Ready to touch your soul

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters and many of the places mentioned in this story. The plot is the only thing created by me.


Chapter 10:- Powering Through

Refusing to look up at his Potions professor, Harry closed the door behind him and took only a few small steps forward into the room. He knew how much trouble he was going to be in and he wasn't willing to have Snape shout directly in his face, despite knowing how unlikely it was that the man would let him stand that far away. He was soon motioned over to the front of the room to stand in front of his most hated teacher.

"Sit." It was definitely a demand and not a request and so Harry obliged, shaking as he did so on the nearest chair to the angry man's desk, yet he still did not meet his eyes. It was one of the few times that Snape was being more than fair, considering that Harry had been mere seconds away from possibly killing all of his classmates as well as himself and the teacher. Then again, he didn't know his punishment yet and so, he supposed that there could definitely be torture to come.

"Explain." If Harry wouldn't have described himself as terrified before, he could certainly say he felt that way now. This particular teacher was more one to explain in immense detail what Harry had done wrong and why, occasionally throwing in the odd personal insult and comparing him to his arrogant father. When the man spoke in single words rather than sentences, it meant that he was in much more serious trouble.

"I can't, sir." Harry rarely called Snape 'sir' or showed any form of respect towards him, choosing not to even refer to him as his Professor but at this moment in time, he didn't dare make the situation any worse.

"You can't explain? Your reckless actions could have killed us all and you have no reason for this? No explanation as to why you were so ludicrously thoughtless?" Snape's voice was steady but Harry knew better than to assume that it would stay that way.

"I really am sorry, sir. I wasn't concentrating."

"That, Potter, is obvious. My question is what could have distracted you to such a large extent that even your friends' lives don't matter to you? Don't try and use your supposed insomnia as an excuse either."

"It's not an excuse! I was really ill before you started giving me potions for that and you know it! Dumbledore would never ask you to administer it if he didn't believe that I genuinely needed it!" Harry had been the first one to lose his cool and raise his voice. Any communication between the two of them ended this way but sometimes he was the one to make Snape snap, unfortunately that wasn't the case today.

"If your –ahem- illness is unrelated then it is really of no concern to me. What does interest me is why you DID lose concentration."

"I have stuff on my mind."

"I was unaware that your brain was capable of thought Potter but clearly you have much more important things to think about than the rest of us; clearly your problems greatly outweigh anyone else in this class and therefore, I should be the one apologising to you for expecting you to make an effort in my lesson."

Severus was concerned, he genuinely was but there was also a part of him that was angry and he couldn't make that feeling go away. Why did Potter allow himself to get into these situations? Then he expected Severus to simply let it slide? He worried about the boy more than he could admit to and therefore, he had to involve himself. What would Lily have said if she knew that Severus wasn't trying to find out what was wrong with her son? It was obvious that the man wasn't going to discuss anything personal with him but at least he might be able to encourage him to speak with someone else.

"Look Snape, I messed up. I messed up massively but don't you think knowing what I could have done is punishment enough? I don't need this. I've got things on my mind and yeah I'm acting stupidly because of it. I know you think I'm selfish for even thinking about personal stuff when I've got bigger stuff that I should be taking care of but some people feel things. We're not all robots!"

"Are you insinuating that I am a robot, as you put it?"

"I give up. Can you just give me my punishment? I did something wrong and I need to be punished for it. I get that but do you have to keep tormenting me? You win this one."

Potter often assumed that Severus was trying to torment him in some way and so he wasn't surprised; he was however shocked that the younger man was clearly so tormented by his thoughts that he would so quickly admit defeat and accept punishment. There was something very wrong with him and it wouldn't be right to give detention or take points away when someone, even a Potter, was feeling that way.

"It seemed previously, Potter, that you believed that it was enough of a punishment to realise what severe damage you may have caused; is that no longer the case?"

"Are you trying to say that you're not going to punish me?"

"Precisely, though I do have one condition."

Harry knew there'd be a catch. "What is it?"

"I don't expect anything to distract you from my lessons again. Whatever may resolve your -issues-, I suggest you act now and don't allow anything to disrupt your studies again. It is difficult enough to attempt to get you through a Potions class without your thoughts being on something else entirely."

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"How bad do you think it's going?" Ron asked Hermione in the Gryffindor Common Room. There were seven floors between them and their best friend and they were concerned about what would be going on in the dungeons. Hermione had informed Ron of what happened and he had immediately become just as worried as his female friend was, although in a way that was much more offensive towards the Potions Master.

"Pretty bad. He could have killed everyone in the room with that. What's gotten into him lately? I know he's not brilliant at Potions but he's never been that disastrous before; even Neville and Seamus weren't that bad in first year! There must be something really wrong with him, don't you think?"

"I guess. I don't know." Ron felt uneasy about his lie and it must have shown, as Hermione eyed him suspiciously.

"Well you don't seem very concerned about what it might be, Ron. He's your best friend. Don't you want to know what's wrong with him?" she accused.

"Course I do! But that's up to him to tell us when he's ready. You know what he's like; he keeps stuff to himself for a while and then he lets it all out on us. He deals with things differently."

"You know something, Ronald Weasley! Tell me right now!"

"I do know something. You're right. That doesn't mean I'm telling you. It's Harry's place to tell you and you know he will when he's ready. I'm going to respect his privacy."
"You're right. I'm sorry. I'm just so worried about him. His head is in the clouds. Why will he talk to you and not me? Doesn't he trust me anymore? No offense but he never used to discuss more serious stuff on his mind with you."

"He's not ready to talk, Hermione. I found out another way. If I hadn't then I wouldn't know either. You don't need to get offended. You just need to be there for him when he's ready to talk to you."

"I will be. You should know that… Oh look! There's Lavender!"

Hermione suddenly jumped up from her feet and ran over to her classmate with Ron close on her tail.

"Lavender? Do you mind if I speak with you?" she started, tentatively.

"If you're here to rub it in my face then you can stop right now. I don't need it."

"No I'm not. I wouldn't. I wanted to apologise for the things I said to you."

"Why would you need to apologise? You were right, weren't you? About everything." Lavender often wore her heart on her sleeve but this felt somewhat different and made Hermione uncomfortable.

"No I wasn't. I may have been more cautious than others about online chat rooms but even I don't believe that everyone in them is like that. I suppose you can't tell."

"Well you needn't worry. I won't be going back online apart from for the classes."

"For what it's worth, I really am sorry."

"Thanks" Lavender replied simply, expressing very little emotion on her face. She walked off with her friends, who seemed to be treading eggshells around her, unsure how to react. Ron watched her walk through the portrait hole and disappear completely, before directing his attention back to his wavy-haired friend.

"That was nice of you."

"I don't know whether she sees it that way or not."

"She does. Don't worry."

They were soon interrupted by the appearance of the other third of their trio entering the Common Room and looking deep in thought. Both of his friends rushed over to him.

"Why's Lavender crying outside the Common Room?" he asked them before either of them got a chance to speak.

"Oh no! I didn't mean to upset her!"

"It wasn't you. Don't worry." Ron tapped her on the back before going through the portrait himself to see if he could do anything to help his distraught ex-girlfriend.

"Are you okay, Harry?"

"He didn't punish me. He said some things like he normally does but he didn't punish me. I told him it was enough to know what could have happened and I guess he actually agreed with me for once."

"That's good at least. So why do you still look so down about it?"

"I can't believe I almost did that, Hermione!"

"So why did you? What were you thinking about? It must be something pretty bad for you to lose concentration that dramatically."

"Just personal stuff. It's nothing too bad but it's just something I need to work through."

"Do you want to talk to me about it?"

"I kind of do but I don't really know what to say or how to explain it and I definitely don't need anyone overhearing us."

"Well, all the boys are down here so we can talk in the dorm if you want to? You don't have to of course but you really look like you need someone to talk to."

The green-eyed wizard accepted her offer and the two made their way into the boy's dormitory, sitting themselves on the end of Harry's bed.

"I don't know where to start."

"Wherever makes sense, I suppose."

"Okay. Well, you know how I said I don't feel anything for Ginny anymore and the feelings just sort of disappeared?" Hermione nodded in response, not wanting to interrupt because if she did, there was a likelihood that her friend was going to stop talking.

"I think I know why but I'm not sure and I can't come to terms with it."

"This is all because of Ginny?"

"No. Not at all really. That's just part of it. It's the reason behind it that's confusing me."

"Okay. Well I'm ready for you to talk when you've got the words." The two weren't facing each other, as Hermione didn't want to make Harry feel even more uncomfortable than he obviously already did. She did, however, put her hand to the side slightly to touch her friend's in comfort.

"I don't think I like girls. I don't know but that's what I think" he blurted out, without even thinking it through. He definitely could have worded it better.

"Oh, I see. What makes you think that?"

"A boy kissed me. I didn't have an issue with it until I panicked. The kiss was actually quite nice. I think I'm gay. I don't know how to figure it out."

"I'm sorry Harry but I think you need to explain a little more, unless it makes you uncomfortable." So he did. He told her about Timothy's nastiness and then the kiss, even the talk he had with Ron afterwards. He spoke about his conversations with CharmsWitch and Bookworm about his confusion and even told her about his feelings about it. She listened to everything that he had to say without interrupting, still not looking at him once for fear of shutting him up by accident.

"I really wish you wouldn't try and keep these things to yourself so much. I'm glad you've got your online friends to confide in but sometimes you still have to trust us too, you know?"

"I know. I just find it easier online. I'm not actually sitting there with someone seeing their reactions and letting them see how I feel. The screen just helps I guess, especially when it doesn't matter if the person on the other end gets freaked out. I was so scared that Ron would panic over it but he was great. If I had that reaction from one of my online friends, then it wouldn't have mattered as much; I don't know them in real life so I wouldn't be losing anything."

"You wouldn't lose anything anyway and you know that. You'll always have Ron and me as friends. We certainly wouldn't feel differently about you just because of who you are or are not attracted to."

"I know all that. I don't like to put my problems on others though, particularly when there's plenty of other stuff to be worrying about. I haven't got time for this when I've got to think about defeating Voldemort."

"Maybe it's time you did think about this stuff. Other people worry about it too, you know. It's not like you're over-reacting; it's a big change to come to terms with. You're human, Harry, and you don't need to base your life around a prophecy. There are other things to life and I think you're starting to realise that now."

"I guess you're right."

"Would it be really inappropriate to ask if we can talk about boys together now?" she laughed nervously.

"When I figure everything out, I'll happily talk to you about boys either way. In fact, you can always talk to me."

"Thanks. So do you think you like someone then?"

"No I told you I don't like Timothy that way."

"I didn't mean him."

"Who then?"

"Bookworm."

"What? I only know him online, Hermione."

"But you talk to him all the time and you were happy when he told you that he was gay too. I could see it in your face when you told me."

"It's just nice to be able to talk to him about it, that's all" he blushed as he spoke.

"Okay, sorry. Just a silly assumption."

Harry continued to think about his situation with a slightly more positive attitude after offloading onto his friends; perhaps it didn't matter whether he was gay or not. It wasn't really going to make a big difference to anything in the long run. From now on, he would let his realisation come to him when it was ready, rather than spend his time worrying about it, especially if it was going to cause potential recklessness.

"You could always use Ron's special sexuality detector that Fred and George gave him" Hermione scoffed sarcastically later on that evening.

"Yeah I'm sure that will clear things right up" Harry laughed.

"Good idea Hermione! Why don't we use it?" asked Ron, clearly not understanding his friends' mocking voices.

"Because, Ron, your brothers run a joke shop; not an advice column for sexually confused teenagers. How can that device possibly tell what someone's sexuality is?"

"If it can't tell, why does it show the person's face in the orb then? When we used it, it showed our faces and our sexuality."

"It's a good piece of magic, don't get me wrong but nothing can tell what your orientation is! It clearly randomly generates an answer for each person."

"Well it was right about me. Was it wrong about you then? Are you gay too?"

"Ron, you're being ridiculous. I don't have time to listen to this when I've got work I could be doing."

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Severus Snape was currently a very confused man and that was not an adjective he would regularly use to describe himself. It appeared that the people around him had begun to act particularly strangely, starting with Harry Potter. Although he refused to allow himself to spend his time wondering what might be the young man's problem, it still affected him if he was going to be attempting to blow up his classroom. Hopefully, the Gryffindor's friends would be able to talk some sense into him; he hoped this would come more from his female friend, who held much more intellect than Mr Weasley. He really didn't want to get any more involved than he already had and to be completely honest, he wouldn't be much use anyway; all he ever did was make his student angry and perhaps feel even worse. He was sure that someone would help him out without Severus' assistance. At least, he certainly hoped so.

Harry Potter shouldn't be particularly high up in his interests, particularly when Severus and his online friend were getting closer. He still attempted to push back any romantic feelings that threatened to reveal themselves but he still couldn't help himself hoping when he had mentioned his possible sexuality. As a friend, he wanted to be able to help him discover it either way but more selfishly, he was wishing for one particular outcome to the man's exploration. Even if he were gay though, for them to consider pursuing a relationship, he would have to meet up with him and that just wasn't going to happen. They got on really well and if he knew that Severus were a Death Eater, there was no chance of them working out and that was if SnitchSeeker managed to look past his ugly looks and massive nose. It hurt to know that no one could ever consider him attractive after he'd been lonely for so long but he preferred not to think about that.

Often, he'd find himself reminiscing on past encounters and how they failed or died out; he wasn't the relationship type and that was always the main reason. However, his fear of rejection was what made him this way. After spending his school years being bullied, he found it very difficult to see anything positive in himself and had genuinely come to the conclusion that there was nothing about him to like. He'd pushed away the only friend that he'd ever had and losing her was punishment for the way he'd treated her. She'd tried to build up his self-confidence but now, sadly, she was gone and so were any remains of his self-esteem. The only person that ever cared about him after Lily was Albus and even he never made Severus feel any better about himself through his odd riddles.

Of course, Albus was one of the other people acting slightly differently at the moment; after he had come to him worrying about Potter and his insomnia, Severus had expected the old man to remain very much the same. Nevertheless, he appeared to be attempting to spend more time in Severus' company at the moment and the blue eyes were definitely twinkling more often than usual. It was undoubtedly becoming very irritating, particularly when he denied that he was up to something. He'd invited himself into the dungeons the other night and found it appropriate to question Severus about the Wiztops and pressured him to ensure that he continued to use it to set an example. He was certain that he had some kind of ludicrous plan involving the new technology but Severus didn't know what it was and as it was Albus, he didn't think he'd ever find out.

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Later on that night, Hermione talked Harry into catching up on some of his homework and he had agreed in order to make his life easier. Ron challenged Dean and Seamus to Wizard's Chess because he was so bored with the attempts at paying attention to his work. Luckily, Harry had managed to concentrate on the work with Hermione's assistance and somehow got the majority of it done despite none of it being due the next day. He gave Ron the occasional glance, mainly because his concentrating face was hilarious and he looked as if he were putting twice the amount of effort into chess than Harry and Hermione were with their homework. The main thing that Harry noticed, however, was that he wasn't the only one looking at Ron. Sitting across the room from him, puffy-eyed and uncharacteristically unsociable was Lavender Brown. Harry made a mental note to himself to ask Ron what happened between the two of them when she was upset.

"Finally finished it all. That means I can catch up on my reading tomorrow instead of worrying about this."

"Yeah that's great. Thanks for your help. I wouldn't have been able to get all this done without you."

"No problem. I'd do anything to stop you from blowing yourself up with potions ingredients. I'm still surprised that Snape didn't punish you for that."

"Me too. Don't get me wrong, he thoroughly enjoyed tormenting me for being stupid but he didn't seem massively interested in punishing me. Maybe he's got too many people piled up on his detention list" Harry laughed.

"I think he'd always make room for you" Hermione joked.

"Really, Hermione? I thought you were always telling me that I over-react and that he doesn't really have a vendetta against me?"

"I was only joking Harry. You're not the only one that can have a laugh, you know. Anyway, I think it's safe to say that he has always treated you differently but in some ways I can't blame him."

"What? You think I deserved it?"

"No, of course not. But you look so much like your father, who bullied him throughout most of his school years, perhaps even after that. Can you imagine how low he actually must have felt? It is very difficult to picture how you would feel but could you cope with someone tormenting you every day just for their own amusement? I'm not saying anything against your dad, Harry, because I'm sure he grew up but maybe you should try and think about things from Snape's perspective once in a while."

"Think like Snape? That's a scary thought."

"I'm serious, Harry. He can't have had a great childhood and then he spends his entire adult life putting himself in danger to protect the Wizarding World and spy against the most evil wizard since Grindelwald. He must be so terrified of getting caught; he'd suffer a terrible death if he got found out. Voldemort isn't the most forgiving person in the world."

"Where the hell did all that come from, Hermione? Anyone would think you actually like the man!"

"I don't particularly like him. I just respect him and you must too deep down. You know what he does for everyone. In fact, he does a great deal more for you than anyone else. He's given his freedom to protect you."

"Yeah, okay, fine. I am grateful for what he's done and what he's still doing. Now can we talk about something other than Snape?"

Hermione sighed at his unwillingness to see sense but agreed nonetheless to change the subject; she did, however, decide to begin talking about SPEW and how she could make more of a difference for the house elves now that she was head girl. The emerald-eyed man wasn't entirely sure which subject he preferred but he tried to involve himself in the discussion. Eventually, he grew tired and chose to go to bed, dragging Ron up on his way.

"What was that about? I was winning!"

"You always win. Anyway, I was bored of listening to Hermione. She went on about SPEW and that was only because I didn't want to talk about Snape."

"She needs to have a little fun. She thinks about serious stuff far too much. I love her to bits but she needs to calm down a bit."

"You try telling her that then. I'll be at the other end of the room. Wouldn't want to get burnt by the steam coming out of her ears. Anyway, what's going on with Lavender then?"

"You know what's going on with her. Hermione told us."

"Yeah but I mean, what were you two talking about earlier?"

"She was just telling me what happened and how she felt. It was rather horrible to listen to, if I'm honest. I feel pretty bad for her."

"Anything else you want to add?"

"No, why?"

"Are you blind? She spent the whole night looking at you and even seemed disappointed that you weren't looking back at her. Are you honestly trying to tell me that there's nothing going on?"

"Shut up, Harry. She wasn't looking at me. I'd have noticed."

"You wouldn't notice if she got your name tattooed on her arm!"

Ron threw his pillow at Harry, successfully hitting him in the side of the face and laughed to himself as he changed into his nightclothes.

"Oh, yeah. Here's that orb Fred and George gave me. Why don't you give it a shot?" The ginger male held out the item in his hand, expecting his friend to take it from him.

"Ron, that's not going to tell me anything. It doesn't really work, you idiot."

"Just try it, Harry!"

Harry took it from Ron, pretending to laugh at the idea of what it supposedly did but actually he was more worried that this object might know more about him than he did himself. Closing his eyes, he squeezed the object tight, cursing Ron the entire time. After a few seconds, he took a deep breath and opened his eyes, seeing his face in a cloud of smoke in the crystal, as his sexuality was spelt out to him in letters.