Author's Note: This is it, the last chapter. It's really an epilogue of sorts, so much shorter than the regular chapters. I'm so glad to have you join me on this little fiction. All characters belong to JK Rowling.
Chapter Eleven –
The aftermath of Harry's wrath was quiet.
Three weeks after Harry had taken out his anger on Dumbledore, Harry found himself spending more and more time in Snape's lab, working quietly side by side with the man he'd hated for five years on potion after potion. Harry found he loved the work, loved the feel of the ingredients under his fingers, loved the sound of thudding knives against the cutting boards, loved the satisfaction of seeing the potions turn out exactly the way they were supposed to.
Not that all his potions turned out correctly. For the first week or two, Harry's potion making was as dismal here as at Hogwarts. But, under the watchful (and often insulting) eye of his potions professor, Harry starting churning out potions that were passable, then acceptable, then downright okay.
When he wasn't brewing, he was finishing up homework, doing chores around the house, and wandering the woods around Prince Manor. It was weird getting used to living somewhere where no one hated him or yelled at him (although Snape slipped back into his disdain of Harry everytime Harry disappointed him, which was often, Harry didn't take him as seriously as he'd used to). It was weird to not have to heal himself several times a week from the injuries he received from his family.
And it was weird how quiet it was.
Snape did not make a lot of extraneous noise, and Harry didn't feel a strong need to talk just to hear himself talk.
Honestly, he was frustrated with how much anger and hurt he still felt. For some reason, he'd thought once he had a chance to get things out with Dumbledore, he would feel better, like yelling at his headmaster would make all the pain of years of broken childhood go away. But instead, the pain and hurt was still there. Even after visiting with Dumbledore on two more visits (one of them at length as the two of them walked the forest around Prince Manor), he wasn't necessarily feeling better.
This was on his mind when he sat down to breakfast with Snape just a few weeks before school was about to start. Snape was as quiet as usual, but the man sighed deeply after Harry looked up at him several times without speaking.
"Out with it, Potter," he said.
"You clearly want to talk about something. Just spit it out."
Harry bit his lip. "We could wait until tonight, during our regular talking time."
"It's going to bug you all day, so you might as well tell me now."
"Um," Harry said, not sure how to start.
"Is this about your school books? I expect your book list and school letter will arrive today or tomorrow."
"Your friends? You're welcome to see them again today, if you're feeling a need to companionship closer to your own age."
"That's not it. I did see Ron just a couple days ago."
"Then what is it, Potter?"
Harry took a deep breath. He had to get this out, and by now, he trusted Snape enough to know that the man would be honest (if not especially sympathetic) with him.
"Is this … empty feeling going to go away?"
Snape looked up from his breakfast, piercing Harry with one of his long stares. "Explain."
"I thought, well, um, that once I got away from Uncle Vernon, and … then talking to Professor Dumbledore… Well, I thought I'd start feeling better. Start feeling … normal."
"Normal," Snape repeated.
"Like Ron and Hermione. They never have this gnawing feeling in their gut. They don't have pain in their back—"
"Pain?" Snape said quickly. "Are you in pain, Potter?"
Harry shook his head. "It's not real pain, sir. It's, um, kind of like imaginary pain."
"And I'm just, well, kind of empty."
"Listen, Harry," Snape said. "You spent ten years of your life, and then many more months during summers, being abused by someone who had been entrusted with your life. All that anger and pain isn't going to go away over night, no matter who you talk to or what happens. It's part of why you are here, and not at your friend's house."
"So this is just never going to go away?" Harry said in despair. "I'll always feel like this?"
"The memories are never going to go away, and the difficulty trusting adults will probably always be there. But the pain will go away, the further you get from it and the more you choose to care for other people."
"How do you know all this, anyway, sir?" Harry asked.
Snape sighed and looked away from Harry. "That is a story for some other time, Potter. In the meantime, continue doing what you're doing, and don't give up."
They ate in silence for a few minutes, before Snape put down his fork again. "It might help, Mr. Potter, if you let someone else in. Perhaps talked to your friends about what has happened to you."
"No way," Harry said.
"I just … I'd rather not. They'll …"
"They'll what? You've entrusted them with your life multiple times. Now you think they're going to run away from you if you entrust them with your secrets?"
"I don't know—"
"Don't be an idiot, Potter. Trust your friends."
"I'd rather just talk to you, sir." A second after saying this, Harry had to chuckle. Who would have thought he'd ever reach a point where his most trusted confidante would be Severus Snape? And was Snape … turning red?
"Go do your homework," Snape snapped. "Leave me alone for awhile; I've got some particularly intricate potions to brew today."
"Okay, sir. I'll be outside after homework."
The two of them separated amicably, and Harry went up to his room.
He knew Snape was right. He needed to tell Hermoine and Ron, if for no other reason than to explain why he was at Prince Manor. So far, on the few occasions when he'd been able to spend time with Ron and Hermione, he'd put off their questions by making it seem like it was top secret Order of the Phoenix business. He didn't like lying to them, but he also didn't want to see the pity in their faces when he told them the truth.
Maybe while they were back at Hogwarts, when there was much more to distract them from his dark secrets.
In the meantime, Harry was, dare he say it, in a state that was rapidly approaching happiness. Usually he only found happiness at Hogwarts, which felt more like home than his actual home on Privet Drive ever had. But this quiet summer with Snape felt almost like a reprieve. He knew he would be heading back into a war zone in only a couple weeks, when Snape had planned for Harry to move to the Burrow. And then, the war with Voldemort, of course, in which Harry knew he was an integral part.
So for now, he would enjoy the quiet. He would enjoy the peace, the lack of anyone trying to kill him.
And his unexpected friendship with Severus Snape.
AN: And that's it! Please review, if you feel so inclined. I have another fic in mind that features Hermione Granger (another hurt/comfort fic, because I love them), if you want to join me for that one as well. Happy days, everyone, and thank you !