Authors Note: Hey everyone! My dear friend Katie (ckat44) begged me to write the missing conversation between Harry and Sirius in the last chapter of Flawed (before the epilogue), so the credit for this goes to her. She also has helped me work through several drafts of this and has been my beta for it, so you can all thank her for this actually coming along enough to be able to be posted Once again, it's from the last chapter of Flawed after the scene where Harry and Sirius talk in his bedroom (after they come home from the hospital and Harry breaks down). It starts in the middle of chapter 26 after this line: Harry snorted with laughter and Sirius ruffled his hair indignantly before slinging an arm over his shoulder and leading him downstairs for a very overdue talk. It's just a little ditty of mine, no plot really, just some angsty talking, so I hope you all enjoy!

Harry and Sirius Conversation

Missing Scene from Chapter

Sirius watched Harry out of the corner of his eye as he grabbed plates and silverware. The raven-haired boy was looking embarrassed because of the conversation they had just had and nervous for the one they were about to have. Sirius just hoped that one day Harry would feel more comfortable talking with his godfather.

He dumped a bit of Chinese food on each of their plates and carried them to the table.

"Thanks, Siri," Harry said, fidgeting a bit from the awkwardness of somebody waiting on him as he did every time Sirius refused to let him do work, even with something as small as setting the table. Eventually, Sirius would let Harry do his share, but he wanted to help Harry get passed the feeling that it was his responsibility to do things for others all the time.

"You're welcome, kiddo."

The two began silently eating their food, knowing that once serious talk was brought up again, they would be pretty much done with their meals.

When he sensed Harry slowing down, Sirius set down his fork and pulled out his list, placing it next to his plate so Harry couldn't see its contents. He figured it was best to do one at a time rather than panic Harry by showing him all he intended to speak to him about.

Harry was looking at him like a deer in the headlights, or as if he were about to be led to his own execution. Sirius couldn't help but realize that if he had been talking to his godson all along, it wouldn't be coming as such a shock now.

"Alright, kiddo, you ready to get back to the serious stuff?" Sirius asked gently.

Harry nervously fidgeted with his shirtsleeve. "What do you want to talk about?"

"A few things. I don't know how many we'll get to tonight."

Harry nodded fractionally.

"Um, alright then," Sirius said awkwardly, feeling uncomfortable with the situation as well, "I guess I'll just…um, right." He took a deep breath and hoped he didn't mess this up too horribly. "Harry, when you first went into your coma, you almost didn't make it " Sirius said with great difficulty. Harry averted his eyes to his plate, "Nobody's really told you what the healers were telling us, but they said you were giving up, that you had lost the will to live."

Harry looked up at him wide-eyed. "I—I'm not suicidal or anything, I swear," he said awkwardly.

"Many of us would beg to differ after what you pulled to go save Ron, or even this last year with Mr. Stenson, or have you forgotten about a little spell called Recnac Transfaerso? That's not even to mention all the times you raced head on into danger during your first four years at Hogwarts. And before you tell me it all turned out alright, you can't deny that you didn't know it would turn out that way when you initially made these decisions," Sirius said sternly before Harry could jump into defensive mode. "You risked your life each time without thinking anything of it."

"It was for a good cause each time. If I hadn't taken those risks, people would have died," Harry protested quietly.

"Each time you took one of those risks, you could have died, Harry. There were other answers, but each time you seem to think that only you can solve these problems and won't seek any help."

"That's not true; I usually tell Hermione and Ron everything."

"Yes, two children such as yourself. And I'll admit that Hermione is perhaps more intelligent than many adults, but nevertheless she is not an adult. Neither of them went for advice from an adult at any time during your past adventures. They could have, but I think they too may be swept up into your heroics, thinking that between the three of you, you're invincible. I think recent events have forced them to realize how untrue this is, but I don't think you've come to that realization Harry. You seem to think it's perfectly normal for you to be risking your life at every turn, and I'm not sure how much of it's just a hero complex now. You almost didn't survive this latest thing because you didn't really want to live," Sirius said sadly. "It makes me wonder if all of these crazy things you've done are because on some level you want to die."

"No!" Harry interjected, appalled. "That wasn't…I didn't want to die! I mean, it just always seemed like it was either risk my life or sacrifice a bunch of others and I couldn't let that happen. It's like with soldiers in war. They risk their lives for the greater good…"

"You're not a soldier, Harry, you were eleven when you started putting your life on the line! Now, you're barely sixteen!" Sirius argued vehemently.

"Look, Siri. I swear. I didn't do this because I wanted to…to die," Harry said, eyes focused on the table in front of him. "I just didn't want other people to die and I was always in the position to make sure they didn't."

Sirius ran a hand through his hair, a habit he'd had since he was young whenever he was stressed. "It's not even so much that you always jump to the rescue despite the danger it poses to you, it's that you don't even think anything of it. And, of course, you nearly gave up at the hospital. Why was that, Harry? Please, you can tell me," he pleaded to the young teenager who was looking as if he wanted to be doing anything other than be having this conversation.

"I don't know," Harry muttered in humiliation.

"Harry, you've got to talk to me," Sirius pressed. "Please tell me why. I can tell you know. Do you feel like that all the time?"

"God, you make it sound like I'm going to go slit my wrists in the bathtub or something!" Harry accused angrily. "I'm not deranged, okay?"

"I don't think you're deranged, Harry. I just think you might be depressed and we need to do something about that before…"

"Before what? Before I go off the deep end and go all psycho?" Harry snapped angrily. "I'm not depressed. I'm not going to turn into one of those people that wear all black and write poetry about my soul being a black hole of despair."

"I never thought you would," Sirius said in a placating tone. "But I think you've been depressed on some level for a long time, maybe your whole life because of how you were treated, and I think this summer, it got worse. I'm worried about you, especially if you were so miserable that you wanted to give up on living."

Harry made a sound of exasperation. "Look, I don't remember anything from when I was in a coma so it sounds like the doctor might have been feeding you all some bullshit line. I mean, how would he know if I'm giving up or not?" Harry said in frustrating, getting worked up. "And is it really that crazy of an idea anyway? My parents are dead, is it so bad to want to be with them? It's not like I want to die for the sake of dying, I just might sometimes think it would be nice to have parents, or at least family that wants me around. Is that idea so freakishly weird?"

Sirius looked at Harry sadly. "I'm family who wants you around, Harry. So is Remy. We love you."

Harry looked guilty at that and his gaze darted back down to his plate. "Yeah, I know."

"Well, obviously, you don't think it's the same. What makes it different to you? You never knew your parents, but what is it that you believe a parent would provide that I'm not?" Sirius asked, making sure that he didn't come across as offended. He truly did want to know so he could try to give Harry what he so obviously needed; he just had no idea where to start.

"Nothing. You're great," Harry said quickly, his voice filled with genuine gratitude.

"Harry, just in general, what do you think would make an ideal family…ideal parents in your mind?" Sirius asked gently.

"I don't know," Harry muttered in embarrassment. "Sort of like the Weasleys I guess. Except I think I'd like it to be only me and my parents, at least for awhile, and I know that's selfish…"

"I don't think it's selfish," Sirius interjected quickly. In another universe, Sirius knew Harry would have been great with siblings, but in this one, Harry's greatest fear was to be unwanted, shoved aside, and since he obviously craved love and affection so fiercely, Sirius couldn't see him sharing his parents with someone else either. If there had been another child in this hypothetical family, Sirius could see Harry closing himself off, never quite seeing himself as truly wanted. It angered Sirius to think that it could also be from a fear that the other child would be favored and Harry ignored, but while it was bad enough at the Dursleys, if someone he trusted ever treated him like that, Sirius knew it would break him completely. "What about the Weasleys would it be like?"

Harry shrugged but did adopt a wistful look as he obviously couldn't help but allow himself to entertain the thought. "You know, the usual stuff. Like genuinely caring about stupid stuff like how my day went or if I got a good grade on a test," he said with a vague smile. "Or really wanting me to come to them if something's bothering me, from the stupidest thing to the more serious ones. And give me advice too, that would be nice. 'Cause I can't ever figure out what the hell Dumbledore's trying to tell me to do and there always seems to be these big decisions I need to figure out…well, I guess that's probably me exaggerating. Just someone who actually wants me, I guess. That would be really nice. That's what I would want the most, I guess." He seemed to snap out of his state of comfortable talking and looked as if he wanted to take back what he'd just said. "I mean, I don't really know how it all works. I know it's really stupid…"

"Of course it's not stupid, Harry," Sirius said sharply. "Everyone deserves that, especially you. I know I can't replace your parents, but I can be all of those things. Remy and I can each be like a parent to you. It'll be just like what you said."

"It won't. It just can't," Harry snapped unexpectedly, seeming to surprise even himself with the outburst.

Sirius tried not to look hurt and the sting from the comment quickly shifted into worry at the hopeless quality of the comment. "Why?"

Harry clenched his jaw and looked uncharacteristically bitter. "Because…Because you don't really want me. You never did, you just got stuck with me."

"Harry…"

"And I know that's not your fault. And I'm not mad at you about it or anything, because I completely understand why you wouldn't and everything…."

"Harry!" Sirius interrupted and Harry jumped slightly. The raven-haired boy steeled his features and summoned up his Gyrffindor courage to look Sirius in the eye. Sirius looked intensely back at him, needing to get this firmly across. "What on earth gave you the idea that I didn't want you?"

Harry remained silent.

"Because I broke out of Azkaban to go after Peter and not for you?" Sirius asked, remembering a conversation they'd had a while ago.

Harry sighed sadly. "I know; this is so self-centered. I really don't think everything should be about me, but…I dunno, I'm sure when you got out, you were dreaming of a free life and not exactly factoring me into the picture, and then Professor Snape found out about the Dursleys and everyone said I couldn't go back there and you had were legally responsible for me so…"

"Listen to me, Harry." Sirius interrupted sharply. "Whatever you might think, I want you. I want you living here with me now and I have always wanted you to live with me. If I had known that you were unhappy with the Dursleys, for whatever reason, even if they hadn't been abusing you, I would have broken out for you in a second. But I didn't want to break out and go to you only to succeed in confusing a little boy who would be in for such a shock at the extent of his fame once submerged in the wizarding world. I didn't want to make you choose between me and the family you had grown to know, because I thought that would be unfair to you. Of course I had no idea what they were doing to you so all my beliefs on the subject were completely unfounded and I should have gotten you out of there as soon as I could, but there was no way I could have known. I didn't even know for the longest time that you were with the Dursleys. Nobody would tell me anything about you because, of course, they thought I wanted to kill you. But for Merlin's sake, Harry, I care about you more than anyone, Harry. I didn't get "stuck" with you, I would have fought for you to the death if need be."

Harry looked partly stunned and partly skeptical, clearly wary to get his hopes up that any of this could be true just in case he was setting himself up for a let down. Sirius sighed.

"Harry, this is another thing we've got to talk about, and it's obviously linked to everything else I'm going to talk to you about. You have got to get a sense of self-worth here. You've got to realize that you are not less valuable than other people for any reason. That you shouldn't go off sacrificing yourself for anyone who comes along and seems to need you too. You need to start caring whether you live or die, Harry!" Sirius exclaimed in distress.

Mortified green eyes met Sirius's own. Harry opened his mouth to say something, but couldn't think of a good reply so he turned his gaze away with a sigh.

Sirius placed a hand on Harry's shoulder, his eyebrows knitting in concern when Harry flinched uncontrollably.

"Sorry, Sirius, I'm trying to stop that, but I…"

"It's okay. I understand."

Harry nodded, burying his face in his hands dejectedly.

"Well, since I guess getting you to have some self-esteem is going to take a very long time, we can move onto this one, the reason why you flinch every time anyone touches you or makes sharp movements around you. Why you're acting submissive and…"

"I'm not acting submissive!" Harry protested, his head shooting up from his hands. He looked at Sirius incredulously.

"You agree with people on things you generally wouldn't. You back down from any argument…"

"Not you too! I just think it's stupid to fight with people!" Harry yelled.

"You know I'm not talking about fighting. I'm talking about encouraging me to get olive pizza, which I like but you hate. I'm talking about not having any opinion anymore on what to do or when to do it. I'm talking about not even being able to have a good conversation with anyone anymore because you just agree with whatever they say and don't say anything yourself," Sirius argued. "People are interested in what you have to say, Har. We want to hear your opinions on things, not just become familiar with your ability to nod."

"People get annoyed with me when I talk too much, especially about myself. I don't know when to stop myself so I think it's just better for me to not be selfish and listen to what other people have to say rather than whine about my life or push my opinions onto others when they don't really care," Harry said in frustration.

"Your friends care, Harry. I care. You're a smart kid and I like to hear what you have to say," Sirius said gently.

"I'm not smart, Siri," Harry protested dejectedly. "You've just only heard about what I did last year and that's not me! I'm actually pretty stupid. And I'm boring and annoying, so you shouldn't have to put up with listening to me blabbing…"

"Harry!" Sirius interrupted, placing his hand on top of Harry's. "Listen to me. You are not annoying! You are not stupid! I wasn't basing your intelligence off your marks from school. I know you're smart from speaking with you. You don't need to be a genius like Hermione; you speak and think intelligently…that's what I meant. But I don't get to see any of that anymore because you've clammed up and won't let anyone know what you're thinking."

"But the Dursleys…." Harry blurted out before stopping himself in embarrassment.

"The Dursleys what, Harry?" Sirius prompted.

Harry swallowed a wave of emotion. "Look, Siri, you've only been living with me for a few months. You don't know what it's like! You're going to get sick of me and then you're going to regret saying all of this because you'll have dug yourself in too deep. And I'll become an annoyance and then it'll be a bad situation no matter what; if you confront me about being annoying I'll know without a doubt you don't want me around and it'll be horrible, but if you don't, you'll still not want me around but I'll just be even more annoying because I won't know and it'll be even more horrible!"

"Did the Dursleys say you were an annoyance?" Sirius asked sadly.

"Of course," Harry said bitterly. "They were honest with me about how they felt about me. I didn't have to try and guess like I have to with everyone else."

"Harry, I love you and I do not and will not ever find you to be an annoyance or a burden or any other rubbish those arseholes told you."

"See, you could just be saying that!" Harry exclaimed in frustration. "How do I know when people actually mean things they say to me? People lie to me all the bloody time and I just can't tell and it's so hard to always have to try to figure out whether people are at the good phase or the sticking around because they feel guilty phase or whether they're going to enter the hatred phase soon!"

"People's feelings about you don't go in phases, Harry," Sirius argued sympathetically. "Sure you'll have people who don't like you, everyone does, but the people that like you aren't on some track to hating you."

"How do you know! You don't even know me! You think you can tell after spending a summer with me? You can't! The people that have known me the longest are the Dursleys and they just hated me more and more as time went on," Harry explained, getting increasingly upset.

"Yeah, well the Dursleys started out bitter toward you as a baby. A baby, Harry. Obviously, it was about something other than you. And the Dursleys got crazier and crazier as time went on and they took out their insanity and violent urges on you because they were already bitter about you being Lily's child or because you were a wizard or some other uncontrollable factor. Merlin, Harry, it wasn't because of you! That family is just warped and you got stuck in it."

"And I just took it all. My father wouldn't have done that. I know you think I'm pathetic, you can just say it! I know everyone thinks I'm weak and disturbed and pathetic!" he yelled, jumping to his feet. He grabbed his dish and brought it to the sink.

Sirius also rose from the table and followed Harry. "Harry, nobody thinks that. Especially not me. It was out of your control and anyone else in your situation, including James, could have ended up the same way. He would be proud of you…"

"He would have been ashamed of me," Harry snapped.

"He would never be ashamed of you, Harry," Sirius responded. "You turned out so much better than he could have even dreamed."

"I'm disgusting. God, I hate myself. He would have hated me a thousand times more. He was so bloody perfect and I'm such a mess," Harry said in a self-loathing tone that made Sirius afraid for his godson. He lay a hand on Harry's shoulder as he scrubbed his dish furiously, causing him to jump and drop the dish into the sink, chipping off a piece on the side. "SEE!" he yelled, gesturing toward the chipped plate. "I'm a bloody disaster! You shouldn't have to deal with this! You just got out of Azkaban and you should be able to relax and recover but instead you're stuck with dealing with me!"

"Harry, do you even realize that you're just casting a bad light on yourself? I don't know why you can't see what I see in you, what everyone who knows you sees in you. You have to stop looking for the bad! You have to stop blaming yourself for every little thing that goes wrong!"

"But it's all my fault!" Harry protested sorrowfully. "It's all because of me, either directly or indirectly!"

"You didn't cause any of the things you're blaming yourself for," Sirius pushed. "They may have had to do with you indirectly, but it wasn't anything you could control. You can't blame yourself because some maniac decided to name you as his chief target! You can't blame yourself for existing, Harry!" he exclaimed in exasperation.

"Well maybe I shouldn't exist!" Harry yelled. Sirius looked at him in shock and Harry hung his head, speaking his next words softly and carefully. "I can't ignore the fact that if I wasn't around, people would stop getting hurt."

Sirius pulled Harry to his chest and wrapped his arms securely around the small teenager. "Harry, never think that you shouldn't be around. There will always be hurt in the world, whether you're around or not, but you ease pain…your very presence in the lives of those who love you helps us. You've helped me so much, Harry, you don't even realize a fraction of it. I would have never recovered from Azkaban if it weren't for you. You helped me get my life back! You're the best thing that ever happened to me!"

"No!" Harry yelled, wrenching himself from Sirius's grip, much to the man's surprise. "You don't know what you're talking about!"

"Harry…" Sirius started, not understanding Harry's reaction.

"No! You had no choice but to take me in! It's the same as with the Dursleys! If you had wanted me, you wouldn't have left me with them!" Harry screamed, his chest heaving erratically, eyes welling up with tears even as he fought against them. "You didn't care about me! You didn't want me! You never did! Sure you might have broken out for me…you didn't know me! And then you met me and you left! I told you I wanted to live with you the second you asked and you left! I wanted to come with you but you didn't care! Nobody cared! Remus never even visited me! He never even called me! I was only an afterthought in your life, pretty much just dropped off on your doorstep as I always am! Just passed around until the next person can't stand me! And it's not fair! It's not fair because all my friends have people who care about them no matter what they do and I try so hard and I can't even get anyone to want me at all!"

"Harry, no!" Sirius protested, horrified at the beliefs running through his godson's mind. He moved to pull Harry into a hug, but Harry pushed his arms away.

"DON'T TOUCH ME!" he screamed. "I infect everyone who gets near me!" he sobbed.

"What are you talking about?" Sirius asked, completely perplexed. He felt helpless as his godson backed up against the counter, shaking uncontrollably with distress.

"My parents died and then the Dursleys wanted me dead and then Mr. Stenson got cancer when I stayed with him and Hogwarts got attacked because of me and Ron got kidnapped because I was around him too much. I don't want you to die or get hurt!"

"Well, I don't want to die or get hurt, but I'd rather have either one of those happen then lose you, Harry, either physically or emotionally. Please don't shut me out again," Sirius begged, taking a step forward. Harry tensed up and looked at him with a desperate expression. "Harry, the Dursleys are unique in the way they felt about you. They hurt you, they made you feel as if you aren't worth anything, but that doesn't mean it's true."

"But it is," Harry moaned, overwhelmed with misery. "It's true and you're going to find out and then you'll be so disappointed and ashamed of me."

"I would never be ashamed of you, Harry. Maybe one day you'll do something that will disappoint me, just as Ron's done things that have disappointed his parents and Draco will do things to disappoint Snape, but that will never affect how much I care about you, Har. I didn't take you with me because I was on the run; you know that. You needed to go to school, not to mention that if you were with me and someone found me, you'd be in danger. I didn't know how bad it was at the Dursleys. I didn't leave you because I wanted to. Having to leave you to go on the run broke my dream of living with you as well. Whatever you may think, Harry, I always wanted you, even more so after I got to know you," Sirius said determinedly.

Harry looked as if he was dying to believe his words, but the doubt and skepticism was apparent in his expression.

"Is this why you decided to transfer Mr. Stenson's cancer to yourself?" Sirius asked desolately. "Because you thought nobody wanted you?"

Harry looked away embarrassedly.

"Harry?"

The boy sighed and shrugged. "I guess, I just think that sometimes death is worse for the people you leave behind who need you, and the closest I had to that was Ron and Hermione, and that's nothing compared to how much Kota and Mrs. Stenson needed Mr. Stenson. It's simple maths."

"Simple maths! Harry, this is your life you're talking about here, and you're going to give it up over an arithmetic problem?" Sirius asked incredulously.

"Well, it's not just numbers in the equation," Harry reasoned.

"Harry, you don't understand. You have more people than you know who need you. I, for one, would be lost without you."

"You were doing fine before," Harry pointed out.

"I wasn't, Harry. I wasn't doing fine until I had you, and this whole summer I've been so terrified of losing you I've been doing all the wrong things because I didn't know how to ensure that you'd stay with me otherwise," Sirius protested. "You have no idea what losing you would do to me. You don't know what it did to me!" he said, swallowing hard as he was brought back to the night he had thought Harry had been gone for good.

"You would have gotten over it; you just needed time," Harry said sadly.

"Harry, why do you think others are more important than you? Don't you understand how important you are?" Sirius asked anxiously.

Harry's silence answered the question better than anything he could have said.

"Is that why you went after Ron? Because of the maths thing? Because he has a larger family, he's more important?" Sirius asked in amazement.

"And Hermione…" Harry added with a sigh. "He has Hermione too."

Sirius blinked in confusion. "You want Hermione? I thought you fancied Ginny."

"I do. I mean, I don't want Hermione like that…I'm just saying he has her too…in addition to his family," Harry explained in distress. "And that just proves what I was trying to say earlier…because Hermione and Ron are the people who know me best out of everyone, and, and they've left me."

"What are you talking about, Harry? Hermione and Ron love you more than anything. They're your best friends," Sirius insisted, trying to figure out where Harry was getting this stuff from.

"They just left me," he said in a tight voice, looking at the counter, his thoughts obviously somewhere else. "I know I told them to leave, and I'm glad they're safe, but they used to always put up a fight and refuse to leave without me, and they just left me with the Death Eaters to die."

"Harry, no. Oh gods, no!" Sirius said in horror. He was beginning to see just how terrified Harry was of being abandoned by his loved ones; he was seeing it everywhere! "Listen to me, Harry. Really listen. I've spoken with both of them in depth about what happened. Ron didn't want to leave you, but he was in no condition to fight with anyone and would have been killed instantly. Hermione was more rational as always and knew seeing the two of them killed in front of you would destroy you. She got Ron out of there so you wouldn't have anything else to focus on besides getting out, and they never would have left if they had thought they could do anything to help Draco get you out of there…and they NEVER would have left if Draco hadn't been there to go after you. It's tearing those two up that they left, especially Hermione since she feels it was her decision to leave you there. Harry, can't you see how much Hermione's been beating herself up for what happened? After she got here by Portkey, she was in a state I've never seen her in before. She just didn't know what to do. Don't you understand how much they care about you, Harry? Oh gods, Harry, did you really think they left you there without caring about you?"

Harry's eyes were welling up with tears again and he nodded helplessly.

"Harry, all you had to do was ask them about it and they would have explained it to you," Sirius assured him.

"If they had felt that way, they'd just lie, so why bother asking? I'll always get the same answer, I just won't know if it's true or not," Harry said miserably.

"Hey, kiddo, you've gotta learn to trust some of us. Obviously you have to be careful who you place your trust in, but I think Hermione and Ron have earned it, don't you think?" Sirius prompted hopefully.

Harry looked unsure but nodded hesitantly nonetheless. Sirius sighed; this was going to take a lot of time and reassurance to get Harry to trust again.

"I know you may not believe this now, but you can trust me, Harry. I won't ever push you out of my life for any reason and you'll always be a son to me. And I would never hurt you intentionally."

"I know," Harry said, looking down at his feet.

Sirius took a deep breath. "Harry, I know what happened in the Nightmare Chamber."

Harry's head shot up and he looked at Sirius in a mixture of shock and horror. "Ron told you?" he asked, sounding betrayed.

"He told me after he saw me accidentally hit you with my elbow in the room. I'm glad he told me, though. We need to talk about that. It's on my list," he said with a sad smile, leaning against the counter opposite of Harry so the boy would feel less threatened.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean…" Harry began, but Sirius cut him off.

"It's okay," he said firmly. "I mean, it's not even close to being a possibility in reality, but I can understand that after what's happened in your past, you might dream about other people in that role, especially me, hopefully only because I'm your guardian. But Harry, you need to know that I would never hurt you like that. I know I accidentally hurt you in the hospital wing, but please believe me that it was a pure accident and I would never, ever do something like that intentionally."

"Yeah, I know," Harry muttered in shame.

"Hey Har, look, I know that it'll take you awhile before you really realize that I won't ever hurt you, because I'm in the same position as your uncle being your guardian and a male who's a lot bigger than you…"

"Not a lot," Harry interrupted defiantly.

Sirius couldn't help but smirk just a fraction despite the horrible topic of conversation. He knew his godson hated to be thought of as small, even though there was no question that he was for his age.

"Okay, not a lot, but still bigger. Anyway, I just hope that you will figure it out soon and try to believe me when I tell you that I would never hurt you. Neither of us have done much of the functional family thing, so we might need some outside help. I'll consult with Moony or the Weasley parents about proper punishments if you do something bad rather than just inappropriately scream at you like I did last time. Now, I really don't want you to do anything dangerous anymore, Harry. I will be very disappointed if you do. But, if you do something that you know I'll be mad about, just know that nothing you could ever do would make me stop caring about you or kick you out or hurt you. We'll work out a punishment together and we'll talk about why you're being punished and talk about it together. You can always tell me anything. Even if you mess up horribly, I'll be there to try to help you out of it, even if I'm mad. Okay?" Sirius said, running his hand anxiously through his hair as he tried to gauge Harry's reaction to the talking about punishments. The raven-haired boy still looked a bit skeptical, but it looked as if he wanted to believe, and that was a starting place if nothing else.

"Okay," he agreed.

Sirius nodded and took out his list, keeping its contents hidden from Harry. Harry looked from his face to the back of the paper curiously, but Sirius merely picked a topic and shoved the folded paper back into his pocket.

"Alright, next thing. It's obvious you haven't been sleeping lately. Is it because you've been having these dreams?"

There was a long pause while Harry tried to think of something to say. "I've had a lot of dreams lately," he finally said in a defeated voice.

"How long have you been having these dreams?" Sirius asked gently.

Harry laughed bitterly. "Which ones?"

"How about starting with the ones that have been keeping you up at night? How about the ones where I take the place of your uncle? Have you been having them since you moved in or even before that?"

Harry ran a hand through his hair, a nervous habit of his Sirius was beginning to see more and more of. "No, not for that long. I just….at the Stensons, my uncle said…"

"What did he say?" Sirius prompted when Harry went silent.

"A lot of things…" he said in a quiet voice, trailing off as his thoughts got caught up in that dreadful night. "He said something about you hating me as much as he did. I guess that's why I've been…you know…thinking about that sort of thing." He paused, shaking himself out of the memory. "I'm so sorry. I really don't think of you like that…I just…I just don't want to have to do that whole thing again."

"You won't ever have to go through anything like that again, I swear it," Sirius said vehemently.

Harry closed his eyes tightly and nodded.

"Harry, let's talk about the Dursleys," Sirius said cautiously.

The raven-haired boy's eyes snapped open and he shook his head in a panic.

"What happened to you there wasn't your fault and you don't have to feel ashamed about it, okay?" Sirius said gently. Harry still looked quite spooked about the idea.

"I just don't know if I can," he admitted pleadingly.

"We'll start small. I'll just ask you questions and you can answer them if you feel comfortable doing so, okay?" Sirius asked, using Remus's suggestion on how to approach this very delicate part of the conversation.

Harry nodded slowly. "Okay," he said reluctantly.

"Why don't we go into the living room so we can be more comfortable than standing around the kitchens," Sirius suggested, knowing that if they were going to switch rooms, they needed to do it quickly before Harry changed his mind about talking.

Harry nodded and Sirius slowly put an arm around his shoulders, keeping it there despite Harry's tensing and leading him into the living room. Harry sat down in the chair facing the couch and Sirius understood that Harry was trying to put some distance between the two of them as he was preparing for reliving something very difficult. Though he would have preferred Harry looking to him for comfort rather than distancing himself during a hard situation, Sirius would take what he could get and realized it would be a long time before Harry would begin to look to him for protection.

"How about we start with the cupboard?" Sirius prompted. "It was your bedroom?"

Harry suddenly found his knees quite fascinating, but he began to speak nonetheless. He sounded insecure, nervous and slightly frightened, as if sharing any of this information could lead to anything. "It was my bedroom until I got my Hogwarts letter; then they moved me to Dudley's second bedroom."

Sirius nodded and pushed a little further. "How big was it?"

"I guess it was about the size of the pantry, but not as tall. It had a sloped ceiling, like upside down stairs. It wasn't so bad when I was younger, but the bigger I got, the more cramped it felt, and I kept banging my head on steps. When I went back in over Christmas, it seemed a lot smaller. I couldn't fit all that well, especially now that so much other stuff is in it. They'd put other stuff in it too, and that always made it seem a lot smaller…like cleaning supplies. Sometimes I'd turn over and a broom would fall on me or a dirty rag or something, which was just sort of annoying…and when I was little it used to scare me a lot. I was stupid and jumpy back then though. At least it made it so I'm not afraid of spiders," he said with an anxious chuckle. He blushed, realizing how much he'd just blurted out. He tended to talk a lot when nervous unless he firmly kept himself from doing so, usually by not saying much altogether, which was why he'd been so reluctant to start speaking about all this in the first place. The words just slipped out before he could hold them back, and it made himself sick to think that he couldn't take them back. He knew that even that horrible sick feeling wouldn't stop him and he'd end up deeply regretting all this later, a thought that made him even more nervous.

Sirius nodded. "So you just went in there to sleep?"

Harry cocked his head to the side and played with a loose thread on his pants. "And for punishments, that's when they'd lock me in. And just in general when they'd want me out of the way, so that was a lot. Usually, during the day, if they wanted me out of their hair, I could go outside, and then I just had to worry about staying away from Dudley and his friends 'cause they'd beat me up, but when I couldn't go outside, like at night or something, they'd put me in the cupboard. But I didn't really mind that much. I was more scared of what was outside the cupboard rather than what was in it, so at night, when I was scared, it was actually nice to be able to see everything. Not like anything else could really fit in there anyway."

"When you got scared at night, could you go to your relatives?" Sirius asked, already certain of the answer, but figuring it would be good for Harry to talk about it.

Surprisingly, this question seemed to make Harry more upset than he had expected. He shook his head and took a few shuddering breaths.

"Harry?" Sirius prompted cautiously.

"I-I'm scared of thunderstorms," Harry admitted self-consciously. "It's so stupid, I know, but I always have been, ever since I was young. There weren't any windows in my cupboard obviously, so I could just hear the thunder and the crack under the door would light up and it just freaked me out for some reason. I couldn't see what was happening so my imagination sort of would go crazy and I'd always think there was something right on the other side of the door. And I used to hear Dudley go running to his parents' room, so a few times, if the door wasn't locked from the outside, I would go too. It was so humiliating. The first time, I was probably five or six, my uncle smacked me and told me to go back downstairs, but I was so terrified that I begged him just to let me sit outside the room, but he said if I didn't go down, he'd get the belt, so I had to go down myself and it was so dark and…this is really stupid, isn't it?"

"No, it's not stupid at all," Sirius assured him. "You know if you came to me during a thunderstorm, I would never turn you away. I'd love it if you came to me when you were afraid. I would enjoy your company."

Harry sniffed and quickly wiped a tear away. "It just really sucked being alone all the time, you know?"

Sirius wasn't sure he was only talking about his childhood. "I know, Harry. Trust me, I know. Twelve years in Azkaban taught me that without a doubt. But neither of us has to be alone anymore. We have each other."

Harry smiled tearfully.

"Harry, why don't we talk about what your uncle did to you," Sirius suggested carefully.

The raven-haired boy shifted uncomfortably. "What do you want to know?" he asked quietly.

"How about we talk this past year, starting with last summer? You said that's when it became bad. What changed?"

Harry wrapped his arms around his stomach as if to protect himself from the pain of what had happened. He focused his gaze on the fireplace and Sirius wondered if he was somehow trying to distance himself enough from the current situation in order to be able to talk about it. "Uncle Vernon got more violent, more often," he said in a near whisper, taking a shuddering breath to calm himself.

After he realized Harry was having a difficult time continuing, Sirius risked pressing a little further. "What did he do to you?"

Harry's breathing was becoming unsteady as he glanced from the fire to his hands, which he was wringing in nervousness.

"Harry?" he asked worriedly.

"I don't…I don't know where to start or what to say…there was so much and…and I just…I just don't…" he said helplessly.

"It's okay. Why don't you pick one incident and tell me about that?" Sirius improvised.

Harry shut his eyes and nodded.

"Um, well, okay…the first time he really, um, lost it, I guess…he…" Harry trailed off, sinking into the memories of dark rooms, fists and pain. "He had lost a big account or something. He thought it was because of me." He paused as he tried to push on with the story. "I could hear him yelling downstairs and he was drinking. I remember hoping he'd just pass out like he did sometimes when he drank that much…see, he started drinking a lot and it makes him sorta violent, but sometimes he just passes out before he can act on it." He paused again, watching his hands shake. He clasped his hands together and tucked them between his knees, but the rest of his body was shivering slightly as well, something a bit harder to control. "He…He came up to my room…I tried to pretend I was asleep, but he grabbed…he um, he…he grabbed my arm and…"

"And what did he do then?" Sirius prompted after Harry struggled silently for a few minutes.

But the young Gryffindor suddenly jumped to his feet, looking completely unnerved.

"I can't do this!" he exclaimed, looking slightly panicked. "I thought I could, but I can't. I can't say these things to you. It's too hard to get out and I just can't."

Sirius got to his feet as well and took a slow step toward Harry and his godson jerked back a step.

"Harry, it's okay, I'm not going to hurt you, I just want to help. What happened wasn't your fault and no matter what you say, I'm not going to ever change my mind about that. This is something that happened to you, not because of you, but you can't keep all this in anymore," Sirius said soothingly, inching forward.

"He…He…It hurt so much and…and I was…I was scared and I'm sorry because it was because of me!" Harry cried, choking back sobs.

"It wasn't because of you, Harry. It was because of the Dursleys and nobody else," Sirius reasoned.

"No, it was my punishment for killing Cedric! I deserved it 'cause I got Cedric killed!" he blurted out. Sirius was stunned.

"Harry, that wasn't…" he started as he put his arms around Harry, but Harry cried out and tried to twist away from him.

"Don't! Don't touch me! I'm dirty and a murderer and I'll get you killed too!" he screamed, crying freely and trying to get away from his godfather's embrace and hide his tears at the same time.

"Harry, it wasn't your fault! For Merlin's sake, that wasn't your fault at all!" Sirius exclaimed, pulling Harry tightly to his chest while Harry frantically tried to pull away. He wouldn't let Harry close himself off this time.

"Let me go, Sirius! Let me go!" he began to scream hysterically as tears streamed down his face. "Leave me alone!"

"Harry, listen to me, it's not your fault. None of it. It wasn't your fault!" Sirius said determinedly.

"It was!" Harry screamed. "You don't even know! I asked him to take it with me! I'm horrible! I can't live here with you! I'll make you hate me!"

"I would never hate you!" Sirius insisted, pulling Harry back to him when the boy nearly tripped in his struggle to escape. "And this is your home now. We're a family and you're not going to leave before even giving it a chance!"

"Let me go!" Harry screamed hysterically. "Just let me go, Sirius!"

"Calm down, Harry. Just relax, okay? I'm not going to hurt you," Sirius soothed, trying to rub Harry's back, though it was difficult with the boy trying to push away and hide his tears.

The fire flared up in the fireplace, distracting Sirius for a second allowing Harry to finally break away. Yet as he tried to turn around to run, he tripped over the low coffee table and fell to the ground sobbing.

Sirius vaguely registered Snape looking at him with a horrified look, but ignored it and started for his godson. He halted when a wand was pointed directly at his chest by an irate potion's master.

"What the hell are you doing, Black?" Snape asked in horror before turning to Harry. "Harry, what did he do to you?"

Harry sat up and tried to calm himself. "N-Nothing," he stuttered through his hiccupping sobs. "He didn't do any-ything."

Unfortunately, Harry had long ago lost all his credibility in that department. Sirius had to admit the situation didn't look too good with Harry crying on the floor and his godfather standing over him.

"It's not what you're thinking, Snape," Sirius said menacingly. "We were just talking."

"You're irresponsible, Black, and are driven by your passions. I heard what you did in Harry's hospital room," Snape growled. "I will NOT allow you to harm him."

"I'm not hurting him! That was an accident and how dare you insinuate that I would intentionally hurt Harry. I would NEVER!" Sirius shouted. "I don't care how angry I got."

Harry had jumped to his feet and moved halfway in between the two. "It's okay, Professor. He didn't hu-urt me," he said quietly, wiping away a few remaining tears and trying to prevent the arrival of any new ones. "We were just talking and I got…irrationally upset," he said, sounding ashamed.

"There's a thing called verbal abuse too," Snape growled. "I won't tolerate…"

"No," Harry interrupted, not wanting Sirius getting accused of anything more, "it was my fault. I…"

Snape grew visibly irate, eyes glowing dangerously at the Animagus. "What have you done, Black?" He turned to the teenager who'd been so mistreated all his life. "Harry, whatever he did to you, it's not your fault. I won't let him hurt you again. You're coming with me."

Harry looked surprised at the vehemence behind Snape's declarations to protect Harry.

"No, really. He didn't hurt me. We were just talking about…" Harry glanced nervously at his godfather.

"We were talking about his relatives, Snape," Sirius said in annoyance. "Understandably, it got a bit emotional."

Snape's anger immediately dissipated…or was at least redirected toward the Muggle family. He immediately lowered his wand.

"I apologize, Black," he said curtly.

Sirius opened his mouth to make a sarcastic comment, but in remembering his godson's presence, shut it again and settled for a nod of affirmation.

"And I apologize for interrupting your conversation," Snape added, more to Harry than to Sirius.

"That's okay," Harry muttered. "It's done anyway."

"Harry, you need to talk about this so you can start to move past it," Sirius pleaded but Harry shook his head.

"I just can't," Harry apologized miserably, looking down and fidgeting with his shirt hem. "I just can't talk about it. It's too difficult," he admitted quietly.

To both their surprise, Sirius shot Snape a look that clearly asked for help. After all, Sirius couldn't force Harry to talk but it was obvious he needed to get it off his chest. Instead of milking the situation, however, Snape quickly wracked his brain for anything that might help. Of course, as expected, it led him to a potion.

"If you would like, Harry, I have a potion that's a type of calming draught that specifically helps people talk about traumatic events with greater ease. It distances the taker a bit from the situation. It doesn't force you to answer questions like Veritiserum, and you can leave out parts you don't want, but it does ease the tongue. Would you like to try that?" Snape asked, trying not to sound hopeful.

"I think it's just something better left not talked about," Harry said anxiously.

"Harry, I'd really like for you to try talk about this if you can. I need to know what happened if I'm to try to help you and I think in this case, it would really help you to talk about it after keeping it all bottled up for so long," Sirius put in.

Harry was about to protest, but Snape jumped in. "I agree with your godfather."

Everyone looked a bit shocked at that statement, but it seemed to do the trick. Harry chewed on his lip as he considered it. "I could stop talking if I wanted while on it?" he asked nervously.

"Yes. You might be a little freer in speaking than usual, but if you make a conscious decision to stop, you can."

"Well…okay, then," Harry agreed timidly after a moment's indecision.

Snape nodded. "I'll return in a moment."

He flooed away and Sirius reassured Harry until the Potions master returned a few minutes later. Snape measured out the proper dose and handed it to Harry.

"That will last about half an hour," he informed the two.

Sirius looked as if he was going to argue that a half an hour was not nearly enough time to say all there was that needed to be said, but Snape silenced him with a look that Sirius immediately understood. Harry needed to talk about this emotionally, and though the potion would help him get started, he would eventually need to talk about it without its aid.

Snape told Harry he'd see him soon, as he had wanted to talk to him about a few things as well, and took his leave without complaint.

"Are you sure you want to hear about all this?" Harry asked Sirius self-consciously.

Sirius looked Harry in the eye and nodded. "I always want to hear anything you have to say."

Harry closed his eyes and downed the vial. He sat heavily on the sofa and after a few seconds his expression became slightly blank.

"Harry? How are you feeling?" Sirius asked worriedly.

"I'm fine, sorta sad…and nervous too," he said with a little look of surprise that he had actually said that aloud.

"Are you feeling in control enough of what you're saying?" Sirius asked in precaution. He still didn't believe in forcing Harry to say anything he didn't want to; it could only cause later resentment.

"Yeah, it's strange, but I'm fine. I can do it," he said in a slight daze.

"Er, okay," Sirius said. It was a bit unnerving to have Harry so emotionless when just ten minutes before he'd been completely hysterical. "Do you want to try telling me about what happened with your uncle?"

Harry tilted his head to the side almost thoughtfully. "Last summer was the first time I think my uncle really wanted to kill me," he admitted. "He lost a big client. He came home from work and he got drunk; he started doing that a lot last summer. I heard him yelling downstairs and blame it on me. I heard him coming so I pretended to be asleep even though I knew it wouldn't really do much, but there were bars on my windows again, so I couldn't escape. Then he came in and pulled me out of bed by my arm, which hurt since he pulled so hard. And then he slammed me up against the wall and put his hands around my throat so I couldn't breathe. I got dizzy and couldn't focus on what he was saying, so I couldn't answer him when he asked a question. So he threw me to the ground and began beating me, kicking me mostly, in the stomach and my chest and then my back until I passed out. It left bruises and that's how the Stensons found out."

Sirius tried to suppress the look of absolute horror on his face, but apparently wasn't that successful when Harry looked at him and asked if he was all right. Sirius was suddenly thankful that Snape hadn't given Harry the potion for more than half an hour as it was becoming increasingly unnerving that Harry was speaking about these awful things without emotion. However, he could now see why Harry had been so upset speaking about it.

"No, Harry, I'm not all right, because what that maniac did to you is disgusting, but that doesn't mean I don't want to hear about it. I just want you to know that wasn't your fault, and you didn't do anything that made you deserve it. What happened with Cedric wasn't your fault either," Sirius said, figuring he might as well get it in while Harry couldn't push him away for saying it.

"I feel like it is."

"I know. I felt that way when your parents died," Sirius admitted.

"Really?" Harry asked, sounding strange due to the subdued tone of curiosity in his voice, though Sirius was sure Harry felt it more strongly underneath the potion.

"Yeah. It's normal to feel like that, but it doesn't make it true," Sirius said gently. Harry nodded fractionally and Sirius was wondering if he was finally getting through. "Do you want to tell me more about the Dursleys?"

Harry did talk more. He didn't feel ready to talk about more of the physical abuse, but he talked a bit about what it was like for him as a kid: alone without even friends to let him believe that anyone would ever like him, no possessions to take pride in, being told he was ugly and worthless, the time he'd tried to hug his aunt and had been pushed away in disgust.

When the potion finally wore off, Harry was able to talk for a short time after, though with all they had just talked about, Harry was becoming increasingly upset, especially when they got back onto the subject of the physical abuse, to the last night Harry spent at the Dursleys'.

"I was so scared," Harry admitted emotionally. "It's so pathetic; I'm more afraid of my uncle than I was of Voldemort. I thought I was going to die that night and nobody would even know. And I'd die alone with my uncle and I didn't want that. It's different than with Voldemort or the Death Eaters because then it's battle and there's all the fighting and at least then I'd die heroically, you know? And people would find my body and I don't know why, but that's comforting to me. But at the Dursleys, I couldn't fight back because I was too scared to even use wandless magic. It was like I was being hunted or something. Like an animal. And, and I thought everyone would be so ashamed of me, killed by my Muggle uncle? And it's such a pathetic way to die. And I know they'd hide my body and say I ran away or something, so nobody would know and I don't know why, but that just kept running through my mind and it freaked me out so much. Especially when he stabbed me because I thought I'd end up waking up in the woods or something, left to die and it hurt so much I knew I wouldn't be able to make it anywhere to get help if I woke up somewhere. And I didn't want to die a slow death like that, just being all alone and waiting for it. I just wanted so, so bad for someone I knew to be there with me just then. Anyone but the Dursleys." He let out a sob and Sirius slid a comforting arm over his shoulders, pulling him close to his side. Harry closed his eyes and leaned his head on his godfather's shoulder. "I almost didn't realize Snape was there, but when I did I was so happy to see him, even though it was Snape, and at the time, I didn't like him so much still, but I knew he'd get out and then at least everyone would know I was dead rather than wondering and I wouldn't have to die alone. I wanted you there so badly at that moment. I thought you being there would make it less scary and I was so sca-ared."

Harry finally broke down and let Sirius hold him while he did so as the older man reassured him with comforting promises that Harry would never have to go through that again. Harry had to admit that having a father figure hug him and rub his back while he cried was something he could never have predicted would feel so nice and comforting. He felt…safe, which was a very new feeling for Harry.

Soon, Sirius realized Harry had fallen asleep in his arms, exhausted from the extremely unusual outpour of emotion. Harry was still too light for Sirius's comfort, but it made it easy for Sirius to carry him upstairs to his room without waking him.

He lay Harry down on his bed and removed his shoes and pants, leaving him in the boxers and t-shirt he generally slept in during the summer. He pulled a sheet and the thin blanket under his quilt up to his shoulders, knowing they'd most likely be kicked off due to the summer heat, but enjoying the feeling of tucking Harry in too much to forgo it.

"We'll be alright, kiddo," he said quietly to the sleeping boy. "We're going to be alright."


The next day, Snape was talking with Draco in his lab as the two made potions when there was a light knock on the door.

"Come in," Snape called, expecting Laura or Anna, and was therefore surprised to see Harry poke his head in, looking nervous.

"Oh, um, is this a bad time? I can come back later," Harry quickly said, but Draco interrupted him.

"Get your arse in here, Harry," he commanded with a smirk.

Harry fidgeted. "Well, I just sort of wanted to speak with Professor Snape, since he said he wanted to talk with me?"

Draco's cheery mood faltered. He hadn't seen Harry since he'd gotten out of the hospital, and it seemed that Harry was still very unsure of himself. Snape had told him the night before that Sirius was finally talking with Harry about all that had happened. Draco knew that even if the two had talked all night, they could only cover the tip of the iceberg of all the things Harry had weighing on his shoulders, but he had still, on some level, hoped for a miracle cure. He forced himself to buck up, reminding himself that it was going to take time and a lot of help for Harry to come back out of his hole, and he'd just have to be patient and do what he could when he could, starting now.

He turned off his burner, forgetting about the potion he had been practicing. "No problem, I botched this right before you came. I'll leave you two to talk, but do you think you could come over tomorrow, Harry?"

Harry nodded and Draco noted the thankful look in his eyes for the reassurance that he was wanted.

"I'm glad you came by," Snape said as the door clicked behind Draco. He motioned for Harry to sit down on the couch and took a seat on it as well, though keeping a bit of distance between them to make sure he didn't invade Harry's personal space. "I wanted to see how you were doing."

"I'm doing fine. Better. A lot better, just tired a lot of the time and I have to take all those potions," Harry said.

"Well your body's going through a lot right now trying to repair everything that Callahan," he spat the name, "broke down."

There was a slight pause in the conversation while Snape decided he would breach the sensitive subject he'd wanted to discuss with Harry most of all.

"Harry, remember when we first talked about flawed perfection?" he asked carefully. He took Harry's surprised expression as a yes and continued. "You said that sometimes the bad things in life can get dumped on you and it can be so overwhelming you can't see the good. That you start pushing everything away just in case it might be bad."

Harry nodded embarrassedly as he figured out where this was going.

"When I completely botched up trying to talk to you last time, you said that you were pushing people away because you didn't want to get hurt, you didn't want to let people close because you didn't want to find out they didn't really care about you. Does that sound to you like you might be in the place you were talking about?"

Harry looked at his knees and nodded. "But I don't know if I can get out of it," he admitted quietly. "I don't think I can."

"Well, there are a bunch of people throwing you ropes, including me, and all you have to do is grab on," Snape said gently. "You've just got to let us in. I can promise you, at least, that I want to listen and I'm just waiting for you."

Harry closed his eyes and was silent for a minute or so. Just when Snape was wondering if Harry was going to close himself off even more, the raven-haired boy turned to him, though not looking him quite in the eyes.

"Professor?" he asked quietly. Snape wanted to tell Harry to call him Sev, but didn't want to do anything to make Harry lose the courage to say or ask what he was about to, so he merely nodded. "You know when my uncle came to the Stensons and…and we were locked in the kitchen together?" he asked quietly, dodging around addressing exactly what the monster had done to him. Snape's expression darkened. "He said that after living with Sirius for awhile, Sirius would see me for what I really am and start to hate me like my uncle does. Do you…do you think that'll happen?" he asked insecurely, a pleading in his voice for Snape to assuage his fears. His eyes finally met Snape's and the potions master was saddened to see the worry and hurt there; obviously, Harry had been struggling with this question for awhile, perhaps since even before his uncle's vicious attack.

"No, I do not think that will happen," Snape said sincerely and firmly, making the statement more reassuring than swearing upon the heavens that it wouldn't happen. "And if you are ever having any problems with your godfather, even if he is just getting on your nerves, you're not alone like you were before. I will always be here to talk to and if you are always invited to stay here as long as you like. But no, I do not think that will happen."

Harry nodded and hung his head. "My uncle said they tried to care about me but they couldn't. He said he should have drowned me when he found me on his doorstep. That can't be a good sign." Once again, tears began to fill his eyes. "God, what's wrong with me?" he asked in frustration, wiping at the tears. "I keep crying all over the place."

Unexpectedly, Snape scooted closer to the boy and cautiously pulled him into an embrace. Harry stiffened but didn't pull away. To Snape's surprise, he soon felt Harry's arms wrap around him and his hands clasp on desperately to his robes, causing Snape to realize something he had been missing lately. Harry wasn't just sad; he was scared. He was scared and feeling all alone, just as he had as a small child locked in a cupboard.

Snape held him tighter. "You're never going to be alone again. I give you my word," he vowed. He placed a comforting hand on the back of Harry's head and pulled him tighter to his chest. Harry's shoulders trembled as he tried to keep from completely losing it, but in the end was unable to hold back his tears any longer, muffling the sounds of his harsh sobs in Snape's shoulder.

It wasn't lost on Snape that Harry had been the one to pull him out of his dark place, and now he just hoped he'd be able to help pull Harry out of his.