A/N: Hope the updates are coming fast enough for yous Anyway, another chapter up and poor Harry is still suffering. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter verse of which all belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Harry stumbled through the door. His panther cubs and unicorn took station outside the, while the wolf prowled inside, sitting on its haunches, guarding from within.
Now that he had reached his destination, the situation hit him full force again. He felt drained and nauseous and he barely made it to the chair with the support of Snape. Flora was on his shoulder, thrilling lowly and comfortingly. But it barely pierced through his stupor, though it gave him the strength to keep going.
With a wave of the professor's wand a fire flared up in the empty hearth, offering a little comfort and warmth in the cold dungeons, though not to Harry's scarred soul. He then pulled his chair from the behind his desk to Harry's side, trying to offer support in the informal setting.
All the while, Harry made himself as small as possible, curled up on the chair, staring into the heart of the fire, the images on replay, dancing in the flames over and over again. He barely noticed as the Professor pressed a hot mug of hot chocolate topped with fresh cream, into his hand. He was just lost in those horrible scenes of torture.
The quiet voice penetrated his daze and he turned to the professor. He searched his face. He could see the concern and worry in his black fathomless eyes. He could do this. He had to do this. But no matter how he tried, his mouth would not form the words. He couldn't scream, cry, or talk. He was numb, hurt and completely numb!
Snape was concerned. The boy looked completely dead, void of all emotion. Could the child ever catch a break, for Merlin's sake! He needed to be calm. He needed to know what drove him down here. Whatever had happened, it had a profound effect upon him, to leave him in such a state. He saw him open his mouth several times but not a word escaped.
"Vision!" the boy croaked, his head falling into his hands, fist clenching tightly to his hair in despair. Snape's blood ran cold. He should have expected it. With him unexpectedly dropping unconscious from magical exhaustion, his Occlumency shields hadn't been strengthened before the progression into natural sleep. Hell, he wouldn't have had enough magic, to even do so, as its entirety would be focused on healing the boy. And he wasn't yet good enough to hold them constantly without reinforcement or the barest trickle of magic. His heart stopped at what horrors the boy had been shown to render him almost lifeless, zombie like, down to the greyish tinge to his skin, the dark circles smudging his eyes and the jaded, haunted look that lurked in their depths.
"Harry, Harry child look at me." He turned those haunted orbs upon the professor. I know this is hard but I want you to think of the memory and I will make a copy of it, which I can view later." and have a more accurate depiction of what state of mind he left you in, he finished in his mind. "Therefore, you don't have to talk about it. Can you do that for me?"
"It's all I can think about professor, so yes I can." Harry responded quietly.
"I'm going to bring my wand to your temple and you just think of that vision." Slowly he brought his wand to Harry's temple. It was a measure of the trust they had tentatively been building, that Harry didn't shy from his wand, as one naturally would, when raised to your temple. Equally as slow, he pulled the wand away, a dull, lifeless sliver of memory on the end and deposited it in a glass vial upon his desk, to be reviewed upon later.
Harry had returned to staring at the fire.
"We don't have to talk about the vision, Harry. We can talk about something else. Just to keep your mind off it for the moment." he offered.
Harry was visibly relieved. He wasn't ready yet to talk of the vision, and talking of something different may help distract him. He collected himself, and threw up one of his many masks, that did not quite hide completely the pain the boy was in.
Snape didn't approve of this pretence, but he could see that emotionally, Harry was barely holding together. He was tethering precariously on the edge of a knife and one slip and he would break.
"I suppose you saw what happened in the Great Hall?" Harry asked, strained to make some attempt of directing the conversation.
Snape raised an elegant eyebrow, "Indeed. From our perspective you put on quite a display of power, and strength in holding your temper and not retaliating. As well as effectively dissuading any such other attempts from any other factions, particularly with such staunch support from your familiars." he gestured to where the sage wolf stood guard and his Phoenix rested upon his shoulder, who responded with a fierce thrill of agreement.
Harry was still staring into the fire, though he smiled sheepishly even if it didn't reach his eyes. "I wasn't really thinking of that then. I just wanted to be left alone. It hurt that they wanted nothing to do with me, but I would have accepted that, but to outright attack me I couldn't and wouldn't accept it.
He turned to his professor quite serious, "You know professor, this, and their whole demeanour have been quite out of character for them. Well not so much out of character, but it's like their fears, or faults have been greatly exaggerated by some outside force. Sure Hermione is controlling and relies almost to a fault on her academic career. But her reaction was a 'tad' much. And sure Ron is a hothead and his jealousy and fear of being constantly in the shadow of others is not a trait to be admired. But again, his reaction was a bit to the extreme, don't you think? Could it be possible that they have been cursed or influenced in any way?"
Snape tilted his head slightly regarding his young charge. "It's quite possible that that is the case and I'm sure that avenue is being investigated at the present, in light of the events in the Great Hall. But you also have to accept that this could have been entirely of their own free will." he said sympathetically, knowing Harry was holding on to this line of thought fervently. He knew that Harry would forgive them in a heartbeat if it was proven such that.
Harry smiled sadly, again it didn't reach his eyes. "I know sir, but I just can't help hope that the friendship we had was true and my first five years here wasn't a complete lie." Harry took a sip of his hot chocolate, charmed to stay warm and a yawn unwillingly forced its way to the fore.
"Come on Harry. You should be resting after your dose of magical exhaustion. I will take you back to the hospital wing." With practiced ease he supported Harry's weight.
"Thank you, sir, for, you know, just listening."
"Shhh Harry, anytime. And I want you to know that I'm very proud of you for coming to me, and not resorting to other measures in your distress. But let's get you to the hospital wing and back into bed."
Sleepily Harry let Snape guide him and wondered lightly if he had added anything 'extra' to his hot chocolate. He filled with warmth at Snape's pride and vaguely he wondered if this was what it was like to have an adult care for you.
He opened the door and let the wolf out first, the Phoenix taking wing after, and leading himself and the fatigued teen and the other animals back the way they had come, to the hospital wing.
Coming up the corridor to the Hospital Wing, they could hear agitated voices bouncing off the walls. Harry was all but asleep on his feet and paid them no heed, but Snape had an inkling of what it was about. And braced himself for what was sure to be an irate nurse and a possible worried (he didn't know where Harry was) or amused Headmaster ( he did).
As soon as he entered the vicinity, true to his prediction he was pounced upon by Madame Pomphrey.
"There you are, for Merlin's-" Snape waved a hand gesturing get to be silent. She huffed, but immediately composed herself once she could see that any lecture that she would give the boy would fell on deaf ears, got he was asleep.
Dumbledore, was also standing to the side, looking quite relieved to find the child safe, if asleep on his feet. It was quite comforting to know that the Headmaster was not all-knowing and was not immune human emotions and did not possess power that seemed completely beyond, even for him.
Snape gently rested the boy on his bed, piling the covers up gently and rearranging them comfortably around the boy. He was definitely not coddling him. His familiars immediately took up their guard again.
Snape gestured for both the Matron and Headmaster to join him in the nurse's office.
"Where in Merlin's name has he been, Severus? I've been frantic with worry over him after finding an empty bed and vomit on the floor." Poppy Pomphrey scolded.
Snape nodded in acceptance. "He came down to me, quite disturbed and visibly upset." Dumbledore's twinkle went into overdrive at the fact that Harry went to Snape for help, but Snape just ignored it. "I obviously invited him in. He made a promise to me, one in which he was abiding by, by coming to see me." He elaborated as he saw Poppy about to interrupt, "If he ever felt the need to hurt himself he would come to me, regardless of the hour, and even if he just wanted to talk." Poppy nodded her acceptance of such a compromise.
But Dumbledore needed further verification; he obviously didn't know that his Professor dealt with such situations quite regularly with Madame Pomphrey. "Severus, you did remove the weapon from his person before accepting such a promise. How would you know if he does it secretly?"
Snape all but just stopped himself short from rolling his eyes. "No I did not remove his Knife," at Dumbledore's sharp intake of breath he continued quickly, stalling any other interruptions, "A compromise involves some level of give and take, and he agreed to let me place a charm on it to tell me if he has used it on himself and if so where he was at that moment, Really Headmaster, I'm not that incompetent,"
"Not at all m'boy, carry on." Relief sating his voice.
"As you can imagine, I figured that he was having a hard time controlling these feelings. So I settled him in my office. I couldn't dream of what had happened to render the boy so...so lifeless."
Madame Pomphrey looked somewhat concerned at the state of her patient, but it seemed to dawn on Dumbledore, where this was leading to.
"I managed to eventually extract from him that he had had a vision, something I should of expected in the state we left him in here. But he couldn't talk about it. I could see it in his eyes; he was reliving it at every moment. It was constantly on replay within his mind even while we discussed other things. I managed to persuade him to let me make a copy of the memory, of which I could view at a later time." He pulled out the small vial, with the dull, limp memory, placing it before them on the desk.
In an unspoken agreement, Dumbledore summoned his pensieve, Snape slipped the non-responsive memory inside, watching as it barely moved at all within the bowl of the pensieve and they all bent forward to watch what horrors had made Harry so distressed and almost catatonic.
A half an hour later they all appeared from the pensieve, landing unsteadily on their feet. Poppy was white, tears sparkling the corners of her eyes and clutching her throat in horror. She kept up a steady stream of murmuring, variants of "poor dear boy" and "seen so much for his age!"
Albus looked plain old and weary, more so than ever before. He was deep in thoughts similar to that of Poppy's'.
Snape was the same as ever, though a horrible ashen colour. However, within, his insides were squirming in revulsion. And for a sixteen year old to see something they had found extremely disturbing? The effect upon him must have been profound! Merlin, Voldemort all but blamed Harry for their deaths. And getting to know Harry this past week, well, he more than likely took it straight to heart!
"He'll have to be watched in the coming days," started Snape, "maybe get Minerva's help also, without telling her more than she needs to know of Harry's...problems. She is after all his head of house." Snape stated factually like nothing was amiss.
Both Poppy and the Headmaster weren't fooled by his emotionless state but they nodded solemnly in agreement.
P&S P&S P&S P&S P&S
The next few days passed in a blur for Harry. He got up, went to class, ate lunch, went to class, ate dinner, did homework and barely spoke to anyone. He was running on automatic. He avoided nearly everyone, as much as they were avoiding him, though they constantly stared at him or his Phoenix, who insisted on traveling with Harry at all times after the incident with Ron and Hermione.
He took no notice of Ron's and Hermione's mysterious absence, particularly with no word of any kind of punishment whatsoever, though it was all the other students could think about it would seem.
He was aware that the Professors where keeping a close eye on him, even when he ventured outside, one could be seen in some obscure window above, constantly watching him. Particularly Snape and McGonagall, though he spied the Headmaster and Matron as well.
In classes, he continued to excel, and like Flitwick many offered him advanced work and assignments for extra credit, he ignored all praise they doled out for his work and missed the worried looks the Professors would throw at him, when he failed to respond. He delved into his advanced work, burying himself in his study.
He spent time with Neville and his circle quite often, particularly in their study group, but he was reserved and rarely spoke, unless spoken to or explaining spells or potions.
Daphne and Neville were particularly worried for him. They suspected rightly that something more had occurred up in the hospital wing. But they couldn't imagine what could have happened to give him such lifeless eyes.
At that particular moment they stood leaning casually on the wall of a corridor. They had just finished charms and were waiting for a couple of the others to finish potions. They were chatting away when, they both stopped suddenly.
Harry swept quickly past, head down and lost in his own world, just running through the motions of eating, sleeping and breathing.
"We have to do something for him." Neville said sadly, watching Harry's back disappear through the winding corridors ahead. "He's slowly just fading away, neither living nor dying."
"He's a shadow of what he used to be." Daphne added quietly. His emotionless, faded eyes drilled into her very soul as he had passed. She couldn't stand to see him so completely gone. With a determined glimmer to her icy blue eyes, she vowed to drag him from his never-ending daze and bring the colour and spark back to his eyes.
P&S P&S P&S P&S P&S
Eight o clock and precisely on time, Snape heard a polite knock on the door. He quickly put his corrections to the side and waved his wand at the door.
Harry stepped in, Phoenix alight on his shoulder and Snape took time to critically study the boy. He looked drawn and tired, and the haunted look had failed to leave his eyes. From his own observations and that of the other professors, he knew Harry was basically running on automatic, barely responding to anything emotionally.
He sat down in his usual seat and waiting patiently for Snape to start.
"Harry, are you ok?"
Harry looked up, slightly surprised and not sure how to answer. He chewed his bottom lip, a nervous habit and Snape was relieved at least to see a slight reaction to his question, if no answer.
Harry stared into the fire, once again. It was soothing, something he could lose his thoughts to, or something he could use to calm and organize them, as he generally did so in Snape's office. But it was also dangerous; it could bring up unwanted memories, dancing in the flames, ever serving as a reminder.
"Come on, Harry, we've all noticed you've barely responded to anything since your vision." Harry flinched at the reminder of it. "What is eating away at you? You won't be able to sufficiently concentrate on Occlumency if you don't relieve the pressure you're under from keeping it all bottled in." Snape explained, in the hope that Harry would open up in the slightest.
Harry was silent staring into the flames, mulling things over.
Snape waited patiently and was startled when a scratchy whisper floated across the room.
"You know, I see them." Harry's eyes traced patterns in the fiery flames. "In my sleep, in my wake, in the flames..." he trailed off gesturing towards the fire. "Everywhere!"
Snape was suddenly very tired and felt as old as the Headmaster. "You know, it was not your fault," he assured, placing a hand lightly on the boys shoulder. Their trust was established enough to allow for the contact without flinches or startling the boy. But he still wouldn't open up willingly to him.
Harry gave the Professor such a sad smile; it almost broke his cold heart. "I know logically Professor, that it wasn't, but my heart tells otherwise."
"Please Harry, don't shut down, don't isolate yourself, it's not good. You've got good friends in that little group of yours. Don't drift away from them."
Harry nodded, but said little else.
Snape sighed heavily. "Very well, let us begin."
A/N: So what do you think? What about perhaps a burgeoning relationship between Harry and Daphne? That's up to you guys so please let me know by review if you want it to happen. The general feel of the reviews will be the basis for my decision. Please review!