Harry knocked sharply on the heavy wooden door. When no answer was forthcoming, he pursed his lips and entered his least favorite place in the whole world.
Snape was sitting behind his desk. Not doing anything, not grading papers or anything, but just sitting there, staring at Harry. The silence stretched on.
"I'm here for our lesson," Harry finally volunteered.
"I know that, you stupid boy. Close the door."
Harry shoved the reluctant door closed, and felt Snape fire a locking spell at it. Harry grimly turned back around.
"Sit down, Potter."
Harry did so, in the chair in front of Snape's desk. Now only a battle-scarred slab of wood separated them, and Harry unconsciously scooted his chair back a bit.
"So," Snape drawled. "Occlumency. You have completed the preliminary reading Professor Dumbledore set you?"
Harry nodded curtly. "Yes, Professor."
"Then we will proceed to the practical portion. Stand up. You may do anything you wish to defend yourself."
Harry warily got up. He didn't trust this man at all, and the prospect of allowing Snape access to his inner thoughts was troubling.
"Legilimens!" Snape said, a certain amount of satisfaction in his voice.
It was an entirely new and bizarre sensation for Harry. Images chased each other through his head. Hagrid aiming his big pink umbrella. Ron playing with Scabbers. The first time he did a Lumos. Aunt Petunia hitting him with a frying pan.
Suddenly the flood of images stopped. Harry, bewildered, found himself drenched in sweat and panting. He had done nothing to defend himself, and braced himself for Snape's derision.
Snape, however, said nothing. Instead he stared at Harry, as though he was examining a potion that had behaved unexpectedly. Then he seemed to shake himself off. "Again," Snape said, his voice hard and oddly accusatory.
Snape cast the spell before Harry could open his mouth, and again they were in the world of Harry's memories. This time, though, Harry sensed something different. It felt like Snape was…sifting through his memories. Carefully, precisely, thoroughly, as though he was looking for something and would not be content until he found it. Harry thrashed about, trying to rid himself of this alien presence, but Snape brushed him away as though he were a fly.
More memories of the Dursleys. Only the Dursleys, now. What on earth was Snape looking for? There was nothing that bloody exciting. Just image after image of Harry being shoved, or yelled at, or smacked. A lot of Dudley's birthday parties, for some reason. A lot of Christmases. The Christmas Uncle Vernon broke his arm.
Again, the intrusion ceased. Harry winced. Snape's exit had hurt, that time.
Harry looked up at Snape, feeling very annoyed with himself. So far he had offered no resistance to anything Snape had thrown at him. Harry took a deep breath. "Sir, if you could tell me what I'm doing wrong—"
"Silence!" yelled Snape. Actually, he wasn't looking very well. He was pale and rather more twitchy than usual. He pointed his wand at Harry. "AGAIN!" he roared, and threw himself into Harry's mind.
Harry staggered back, gasping, clawing at his head as Snape assaulted it. Whatever Snape had done before, this was much, much worse. Snape was madly rifling through his mind without care or precision, throwing one memory aside as he looked at he next.. Dudley getting him into trouble…spending that one winter in the garden shed…the day at the zoo…the day he wet himself in the cupboard…
Harry felt himself begin to fade out as the pain became greater. It felt like Snape was searing fire across his brain, almost like the Cruciacus curse...
And then, he felt a hand slapping his cheek. None too gently, neither. "Potter! Potter!"
Harry opened his eyes groggily. Snape yanked him to his feet, still shaking him. "What are you playing at?" Snape demanded. "How did you implant those false memories? Who helped you? Was it Miss Granger? Answer me, Potter!"
Harry blinked his eyes rather sleepily. "I haven't any idea what you are going on about."
"YES, YOU DO!" Snape roared. "TELL ME HOW THOSE MEMORIES GOT INTO YOUR HEAD!"
Harry looked into Snape's eyes, bewildered. "The usual way, Professor."
This seemed to snap something inside Snape. "Ten points from Gryffindor for cheek," he said, far more calmly than before. Snape smoothed down his already greasy hair and then, oddly, caressed his wand as though it were an animal to be soothed. "This lesson will conclude, Potter, only after you satisfy me. So I suggest you answer fully."
"Alright," Harry sighed, feeling the glimmerings of a horrible headache.
"You will explain to me," Snape said slowly, as though speaking to a particularly dim witted child, "why you have no pleasant memories—not one—of the time you spent with your Muggle relatives."
"Is that what you were looking for in my head?" Harry asked suspiciously.
Snape cocked his head. "Answer the question, Potter."
"It's none of your business, is it?" Harry retorted.
"Nonetheless," Snape returned. "If you do not answer me, you will be in detention every night for the rest of term."
Harry clenched his fists, willing patience into him. "Fine," he bit out. "It's not really a secret the Dursleys hate me, is it? I don't have any nice memories because they didn't give me any. They hate me, always have." Harry paused, something unfathomable pooling in his eyes. "And I hate them."
"Your relatives hate you," Snape echoed, his voice hard as ice. A long, awful pause. "Does the headmaster know about this?"
Harry looked away.
"I expect an answer, Potter."
"Yes," Harry ground out. It cost him something to admit that. It hurt more. Because Dumbledore was supposed to care about him.
But, then, so were the Dursleys.
Snape walked behind his desk and sat down. "One last question, Potter."
Harry said nothing, full of dread.
"Explain your uncle's threat to throw you in your cupboard."
Harry's eyes flashed. "What?"
"You heard me, Potter."
"Fine," Harry said airily, deciding to fib. "The cupboard was used like a timeout. It's a Muggle punishment for little kids. You probably haven't heard of it."
"You are lying," Snape pronounced coolly. "50 points from Gryffindor."
Harry gaped at him. Fifty?!
"Try again, Potter," Snape said, a glint of impatience coloring his tone. "Or I'll double it."
Harry glared right back. "Double it, then. It's nothing to do with you."
Snape practically growled. "I am not a patient man, Potter. Tell me the truth before I use Veritaserum on you."
At this, Harry exploded. "You already know, so stop fishing, alright? Yes, I lived in a cupboard for ten years. Yes, the Dursleys didn't look after me properly. And, YES, DUMBLEDORE KNOWS ABOUT IT!"
"Ten points for yelling at a professor," Snape said with satisfaction. He looked at Harry, a small smile on his lips. His eyes, however, were expressionless. "What would your dear father say, I wonder? Imagine, The Boy Who Lived In A Cupboard!"
Harry swallowed. This is why he hadn't wanted to tell Snape. How many barbs, how many more humiliations, would he have to suffer now that Snape knew his most hidden secret?
Snape leaned forward. "Poor little Potter," he whispered, pressing his advantage. "Nobody loved the Golden Boy, did they? How…heartbreaking."
Harry's heart beat painfully in his chest. His eyes slid to the door, but it was warded shut. Snape's voice was barely audible now, but Harry still heard every word. "The Muggles were right, you know. Nobody could ever love you. You don't deserve it, do you? Wretched, silly little boy."
Something deep and raw reared up inside of Harry. "Stop it," he said, teeth gritted, using massive force of will to school his features. "You're wrong. I deserved to be loved. They shouldn't have hurt me. You're wrong."
Snape stared at Harry, searching his features for something. Then, apparently satisfied, he leaned back in his chair.
"As long as you know that," Snape drawled. "Dismissed."