A/N: Finally got the random inspiration to finish this fic. Thanks to everyone for the reviews, favs, follows, etc. You are all splendid. This chapter is very long, but you deserve it.
Chapter 6- Circles of Love
"Good morning, boy! Sit, sit! Would you like sausage or bacon? Or perhaps pancakes? I hadn't thought of pancakes. You like pancakes, don't you, boy? Petunia, you can make the boy pancakes, can't you?"
Harry looked to and fro, trying to discern where the disembodied voice was coming from. After all, it appeared the voice was coming from his uncle Vernon's mouth but this seemed impossible. Uncle Vernon did not care whether Harry lived or died, let alone whether or not he liked pancakes! However, Uncle Vernon continued to stare at Harry, an eerie smile growing below his bushy black mustache.
"All right, Potter?" he pressed, and it was clear that the voice was coming through his lips by the way a large amount of spittle sprayed out.
"A-all right," stammered Harry, who was becoming more fearful of Vernon than he ever had in his entire life. With watchful eyes, he shuffled toward the table and gingerly sat down, expecting a booby trap to be hidden on the chair. Behind Vernon, Aunt Petunia was looking down upon him from the stove and Harry was relieved to see that he was not the only one terrified by Vernon's sudden change in attitude. Petunia was staring wide-eyed at the table while breakfast sausages sizzled on the stove.
Vernon pounded the table with a large grin on his face. Both Harry and Petunia jumped. "By George, today is grand day, isn't it?" Vernon beamed, his curled mustache making it appear as though a large caterpillar was sleeping on his winding mouth. "Come on, boy! Tell your aunt what you'd like for breakfast-"
"Vernon," hissed Petunia, her high-heeled shoe clicking on the floor.
"Pet, let the boy have what he wants! He's going to visit with the nice doctor today, and it is going to be a wonderful little chat. Isn't it, boy?" Vernon asked, his beam growing wider and curvier by the second.
What was most disturbing was the fact that Vernon's glee seemed genuine. Afraid the house would implode at any second, Harry quickly reached across the table to snatch a piece of toast. "It sure is," he said slowly. "The greatest day ever."
Vernon nodded enthusiastically. "You know, I'm actually glad we started this therapy thingy!" he all but shouted, his voice bouncing and merry.
Harry raised his eyebrows at Petunia and she copied his expression. For the first time in history, they had something in common. Plastering a smile onto his face, Harry turned back to Vernon. He chose his words carefully, and kept his pace slow and calm. "Oh yes," he said, grinning. "I couldn't agree more, Uncle Vernon." If you could stop a bear attack by reasoning with it, this is what it would sound like.
"Wonderful!" Vernon said, clapping his hands. "I really liked that woman. You can tell her that I've ordered her drill and she can expect it within the week! Boy, I do respect a woman with an eye for drills, though it is difficult to come by. Petunia, you should cook the boy up some pancakes!"
"I don't think that is necessary," Petunia said through clenched teeth. She dumped the sizzling sausages onto a plate and bent over Vernon's shoulder to serve him, her long neck craning in a way that looked humanly impossible. After she was finished, she set the plate in the center of the table.
"Petunia, don't you think you should serve Harry?"
Grumbling, Petunia picked up the plate again and, after meticulously sawing with a knife, distributed about a third of a sausage onto Harry's plate. He picked it up between his thumb and forefinger and stared sadly at it.
"Pet!" said Vernon in a voice that suggested his good mood may wear off soon. Harry prayed Petunia would play along, lest they all be subjected to Vernon's spiraling madness. It would be frightening if he began to hammer the walls with fruitcakes once more.
Petunia seemed to read Harry's thoughts and she dumped five sausages onto his plate.
"Gee, er- I don't need this many," Harry said, raising his eyebrows. "There should be some left for Dudley. Where is he anyway?"
"He's sleeping in," said Petunia quickly. "Don't worry about it." She narrowed her eyes dangerously as if to drive that point home.
"I can't help but be a bit worried," said Harry honestly, for in all the years he'd lived with the Dursleys he had never seen Dudley skip a meal once. All of this was very rattling so Harry figured it was the perfect day to go to a therapy session. As Vernon and Petunia began to chatter about the morning news (some bloke in Yorkshire had driven his riding mower cross county and won some sort of achievement award), Harry tried not to smirk.
He couldn't believe he was going to a therapy session when the Dursleys were the ones nuttier than one of Hagrid's excuses for a pet. This would be his moment to prove to someone how insane they were and how very normal he was, even if he did not go into much detail. Harry was certain that after five minutes, he and Dr. Johannson would share a good, cheerful laugh and she'd send him on his way.
When he was finished with his breakfast (he only managed two sausages, and Vernon kept asking him if he was absolutely sure he did not want his aunt to make pancakes), Harry excused himself from the table and exited the kitchen.
Harry looked down the hallway, where Dudley was standing on tiptoes with his back to the wall. It was as if he was imitating a muggle action film.
"What are you doing?" Harry demanded.
"D'you think you could nick me some breakfast, Harry?" Dudley whispered, his little blue eyes shifting back and forth. He looked more nervous than Harry had ever seen, and that was saying something. Having an engorged tongue hadn't even made Dudley look this afraid.
"Go in there and get it yourself, Duds. Exercise is good for you, remember?"
"No, idiot," Dudley snapped, and Harry had to laugh. Me? An idiot? This really is a backwards day. "I wouldn't go in there if you paid me."
"Really?" Harry tested. "I've got wizard coins. Bet you could toss them at kids in the park to teach them a lesson, or throw them at ducks in the pond, or whatever it is you do with your life."
But Dudley continued to shake his head. "No way. I can't even look at Dad. He's treating you nice. It's scary. It's not right. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up."
"Fair enough," Harry said, "but I definitely won't get your breakfast. Wouldn't Dr. Johannson be proud of you if you faced your fears? Or do you want to flunk out of therapy?"
"You can't flunk therapy," Dudley retorted, though Harry could tell the tiny little wheels were turning in his brain, likely disturbing the cobwebs that had grown peacefully there for centuries. "Can you?"
"Have a nice day, Dudley!" Harry exclaimed. Once upstairs, he sent a quick post to Ron to inform him of the hilarious happenings:
You won't believe what's going on. My cousin Dudley got into trouble for the usual stuff and he has to go to counseling all through the summer. Do wizards have counseling? It's a sort of doctor who helps you with your mind issues- barmey people go there all the time. At first, I was really annoyed I had to attend the family therapy sessions but it's actually been kind of amusing. My uncle is obsessed with the therapist because she bought one of his drills (a sort of muggle tool) and now he's making my aunt be nice to me! Plus Dudley is going crazier than before. Bet he'll be locked up in a loony bin by the time therapy is done. Today, I'm going to my first session by myself. It's going to be hilarious because I'm sure the therapist thinks the Dursleys are completely mad. In the last session, Dudley and I had to have a conversation using puppets. Dudley picked a mouse puppet and I picked a pig. He got really attached to the puppets. He must truly be insane. Ha ha! Hope your summer is good!
PS: I'll let you know how funny it goes today. I'm expecting this therapist will apologize to me for being raised by such a pack of nutters.
"Harold! I'm ready for you!" announced Dr. Johannson from the entryway.
Harry looked up from a fitness magazine that boasted it had the recipe for the least disgusting carrot smoothie and sent the therapist a smile. She looked back at him, making a face he could not quite interpret. Slowly, a smile curled onto her lips, tightly wound. Harry followed her to her office, trying to hold back the laughter that was sure to come forth as soon as she begun her line of questioning. He took a seat across from her desk and swung one leg over the other, shaking his shaggy hair out of his eyes. "How was your week?" he greeted.
There was a long pause as she flipped a page in her notebook and cleared her throat. Finally, Dr. Johannson looked up. "Are you always this confident, Harold?" she asked with that bizarre smile painted on her lips.
"Er. I don't know." Harry snorted. She was being funny. Wasn't she?
"Did I say something amusing?" she asked. Her voice was lilting and whimsical but her eyes were hard. It was disturbing.
This question baffled Harry, and he searched his head for an answer. "I'm sorry if I offended you!" he exclaimed seriously. "It's just... I figured you inviting me here was only protocol. You and I both know there's really no reason for me to be here."
"Is that what you really think?"
Harry opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. "Well," he said after some thought, "yes, that's what I really think."
"Bit arrogant, isn't that?" she chuckled, and jotted something down in her little notebook.
"It's true!" Harry asserted, feeling a bit of deja vu for some reason. "I'm here as a witness to Dudley's behavior. I'm not arrogant. People think that sometimes, but it's completely wrong!"
"Sometimes we can't see ourselves for what we are, Harold. Is it so unbelievable that you could be perceived as arrogant?" asked the doctor calmly.
Harry suddenly realized what this reminded him of: being interrogated by Professor Snape! He gritted his teeth. "Yeah, it's unbelievable. I'm not arrogant. Not at all! It's like when people assume my dad was arrogant and he wasn't! It's just like that. You know, just because I have the world on my shoulders and everyone depends upon me to save them, and just because I happen to have some natural talent, it doesn't mean I'm arrogant!"
Dr. Johannson nodded seriously and wrote something in her notebook. "I see."
Harry's eyes widened. He really hadn't meant to say anything. The words had just poured out. But it was true. Professor Snape had assumed it, and so had Lupin. Hermione often thought he was too big-headed. Ron had gotten angry with him in fourth year, too! Suddenly, Harry was irritated he'd written Ron post. What did Ron know anyway, aside from how to fit ten pieces of toast into his mouth at once? Absolutely nothing!
"Anyway," Harry went on casually, giving a forced laugh, "I'm not arrogant."
"I feel like perhaps I hit a nerve," Dr. Johannson said pleasantly and shut her notebook. "You say you always have to save everyone. What does that mean, exactly?"
"Well," Harry began and took a deep breath. "Did I say that?" he said, and chuckled falsely.
"Yes. Yes, you did."
"I save my friends a lot. From like... Awkward situations and that kind of thing. Teachers accusing them of stuff. Plus uh, disasters at school."
"Disasters?" asked the therapist. "What sort of disasters?"
Harry was beginning to wish he'd said nothing at all. This session was not going the way he had hoped. It was as if this woman was controlling his mind and willing out the topics he least wished to discuss. "You know. Disastrous weather. And uh..." He tried to remember muggle school, and what sort of odd things happened there. After six years at Hogwarts, he had become so accustomed to madness that anything awful that had happened before age eleven seemed easy to handle. "False fire alarms," he said quickly, remembering that this had definitely occurred on more than one occasion.
"You save people from false fire alarms?" Dr. Johannson pressed, narrowing her eyes. "Do you really think people need saving from those?"
"Yes," Harry responded quickly, crossing his arms. "Yes, they need my help. I'm the only one who has the code to turn the alarm off."
Dr. Johannson wrote down something else. "The only one, eh? So you're saying that no one else could possibly handle the grueling task of shutting off the fire alarm?"
"Yeah, that's what I'm saying! Is that so hard to believe? I'm great at dealing with emergencies!" Harry bleated. "No one else could do it as quickly as I can, and I stay pretty calm the entire time, too!"
"Do you think they really couldn't do it without you, Harold? Or do you think you put these tasks on yourself because you don't trust anyone else?"
"Of course they couldn't do it without me!" Harry shouted. "The school would fall to pieces if I wasn't there! And it's not just the school, it's so much bigger than that" As soon as this came out of his mouth, he realized he had misspoke. He was referring to the wizarding world, and the war, and Lord Voldemort, but to Dr. Johannson it likely sounded a bit... Well... A bit arrogant. "I mean..."
"You sound stressed, Harold," she said, and flipped a page in her notebook. "Don't you think for once it could be healthy to ask for help? Maybe someone else could agree to become the alarm monitor."
Harry couldn't help but laugh. "No one else could do the job," he said.
"You could let them try. Sometimes letting people in is necessary," said Dr. Johannson.
"I don't like to let people in," said Harry darkly. "Anyone who gets close to me gets burned." He considered the lie about fire alarms, and added in a solemn voice: "Literally."
"When was the first time you realized you have trust issues?" asked Dr. Johannson.
"Look, are we going to talk about Dudley?" Harry demanded. He was beginning to feel neurotic.
"We're talking about you," replied the doctor.
"I don't have trust issues," Harry responded. "I just know from experience that you can't depend upon anyone."
Dr. Johannson nodded slowly. "Can you give me a clear example of this?"
Harry's thoughts went wild. He scoured his brain for a believable example, a muggle example. Something mundane. Something the therapist couldn't pick apart. He sat there stewing, trying not to think about his parents dying, or Sirius' promise to give him a home and then laughing like an arse as he died by falling back into a portal. He tried not to think about Cho Chang's aggravating obsession with Cedric Diggory, or Dumbledore being killed by Snape. After all, Dumbledore was the closest thing Harry had to a mentor now! Harry couldn't depend on anyone! They all died like flies! Who'd be next? Hedwig? One of the Weasleys? Lupin? Tonks? Growing more and more saddened by the second, Harry realized he didn't want anyone from Hogwarts to die. And all of a sudden, he was yelling and sobbing all at once, banging his fists on the arms of the chair.
"Harry? Would you like a hug?" asked Dr. Johannson.
"FINE!" Harry shout-cried, taking a gusty breath and the therapist wrapped him in an intense, organ-smashing embrace that left him winded. "Thanks, thanks!" Harry muttered, trying to catch his breath, and Dr. Johannson sat back in her seat.
"How do you feel?"
"That actually helped," he said, which was the truth. The hug seemed to have cut off circulation to his brain, which assisted him in feeling disconnected from his morbid thoughts.
"Yes, hugs usually help," nodded Dr. Johannson. "Of course, I don't usually refer to them as hugs. I call them Circles of Love." Harry raised his brow in disdain. "Well, that's all the time we have today, Harold."
"Uhm, okay," Harry said, trying to wrap his head around everything that had just happened. "So, was this it, or...?"
"Oh, heavens no," smiled Dr. Johannson, her eyes wide and gleaming. "I'll talk to your aunt and uncle about perhaps taking you on as a regular client-"
"NOOOOO!" Harry screamed. "I don't need therapy! Dudley's the crazy one! Even Vernon and Petunia are crazier than I am! Just ask them about anything! The neighbors! Their lawns! Ask about Dudley's food problems, or Petunia's stress cleaning habit! Ask Vernon what he thinks about the royal family! He thinks Prince Charles is part alien! He's obsessed with conspiracies! Ask them-"
"I'm going to have to stop you there, Harold," said Dr. Johannson and her smile was even wider than before. "Not only are you deflecting, but we're going over your allotted time. This can wait for the next session, okay? I'm thinking I'd like to see you three times a week. We have a lot of work to do." She reached over to her desk and grabbed Karl, slipping him over her hand. "How does that sound, Harold? Neeeeigh!"
Harry opened his mouth into a silent shout and sunk to the floor.