~ Individual ~
Summary: Harry is tired of everything but most of all he's tired of hearing about his likeness to James Potter. All he wants to do is forget, all he wants to do is sleep, so he slips into darkness.
Warning: Slash, violence, Order bashing
Disclaimer: As much as I plead, Harry Potter is never going to belong to me.
~ Parseltongue ~
~ Chapter One ~
Harry Potter was sitting in the Astronomy Tower. A cool breeze blew over him as he stared out at the stars and lost himself to the infinity that lay beyond. On occasion he wondered what it would be like to just float amongst the stars and never return. But his life was here and here he would always be forced to remain what with his status. Yet this place, this one location, was his only reprieve from it all.
The Astronomy Tower was the only location where he could run away from all the pressure the world as mounting upon him. It was the one location where he could be alone with his thoughts, the one location where he could be himself without anyone to judge him for it.
No one would ever think to look for him here. Many believed it was a location reserved for couples looking for a good place to snog where no one would disturb them. That was a lie. Couples avoided the Astronomy Tower like the plague. This location in particular was believed to be searched frequently by the professors. Yet that was another lie.
The professors never searched the Tower because they knew students no longer went there. Instead they searched the lower levels of the castle. It was a chain of never-ending gossip that worked in Harry's favour. Harry smirked remembering this. That genius idea had been particularly devious of him and not something anyone was likely to link to him especially when no one could pinpoint where he went in the evenings.
A breeze ruffled his hair as he moved away from the ledge once again and leant against one of the walls. Without anyone bothering him, he could sit and think for hours without interruption. To him, it was an absolute bliss that no one could tamper with. That was until a few weeks ago.
Recently all he could ever think about was his father. It wasn't even his fault that he dwelt on this constantly. It was everyone else. Everyone mentioned him. They mentioned how amazing he had been during his schooling. He had been one of the best at Quidditch and one of the top Aurors when in training and out. Then James had married the amazing Lily Evans and started a family. Little Harry, yes Harry would be the spitting image of James with Lily's eyes. He would be the best at everything he attempted… exactly like James.
Those three little words became a poison for Harry. He hated hearing them. It made him feel as if James had left expectations that no one could fulfil. No one would ever be able to beat the great James Potter least of all his son. Of course James never lived to see the remainder of his amazing family and career, something Harry was rather bitterly pleased about.
Yet it was never enough for everyone. His professors began pushing him down the same road James went just to continue seeing the man within the child. Of course it began immediately as he was sorted into Gryffindor which only proved to push them further. Everyone always mentioned James at Hogwarts. Everything Harry was, was because of James Potter. The Headmaster, all of his professors, Sirius, Snape and especially the Order members always compared him to James Potter and it was beginning to drive him insane with hate.
Harry was excellent at Quidditch because James had been good at Quidditch. "The man could have gone pro," was often the comment that followed him. Not that Harry really cared. All of his Defence talent Harry also managed to inherit from his father. After all the man had been the top Auror where else had it come from? Every 'adventure' Harry had stumbled into was all thrown back onto James as well. Never mind that they were mostly due to Voldemort. No one cared about that as long as he was exactly like James.
In the beginning, Harry had been rather proud that he could do something as well as his father. Then it just became repetitive and boring to him. As soon as something Harry was good at was credited to James Potter, he lost interest in it.
This year however had been the worst. With the revival of the Dark Lord everyone was expecting him to be as brave as James Potter and help lead the Order of the Phoenix to victory. Yet they always forgot that he was a child, a child that they kept everything from. How was he meant to defeat a Dark Lord when he was only in his fifth year of schooling? That was when he began the small bouts of rebellion.
Umbridge had believed he would complain when he was banned from playing Quidditch that year. Harry was mentally thanking her. Even when Umbridge had begun her horrible Defence lesson that was nothing more than theory work, Harry didn't complain. He didn't even pose any questions that were certain to get him a detention. The other Gryffindors were alright with this. Ron and Hermione had gone on a huge bitch fest. Yet it was something Sirius had said that had finally brought everything home…
"You are every bit like your father, buck up and teach that woman a lesson!"
It was in that moment that Harry was struck with a sudden realization. He didn't know when it had occurred or even when it had started but in that moment Harry realized he hated his own father more than Voldemort.
"I hate James Potter."
It was uttered in no more than a whisper throughout the Tower but it released so many emotions for Harry. He felt free to believe in that one thought. Hating his own father wasn't exactly the one thing that he believed would allow him to express himself but it had certainly worked. When playing the Gryffindor Golden Boy he felt so held down by everything that he couldn't express his own desires not only to others but to himself. To finally have that freedom was just… he couldn't even find the words. Yet it brought on so many other things that simply weighed down on his heart.
James wasn't the only one he hated, Harry concluded. Everyone who saw him as his father was added to the list beneath James. No one, after all, could top that. Sirius, Snape, all of his professors and the Headmaster were added to the list. Order members were somewhere at the bottom of that list since he hadn't known them for that long. The fact of the matter was they were still present. They still believed what the others spouted, that he was going to save the world and Harry couldn't forgive them for that.
What made this realization even more difficult was Harry didn't know if his friends believed the same as the adults. Did they look at him and imagine James Potter? Had they begun to see more of James in him as the adults started to compare them? It was almost too much for him to handle. They were, after all, all he really had. Friends of Harry Potter were few and far between since Ron and Hermione tended to push those away that approached him. Apart from them, he had no one that he could rely on.
"Who can I trust?" Harry wondered to the night sky.
'None can be trusted if you have no faith in them…'
This reply didn't particularly startle Harry. Over the past month, he'd grown used to the voice. It spoke to him and kept him calm. Whenever he needed answers to questions no one else could give, it would be there. Deep down, Harry knew hearing voices wasn't a good thing. After all, he'd been through this before. But if he told someone they would only worry because James had never experienced anything like that before. He was normal, he'd always been normal. Harry however was far from normal and he accepted this.
"True," he replied, "then what am I to do if I can't trust them to help me, to aid me and not the memory of James Potter? If all they ever think about is James Potter than what use am I to them as I am? There is nothing I can do that compares to my father at least not truly in their eyes. I'm just his double."
Originally the voice had only answered his questions with a yes or no. That hadn't been very helpful. He'd finally had someone with whom he could speak with about all of his worries and it had answered everything vaguely. Eventually the voice had begun speaking in sentences until he connected the voice with the person. That realization had been a shock but neither cared any longer. They had each other to lean on when frustrated though miles separated them.
'Show them that you aren't James Potter. Force them to accept that you are your own person and not a copy.'
In theory it sounded like a perfect idea. If he could get everyone on the Light side to realize that he wasn't a James Potter clone then he could be himself. He may even have a chance of living through the war. Yet Harry didn't know how he was meant to do so. They weren't merely going to be accepting of his words. That would just be brushed aside as unimportant. He posed his query to Voldemort, the voice within his head.
'Do you trust me?' came the reply.
Harry nodded knowing he could feel the intent behind the movement. Of course he trusted the Dark Lord's words. Nothing the Dark Lord had told him had been a lie. He'd even admitted to what remained within the Department of Mysteries something Dumbledore and the Order wouldn't tell him. Though it had rather shocked him at the time, he didn't care. Voldemort was giving him the truth and that was something no one else deemed him worthy of.
'Then I shall help you.'
Before Harry could ask how, his world went black.
The dungeons were usually such a relaxing place for Severus Snape. He worked his potions down there, one of his proudest achievements. After all he was the youngest person ever to become a Potions Master. None could deny that. All day he waited to return to his rooms where he could either read a Potions Journal or work on a potion. It was what he lived for. Except recently, his life had become surrounded with thoughts of none other than Harry Potter.
This year had been particularly hard for the boy. His friends were keeping secrets from him (not that he was aware of that), Umbridge was attempting to make his life hell and the Dark Lord wanted him dead. It definitely wasn't the life of a normal teenage boy and it certainly wasn't the life he'd been hoping Harry would lead.
Everyone was piling their doubts, frustrations and hopes on the boy. No one was taking into account what Harry wanted nor could they really afford to. They were entrusted with keeping him alive so the boy could defeat the Dark Lord. However that didn't mean that they could treat him like some weapon that could be pushed away when not needed like they'd recently been doing.
The Order was meant to make Harry Potter's life easier not harder. Yet that was all they managed to do. Nothing in Harry's life had become easier this year. It only became harder and now with the Dark Lord feeding him visions no one was sure what they could do.
He had heard that many believed Harry would be capable of doing great things simply by looking at his parents. Severus had even backed up that theory on the odd occasion but telling the boy that he was "exactly like his father." No one had realized it yet except for Severus but those words weren't having the effect they wanted. Instead he seemed to frown and flinch at the words before changing the topic.
Yes, James Potter and the Dark Lord were two subjects Harry refused to speak on even amongst his friends and that was what concerned him. Harry Potter was withdrawing into himself and no one around him could draw him out. Severus could have attempted if he hadn't been so thick-headed a month ago. But that was long past and there was nothing he could really do to fix it without it appearing suspicious.
Severus was really beginning to regret cancelling Harry's Occlumency lessons. Quite honestly he didn't know what to do about this situation. Ever since that day a month ago Harry only seemed to get worse. He'd heard from the other professors that Harry had begun to isolate himself over the past month.
The boy no longer spoke out in class even against Umbridge nor did he seem as enthusiastic to spend his free time messing around with that Weasley. For a normal student Severus wouldn't have been bothered by the sudden change in personality. After all it was moving closer to the OWLS but this was Harry Potter. Harry Potter never had the time to study between saving the school and Quidditch. Yet something drastic had changed within the boy and Severus was willing to blame everything on the Dark Lord.
Voldemort had been sending Harry numerous visions of the same location he desperately wanted to get to. These visions plagued Harry at every turn. Every time he slept, he saw it, the Department of Mysteries. He wandered the corridors searching for something that he didn't even know existed. Thankfully Harry knew nothing of what it was he was searching for. That would have been rather difficult to explain even for Albus Dumbledore.
Even so it was because Severus cancelled their lessons that Harry was exposed more now than ever to Voldemort's manipulations. To make matters worse, Severus didn't even know what these manipulations could be.
It was obvious the Dark Lord was attempting something. Harry's personality change was a testimony to that as everyone could see. Severus merely couldn't tell what the Dark Lord was attempting to do and that was what concerned him the most. If he couldn't predict the Dark Lord's moves then he couldn't protect Harry. Yet he continued to remind himself that Harry, even though a Potter, was smarter than that. Harry Potter wouldn't listen to the Dar Lord's ramblings. He would steer away from the Dark… unlike him.
A hurried knocking echoed around his room. Severus glanced at the clock. It read midnight. Stretching, he wondered idly who could be pounding at his door at that time. Usually everyone was in bed at that time, including him.
"Minerva, what is it?"
Minerva McGonagall looked completely frazzled. Her hair was out of place and she looked as if she'd dressed in a hurry. This was the look of a woman who didn't know what to do and that stirred his curiosity.
"It's Harry Potter, Mr Weasley found him collapsed in the Astronomy Tower after worrying about his disappearance."
Severus could have sworn his heart stopped. That was the last thing he wanted to hear that night. Was it not enough that he worried constantly over his rather poor decision to end the boy's lessons? Did the boy have to cause him such grief constantly? He was meant to protect the boy and yet he was making it rather difficult.
"What has that to do with me?" he finally asked.
"He won't wake Severus. We had Poppy check him for everything but Mr Potter has either trapped himself in his mind or someone has pulled him inside and refuses to release him. No one but you can reach him. If Albus was here things would be different but…"
Severus guilt jumped for bad to worse. Without Albus here things would be even more difficult for them to control. Umbridge would want to know everything about Harry's condition and she wasn't likely to believe anything they said about the Dark Lord. This would be a rather difficult thing to diagnose anyway. If Harry was within his mind he would need to get around any obstacles that had been left behind. The process would be highly delicate and highly dangerous for them both. Yet he had no other choice. Severus needed to protect the boy from anything that came his way. The oath would hold him to it.
"Very well, I will be there momentarily."
Seeing Harry on that bed made Severus nauseous. The only colour showing on him was the inky blackness of his hair. Everything else was as pale as the sheets he lay beneath. Harry only moved to breathe and Severus thanked Merlin that there was at least a sign of life within the boy. If there hadn't been any signs of life they would be facing even greater problems.
"Is this how he was found?" Severus asked, going straight into teacher mode.
This was the only way to separate himself from Harry's current problem. He always acted this way when faced with Harry Potter or anything otherwise related otherwise he wouldn't be able to handle the situation. As it was, the current situation was rather dire and he was having a troublesome time keeping his mind straight.
Ron nodded but Severus gave a harsh glare to gather more information.
"Harry has a habit of wandering off late at night. No one can catch him at it so most have stopped trying and no one knows where he goes. They don't ask either. It's obvious when he leaves he needs to think and he can't do that around other people, not even his friends. "
That last sentence was said rather bitterly. Severus understood immediately that Ron was put out because Harry had begun to distance himself from both him and Hermione. But what had he expected? The brat had been keeping certain things from Harry as well and if Harry was to discover this then he would be furious. He'd be furious that his two closest friends had done this to him. Truly there would be no returning from there.
Severus gave a glare that screamed continue or else…
"He always returns at the same time looking more relieved than I have ever seen him. It's almost like he's been talking to someone that no one else can see but that person does more to help him than anyone. Harry returns after curfew but not after midnight. Yet when he didn't return I knew that something had changed, something had gone wrong. I went to his trunk and located the Marauder's Map. When I saw him in the Astronomy Tower I was scared he was planning on jumping or something so I ran up there and instead found him collapsed on the floor." Ron explained.
Though Severus was tempted to ask about this Marauder's Map, he had other things he needed to deal with.
"He spoke not a word to you when you called him?" Severus enquired.
Ron shook his head. "No, he didn't move. He only breathed like he'd been knocked unconscious. I brought him straight here and there hasn't been any change."
Severus turned towards Harry. The boy looked so sickly lying in that bed. Whatever had occurred to him had happened through an outside source and he was beginning to suspect who was behind it.
"That will be all Mr Weasley." He dismissed.
The boy wanted to argue but Poppy ushered him out leaving Severus with Harry and Minerva.
"What do you think?" she enquired.
"He is definitely trapped within his mind if he won't respond to any outside influence. Whether by force or self-interest I would need to check by entering his mind."
Minerva didn't even bother with telling him about the laws against entering a minor's mind without permission. She was desperate to get a response out of Harry in any way possible.
"Do what you must, Severus."
With Poppy and Minerva behind him, he entered Harry Potter's mind.
This is just a chapter to capture interest. If you want me to continue this story soon then you'll have to vote for it in the poll on my profile page. The other stories will also have chapters posted to capture interest so if you want more of this vote.