"Potter, what did you mean when you said that you should have let them kill you?"
Snape's words hung heavy in the air as Harry struggled to come up with an explanation. How could he explain. He didn't even remember saying those words to the man. The numb feeling in his chest dissipated slightly, and he felt panic taking over once again.
"I… uhh… What?" Harry sputtered.
"Eloquent as always, Mr. Potter." Snape drawled.
Harry fought to maintain his composure. He let himself settle back into the hollow feeling in his chest. "I don't know what you're talking about, sir." He said, feeling slightly proud that he was able to form a complete sentence that time.
"Earlier, during your pathetic breakdown, you were rocking back in forth mumbling that you should have let them kill you. Explain yourself," Snape demanded, rolling his eyes.
"You must have misheard me," Harry replied evenly, his eyes staring straight through the Professor.
Snape glared at him, and then continued. "I don't think so, Potter. Now. Explain. Yourself," he hissed dangerously.
"I'm sorry, Professor. But I have no idea what you're talking about," Harry said in a perplexed tone.
He nodded slowly, seeming irritated. The man didn't appear to believe his excuse, but he didn't press the issue any further. "It is past curfew, I suggest you go to Madame Pomfrey for a calming draught if you need one, and then go to your dormitory."
"Yes, sir." Harry replied calmly, turning away to leave.
"Don't think I will forget the events that have occurred tonight, Mr. Potter," Harry heard Snape say just before he exited the bathroom and plodded down the hall.
In the night, the castle's candlelit halls looked ominous, but Harry didn't mind. He found himself growing more and more comfortable in the darkness. It reminded him of the void: that calming, numb feeling that made him forget all of the bad things that had ever happened to him. It was as if they never existed; it was as if he never existed.
He enjoyed the emptiness, and he found it odd that he could feel that sense of satisfaction from the numbness while simultaneously feeling nothing at all. It was almost like being asleep, only without the nightmares that plagued his subconscious as he rested. It reminded him of being locked away in his cupboard. In the quiet of the night, trapped in darkness, he could neither see nor hear a thing, and if he concentrated hard enough, he could pretend that he wasn't even there.
It wasn't only the emptiness that encapsulated his mind that he enjoyed. He got a similar sense of bliss from the emptiness in his stomach. Before this year, he had been ravenous upon his return to Hogwarts, taking in as much food as he thought his stomach could hold. But now the ache in his stomach was more satisfying than anything he could ever consume.
After his conversation with Snape, he thought he would feel some relief. After all, it turned out he hadn't killed Marge; at least not directly. Sure, she had died from a heart attack resulting from a stressful situation that Harry had created, but at least he hadn't Avra Kedavrad her with his mind or some shit as he'd originally thought. He was still a murderer though. He'd definitely blew a man's brains out in an alleyway, and he didn't think there was any way to get around that. Not to mention first year with Quirrell. He had almost forgotten about his first murder, although he didn't remember anything after the first shot of burning pain that had ripped through his body, so he supposed he at least wouldn't have to relive another person's death. He knew he'd never forget that man's or even Marge's.
He wondered if the Dursley's would forget; he doubted it. It was unlikely that he'd be able to stay with them again for the summer; not that he wanted to. They knew what had really happened, and they would never let him set foot in there without attempting to punish him. It was slightly unnerving to him that everything the Dursleys had ever accused him of being had actually came true. He could remember flashes of his childhood filled with harsh glances, swift fists, and screaming voices that proclaimed him as evil, as a freak, as worthless. When he was young, he'd never thought they would be right.
Harry wandered aimlessly through the halls, feeling slightly surprised when he ended up at the portrait hole of Gryffindor tower anyway. He hadn't been paying any attention to the direction that he'd been moving, and he still managed to go exactly where he least wanted to be. Now he'd be forced to enter a dormitory full of people. He'd have to lay down and sleep; he'd probably have nightmares. He didn't want Ron or Hermione to ask him about his detention. He decided that he'd lie if they did. It was none of their business anyway.
He pushed open the door to his dormitory and noticed the scrapes on his knuckles. He'd almost forgotten about his fist fight with the stone wall. He saw traces of purple bruises already forming around the dried blood. It looked grotesque, but he didn't really mind. He tiptoed over to his bed, noticing a slight throb in his ankle again. He'd already used the healing charm three times that day, and it seemed to be wearing off quicker each time he cast it. He wondered if it would eventually be completely ineffective. He supposed it didn't matter. In the void, he barely felt pain anyway.
"I think you're making a mistake, Headmaster." Severus replied grimly. A stray lock of his lanky obsidian hair slipped into his periphery and he brushed it away with his hand, never breaking eye contact with the man. "Something is wrong with him," he tried to explain, but to no avail.
"Nonsense, Severus." Professor Dumbledore offered jovially. "I expected this behavior. Young Harry is simply experiencing the gut-wrenching process of grief. It effects people in mysterious ways."
"This is different." He said gravely. After seeing the boy last night, Severus was concerned. Never before had he seen a child act so strangely. He'd experienced a serious panic attack, not to mention the troubling thoughts that were running through his mind. Harry Potter was in need of some serious help.
In the days following Potter's detention, Severus had been conflicted over what actions he should take. He'd spent the night of the ordeal pacing in his Potion's classroom, searching for an answer to his dilemma. He knew some action needed to be taken, but it wasn't his place to do anything. After all, the boy was not his responsibility. But it seemed as though everyone around him was acting completely nonchalant about the welfare of the children in their care. First the child from Diagon Alley, and now Potter. I'm starting to sound like Molly Weasley.
Speaking of the strange child, Severus had finally given up searching for the mysterious boy. He supposed that after over two weeks of no sightings or new information on the child, he had no real way to intervene. And besides, he had more pressing matters to attend to. He had actually made an oath to protect Harry Potter, and he supposed he should only spend time protecting one troublesome child at a time.
He was a little ashamed to admit that he was actually worried about the brat; he would never admit that. The pure terror in the boy's eyes didn't trouble him nearly as much as the vacant look he'd seen thereafter. Not to mention the cryptic statements that he'd made concerning himself.
"Albus, the boy believed wholeheartedly that he was responsible for that woman's death. He has been walking around looking half dead for over a week. I never see him eating. He's falling behind in his classes. He barely remains awake in my classroom long enough to keep from scalding himself on his cauldron!" Severus continued, throwing his hands up in exasperation. "You're really not going to do anything about this?"
"Well, you have been spending an inordinate amount of time watching Mr. Potter lately, haven't you, Severus?" The old man said with a bit of mirth visible in his eyes. "It seems to me that you have the situation under control. I'm sure Harry will be just fine. Give him time."
So, Severus did. He continued to watch the boy from afar, but he told himself that he wouldn't intervene. If Dumbledore insists that the boy be left to his own devices, then Dumbledore can deal with the consequences. He didn't interact with Potter at all. He didn't speak to him during class. He didn't take points. He didn't assign detention. But he continued to watch.
Up at the staff table, Severus sat snarling, scooping small spoonfuls of oatmeal into his mouth. The other professors were gossiping again, and their words did not escape him. He knew immediately who they spoke about.
"He's doing awful in my class as well," Pomona proclaimed sadly. "He didn't have any of his Summer homework done, and then he was completely zoned out through the entire class."
"It's never been his best subject, but he's always done so well in Charms," exclaimed Filius, taking a bite of a piece of toast, smothered in butter. "He didn't complete any of the homework I assigned either, and when we practiced cheering charms, he wasn't able to complete one successfully!"
"How has he been in Defense?" Minerva leaned across the table and asked Lupin with a raised eyebrow.
"He's been okay," the wolf said uneasily. "He did seem a little withdrawn though."
"Perhaps, instead of sitting up here gossiping like schoolgirls, you should actually do something." Severus growled.
"I've assigned him detention for his missing assignments." Minerva replied looking irritated by his outburst.
"And I'm sure that's really fixed the problem." He snapped back sarcastically.
At that moment, Severus was momentarily startled when the pathetic looking wraith stumbled into the Great Hall and slumped down at the end of the Gryffindor table. He did not have his normal group of loyal, Gryffindor followers around him. He sat by himself, staring off into space and barely nibbling on a dry piece of toast.
"I've also informed him that he is required to attend meals in the Great Hall with the other students." Minerva told Severus after seeing his surprised expression.
He nods, approving of that policy, but he wished she would have required the boy to actually eat as well.
"Why wasn't he attending meals?" asked Lupin curiously. He appeared genuinely concerned, and Severus felt irritated.
"I don't know anything for certain," Minerva started slowly. "But I have heard some rumors that some of the other students are teasing him about his recent behavior."
"With the dementors on the train?" asked Lupin.
"I believe so," she told him solemnly.
After that, the Potions Master blocked out their voices again and returned to his food, still peering up every couple of minutes to check on Potter.
He thought back to yesterday's Potion class, visualizing the messy black-haired youth who appeared to be on the edge of collapsing. Potter had barely made it into class before the start of the lesson, slouching in his chair and looking lost. He seemed to put in even less effort into his potion than usual, and his work was even worse than Longbottom's. That did not surprise him though, as Ms. Granger had to continually alert him to the directions and keep him moving. Severus believed that, without her guidance, Potter would have spent the entire period staring at the wall or passed out on his desk. He didn't think that the boy was receiving enough sleep, but that isn't what troubled him most. It was the hollow eyes and the listless expression that lingered on the boy's face that really worried him.
Severus saw the signs indicating lack of sleep and nutrition. They were hard to miss. The boy was a skeleton and the dark purple bags under his eyes stood out starkly in contrast to his ghostly pale skin. He remembered how light the boy had been when he'd lifted him. He'd been disgusted by the boy's protruding rib bones that he felt through his robes.
Maybe Potter has an eating disorder. He supposed that was a possibility. After all, it explained his appearance and his lack of energy. His objection to visit the hospital wing was likely to cover up his problem. Madame Pomfrey would have been able to see the signs immediately. Perhaps that's part of the reason why he threw such a fit? Severus was unsure, but he turned to Minerva anyway, not bothering to indicate who he was talking about.
"Keep an eye on him."
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