Hi and welcome back. In the last chapter Severus realised that indeed he needs help when dealing with Harry's issues, and he learnt that there are several people gladly offering it. Yet, the way ahead is rocky as it takes time for trust to build. This chapter is somehow special as this is – I kid you not – the scene I had in mind when beginning to write this story. I hope you enjoy…
Please Come For Me - Chapter 22 – Confrontation
Severus' body was tense. With a deadly stare he pinned the persons sitting opposite him to their chairs. Both seemed to fidget now and then, yet their looks were full of anger and despise.
'Now, now,' Bathilda said, raising her hands in an attempt of pacification, 'remember what we are here for. It is for the boy's sake!'
'Ha!' Vernon exclaimed. 'That freak has cost me more things in life than he will ever possess, I dare assume!'
He was oblivious to the twitching in Severus' finger as he had yet again used that term.
Petunia, on the other hand, was fully aware of it and, probably due to that realisation, horrified. Her gaze hadn't departed from Severus once. Rigidly she sat in her chair, eying her opposite like prey its predator. Her fingernails were carved into the arms of her chair.
'Remember,' Bathilda reproached, 'you were only brought here because it will help the boy. This is not about your sensitivities, Vernon Dursley. So please, let's get back to our discussion.'
'What is there to discuss, woman?' Severus cut through her words quite harshly. 'He is a child abuser and to be treated as such! Oh, if you just let me –'
'Severus!' Bathilda shot him an angry look, but was outrun by Vernon on this matter.
'Ha!' he exclaimed yet again. 'That's what you call me? So tell me, why would someone like you bother? It is none of your concern what I do to the boy, he belongs to me!'
Severus' eyes were now small slits. 'Such arrogance! How dare you assume possession over that boy, anyone for that matter?'
'Oh, shut up!' Vernon ignored his opposite's anger. 'You are giving your dramatic little role play way too much credit. You can't frighten me! It's not my fault that the stupid boy got himself into trouble again and again.'
At this Petunia shot her husband an anxious look, nudging his arm slightly. He slapped her hand away rather violently, causing her to flinch. Severus watched intently as Vernon just ploughed on.
'Like my sister always says, you have to have a firm hand with them or they will be out of bounds before you notice! It's all in the blood,' Vernon nodded, more to himself than anybody else. He seemed quite content as if that had settled the matter.
'You bastard dare talk about blood relations?' Severus seethed. 'He is your nephew! You were supposed to protect him! He never even got to know his parents!'
'Oh,' Vernon nodded slowly and some sickening smile spread on his beefy face. 'His parents just got what they deserved. His father –'
'Silence!' Severus thundered. He had sprung to his feet with such force that his chair fell to the floor.
Again, Petunia tucked at her husband's sleeve, horrified that he was talking himself into too much trouble, and was thanked for that by a vicious backhanded slap that hit her right across the face.
Severus' face hardened at the scene unfolding before his eyes, pressure building in his chest. Petunia clutched both hands to her nose, but a few traitorous drops had escaped and dripped to the floor. She still hid her face beneath her hands, but Severus could see her shoulders shaking lightly.
Vernon was now snickering, completely oblivious to his wife's sobbing. 'After all, the freak deserved what he got! As to his mother –'
Even before Petunia had managed to flee from the table with a scream, Severus had sprung to his feet, causing his chair to topple over as he pointed his wand at Vernon. Never had he looked so murderous. He took tremendous pleasure in watching what was happening right before his eyes now.
Vernon had instantly collapsed in his chair and slid to the floor. Still screaming, Petunia edged away further from her husband whose body was reduced to flailing arms and legs.
'SEVERUS!' Bathilda shouted again, but he only jerked his head in anger and pointed his wand to the walrus writhing before his feet once more.
Bathilda sighed. With a flick of her hand, the scene dissolved. Vernon, Petunia, the chairs, and the table disappeared.
Severus was breathing hard. Taking a look around the now empty Room of Requirements, his gaze halted before the robust little witch standing in one corner, shaking her head slowly.
'Well, not exactly what I had in mind, but nothing I didn't expect to be honest,' she sighed.
Severus rubbed his face with his hands, closing his eyes for a brief moment. Bathilda could only guess what thoughts were tormenting the soul of the troubled man momentarily.
After a few moments Severus said 'This won't work. I will never be able to do it. Not even for Harry's sake!'
Bathilda looked at him thoughtfully.
'It's not him you despise.'
'Oh yes, I do!' Severus objected.
'Let me finish,' Bathilda reproached. 'I meant to say that it is the idea you are opposed to. It doesn't matter whether you confront a Vernon Dursely or a Herbert Hicklehump… you are facing a violent father, and husband, and that's all you see.'
Unnerved by the constant therapist situation he found himself in so regularly as of late, Severus growled.
'That's all what he is.'
'That's all you have ever experienced,' Bathilda observed bluntly.
'Woman!' Severus groaned loudly, but his glare was not deadly anymore, it was rather weak.
'If you truly want to help Harry, you need to deal with your own emotional problems first.'
'Will you stop referring to any such things!' Severus exclaimed. 'I am not your patient here. This is about Harry!'
'Correct,' Bathilda said patiently. 'And if I had taken you and the boy to his relatives tonight, this is what would have happened.'
'Good!' Severus shouted. 'As that is what they deserve.'
Slowly, the old lady shook her head. 'And how exactly do you reckon would this help Harry to put his past behind himself? What signal would it send?'
'That damn abusers will get what they deserve!'
'No,' Bathilda simply stated. 'You would teach him that you are putting yourself above the law and that if something doesn't work out to your liking, rules don't apply to you anymore.'
This wasn't fair. This was simply not fair.
'You are twisting my words,' Severus said.
'No, Severus,' Bathilda comforted. 'And believe me, I want Vernon Dursley punished just as much as you do. But this is not about your revenge, it is about Harry getting a chance to snap shut a very long and sad book. And after all of this, you may realise at some point, that he is not the only victim here.'
Severus snorted. He was now leaning against a wall, arms crossed in front of his chest. His breathing had returned to a regular rhythm already.
Yet there was this constant scorn in his chest. Every time the boy had flinched, shied away, or braced for an anticipated blow, some anger had been added to that. It felt like he was going to explode, and for the first time in his life, he thought that he could imagine what it had to be like for Harry before his accidental magic took over. Watching the scene that had unfolded before his eyes just moments ago hadn't particularly helped, either.
Bathilda watched Severus carefully.
'You know,' she pondered, 'after all you might have been looking at the whole thing quite one-sidedly.'
Severus raised a brow, determined not to dignify the obvious with an answer.
'I suggest you come to my place and have a talk with Petunia. Harry would get a chance to see her and his cousin again.'
Shifting to his other foot, Severus looked at her intently. He knew that this old hag had planned this right from the start, and the only thing he hated even more was that he hadn't seen it coming!
He was not the type to admit an error easily, but he acknowledged cunning when he saw it, and after all, the unnerving voice in his head said, she might just have a point.
'You really think this is a good idea? I am not sure whether Harry should be meeting his aunt and cousin already,' Severus said.
'And I think,' Bathilda objected, 'that putting off the inevitable will only make it harder for him. There is no point in having him settle in and postpone what might disturb him later on.'
'So, you admit that he will be disturbed by it!' Severus spotted sarcastically.
'Oh, be realistic, Sev!' Bathilda was annoyed now. 'Who is twisting words here now? I am not saying that we will be in for a glossy family reunion. But after all, that's not the point.'
'What is the point then?' Severus snapped.
Bathilda pointed at the space where moments before Vernon Dursley had collapsed to the floor.
'The point is that you do not give the boy enough credit for his strengths. Just because you are not ready for it doesn't mean that he isn't either.'
Grudgingly Severus had to admit that even in this outrageous accusation, there was a tiny shred of truth.
'Talk to her,' the old lady insisted. With a laugh she added, 'And trust me, she isn't keen on seeing you either.'
'Well, who would've thought?' The habitual snarl was back to Severus' voice, every cell in his body full of contempt. Yet he had to admit that the scene he had just observed had – for once in his life – thrown a different light on his impression of Petunia which he had considered valid until moments ago.
'Time to put aside the animosity then,' Bathilda said airily and with her small hand, she gestured towards the exit of the Room of Requirements.
'I will have to talk to Harry first,' Severus objected.
Bathilda nodded in approval but the Potion's Master had already turned on his heel and left the room without another word.
x x x
'You are a natural!' Poppy exclaimed full of appreciation. The boy beamed at her. Between the two of them a game of chess had been set up. The figures looked like they had already been passed through many hands by a lot of generations, yet it was the most beautiful thing Harry had ever seen.
Not only were the figures carved with such delicacy that spoke volumes of the heart's blood their creator must have poured into them, they were also moving!
It hadn't taken long for Poppy to explain the rules of this game to the bright child opposite her and since Severus had told her that he might take a while, she had decided to go for something not about to be finished in five minutes.
'I am threatening your queen!' the boy exclaimed cheerfully, nudging his horse across the squares as it had seemed reluctant to follow his command to threaten the king.
He looked up when the medi-witch lifted her finger in some sort of 'I told you so' gesture.
'What is it?'
'You moved well, but still you haven't considered that my bishop will be able to contain your horse.'
'It is too far away from it!' the boy objected.
'Maybe it is at the moment. But think ahead. What will I do when you threaten my queen?'
'You will move it sideways?'
'Correct. And the only available option is here,' the medi-witch pointed at a square closer to her own bishop. 'And when I do so, my queen will also threaten your own king. You won't be able to move him away without putting him in the way of my other figures. The only chance you have got is to block the king with your horse and then,' again she gestured towards her own bishop.
'Oh no!' Harry exclaimed. 'I will never learn this game!'
'You are doing brilliantly!' the medi-witch reassured. 'In fact, I cannot remember that I ever had a patient who learned so quickly. After all, not many boys your age were able to threaten my queen at all, and that is to say something if you allow me to take some pride in my chess play!'
She winked at him and the boy laughed heartily.
At this moment, Severus stepped into the infirmary. He noticed that he hadn't heard Harry laughing at all since he had been assigned to his care.
As soon as Severus entered the room, the boy beamed at his sight. Unwilling to ruin the happy moment, he decided to postpone his little talk with Harry and just sat down next to the boy and watched him play another game with Poppy, impressed by the child's play. Certainly it was far from perfect, but he noticed how the boy never made a mistake twice and how he seemed eager to learn. By the end of the fourth round, the medi-witch was sweating beneath her nurse's gear. After another five minutes, she had to admit defeat and congratulated her little opponent heartily.
Twinkling her eye at Severus, he just nodded in appreciation.
'I think we will be going now, Poppy,' he finally said, noticing the disappointment on the boy's face.
'Of course, Severus,' the medi-witch nodded. With a smile towards Harry she added
'And you should know that such a worthy adversary will always be welcome in my infirmary for another round of chess!'
The smile returned to the boy's face as he allowed his new guardian to steer him out of the hospital wing. Once they had left the school grounds, Harry felt how he was pulled into a tight hug and with a loud crack! both Apparated back to Snape Manor.
x x x