Disclaimer: Yup....aaannnd.....still not mine. What d'you know? (Insert amusing anecdote here)...
A/N: So....I do not know what to say to apologize for the wait, guys. I have horrendously abused your faithful readership. All I can say to make up for it is that I had a severe case of writers block—I want to start reworking this story—and then another idea tapped me on the shoulder for a canon 6th year with an interesting Severitus twist. You can check that one out if you want to—Harry Potter and the Rise of War. It's pretty slow going, but I have a lot planned for it. This story is kind of in a rut, so any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Perhaps I could come up with a deleted scene or early chapter or reviewer feature for the best suggestion(s) for this story. Anyhow, besides that, I've had massive amounts of homework and a really rough few months. I beg your forgiveness, mighty and merciful reviewers.
Also, cookies as promised to those of you who answered that the password (Did I promise cookies? I don't remember...) means "Rubber Duck" in German. Rubber duck because...umm I love rubber duckies...(see name above ;) and German because it's my favorite culture/language (closely followed by French). Yes, not a very Snape-like password, but just for the sake of fun. I don't think he gets to choose them anyway.
Someone asked why Harry was limping if Madame Pomfrey healed him. The answer is although it's healed, it's still sore...or something like that. I guess that's pretty much it for my author's note... Hmm...all the other authors always have something clever or funny to say. I suppose I'm just too lazy.
Later that afternoon, after Harry had cleaned up after flying and had something to eat again —he was surprised to find that his appetite was slowly coming back—he waited in Professor Snape's office to begin his Occlumency session. He felt more than just a slight apprehensiveness knowing that Snape was going to be in his memories again and wondered if he should have put more of them into the Pensieve.
The door opened quite suddenly and Harry jumped slightly. He relaxed somewhat when he noticed that the Potions Master seemed to be in a much better mood than usual.
"Potter," he said, keeping the curtness in his voice to a bare minimum.
"Hello, professor," he said, cautious to keep his voice respectful enough to keep Snape's good mood. He quickly rose and moved to face the man.
"You know the drill, Potter. On the count of three. One...two..."
Harry immediately began trying to remember and recapture the empty sensation he had felt the night before.
...Harry had just left King's Cross with the despicable people he called family after the Order had threatened his uncle.
"Get into the car..." Vernon growled, his great flabby face quivering with outrage...
...A six or seven year old Harry cried alone in his cupboard after being hit and called worthless by his uncle...
...Harry stabbed viciously at the basilisk with the sword of Godric Gryffindor in his second year...
...He watched as Sirius cowered on the lakeshore, swarmed by a horde of dementors...
"No!" Harry thought desperately. Struggling with every shred of willpower he possessed, he felt the memories beginning to fade. Head swimming, he blinked and saw Snape standing in front of him again. Exhausted, he fell to his knees, looking at the floor so his professor wouldn't see the tears that had formed in his eyes at the last memory.
"That was not bad. Unfortunately, the skill level you just showed will be insufficient to protect you from the Dark Lord's power. You must learn to block out your emotions to be a success at Occlumency. Again. One...two...three!"
Harry watched Aunt Marge inflate and float to the ceiling like a great swelling balloon. He tore out of the kitchen, to the cupboard door, which magically burst open. He dragged his trunk out and pointed his wand at Vernon when the furious man tried to stop him. He took off into the night...
He was flying high over the Quidditch pitch...suddenly his broom began to buck dangerously. It gave an almighty lurch, and suddenly Harry was only holding onto his Nimbus 2000 with one hand...
A five-year old boy with messy black hair was viciously backhanded by his uncle before the man removed his belt and began hitting him very hard with it. The little boy cried out in pain....
Harry was in the floor, curled up in a classic defensive position, shivering slightly. As soon as the spell was removed, Harry sprang back to his feet, breathing hard.
Snape ground his teeth, seemingly in frustration. "Potter...I realize you have more bad memories than most, but you must block this spell. You are not trying hard enough!" There was a light glint of something almost like fear in his eyes. Any trace of his earlier, more patient mood was gone. "You've already seen that you aren't the only one who will be affected if you don't learn Occlumency! Do you not realize how much this can affect those around you, or do you just not care? Your lazy selfishness is going to hurt those around you!"
Harry's heart caught in his chest. He gave Snape a cold, hard glare and, taking deep, calming breaths, said, "Let's go again."
For a moment, an unreadable emotion—Disappointment? Shock?—flitted over the professor's face, apparently at Harry's lack of argument. "Very well. One...two...three!"
Harry sat in Dumbledore's office, watching Professor Trelawney's form rise out of a swirling Pensieve. She began to prophesize about the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord...
No, thought Harry. No one can see that! He gave a great push, trying with all his might to get Snape out of his head.
An instant later, there was an almighty bang, and a flash of light filled the office. Harry was thrown off his feet and smacked his head against the floor. Everything went black for several seconds, but his vision slowly came back into focus. Head pounding, he lay still, rubbing the bump he could feel forming at the back of his skull. A moment later, Snape's face loomed above him.
"What did you do?!"
"Threw you out of my head, sir, like I was supposed to. I guess I overdid it a little."
"That's an understatement. I suppose you managed to hurt yourself as well?"
"I just hit my head. I'm fine."
"Very well. You threw me out that time, but you did not block me entirely. You still are not trying hard enough. Your resistance is full of holes, which the Dark Lord will easily exploit. He will take you numerable weaknesses and use them against you. Try harder!"
Harry stared at him for a minute. He hadn't expected a 'well-done' or anything, but honestly, did the man have to be such an arse all the time? "Are we done now, sir?" He turned away and headed to the door without waiting for an answer.
"I have not dismissed you yet, Potter!" Harry kept walking. Snape made an irritated noise and jerkily reached forwards, grabbing Harry's wrist in a strong, bruising grip.
Harry struggled to pull his arm free, but Snape held tighter than ever. "Do you not understand how important this is, boy? You must master Occlumency!" His voice started as a hiss but had soon escalated to an angry shout.
Suddenly electricity seemed to jolt through Harry's body the way that it had the night he had been attacked by dementors the previous summer. Snape dropped his arm as though he had been scalded, and Harry took the opportunity to run as quickly as possible in the opposite direction.
Harry ran towards the Owlery, one hand over his sore, already bruising wrist. He didn't slow until he reached the room, where he sat, panting slightly, on the floor. After a few minutes Hedwig flew to him and landed on his shoulder.
"Hey girl," he whispered miserably. He glanced at his arm and saw that vivid, finger-shaped bruises had already formed. The only other time he had actually been afraid of Snape was when he looked in his Pensieve. He hated it. He hated feeling afraid of people, especially at Hogwarts.
He struck the floor with his fist as his eyes glazed over. Was Snape going to remind him of his failure every time he had an Occlumency lesson? He knew it was his fault that Sirius had died, and he had hours and hours to think about that as he was left to rot over the summer.
He leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling where the occasional owl swooped between the rafters. He had never considered Vernon and Snape very much alike, except that they both hated him, of course. But he had never thought that Snape, as a Hogwarts professor, would lose control the way he had. The thought of Harry not learning Occlumency seemed to terrify the man. Truth be told, it terrified Harry, too.
He heard someone approaching the Owlery and stiffened, hoping that it wasn't the Potions Master in a towering rage. Much to his relief, Professor McGonagall entered the room.
"Potter," she said softly.
"Hello, Professor McGonagall." He shifted slightly to conceal his arm in his robes.
"I do hope you are feeling better."
"A bit," he said, feeling rather uncomfortable.
"Well, you'd best get on your way," she said to him. Harry nodded and tried to inconspicuously hide his arm as he walked by. He had just grabbed the doorknob when she stopped him.
"Did Madame Pomfrey forget to heal that one?" He stiffened and turned around.
"That bruise on your arm. Did Madame Pomfrey forget to heal it?"
"Erm...yes...I mean no...I mean-"
"What happened?" Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"It's no big deal...Professor Snape just...kind of grabbed my arm earlier. I don't think he realized he was squeezing that hard."
"Severus did that?" She gently steered him out of the room by his shoulder and began marching him down the hall. Harry dragged his feet as much as possible, not especially wanting to be part of the conversation that was sure to come soon.
"Yes, but it's no big deal, honestly. I've had much worse."
She gave him a sidelong glance but kept walking, saying furiously as she went, "Hogwarts is different from your previous...home. It is unacceptable for anyone here to physically attack you." Her lips had formed a tighter line than he had ever seen.
"Please, Professor, really, there's no reason to get so angry about it. I really wouldn't say he physically attacked me..." Harry couldn't help but think that Snape was going to destroy him the instant McGonagall wasn't around.
She stopped in the middle of the corridor, breathing deeply. Turning to him, she said softly, "Let me see your arm, please." Harry reluctantly allowed her to inspect the bruises. "When exactly did this happen?"
"Er...about ten minutes ago?"
McGonagall's face clouded. Suddenly she pulled his hand closer to his face. "What happened to your hand? 'I must not tell lies?'"
"I...had a lot of detentions with Umbridge last year."
"Why are you changing the subject?"
"I'm not. I had to do lines...with her quill...it was enchanted or something..." Harry looked down at his feet guiltily. When he looked back up, the woman's face was whiter than ever.
"Do you mean to tell me that every time you served detention with that woman, she forced you to hurt yourself?"
"Well...I guess so..."
"We are going to speak with the headmaster as well, then."
"Honestly, Professor, it's done with. It doesn't matter anymore."
They began walking again, McGonagall's stride much faster. "Professor Dumbledore would want to know what Umbridge did, Harry, and it is simply unacceptable for Severus to be hurting you."
Harry kept his head down, dreading what was to come. All too soon, Professor McGonagall was knocking on Snape's office door. He came out looking calmer than he had earlier, but still agitated.
"May I help you, Minerva?"
"I would like to know what happened with Potter earlier." Harry wished he could disappear into the floor. He saw Snape throw him a sharp look.
"What are you talking about?"
"Did you not see what you did to his arm, Severus?"
His eyes narrowed slightly. "Let me see, Potter." He took Harry's wrist and examined it, ignoring the teen's protests that it wasn't a big deal.
"Why didn't you tell me I had done this?"
Harry shrugged, not wanting to admit that Snape terrified him.
"I assure you, Mr. Potter, it was never my intention to harm you. I'm...I lost control. Rest assured it won't happen again."
"It's not a big deal, really, sir. I've had much worse..." he muttered, flushing slightly. "I think I'm supposed to go talk to Professor Dumbledore now." McGonagall took him by the arm again and started pulling him away. Glancing backwards, he saw Snape giving him a calculating look.
The walk to Dumbledore's office seemed to take an eternity, not that Harry minded. The moment that he would have to look Dumbledore in the eye and tell him how he had let Umbridge manipulate him was one he wanted to forestall as long as possible.
McGonagall, increasing her stride, suddenly asked, "How many detentions did you serve with Delores Umbridge?"
"Um...quite a few I guess. Two or three weeks' worth, at least...I don't really remember..."
Her eyebrows contracted into an angry line. "And every time she made you do that?" She gestured to his hand.
"Yeah..." he said slowly, sensing that the professor was going to get very angry very shortly.
She fortunately remained silent until they reached the great stone griffin, where she said, "Sugar Quill," in a quite brusque manner that suggested she was less than amused by the headmaster's choice of password.
A few minutes later, Harry stepped off the revolving staircase. The headmistress ushered him into Dumbledore's office and said, "Take a seat," while she went to find him.
Harry waited tensely, seriously considering making a run for it before the McGonagall came back out. He decided this would not be a very smart thing to do, since with his luck he would end up collapsing in the middle of the corridor.
He heard rather than saw Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall enter, because he was busy staring at his feet.
"Harry," said Professor McGonagall softly as Dumbledore sat down, "Please show the headmaster your hand."
Slowly, very slowly, Harry extended his hand across the desk. The headmaster gently took his hand and inspected it closely.
"Harry?" he asked. Harry looked up at him slowly feeling very much exposed. "What happened?" Dumbledore fixed him with a penetrating stare. Harry didn't respond, just went back to studying his shoelaces.
"Potter, are you going to tell the him, or shall I?" Still Harry remained silent. "Very well. I was inspecting Mr. Potter's arm because he had some unusual bruises—I'll explain those later—and noticed the writing on his hand. Eventually, he told me that every time he had detention with Delores Umbridge, she forced him to write 'I must not tell lies' with a quill that caused it to become etched into the back of his hand."
Harry could feel his face burning with shame. "Is this true, Harry?" Dumbledore's voice interjected solemnly. He looked up, finally meeting the headmaster's eyes, and nodded slowly. "Why did you not tell me? I certainly could've intervened and stopped it."
"You...were already in a rough spot with the Ministry..." Harry began, though he knew that was not the real reason. "And...well...I sort of thought I had done something to make you angry..."
Dumbledore looked saddened. "Yes...an old man's mistake...I should not have been so secretive last year, as we have already discussed. Harry, in the future, I want you to feel free to come to me no matter what."
Harry nodded, feeling that more people had told him that in the past few days than ever before in his life.
"Now, Harry, about these bruises..."
Harry flushed again. "It's no big deal, honestly..."
"Given your past history, Harry, what may not seem like a big deal to you will almost certainly be quite an important matter to myself."
"It's...during Occlumency lessons with Sn—Professor Snape, he started criticizing me...he—he mentioned Sirius..."-Harry's voice grew quieter-"and I was afraid I was going to lose control...I couldn't take it anymore...so I tried to leave and he grabbed my arm and started yelling at me. I really don't think he meant to...it was my fault, I shouldn't have tried to leave..."
"I imagine, Harry, that growing up you were often told that you deserved physical abuse, but I assure you this is not the case. Regardless of what you have been told, there is no excuse, none at all, for an adult at this school to harm you." His tone held a firm finality, but Harry only half believed him. Dumbledore looked at McGonagall and said, "I assume you've spoken with Severus?"
"Yes. He seemed...as apologetic as he ever is."
The headmaster nodded and Harry voiced something that had been puzzling him. "Professor Dumbledore, I...during the Occlumency lessons, Snape got into my memory of when you showed me your memory of Professor Trelawney last year—" Harry was as cryptic as possible, because he was guessing McGonagall didn't know about the prophecy—"and I threw him out of my head, but I must have done something wrong, because there was this great flash of light and I was thrown against the wall."
Dumbledore looked thoughtful and, after a long pause, said, "Harry, I don't think you did anything wrong. However, this is an interesting development. I do believe you witnessed a rather extreme display of power."
Harry's mind was buzzing with questions, but Dumbledore spoke before he could voice one. "Before you begin to ask me the thousands of questions that must be swarming about your head, I must tell you that I do not know anything for certain yet. I am going to consider this, but in the mean time I suggest you get some rest. You look dead on your feet."
Harry nodded, though he was still quite afraid of being in a room alone with Snape. Professor McGonagall escorted him from the room, leaving a thoughtful looking Dumbledore behind.
Severus paced his dungeons, glad he was alone, because Severus Snape was not the type of man who paced. Prowl, perhaps, but never pace.
He felt horrible. He had a splitting headache from hitting his head because of the shock wave Potter had caused. He had to admit, he was curious to what the memory he had seen was, as well as why the boy was so anxious to keep it secret.
Moreover, he was horrified by the bruises he had given Potter. He did not like the child by any stretch of the imagination, but he had always been disgusted by those people who resorted to physical violence, especially on children. He was infuriated by Potter's submissiveness, because it had meant that he had discovered very good reasons to not fight back.
He stopped in his pacing, deciding to make use of his time and work on restocking his Potions supply.
Stalking through the halls with his trademark scowl in place to attest to his foud mood, he nearly ran into Dumbledore.
"Albus," he said by way of greeting, respect the only thing holding his tongue in check.
"Severus! I've been meaning to have a word with you!" The old man looked positively delighted."If this is about Potter's bruises, I never intended to—"
"No, no, that is not what I wished to discuss, although I must ask you to try not to terrify him so much. This does concern Harry, though. He expressed to me earlier his confusion over the surge he created during the Occlumency lessons. It sounds like a simple case of accidental magic, but the Hogwarts wards are supposed to prevent such outbursts. It takes a great deal of power to get through the wards. Of course, I have suspected for some time that Mr. Potter may possess extraordinary power."
"May I ask why you are telling me this, Albus?"
"Severus, you're living with the boy. I'm not asking you to give him any more extra lessons, but he will, in time, need to learn the responsibility that comes with this power. For now, I would appreciate it if you would keep a close watch on him and take note of any changes in his power. Eventually, he will need a mentor who can aid him."
"Albus...I know what you want, but surely you would be a much better mentor than I."
"I do not think that is the case. I highly doubt Harry trusts me as he once did."
Snape looked at Dumbledore for a long moment, then sighed in resignation.
"Excellent! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get in touch with Cornelius Fudge. "
"To file a complaint over the disciplinary methods of one Miss Delores Umbridge. It seems she forced certain students, while they served detentions, to use a cursed quill that caused involuntary self-mutilation."
Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, was swamped. Ever since June, when he had decided it would be best to make a public statement that You-Know-Who was once again in power, he had been swamped with letters of various sorts. Exactly three hundred and twenty-seven people had written so far to tell them they supported him in every decision he made. Each had received a hand written, personalized, signed letter graciously thanking them. Hundreds of others, however, did not think he was doing such a fine job. He had gotten letters from at least a hundred angry housewives chastising him for slandering poor, innocent, deprived Harry Potter in such a way. He had been the unfortunate recipient of a horde of Howlers from the more obsessive Harry Potter fans.
Harry Potter...as far as Cornelius was concerned, he was a menace to society, Golden Boy or not. So he hadn't been lying about Voldemort...the child could talk to snakes. He had blown up his aunt and interfered with the capture of Sirius Black. The boy was more trouble than he was worth.
Fudge was startled out of him musings by the younger Weasley's voice. "Minister, Albus Dumbledore wishes to speak to you. He wishes to connect by Floo."
"He says it's important..."
He heaved a great sigh. "Very well! This had better be fast." The fireplace on the far wall of his office sparked suddenly, and the head of Albus Dumbledore appeared, looking angry. "Good day, Professor Dumbledore."
"Hello, Cornelius. I have come because I some rather disturbing news to report. This morning it came to my attention that one Miss Delores Umbridge imposed a rather unusual and illegal form of detention during her employment at Hogwarts. It seems she used an enchanted quill that forced a sort of self-mutilation upon the student using it."
"Albus, you surely don't expect me to have known about this?" In all truthfulness, Fudge had possessed an inkling that the woman would resort to means that were a bit outside the law, but he had always looked the other way.
The headmaster's eyes blazed with power, and Fudge remembered just how much of a threat the man was. "I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to assume that you are aware of every movement your employees make. I simply trust you will see to it that justice is upheld."
"Wait just a minute, Dumbledore!" cried Fudge, but the older man's head had already disappeared from the fire.
When Harry went to Snape's rooms, he was rather relieved to see that the professor wasn't there. He retreated to the room that he still refused to think of as his own, even temporarily. He rummaged through his trunk, looking for a book, when he felt something sharp slice his fingers.
He pushed aside everything that cluttered his trunk and saw what he had cut his hand on. Glass shards lay innocently at the bottom of the case, reflecting light up at him, completely oblivious to everything they represented. Harry remembered with a jolt the day he had come across the mirror.
His hand was bleeding profusely, but he paid no attention as he picked up the pieces and cradled them gently. Tears sprung into his eyes. "Damn it all!" he shouted, throwing the pieces across the room where they hit the wall and broke into even smaller pieces than before. His hand now throbbing and spotted with blood, he flopped to his stomach on the bed and buried his face in the pillow.
Severus returned to his rooms, thoroughly calmed after completely restocking his Migraine Elixir. He sank into his sofa, staring at the flames that danced in the fireplace. After a moment, he noted the lack of Potter's presence and went to check the boy's room. When he opened the door, he saw him lying on the bed, face down and fully clothed. A large multitude of shattered glass covered the floor near the wall, and Potter's hand was bleeding.
He sneered. Somehow the child managed to hurt himself every sixteen seconds. "Potter?"
The boy sat up and stared heavily at Severus with red-rimmed eyes. "Pro-Professor Snape, sir?"
"Your hand is bleeding."
He looked down. "Oh, yeah...I forgot."
"Indeed." He waved his wand and the boy's hand healed.
"Are...is something wrong?" Potter shrugged half-heartedly. "Would you like me to summon Professor Dumbledore?"
"If it's ok, I...I'd like to be left alone."
Snape nodded and turned to leave. He stopped at the door and looked back, seeing the teenager curl up in a fetal position with his back to him.
"Potter...what is wrong with you?" It was almost painful to think it, but somewhere buried in the cold depths of his soul, he felt pity for the child.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Potters voice was hoarse, barely above a whisper.
"Very well." Frustrated to the breaking point, he shut the door with a quiet click and decided he very much needed a drink. That was certainly saying something, as he had avoided alcohol for the past sixteen years. Only Potters had that particular effect on him.
A/N2: Again, a thousand apologies for the wait. I lost a dear family member this weekend, and my life's just been pretty hectic lately. Still, there's no excuse for me to have gone as long as I did. To those of you who are still reading this, please keep reviewing.