~ Chapter Two ~

Diving into Harry's mind was a difficult task. The boy's defenceless mind appeared as a shade of black. The inky depths held no warmth or light. Severus had nothing to guide him through the swirls of thought or the tug of memory. The area simply allowed him to drift through the mind conscious yet not together. This was worrying.

The mind, even for an Occlumens, was a difficult place to manoeuvre. There were many places people kept hidden memories or emotions. Walls were so high with feelings they choked the area. Some people had a mind like a maze while others had paved streets, lights on each corner. One simply never knew what to expect upon entering and they had to be prepared for everything. Yet Harry's mind held none of this structure.

The darkness consumed all. Severus was left to drift until something caught him and reeled him in. A thought, a memory, anything would do really. All he needed was something to grasp. If he couldn't find anything after a while then he would know, Harry Potter was no longer in control. A Master Occlumens would have infested Harry's mind and left him in this state for an ulterior purpose that Severus would need to figure out.

As he drifted waiting for something to show, Severus fell back to his own thoughts. Harry didn't deserve this kind of treatment. Not after everything he'd been through. And yet he knew that once Harry was back on his feet he would be expected to play the good little Gryffindor that he sorely wasn't. Pressure would be placed upon is shoulders to become a living James Potter, to do great deeds that should have been placed on an adult, namely Dumbledore. Harry would be forced to defeat the Dark Lord when truly it wasn't his job to live up to his father's heroic standards.

Severus felt a tug after that thought. Relief flooded him. Harry's mind was finally dragging him in to something and that meant in some form Harry was in control though aided by another Occlumens. Certainly having two people in one mind was a worrying fact however he was simply glad Harry was responding. He would deal with the other person later.

The darkness rushed passed him as he was dragged into Harry's mind. There was something familiar about the other presence within Harry's mind. However he pushed the thought away for now. In the distance a light fast approached. Knowing it was a memory, Severus braced himself, preparing for the sudden impact of the memory he was about to enter.

When everything became clear, Severus relaxed, reassured that the presence of the memory was a step closer to Harry. From here all he needed to do was follow the path and his student would be at the end. Yet he would need to witness every memory between here and the end which was something he wasn't looking forward to. There Occlumency lessons hadn't panned out too well though that was mostly his fault. Severus wasn't the most patient and accepting of teachers. Yet there was nothing for it. He would need to witness this.

The memory quite honestly was something that shocked Severus to the very core making him wish Albus were present instead. At least he would have been prepared to deal with this type of sudden revelation. He might have been coming around to the idea that Harry's life was beyond what he'd imagined but this shattered it entirely.

He was standing in the middle of a muggle kitchen. The various gadgets surrounding him were vaguely familiar from his childhood. To be honest he hadn't spent much time around muggle appliances since he'd started teaching. There hadn't been any need for it. As it was, many of them brought back faded memories he'd rather kept forgotten.

The Dursley household was exactly as he had expected. The walls were pale and everything appeared very crisp with a specific place of its own and not a piece out of place. Yet the entire collection of patterns made the room garish like looking at the Headmaster's robes. However it was the sight of Tuney that caused the most shock.

She hadn't changed a single bit. Her appearance was older; lines wrinkled her face from what Severus instinctively knew was jealousy. Her tall stature hadn't diminished at all and she remained as bone-like as always. If anything her rather horse-face features were emphasised by the fact she chose to keep her hair short. Narrowed eyes wielded a certain distain for the person before her, a pair of scissors in her hand. Harry was her intended target or more importantly his hair.

Severus stepped towards them. To him it appeared as if Petunia was shaving the boy's hair off. Chunks were chopped off so randomly he knew she hadn't attempted this before. Places were left bald while others remained with little tufts. There was hardly any effort placed into this job at all.

Severus stood corrected as Petunia finished giving a very satisfied nod.

"There now you don't have to look like that nasty Potter. You're just like him."

The first thing he noticed was Harry's displeasure. Yet he hadn't seen his appearance yet and he would be displeased about it. No, the boy was displeased about being called for his father. At this age it should have been a compliment though loath he was to admit it. The child should have beamed up at his Aunt or at least given a cheeky grin. He did neither.

Instead he sat staring at the ground as if hoping it would open and swallow him whole. Harry as a child was entirely too serious and depressed. Nothing in his appearance screamed of a happy childhood especially the clothes that swallowed his stature. They were obviously meant for a child twice Harry's size, the well-worn look made it easy to decipher they were second hand.

Harry didn't look like a part of the family. He looked exactly like he was… an orphan.

Petunia walked out of the room instructing the child to sweep up his hair which he did immediately. The child obeyed with such swiftness Severus knew he had been punished before for not doing so. It was a rather pitiful sight as the tall handle of the broom swished back and forth over the child's head.

"I didn't know him."

The whisper broke something within Severus.

"No, you didn't."

Darkness consumed the memory sweeping him off again. Severus blinked not entirely certain what to do in that moment. Certainly, it was a wakeup call to just how much he had underestimated Harry's home life even before he'd begun noticing Harry despised life. However this knowledge… what was he meant to do with it?

He was being gifted (for what other word was there?) with knowledge of Harry's life, an insight into who Harry truly was. There would only be more to come yet it appeared as if Harry was revealing this for a reason. A pattern would emerge the more he witnessed. Determination surged through him. He would figure out what Harry needed.

Another memory sped towards him; Severus closed his eyes as the darkness receded, permitting light into the mind.

This scene was familiar. It was the very first potions class he'd taught Harry. As he could remember he'd been remarkably cruel towards Harry that day. He didn't pay any attention as his image snarled in a hostile manner towards the young boy who'd been doodling in his notebook.

The instant he'd spotted another Potter ignoring a teacher to instead draw in their books he'd snapped. He'd lashed out and honestly hadn't cared if he'd hurt the boy's feelings. He'd merely seen another Potter.

Stepping forward he continued to tune out the words around him. They meant very little now. No, the only thing that mattered was the Harry. After all that was the singular reason he was present. What had Harry been doing during this time? What had he deemed more important than paying attention in the first day of class?

Drawing near, Severus noticed Harry was shaking. The poor boy was absolutely horrified that he'd been caught not paying any attention. The look hadn't even been recognized by him at the time. Severus hadn't seen what he wanted to see and that was that. Harry on the other hand could see only the anger within his professor's eyes. Even he cringed from it on the opposite end.

Looking at Harry's book Severus' stomach sank. Instead of the drawings he'd hoped to see, Harry had written down every single word he'd been speaking. Nothing had been missed. Though the writing wasn't the neatest he'd ever seen he could still make out the words he'd spoken that day. Severus felt his heart shatter all the more.

"I didn't… I didn't realize…" he stuttered.

The memory faded once again.

He floated in the darkness for a length of time searching for anything that dispelled how cruel he'd been to the eager child. Yet it was all for naught. He had never been nice to the child even when saving his life. He'd told Dumbledore that his connection to the child's parents, and any connection he had to the child, would never know the light of day. Yet it seemed to have done more harm than good at this stage in the teen's life. How was one meant to repair that?

Another memory floated past, this time not dragging him near enough to fall in but just close enough to see what was occurring for a short time.

Arthur Weasley and Harry stood before the train, smoke billowing around them though Severus was unsure of whether it truly was the train or the simply the memory.

"Why would I want to go and find someone who wanted to kill me?" Harry questioned.

Severus could see it though, as Harry could as well. Arthur thought Harry would act like James. He had believed Harry would rush out and attempted to stop the madman before he could locate his target. Arthur and those close to him believed Harry would want to kill or even catch Sirius Black. However Severus knew Harry would never do that.

Harry wanted a normal life. Harry wanted nothing to do with people who continued to pull him into situations that caused trouble. Regardless however the people he couldn't help but be surrounded by were the same that continued to push him into harms' way. There was nothing for it. Harry couldn't escape that not when he was in Dumbledore's grasp.

Another memory drew close and another, until all Severus could hear were sentences about Harry.

"He was a great man, your father."

"Harry will be just like his father. Wait and see, he's already such a good Quidditch player."

"Defence Against the Dark Arts is his best subject. No doubt, Harry will be an excellent Auror just like his father."

"Always looking for trouble, that one, just like his father."

"Don't worry about anything, Harry. You'll do great… just like your father."

The words were stifling within the mind. Severus could barely stand them and he despised the man. He couldn't even begin to imagine how Harry felt. The boy always being compared to his father, it certainly wasn't how one should be raised. Yet that wasn't even the worst part. Harry, as he'd come to realize, was nothing like his father.

"You're nothing like your father." Severus admitted aloud.

It was rather feeble and pointless to be discovering this now. After all, this was the sole reason Harry had locked himself in his mind. Harry didn't want to be compared to his father and since everyone was doing it especially the Order who had met Harry only a few times, he despised it more.

He should have seen it earlier, should have recognized the signs. Yet this emotional abuse everyone kept topping onto Harry wasn't something he usually picked up on. Most students he discovered with abuse had physical signs that led to psychological signs. Harry was the other way around. His psychological abuse had stemmed into physical pain.

He should have continued the Occlumency lessons. Perhaps then he would have been able to find a sliver of this in what Harry thought. Severus would have been able to aid him. Instead he'd allowed his personal hate and worries over his own self to blind him into rage. He was a teacher. He should have known better than that. He should have discovered it sooner.

"You're nothing like your father." Severus repeated firmly.

"You figured it out."

Severus turned swiftly. Finally he was standing before the real Harry Potter. The teen didn't look to have come under any harm which relieved Severus. If the person helping Harry to orchestrate this had harmed the child, he would have fought the person tooth and nail to get Harry back. At this stage he was willing to do anything to keep Harry safe. However after the revelation and evidence, Severus wasn't quite sure how to breach the subject.

In fact he wasn't quite sure how to even speak to Harry any more. He'd spent so long attempting to bring the boy down and humble him that he realize he hadn't spoken one encouraging word to him. Shame filled him. This journey was just as personal for Harry as it was for him. This event would change their lives for as long as they lived.

Before he could utter a word the scenery changed. This was nothing like before. He wasn't going to another memory to view Harry's horrible past. The memoires flew by without any words or images being shown. They were nothing more than blurry strips whizzing by. Severus couldn't help but desire to know if more moments in Harry's life were as painful as the ones he'd witnessed. However he wasn't present for that. He merely needed to help Harry so his eyes remained on the teen.

Harry stood calmly before him obviously having gone through this before. Someone else had dragged Harry into the depths of his mind and hadn't released him until Severus had entered and found the truth. That at least showed Severus the pair were working together. Whoever was helping Harry had his permission.

Severus felt shaky. This could only be the work of a powerful Legillimens. No one else would have had the ability to do so. Occlumens could enter the mind by merging two shields but Legillimens were the only ones who could control or direct another human's mind. The list was narrowed down spectacularly.

When they reached the end and a room came into view, Severus frowned. Harry didn't have a room which meant this belonged to someone else. It baffled him because this shouldn't have been possible. A room was personal and couldn't be copied into another's mind. Whatever was going on here was certainly beyond his knowledge.

"Severus, welcome,"

He froze knowing that voice even in the mind. Eyes slid shut as he desperately tried to imagine it was another person. Anyone else would have been preferable and yet he knew he was deluding himself. Besides he hadn't come this far for Harry only to turn away. Turning, his eyes revealed the horror surfacing within him. The Dark Lord stood before him, Harry in his arms.

"I do not expect you to understand Severus." The man spoke.

Severus remained silent allowing his master to speak. Instead he chose to study Harry. The arms wrapped around Harry's waist weren't loving. With arms as paper thin as the Dark Lord's they could be anything other than loving. Yet they were caring. They were providing something to Harry he couldn't find from someone else. The reality of it hit him hard.

"You might understand why Harry chose to seal himself within his mind but I will not explain why I am the one to aid him in doing so. For that you will have to wait."

The Dark Lord was protecting Harry from Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix. Why was the Dark Lord protecting the child meant to destroy him? There was a piece from this puzzle he still didn't have. Severus had believed that finding Harry would be the end to everything. In fact it was just the beginning to this intricate puzzle and he had a lot to catch up on.

"I should inform you that I know about your little deal with Dumbledore. You want to keep Harry alive and healthy." The Dark Lord smirked. "You won't be able to do that if you leave Harry in the hands of that old man."

"Why?" he struggled to say.

His voice wouldn't cooperate with him and yet the longer the Dark Lord spoke for the stronger it became. For some unknown reason, the Dark Lord wasn't going to punish him for speaking up. He wasn't going to punish him for attempting to save Harry. This situation only became more and more strange.

"That I'm afraid is for another time. It ties in with how I managed to aid young Harry here and why I granted my services to him."

The explanation was far from useful however it did provide Severus with a few clues. The Dark Lord and Harry's connection went further and deeper than just sharing a few visions. Harry, connected to the Dark Lord, wasn't a target but a piece to be protected. The Dark Lord wanted Harry for some reason. Severus straightened, voice returning.

"What do I do from here?"

The Dark Lord smirked. "What do you mean?"

"You're obviously not going to let him go yet."

A hissing laughter echoed around the room.

"No, I'm not. I don't trust our dear Headmaster with Harry's safety, especially not this year, what with my attempts at obtaining the prophecy and his avoidance of the matter. There are other matters, future matters that also need to be dealt with."

With this spoken, the Dark Lord tugged Harry closed who turned into the man's side a little. The last sentence held significance then. To what purpose Severus couldn't tell but it was there. He would need to be patient for the answer.

"What do you desire from me, my Lord?" he asked again, using the Lord's title.

This pleased the Dark Lord greatly and Severus knew he'd spoken correctly.

"Before I release Harry from this mind hold, I want you to bring him to me."

Severus frowned. Did he actually mean…

"You want me to physically bring you Harry Potter."

The smile was hardly reassuring.

"As well as all of his belongings and one other item of importance I wish you to retrieve."

Something about the words struck within Severus. This wasn't going to be a small thing. This favour wouldn't be easily swept under the rug or hidden from the Order's sight. He wouldn't be able to keep anyone from noticing Harry Potter was gone. He wouldn't be able to hide the fact that his belongings had disappeared either. Instead of questioning the Dark Lord further, he turned to Harry.

"Is this what you desire?"

Harry didn't pull away from the Dark Lord. Instead he leant into the man further as arms wrapped securely around him. The pair gave off the appearance of a lion protecting her cub. Harry was content as he spoke.

"Professor, I don't want to be here any longer. I'm tired of all the lies and secrets not only from the professors but between the students. Ron and Hermione are hiding the fact they are in the Order. They are hiding the fact that everything I do is reported to Dumbledore. None of the professors, including you, will stop the terror that is forming within these walls. I'm tired of Umbridge keeping a secure hold on me and I'm tired of everyone ranting about my father. I want to be as far from Hogwarts and the Order as I can be."

He spoke with conviction though the tone in his voice didn't rise. Harry spoke with all the weariness of a well-travelled man wanting nothing more than to return home. If Severus didn't do something Harry wouldn't survive. He would burn out. Severus made his decision.

"Very well then, you should know however I will no longer be able to retain my position at Hogwarts should I choose to do this."

He knew very well that Dumbledore would persecute him for it. All over Britain he would be the most wanted man under the Dark Lord. After all no one steals the Light's saviour from the Leader himself.

The Dark Lord however only had a reassuring word. "Everything shall be fine, Severus. You won't need to worry about taking care of yourself in that regard. Instead you shall remain here with Harry and me. All your work can be done within my walls."

The gesture wasn't lost on Severus. The man was opening his doors to one of his servants. Never had he done this after his first Inner Circle had passed. None had the audacity to ask for it either. In this moment Severus understood how desperate the Dark Lord was to move Harry away from Dumbledore.

Severus agreed. He wanted to speak with Harry for much longer, to tell him so many things, but didn't know how long he'd been wandering the mind. It could have been minutes it could have been days. Time didn't work at all within the mind. However if he did what the Dark Lord desired, he would have as much time to spend with Harry as the Dark Lord deigned especially considering he was granting Severus a way out as well.

"I will have Harry Potter delivered to you as soon as possible. Now what else did you require from Hogwarts?"

The Dark Lord smiled, the imagery burning into his mind. However it was Harry's content sigh that would echo within him the most.


This story will be rather short. I'm aiming it to be about the same length as With You. I hope you enjoyed the next chapter.

~MidnightEmber