am sorry.'
Harry had just felt so lonely and even though his body didn't hurt anymore, his heart was aching horribly.
A miserable look appeared on the boy's face.
Severus took a deep breath, moved right up to the bed and, ignoring the violent flinching, pulled the boy into a tight hug. At first the stiff little body felt awkward in his arms, but after a while it relaxed. Slowly, he started to stroke Harry's hair.
Severus didn't know how much time had passed when suddenly a small voice said
'Sometimes I get so mad.'
Quietly, Severus kept stroking the boy's hair.
'Sometimes there are situations which remind me of some… of things… and it's like I can't do anything about it. It feels so real.'
'Yes, it does,' Severus heard himself say.
The boy started fumbling with the fabric of Severus' shirt. He ran his fingers across the seams as if trying to distract himself mechanically from some very unpleasant thoughts.
'Do you want to tell me about it?' Severus asked. He kept stroking the boy's hair and after an endless pause, a small voice spoke up.
'I read the book you gave me. But it makes no sense!'
'Are there words you don't understand?' Severus inquired carefully.
'No,' the boy replied and for a moment, Severus thought he had spotted a little indignation in the child's voice.
'It's the concept that's all wrong,' he continued.
With raised eyebrows, Severus pulled Harry gently away from his embrace, just enough to look him straight in the eyes. 'What do you mean by that?'
'They keep talking about magic as if it were the best thing in the world!'
With an unreadable expression, Severus mustered his little ward.
'And you assume that it is not?'
The boy hung his head. His thoughts weren't hard to guess. Severus sighed.
'Your uncle and aunt considered your abilities to be unnormal simply because they weren't capable of understanding them, let alone accept your gift!'
'Gift!' Harry snorted, 'Uncle Vernon kicked the crap out of me just for doing stuff I was never able to control!' Harry felt his guardian's muscles tense.
For a while, none of them moved. Then Harry felt how the soft stroking of his hair continued.
After a while, Severus said 'Your mother and your father were very talented wizards. You take after them and you possess great powers. Your aunt and your uncle have been too ignorant to understand and too jealous to appreciate it.'
'I don't care why they hate me,' Harry cried, 'they do and that's all that matters.'
'I am sure your aunt doesn't hate you,' Severus replied, trying to grab a hold of the little fist Harry had slammed into the blanket.
'You didn't mention Uncle Vernon,' Harry remarked. He wasn't stupid after all.
Severus sighed when Harry tried to withdraw his hand from his grip. Letting go, Severus slowly said 'What he did is inexcusable. I cannot possibly explain to you why he did to you what he did.'
'Did your father hate you, too?'
Severus cleared his throat. 'We are talking about you at the moment, young man.'
Harry swallowed hard. Happy that no more serious rebuke seemed to followed, he stiffly leaned against the chest of his new guardian again and felt relieved when the reassuring patting continued.
'Will you punish me for ripping your book?' Harry asked timidly after a while. For a moment, Severus' fingers halted in mid-air.
'I must admit that I am not happy about you ruining the book,' Instantly the boy hung his head. Severus lifted his chin with his hand. 'LOOK. AT. ME.'
Slowly, the boy lifted his gaze.
'I said that I am not happy about it. Yet I can understand your motivation, this time. Will you please give me some credit when it comes to telling apart blind vandalism from emotional destructiveness?'
Harry had started fumbling with his fang again. Severus sighed.
'It's easy. If you misbehave, there will be consequences. But I will carefully separate between any emotional trouble that has caused your behaviour and pure disrespect or insolence. Is that understood?'
'Yes, Sir,' the boy replied obediently.
'Tell me why you did it, though,' Severus finally asked. Confused, Harry looked at him.
'I thought I just did.'
'That was the reason that set you off. But you have never, or I am at least not aware of it, destroyed any property before. What made you change your mind?'
Harry felt uneasy. As if he was being lured into a trap. He wasn't sure whether he could truthfully answer or not. He had to think of Aunt Petunia's plants he had desired to crush so frequently. Actually he had wanted to let out his anger long before. He had just been too scared of the consequences! Certainly Uncle Vernon would have walloped him badly if he ever destroyed any of his possessions. But he couldn't tell Mr Snape that! Certainly he would think that Harry took advantage of the promise not to be hit, and then Mr Snape would probably recognise his mistake and change his mind.
A slight nudge shook Harry out of his daydreaming.
'Stop breathing so hard and start explaining.'
For a moment, Harry's lips moved in silence, then he shook his head.
'I don't want to pressure you then,' Severus finally said. 'But whenever you feel that this anger is rising inside you again, just come to see me and tell me about it.'
Slowly, Harry nodded as his guardian cast him a stern look.
'And I don't care if it's the middle of the night. You will come and see me. Is this understood?'
'And Harry,' Severus finally said.
'I am proud that you didn't create your sphere again.'
For a few seconds, the boy looked Severus straight in the eyes, his expression unreadable. Then, he carefully leaned against the chest of his new guardian again, closing his eyes as the patting on his back resumed.
x x x
I wish you all a peaceful Christmas time and a Happy New Year :-) Thanks for reading.