Your Mind to Mine
K+ – General/AU – HP, SS – Complete
Summary: AU. At the Welcoming Feast in PS, Harry's scar hurt when he looked past Quirrell at Snape. What if there was another reason to that given? Snape gets a glimpse of the real Harry. Abused!Harry.
Disclaimer: Not mine. But you already knew that, right?
A/N: Begins in Harry's first Potions lesson as seen in PS and goes in a completely different direction. Thanks to Minerva Granger for looking this over for me. Constructive criticism and advice welcome.
"That's another point you've lost for Gryffindor, Potter."
Harry bowed his head, radiating helpless anger for Ron's sake but really just feeling sick. Why did Snape hate him so much? He was used to being hated, of course; the Dursleys made no secret of it. But even they had reasons. He'd never met Snape before, so what reason could he have? Most people in this strange world of magic seemed to love him (which made him feel sick in a different way; "The Harry Potter," they said, when he wasn't anyone special).
Snape swirled around the room like a vindictive twist of smoke, everywhere at once, praising Slytherins and condemning Gryffindors and saving his worst insults for Harry.
Harry automatically acted defiant, because that was what Snape wanted, that was what everyone expected from him here, but really all he wanted to do was concentrate on his potion and wait for it all to be over. Everything ended eventually, he just had to persevere. Harry was good at persevering.
He focussed on his potion, focussed on cutting everything up as neatly as Aunt Petunia had taught him, focussed on putting things in at exactly the right time, following the instructions carefully. Maybe he wouldn't be rapped bruisingly across the knuckles with a wooden spoon here for not being precise, but it was better to focus exclusively on his potion than let himself think. He was so focussed that he noticed when something plopped gently into his cauldron as Snape billowed past, and he was already pushing back from the table when his potion exploded. Snape whirled, all flowing black and angry sneer; with a wave of his wand he froze the potion in mid-explosion, and Harry thought that for all he dismissed foolish wand-waving Snape was really rather good at it.
"Detention, Potter!" Snape directed the potion back into the cauldron with a vicious jab of his wand and stalked off.
Harry knew he was responding normally to Malfoy's malicious grin and Ron's clumsy concern, but none of it was connected to him. He was terrified of this world where they expected things of him and loved him for something he didn't remember. He didn't understand why people loved him or hated him and no one bothered to know him. But he shut the feelings down and away and didn't let them show, because he was Harry Potter, slave, delinquent, or hero, and he had to be those things. Nobody wanted Harry.
He knocked hesitantly on the Potions classroom door, paying no attention to Ron's sympathetic farewell. He knew his friend was wondering if he'd ever see him again outside of potion ingredients, and it didn't make him feel better.
"Come in," Snape snapped.
Harry swallowed hard, but slipped in obediently and didn't back down when Snape glared at him, just stood there, head high.
"At least you're punctual, Potter. Come here."
Harry stepped forward to stand in front of the desk, and Snape waved his wand with elegant precision, speaking some Latin-flavoured word.
"There. Now no one can hear us, however determined they might be to pry." Snape's voice was suddenly not harsh, but Harry was scared. Magic gave so many more options for hurting, and why else would Snape need to guard against eavesdroppers? He didn't show he was afraid, though; he stood there with the nervous defiance of a boy not quite sure what was going on.
"Sit down, Potter." Snape pointed to the stool in front of his desk, and Harry sat, wary and waiting. "I want to apologise."
People who hated didn't apologise. Uneasy both inside and out, Harry let himself fidget nervously. "What for, Professor?"
"For asking you questions at the beginning of the lesson which no first year should have been able to answer, Miss Granger aside, in order to enforce my authority. For dropping quills into your potion and giving you detention." Snape hesitated almost imperceptibly, and then ploughed on. "For making you believe I hate you."
Harry let himself gape, because anyone would gape. But he didn't let himself hope, because hope never worked.
"I gave you detention so that I might explain myself." Snape's eyes bored into him, no longer shark-like and cold, but rather wary and controlled. Harry recognised that control. "I must act as though I hate you because it is expected of me, but I need you to know that it is an act. I thought that it would be no act; I thought I would hate you, even without what others expect. I anticipated a spoilt brat, an arrogant, thoughtless boy like your father. Like your cousin." Harry winced. His father had been like Dudley? He didn't want to know that, but somehow didn't doubt this strange man who lurked behind Snape's hate. "James Potter was… he was a good man," Snape admitted unwillingly, "but he was not a nice boy." Though his voice was steady, Harry thought the man was nervous, he was talking so much.
Don't ask questions. That was the rule at the Dursleys', but he was a different person here. "How do you know I'm not spoilt?" He could almost think to laugh at that. Him, spoilt?
"At the Welcoming Feast, when-–" Snape shook his head. "I am not explaining this well. Do you know what Legilimency is?" Legil-who? Harry shook his head. "No, of course not, it's highly advanced magic. The simplest description is that it is a form of mind-reading, though that is a highly inaccurate way to express it. It is not a skill I use very often, for I find wading through other people's memories highly distasteful." The man actually shuddered slightly. "But when our eyes met at the Welcoming Feast, I somehow find myself within your mind, reliving your memories. I cast no spell, I had no wish to enter your mind, and yet somehow I was there. I extricated myself as soon as I was able, but…" He trailed off, unwilling to continue.
"But you saw my life," Harry said quietly, scared. So scared that he acted not scared because he was too scared to remember how to act scared. Uncle Vernon had said never tell, never never ever tell. Harry hadn't known until then that how he lived wasn't normal.
"Some of it," Snape acknowledged. "Enough of it." He ran a hand over his face in weary sorrow, human and not the creature who scowled about the classroom with hate in his eyes. "I cannot get you away from there. I cannot even be lenient to you in my class. The world must believe that I hate you and you hate me."
"But why? And how did you get into my mind? And why are you telling me?" It was all too strange. Harry didn't know how to react to any of this; it was too far out of his experience.
"I am telling you because you don't deserve to believe that yet another person who has power over you hates you. Normally I would not have taken such a risk, but you have had so little that is not hate, and I know what you are capable of accomplishing, Potter. You are capable of convincing everyone that you hate me."
"Yes, sir," he promised. That was easier than being the hero, after all.
"Your other two questions are related. When you looked at me the first time, your scar hurt, did it not?" Harry nodded. "The scar is a connection to the Dark Lord—"
"Yes. Don't say that name."
He shrank back a little, though Snape's voice wasn't angry. "Sorry."
"I too have a connection to him. Somehow the two connections must have linked us. I don't know how, for I have found no reference to involuntary links, but there must have been an external influence. I have my suspicions, but – never mind. That connection is also why I must hate you. What do you know of Death Eaters?"
So Snape explained, telling Harry all the things about Voldemort's reign that no one else had been willing to tell him. Harry listened in fascination, for no one had ever spoken so freely to him. And then he told Harry what this had to do with the connection. "I was – am – a Death Eater. I was a spy—"
"No, you shouldn't tell me!" Harry leapt to his feet in horror. "If he's coming back like you said, telling me could get you killed!"
"I trust you, Potter." Harry gaped at him. "I will trust you with my life, for all you are the eleven-year-old son of my childhood tormentor," and there was awe in his voice, "because you are worthy of that trust."
No one had ever thought Harry was worthy of anything.
"But you are right: I shouldn't put burdens on your shoulders. Others will put them there soon enough. But I will stalk about my classroom glaring at you, I will berate you and take points and insult you and your father—"
"And I'll react as I should, I promise."
Snape's eyes went soft at that. "But you will know that I don't hate you. You must know. Do you believe me?"
No one had ever cared what Harry thought, no one had ever been so desperate for him to understand. Never before had his opinion truly mattered to someone. "I believe you," he whispered, and his heart hurt with unaccustomed joy because Snape knew who he really was and didn't hate him.
Obediently he walked around the desk to stand in front of Snape, who looked at him firmly and intensely.
"Now, I know you're a Gryffindor, but I also know you're not going to talk to Professor McGonagall if you have problems, so you may treat me as your Head of House. I cannot save you, I cannot protect you, but perhaps I can help you."
Harry stared at the man. He hadn't cried since he was four, but now that someone was so kind he could feel tears coming. Hagrid had been wonderful and Ron was great, but Snape knew who he was and still helped him.
"It's all right, Potter. Here, in this place, with me, you don't have to keep up your masks."
But he'd been the masks for so long he'd thought he was hollow inside; he'd thought he'd lost himself and that only the masks were left. Yet there were tears on his cheeks.
"That's it, Harry. Let it out." Gentle hands pulled him into Snape's lap, arms wrapped around him as he cried for ten years of loneliness, ten years of no love and little kindness, for all the lies and deceit. He'd never been held before, not that he could remember. He would die for Ron and Hagrid; he rather thought he could kill for Snape.
Snape held him until he stopped crying, rubbing his back comfortingly. When Harry finally pulled away, wiping his face with his sleeve, it wasn't awkward. Snape understood and Harry wasn't embarrassed, not here, not with him. Snape produced a large white handkerchief and handed it to him.
"Sir – was Dad really…?" His dreams of his parents had kept him going, and he didn't want his Dad to be a bully.
"When they tell you that you are like your father, Potter, it is the man they are remembering, not the boy."
"Thank you, sir."
Snape accepted his handkerchief back. "Your detention is over, Potter. You spent it scrubbing cauldrons and are quite convinced I am a greasy git. Now I will hate you and you will hate me, but you must remember that I do not truly hate you."
"Yes, sir." Harry looked up at him with shining eyes, unable to speak his gratitude, before locking himself away behind his mask.
With a wave of his wand Snape dropped the silencing ward. "I suppose that will have to do, Potter," he snarled. "Get out of here."
As Harry scooted out the door, he glanced back to see Snape wink. The grin never reached his face, but he fled the dungeons for Gryffindor Tower feeling properly happy for the first time he could remember. Hogwarts wasn't going to be so bad.