Wow, it's been so long! I hope I don't disappoint. I've recently been in and out of the hospital for things similar to what this story is about. Too bad I don't have a Remus, ya? Anyway, my own shtoof gave me a ton of inspiration for this chapter. Reviewers get candy [but they need to come to my van to get it!].


Chapter 9 - Dead Inside

Life with the Weasleys passed by ever-so-slowly. Harry put on a really strong effort to be, well, normal. At least for the others' sake. He spent his days playing modified Quidditch with Ron, Fred, George, and Ginny and doing his summer homework with Hermione around the big dining table. He made sure that he smiled regularly and made fun conversation.

But the numbness inside of him was as strong as ever.

Lupin sent letters more than promised—he got them probably twice or three times a week. They were always very reassuring, but grew more and more concerned as Harry didn't respond. There was, Harry concluded, no reason to respond. He should just stop being a bother to his old professor.

At this point, he had even stopped reading the letters. Better to not even get his mind hoping of getting any sort of devotion from Lupin. He didn't need it; he shouldn't need it. Eventually, Lupin would get the hint.

Bang! Harry jumped as he heard a sound coming from the twins' room that seemed to be a small cannonball and was accompanied by the sound of shattering glass. Thunderous footsteps marched up the stairs toward that room and Mrs. Weasley's voice broke through the stunned silence.

"If you broke another window, I'm going to throw the both of you out of it!"

Despite himself, Harry smiled. Whatever they were making sounded promising. He rose from his bed and stared out the window. It was a sunny day, but Hermione had pulled Ron away from their daily Quidditch games to get him to finish his summer schoolwork. So Harry got the room to himself… for a little while.

What was tonight? The moon was waning, he figured, so Lupin was probably recovering from his monthly wolfishness. And he'd probably get a letter soon.

Guilt got him in the gut once more. He should write back… but he couldn't. There had been no reason Harry should expect their… familial relationship to continue. The older man had gone out of his way to help Harry out. That was all. Somehow, Harry had convinced himself that Lupin only did so out of obligation—not love or caring or any more of that bullshit.

Harry's fists clenched and he went straight to his trunk. Though he had tried to stop cutting, he reverted right back to his old habits as soon as his doubts about Lupin began to seep in. He pulled off his shirt and looked at himself in Ron's mirror.

"Tsk, you should really put some salve on those marks," the reflection told him. Harry blinked, not even bothering to respond. While he was grateful that this reflection wasn't as terrible as the one at 12 Grimmauld Place, it did nothing to quell the deadness and self-loathing he harbored within him.

Taking his knife, he began to cut again.

God, why couldn't he just be normal?

A humorless smile spread across his face as Harry looked at his handiwork. It was better of him, he decided, that he was acting normal now. At least nobody would be getting suspicious. He blotted at the blood with a tissue. Even the fact that he wore long sleeves all the time went unnoticed by the massive Weasley clan.

He pulled one on, gingerly putting his arms into one sleeve at a time. He paused, frowning as he saw one of his cuts had soaked through the fabric. He lifted the sleeve and peered under. It wasn't a bad cut, but it was wider than usual. But at least the fabric was dark, so unless someone was staring at his sleeve, nobody would notice.

He crept downstairs and looked over at the table where Hermione and Ron sat, doing their work. Did Hermione ever stop working?

"What subject are you doing today, 'Mione?" he asked, his faux-cheerful voice sounding surprisingly convincing. She looked up at him and sighed dramatically.

"Arithmancy. You wouldn't believe how time-consuming it's becoming."

"And I can't believe how time-consuming working has become," Ron added glibly. Hermione shot him an exasperated look.

"That's why we've gotten free periods this year. It isn't just for goofing around! It's for actually—"

There was a rapping at the door. The three of them looked at each other in surprise.

"Mum, are we expecting anyone?" Ron called.

"That'd be Remus, let him in!" Mrs. Weasley called back. All of a sudden, sheer terror shot through Harry. No, no, no

"I'll get it, then," Ron said with a shrug. Harry, however, had begun backing toward the door. This didn't go unnoticed by Hermione.

"Are you all right, Harry?"

"Yeah, erm… I just… need to go to the bathroom," he said lamely before nearly bolting from the room.

God, had Lupin said he was going to come for a visit? Maybe he should have read those letters, Harry thought regretfully as he dashed to Ron and his' room. He could have planned to be far, far away at this time.

He sat on the bed, frantically hoping that Lupin wouldn't come in here. He couldn't face him. He didn't want Lupin to worry about him, or to see that Harry had kept on hurting himself…

The minutes passed by like mini-eternities. The only sound Harry could focus on was the pounding of his heart, but then, it was interrupted: footsteps, creaking up the stairs.

Should he get out his Invisibility Cloak? Why didn't he think of it sooner? Then Harry remembered that it was buried beneath some sort of luggage, and he didn't have enough time to look…

A gentle knock at the door and Harry felt as though the wind was knocked out of him. He said nothing, but the door swung open anyway.

There, looking as tired as ever, was Lupin.

"Hello there, Harry," he said with a smile, oblivious to how nervous Harry was. But then the smile faded. Maybe he had noticed; Harry realized a moment too late that his body had started to shake. "Are you all right?"

"Y-yes," Harry replied. He had forgotten how kind Lupin's voice was, and he longingly ached for being cared for by this man, the only connection to his family and to Sirius.

"I just wanted to visit because you haven't been returning my letters. Are you truly all right, Harry?" Lupin's eyes quickly fixated onto Harry's arm. Confused, Harry looked back down at it and to his horror, the stain had grown. Lupin looked back into Harry's eyes, full of sadness.

"I knew something was up. I should have come sooner."

"Remus, it's nothing, I—"

"Then take off your shirt for a moment, Harry."

Defeated, and still quivering, Harry slowly pulled up his shirt, revealing the myriad of cuts, scratches, and scars that covered his arms and chest. Lupin began to approach, but Harry took a step back. Immediately, he regretted it, because Lupin's looked hurt.

"Harry…"

"I'm sorry," Harry mumbled, looking down. Slowly, he began to sink. "I'm so sorry. I just…" Should he continue? Despite all of his fears about Lupin until now, just being in his presence again made him almost feel… safe. "The pain. It isn't gone. I… I think I'm dead inside."

He heard Lupin approach him. "Look at me, Harry," he said quietly, and Harry slowly did. "I'm going to help you. I told you that I'd be your family, didn't I? And this is what…" He paused, struggling to get the words out. "This is what a parent would do for their child. I'm going to help you."

"I can help myself," Harry replied coldly. Lupin's eyes flickered back to his arms, and Harry flinched.

"I think it's out of your control now," Lupin replied slowly. "I'm going to help you now, Harry, whether you want it or not. I'm going to help you heal."

Hesitantly, Lupin reached out and ran a hand through Harry's messy hair.