Author's Note: Hello all! First, I feel I should say this story is AU, but isn't every fanfic? It follows canon through book five, then I take over from there :-D So if you have not read those five books, be wary because this story will contain some spoilers!
Second, this is sort of a song fic, but not really. The song The Sleeping Sickness by City and Colour has been on the radio like mad recently, and it reminds me of Harry Potter's situation. Therefore, I kind of just stole the title of the song, and the lyrics will be the chapter titles.
And third, my Severus Snape is based more on Alan Rickman's version of him, as I feel he is a little bit less of a git than Snape was in the books. All right then? On we go and enjoy!
The Sleeping Sickness
Chapter 1: I awoke, only to find my lungs empty
A sixteen-year-old Harry Potter sat up quickly, a silent scream caught in his throat. His thin, some would even say too thin, body was engulfed in a cold sweat. He panted heavily, eyes darting around his dark room. He glanced at the clock on his bedside table.
"4:22" he read to himself, barely making out the blurry numbers without the aid of his glasses.
Hedwig hooted softly from her cage, clearly worried about her owner. Sighing heavily, Harry's head fell into his hands. This was a nightly occurrence for the boy, his nightmares waking him even from the deepest of sleeps. He had trained himself to silence his terror though; it was something he had to do. If his Uncle Vernon had been woken up at Harry's expense, there would be hell to pay. The emerald-eyed teenager had found this out the hard way on many separate occasions.
It was a hot summer night, close to ninety degrees in fact. Harry hated the summer, but not because of the heat. He had no problem being in his stiflingly hot room, to which the air conditioning duct had been permanently sealed courtesy of one Vernon Dursley. No, it was what lurked outside of his room that he hated. Uncle Vernon, aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, his "family". Harry snorted to himself at that thought. Family was what chased away the bad dreams and replaced them with the good. Family was a comforting hug or reassuring pat on the back when you felt at your worst. Family was protection from anything and everything that attempted to harm you. Family was loving with all your heart, and actually receiving that love in return.
Harry found it hard to believe that he shared any blood relation to the Dursleys at all. They were, in fact, the complete opposite in every way to what a family was supposed to be. They caused the nightmares, well, some of them anyway. The only "pat" Harry ever received was a hand to the face or a fist in his stomach. He never felt safe and the only love from a parent he had ever had, he was regrettably too young to remember it.
Harry's fists clenched at his sides. It was hard to think about his parents. There were a lot of things in his life that were hard to think about, especially after his last term at Hogwarts. The weight that had lifted off of his shoulders as a result of the entire wizarding world finally knowing that Voldemort had returned was incredibly satisfying, but at what price? His godfather, the only other chance he had at a parental figure in his life, was taken from him, had died for him.
A lot of people had died for him.
Harry's eyes prickled with what should have been tears. Scowling, he rubbed at his eyes to prevent any such sign of weakness from occurring. He had not cried for his godfather, he had not cried for as long as he could remember.
"Hogwarts," Harry thought to himself with a smile. "Only a couple more days and I'll be heading back there."
That thought was what always got Harry through the summers. The promise of seeing his friends again, and leaving the Dursleys behind, was always in the back of his mind. Despite the fact that every year thus far had put Harry's very life in danger, he would take the risk of being at school over Number 4, Privet Drive any day of the week.
Harry laid his head back onto the hard pillow the Dursleys had "so kindly" parted with. He stared up at the ceiling, trying to fill his head with thoughts of Ron and Hermione, the Great Hall and its feasts, anything to take his mind off his nightmares. There would be no more sleep for him tonight. He was used to it. And he waited for the first rays of sunlight to filter through his window.
Harry squinted into the unforgiving heat of the sun, his eyes stinging as his sweat poured into them. He continued pushing Vernon Dursley's ancient lawn mower with as much strength as he could muster. It didn't matter that he had already cut the grass yesterday, and the day before. If it was above ninety, or raining, his aunt and uncle would make him work outside. And on the nice eighty degree days, complimented by a gentle breeze, Harry would be inside, dusting Dudley's shelves of endless possessions. Most of them his spoiled, portly cousin never even used.
Harry didn't care though. He was only a day and a half away from being dropped off at platform nine and three-quarters. All he had to do was bow to his adoptive family's whim, so as to avoid any… physical punishments. He had been successful the last five years, taking special care to do everything that was asked of him and not dare talk back the last two weeks before school. He needed those two weeks to go by without a hitch. This way, the bruises and welts would have time to heal, and no one, not even Headmaster Dumbledore, would be the wiser. He knew he had to stay with the Dursleys, as it allowed him the protection of the house from Voldemort. Now more than ever he needed that protection when he wasn't on the school grounds. If Dumbledore had found out, ever known what torture Harry was going through, he would be forced to find the boy a new place to stay. The emerald-eyed teenager did not want to burden anyone else. As the Dursleys had told him over and over again, he was lucky to even be accepted by them, given what a trouble-causing freak he was. And even for Harry's headstrong mind, he couldn't help but start to believe something that had been ingrained in him for as long as he could remember.
Harry turned his thoughts over to the sandwich he would be receiving once all of his chores were completed, which would be the only "meal" he received that day.
Suddenly, a loud clank, followed by an abnormal whirring noise snapped Harry out of his thoughts. He stopped the mower, began inspecting it and, right away, he was able to see that the belt had snapped.
Harry sucked in a breath; his eyes grew wide as his heart began to pound. Uncle Vernon was home today and would soon notice that he had stopped mowing. He would come out to inspect his work and find that his mower was broken. Any rational person would see that it was an accident and would go to the store to purchase a new belt. But not Vernon Dursley. Anything that had to do with Harry was a problem, and needed to be fixed.
As if on cue, the rotund figure of Harry's uncle stamped into the yard, an annoyed expression on his purple face.
"Done already, boy?" he asked with disbelief. His round face peered across the lawn as if trying to determine what had been cut and what hadn't. That being impossible, as it had all been cut yesterday and grass didn't grow that fast.
Vernon Dursley looked angrily at his nephew. "There is no way you could have done the whole yard in a half hour you lazy, worthless-"
"I didn't stop on purpose," Harry interrupted, trying to control his temper. This proved more and more difficult as he got older and more inclined to fight back. "The belt on the lawnmower snapped."
Vernon's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Oh, did it?" he began with venom. "Did you use some of your freak magic to break it, hm? Trying to get out of your chores for the day, are you? That lawnmower was in perfect condition before your slimy, freak hands got a hold of it!"
"Yeah, twenty years ago," Harry thought to himself. "Uncle Vernon, I'm not allowed to use magic outside of school. You know that!" he added desperately.
"Hasn't stopped you before, has it?"
Harry winced, afraid of what he already knew was coming. He wanted to yell back that those times weren't his fault. He had to protect himself from the Dementors, and the other time was the house-elf Dobby's doing. But it wouldn't have mattered. He knew if he tried to explain himself the oncoming assault would be that much worse. If there was one thing his uncle hated, it was excuses from Harry. Well, that and the fact that Harry existed.
Vernon was closing in on Harry dangerously. There was a murderous gleam in his eye, one that the teenager had seen so many times before.
The large man plodded over to the lawnmower, grabbed the broken belt and yanked it out with one swift pull.
"We'll just have to think of a good use for this, now won't we, freak?"
Harry tried to swallow. His mouth was so dry from lack of water and intense fear that he found himself unable to. He then felt one meaty hand grab him roughly by the scruff of the neck before leading him inside.
Harry's hands muffled his scream as he woke. He slowly sat up in his bed, gasping for air despite the pain the hitching movement caused. Once he had calmed his breathing he reached an arm behind himself and tentatively felt the welts on his back.
There were a lot, and they were deep.
The nightmare that plagued him this night was an exact reenactment of what had happened earlier that day. As if he wanted to live through that again, Harry thought to himself with anger.
He could actually hear the snap of the rubber belt in his dream. He could feel the unrelenting sting of it with each pelt. He could even remember, word for word, every nasty thing his uncle shouted at him with each consecutive snap.
"You'll remember this the next time you want to break something, won't you?"
"You think you're special, but you're nothing!"
"You're a freak, just like your stupid, dead, worthless parents!"
Harry shuddered as he realized his mind was making him relive this for the third time in less than twelve hours. He lay back down gingerly, wincing at the pain it caused to his back. He had purposefully not inspected the damage. He had learned long ago that actually looking at the wounds caused a great deal more pain, and that was not something he longed for. These felt bad though, worse than usual. Many of the lashes had broken his skin, as when he later took his shirt off there were blood stains on the back. He figured that the hard rubber of the lawnmower belt must have been less forgiving than the usual leather he had to deal with.
Harry exhaled deeply, his sweaty brow knitted together in confusion. He just couldn't figure it out, the injustice of it all. He didn't know what he had ever done to deserve that kind of abuse. In fact, the insignificant detail that he was alive seemed to irritate not only the Dursleys, but Lord Voldemort as well. Sometimes it seemed that everyone was out to get him. Even his best friend, Ron, had gone against him. Sure it had only been for a little while and only because he was jealous of him being the "famous Harry Potter" but it had still hurt to lose his best friend, even if it was just a couple of weeks. Harry sighed loudly. He would trade places with anyone if it meant he could have a regular family, and there was no Dark Lord out to get him. He couldn't think of anyone who would enjoy that type of "fame".
The Boy-Who-Lived stared up at the ceiling, which came hand in hand with his nightly routine of nightmares. He would, once again, try to calm his troubled mind while waiting for the sun to rise, the former always proving itself much more difficult than the latter.
The next day went by without a hitch. Well, the best a day could go by when spending it with the Dursleys. That and his back felt as though it were burning all day long. But other than that, Harry had only been yelled at three times. The first was when Dudley accused him of playing with one of his video games. Harry argued he hadn't the foggiest idea how to even play one, what with never being allowed to.
He got a punch in the stomach for that one.
The second time was when Vernon declared Harry had put too much mayonnaise on his sandwich (even though Harry had measured out the exact amount Vernon wanted, like he always did) and that it would tamper with the progress of his diet. Harry had made the mistake of asking "What progress?"
As he made a mad dash for his room he heard a glass bottle that had narrowly missed his head, crash against the wall.
The third and final time was after dinner when Aunt Petunia told him he wasn't using enough dish soap. Harry wondered how she would know as the rest of the family were watching movies and eating popcorn. He decided not to think out loud this time and was rewarded.
He only had to hold the appropriate amount of dish soap in his mouth for twenty minutes.
He had brushed his teeth for what seemed like hours to get the soap taste out before retiring to his room. The messy haired teenager slipped onto his bed, lying on his side to avoid the pain that still raked his back. The pain had hurt badly all day long. It usually did though, and saying anything about it was never an option, because Vernon would always tell him he'd give him something to complain about. Uncle Vernon always kept his word with matters like those.
Harry's face contorted as he realized he could still taste the soap. Removing his mind from the events of the day, he smiled as he began thinking about tomorrow. He rolled onto his other side delicately, his mouth in a firm line as he fought the urge to shout in pain. Despite his discomfort, a small smile played on his lips. He had done it. He was headed to Hogwarts tomorrow and no one would know of his brutal treatment. Sure he had not come out completely unscathed like he had planned, but the only place it showed was his back. So long as he changed in private and showered when no one else was around, nobody would be the wiser.
He was so excited to see his best friends, his classmates, even his professors. Well, most of his professors anyway. Even though he could not pinpoint exactly why he felt such an animosity toward one of them, more of it than usual, he couldn't deny the anger that welled up inside him at the thought of one man. He had felt this stronger surge of bitterness ever since the end of last term. Ever since Sirius had… well, ever since the end of the school year.
Dumbledore had explained to him that Professor Snape had ultimately saved his life, as well as the life of his friends. Snape had understood Harry's code in that desperate moment in Umbridge's office. Professor Snape had been his last hope and the man came through for him. So why was he still so angry with him?
"Maybe if he had gathered up the courage to come and fight, Sirius wouldn't have died. Brooding, selfish git." Harry thought to himself.
His thoughts, however, quickly evolved into more nightmares as his physically and emotionally exhausted body gave into the temptation of sleep. And it was not long before Hedwig began hooting softly from her cage as the Boy-Who-Lived began mumbling in his sleep, his body twisting violently as he clutched his sheets with white-knuckled hands.
To be continued…
*I know that, so far, this is very similar to a lot of stories that are out there already. However, keep reading and I promise you won't be disappointed :-) Harry and Snape have their first confrontation in the next chapter, and that's where the real fun begins!