Disclaimer: Anything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling. I own nothing, make no money from anything, and am writing this purely for personal enjoyment.

A/N:

- Thank you for the wonderful reviews, especially those who took the time to comment on the good points and weak points in my story. I will be balancing the psychological realities of their situation with the needs of the story-line. I just hope that the story line is interesting enough that I am forgiven when I start wondering off into fantasy fulfilment. Hopefully the next story I write will be more genuine.

- Beta'd by Nikki! Thank you.

Chapter 10 : Bringing on the Darkness

I heard Mr. Potter come back and the tension I hadn't even realised I had been holding drained from my body. I sank into proper sleep. The next morning I took extra care in bandaging my wrists to prevent a repeat of the previous occasion. The paranoia was familiar; the guilt took me by surprise.

I served breakfast, keeping my eyes on my plate.

"I'm sorry I stayed so late, Severus. Hermione, Ron and I got to talking and well, before I knew it, it was this morning! You know, I was worried about…"

After playing go-between for Albus and the Dark Lord for such a long time, I was horrified to find myself startle when Mr. Potter looked at me.

He broke off his sentence almost mid-word.

"Severus. Show me your arm."

"Don't be ridiculous, Mr. Potter. You were talking about Miss Granger?"

"Severus, show me your arm, right now!"

There was nothing for it but to comply. I rolled up my sleeve, and his face went absolutely blank. This wasn't good. In the time we had been together, Mr. Potter had only really given me two standing orders – to 'be pleasant', and not to cut myself. I hadn't really thought about the consequences of testing either.

"Take them off."

I stripped to the waist again and carefully unrolled the bandages. None of the cuts had reopened, I noted in relief. Mr. Potter would have one less thing to take offence to.

"You've been scarring yourself," he noted analytically.

"The scars will fade in a few days, Mr. Potter. And it isn't as if I don't have plenty of other scars on my body."

"Severus, your battle scars pay homage to who you are, and what you've been through. These scars simply trivialise you. It's a way of hiding from the world, and hiding isn't a long-term solution, Severus. You need to open yourself up to the possibilities of relationships, both personal and romantic."

I laughed. "It's all academic then isn't it? No one would be prepared to become involved with me, so it hardly matters what I do."

"Don't give me that, Severus. How many people know you at all? Albus and I. And both of us value our relationships with you."

"Don't lie to me, Mr. Potter. If the Headmaster hadn't ordered you to take me, you wouldn't be prepared to give me the time of day!"

"Yes. That was before you were forced to let me know you. Now, I can say without hesitation that you are rapidly becoming the most important person in my life."

I snorted in disbelief.

"You need to decide what you want, Severus. When you decide to live again, I would be more than happy to see if we could build a life together. Or wave you on your way to a relationship with someone else. But until you make that choice, nothing can happen. And it is not because no one could love you, Severus. It is because you are not allowing yourself to love anyone."

Mr. Potter demonstrated once again that despite his maturity, he was still very young. He believed in the redeeming power of love, beauty, and no doubt soul mates. He would grow out of it soon enough.

Mr. Potter stood up abruptly.

"My previous orders weren't as clear as they needed to be. In future, when you need to cut, come to me. Unless it will actively endanger your life or mine, I don't care what I'm doing, or what time of day it is. You will come to me. Understood?"

"Yes sir."

"Since you have shown that you cannot be trusted with your own well-being, I will be checking for any signs of self-mutilation daily, and I'll be monitoring how much you eat."

I opened my mouth to protest, but shut it again when I saw how determined he was. I bowed my head in acceptance instead. This was my punishment. On the whole, I think I would have preferred a session of Crucio.

We attended the classes that day in awkward silence. Mr. Potter made no further mention of the cuts, but neither of us was quite ready to relax. It wasn't until we had to present a united front to Mr. Fletcher that our relationship took on the illusion of normality.

"We have another problem we were hoping you could help us with, Mr. Potter. We need a diversion. It should be safe – we simply need you to appear in Hogsmeade, and cast sufficient magic to overwhelm any detectors in the village."

"What on earth would be my excuse for that? Destroying a fountain because I thought it was harbouring Death Eaters?" asked Mr. Potter sarcastically.

"Nothing that dramatic, Mr. Potter. Simply entertain your fans."

"Entertain my fans?" He drew the words out, as if he was uncertain of their meaning.

"Yes, why not? You've done it before, surely."

"No. I can say categorically that I have never performed any action with the intention of entertaining my 'fans'."

"Ah, well, this would be a good time to start then."

I watched in amusement as Mr. Potter took a few deep breaths.

"What exactly do you require from this distraction? Just strong magic?"

"Well, strong magic and an obvious innocuous source for it. We don't want them triggering any secondary safety measures."

"So, it needs to be as strong as I can make it, and obviously me."

"Yes, that about sums it up. Are you free next Tuesday?"

"Very well," replied Mr. Potter in a clipped voice. He was still irritated when we left to return home.

"Ready to meet your public, Mr. Potter?"

"I am not going out there to perform like some sort of trained dog!"

"Well, in your case I'm sure they wouldn't mind you being untrained."

"Very funny, Severus. I do have another idea, though."

"Oh yes?" I asked with a sense of foreboding.

"This does strike me as the perfect opportunity to try summoning spirits."

"You're not seriously considering summoning unbound spirits, Mr. Potter?"

"Yes, I am."

"Are you insane? You're going to go against all previous wisdom, and try this potentially lethal experiment on the whims of this Vocare woman?"

"I'm not relying on her whims, Severus. I'm relying on mine. This feels right. It makes sense to me, and I'm prepared to try it."

"But…"

"Enough, Severus. I have made my decision."

How dare he be so cavalier about his own well-being when he was being so pedantic about mine? Well, since he didn't seem to be willing to listen to me, I was forced to enlist the aid of someone he would listen to – Headmaster Dumbledore. As soon as I had retired to my room, I composed a message and sent it off by owl. The Headmaster had worked with me long enough to know not to mention me as the source of any of his information, and Mr. Potter would not be allowed to endanger himself this way.