T – Angst – SS, HP – Oneshot
Summary: Aftermath of Philosopher's Stone. An eleven-year-old boy killed a man and all they did was pat him on the head and send him off to bed. Severus finds himself put in the uncomfortable role of Father Confessor.
Disclaimer: JKR messed him up, I'm just trying to help him deal with it.
A/N: I have no idea where this story came from, but I've always thought Harry must have had more reaction behind the scenes to the fact that he killed Quirrell. At least, I believe he killed Quirrell – the man's ultimate fate was never clear to me.
I realise Harry did tell his tale to Ron and Hermione, but they're fellow kids, not adults, and to them it was an adventure so I still think this is a valid reaction. Also, I have a horrible feeling that Dumbledore purposefully dropped the wards around Quirrell's body so that Harry could have a lesson about consequences.
It was a boy's voice – with a desperate weepiness to it but a young boy's voice and even before he recognised the owner Severus's lip was twisting into an angry snarl because no child should be out after curfew.
"I didn't meant to kill you. I'm sorry! I just – I didn't want him to come back and you, you—" A broken sob. "I didn't want you to die, I didn't mean for you to die. I'm sorry! Why did you have to believe him? You could still be alive!"
Righteous indignation quite intact but now leavened with curiosity, Severus refrained from sweeping angrily into the hospital wing and settled for standing quietly in the doorway. Not that Potter would have noticed if he'd started tap-dancing with a yeti.
The boy had somehow broken down the wards concealing Quirrell's body from sightseers and rubberneckers and was... sobbing over the dead man. Potter? Shouldn't he have been gloating over his fallen foe? He was a Gryffindor and a Potter. Orgies of remorse were reserved for when stupidity got one of their own in trouble.
"You shouldn't have done it. You weren't supposed to die, you weren't. I didn't mean to kill you, I didn't mean to kill you." He started hitting the body with his small fists. "Wake up! Wake up!" The last word was a desperate scream. But Quirrell didn't wake and Potter broke.
Severus didn't know that he'd ever seen a child cry with such desperate, hopeless abandon. This wasn't pain or ill-temper, this was soul-shattering despair. He took a step forward, unsure just what he intended, and some sound must have gotten through because Potter sprang around in fear and horror, staring at him wide-eyed, sticky with tears and snot.
"Stay away!" he shrieked. "Don't come near me! I'm a murderer, you'll die too, I don't want you to die!"
"Don't be ridiculous, Potter!" Severus snapped, but the boy pressed himself against the wall, bloodshot eyes wild with fear.
"You'll die too! Stay away. Professor, please."
Despite himself Severus stopped at the anguished plea – only to prevent the brat from getting overexcited, he told himself. "Potter, you are being even more of an idiot than usual. You can't kill me."
"I killed him. He touched me and he died." Severus started; Dumbledore's story hadn't included details. "He died." Potter stared at his hands as if afraid they'd explode. Or attack him. "He died and I killed him. I'm a murderer. A murderer!" He scrubbed his hands viciously on his robes as if to clean them of blood only he could see. "I'm a murderer."
"Don't be so melodramatic," Severus snapped in irritation and the boy jerked his head up to stare at him with wild eyes.
"But I am." Said so simply, as if there could be no doubt.
"You're an idiotic little boy but you are not a murderer. Believe me, Potter, I should know."
"I killed him. Me! I killed him, I killed him, I killed him!"
Worried by the increasingly hysterical note in the boy's voice, Severus took a step forward. "Potter!"
Bad idea. Potter keened with fear, throwing up his hands to ward Severus off, and magic swirled through the room, accidental magic building up, feeding off the boy's terror and rattling the windows. "No no no no no! Go away before I kill you too!"
Severus stopped hastily. "Potter! Calm down!"
Something in his sharp tone reached the boy, but only enough to stop the magic's swell, not enough to send it away. "Send me back to the Dursleys. I'll kill them or they'll kill me and no one'll care. That's the best way to do it. I don't want to kill you. I don't want to kill Ron and Hermione. Send me away. Or kill me. That would be good. If you kill me I can't kill anyone else."
"No one is going to die, Potter," Severus said sharply, unnerved by the boy's lack of concern over his own survival.
"He did." Potter turned on the body, shoving it angrily. "Wake up!" Anguished eyes turned to Severus. "He won't wake up, Professor," the boy said plaintively. "Make him wake up." Had a Gryffindor, had a Potter, ever looked at him with such open faith that he could fix the world and make everything right? "Make him wake up, Professor."
"I'm sorry, Potter," he said, almost gently.
The boy stared at him stupidly, as if he couldn't even understand the words. Then his cheeks went white, really and truly white, and his face crumpled. "No! Wake up!" He pounded his fists on Quirrell's unfeeling body. "Wake up, wake up, wake up." Exhausted, he leaned his forehead on his fists where they lay on Quirrell's chest. "No, please," he whispered. "Wake up. Please wake up..."
Severus stayed where he stood, completely lost. He knew what to do with arrogant Potter. Lost, hurting, weeping Potter was so far beyond his experience that all he could do was stand there stupidly while a boy sobbed onto a dead man's chest.
Then, so abruptly it made Severus jump, Potter sprang back, crashing sideways into the wall and pressing himself against the stones. "Murderer," he snarled. "Murderer, murderer, murderer. I killed him. Me, me, me. Dead, dead, dead."
He clawed at his hands as if trying to scrape something off, and under Severus's startled eyes began to draw blood. It only sent him into a worse frenzy.
"Potter!" Severus caught the boy up in his arms – light, so light and small – holding him off the ground and pinning the boy's arms to his side so he could no longer damage himself.
"Let me go!" Potter fought, weak but desperate, trying to get free. "You'll die, you'll die, don't come near me!"
"I'm not letting go and I'm not dying."
"You will! I'm a killer, I'm a murderer, you'll die!"
"Potter!" He shook the boy. "I'm not dying, you dunderhead!"
But Potter fought, thin chest heaving with dry desperate sobs of horror. His bloodied hands scrabbled at Severus's robes. "Let go," he keened. "Please let go." Magic rattled the windows with weak anger.
"Not until you are calm," Severus said bluntly, resisting the urge to shake him again.
"Oh, let go..." The boy went limp, sobbing great gulps of air, sticky and unpleasant. "I killed him, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to. He wasn't supposed to die. He wasn't supposed to—" He sobbed, a huge, sticky sob of snot and shame, and hung in Severus's arms.
Exhausted, rather than calm. Severus didn't dare let go of him and let him damage himself again. "What happened, Potter?" he asked. Dumbledore had given only outlines; no one seemed to know the details.
"I killed him."
"How? How, Potter?"
Limp in Severus's arms, body shaking with weariness and punctuating his tale with sobs, Potter told the story of the confrontation with Voldemort with all the clarity as if he was living through it. Every detail pulled out of him, from the smell of Quirrell's turban to the sibilant hiss of Voldemort's voice to the unyielding hardness of the stones in the floor. And as he talked his sobs lessened, his magic ebbed and relaxed. As if no one had bothered to listen to him before, as if it had all been allowed to fester inside him with no one to talk to (and Severus knew that feeling all too well, so he could identify it). There, held prisoner in his most-hated professor's arms, Potter found cathartic release in finally telling his story.
Surely Poppy or Dumbledore or Minerva had done this? Surely one of them must have listened to Potter talk his soul out, one of them must have realised that here was a little boy who had just fought to the death! So why was it Severus holding the boy's bleeding hands clamped to his sides and listening as Potter told the story of how he'd killed his first man?
Severus had been sixteen. It had been his first mission with fellow Death Eaters, the people he'd thought would be his friends. A Muggle had resisted them, had attacked, and Severus had killed him in hasty self defence – to the delight of his fellows. He'd gone away and thrown up afterwards. He'd never talked to anyone, he'd kept it all tightly packed inside. But he'd been sixteen. Closer to adult than child. Potter was only a boy.
Only a boy, spilling out words into the dark hospital wing as if they would save his soul.
Severus listened. He listened because he wanted to know what had happened down in that chamber. He listened because the boy kept talking, talking, and talking. He listened because there'd been no one to listen to him.
"So I'm a murderer," Potter finished hoarsely. "I killed him. Will they arrest me?"
"Arrest you?" Severus sneered, still trying to take in just what Potter had told him, the whole incredible story. "Do you truly think you are that important, Potter?" Actually, it was more the opposite: Dumbledore would never let his precious Boy Who Lived be arrested.
"I'm a murderer. Murderers go to jail."
Severus dumped him on the bed beside Quirrell's. "You are the most arrogant little brat I have ever met, Potter," he snarled.
Potter looked up at him, white-faced and confused, mouth open and eyes wide, feet dangling over the edge, robes and face a sticky mess. He looked so very young, so very small. So terrifyingly small.
"Do you enjoy it, Potter? Do you want to be a martyr? For I can think of no other reason for this arrogance, this presumption. You are not that important."
"I killed him."
"And you think the blame is all yours? The arrogance, Potter! Or are you so full of pride you believe no one else affects the world? The blame hardly lies on your shoulders. The Dark Lord killed Quirrell when he left him, Quirrell killed himself when he made the decision to host the Dark Lord. We teachers killed him when we failed to stop him reaching the mirror – and failed to keep you three from following. The Headmaster killed him when he brought that thrice-damned Stone into the school. There is more to this than your miserable little actions."
"But I killed him."
Severus restrained his temper. With difficulty. "Quirrell killed himself. He knew what touching your skin did to him and yet he continued anyway. You did nothing but defend yourself. That is self-defence, Potter, not murder. It was Quirrell's decision to attack you and if he doesn't like the consequences of that decision then he should have made a different choice."
Desperate hope lit the boy's eyes, the kind of hope that believes it will never be fulfilled but dares for one shining moment to hope anyway. Severus didn't see James Potter's clone, he didn't see Lily's son. He saw only an eleven-year-old boy who had killed a man and was breaking under the horror.
"If you think you can take all the blame for this fiasco then you are far more arrogant than your father ever was. Are you so vain that you believe only you could have affected how events unfolded?" Potter shook his head slowly. "Do you understand me, Potter? This is not your fault. It is not your responsibility. That lies with those older than you, the adults who should have protected you." Severus, who should have protected him.
"But..." Potter looked at his blood-smeared hands. "I did kill him."
"He died because of you. You didn't kill him."
Potter looked up at him, mouth opening in surprise, eyes widening. Clearly that restatement of the facts had finally gotten through. He blinked back tears and wiped his sleeve across his face, but this time they were tears of relief.
"Refrain from accepting too much responsibility for others' actions," Severus ordered. "That is arrogance and pride just as much as accepting too little for your own."
The boy snuffled. "I... I understand, sir."
Probably it was too much to ask to believe that, but at least he wasn't crying any more.
"But... sir, what if I hurt someone else?" He held up his hands as if they scared him.
For lack of any better idea, Severus overrode his distaste for physical contact and roughly gripped the little hands between his. "There. Do I look like I'm dying, Potter? You Know Who killed Quirrell, not you. His reaction to you, not you yourself. Understand? You have killed, yes. But you are not a murderer."
Potter stared down at their hands, his fingers clutching into fists under Severus's. "Yes, sir," he whispered.
"Good." Severus dropped his hands with relief and strode towards the door.
"Professor?" He stopped in the doorway and glared back. "Does it get better?"
"The pain will fade," he said brusquely.
Potter swallowed hard. "Does... does it get easier?"
Severus fought his face to stillness. He knew what Potter meant and wished he didn't. But he looked at Potter, the boy who'd cast the first blow in a new war, a boy standing on the brink of war with death in his future. Potter would have to kill to survive and Severus was going to make damn sure he survived. Potter was going to have to kill, and Severus met the boy's gaze with that knowledge. "Pray it never does, Potter."