AN: Welcome to the Price of Sanity, set as a prequel to Silence, two years prior. The sequel can be read as a standalone, but contains spoilers to this work, which will run seamlessly up to the beginning of Silence.
This will be Severus/Harry, and a slow burner on the romance front, but starts with a bang in terms of other plot.
Note that at no time is there any illegal contact between a minor and an adult; Harry will be of age (in accordance with British law) before Severus allows anything to happen.
Summary: at the end of Harry's horrific fifth year, he is more broken and his magic more wild than ever before; it is more than the Dursleys can handle and Harry looses the last remnant of his parent's magic, the Blood Wards.
The Price of Sanity
Chapter One: the Right to a Home.
He hadn't been able to stomach sitting in a compartment, being constantly reminded that Ron and Hermione were lying in the Infirmary, still injured from the battle. Escaping Ginny and Neville had been easy; they were wrapped up in their own new perspectives, but Luna, on the other hand, had let him go with a look of terrible understanding; she knew what he was going through with that same soul deep empathy that she had shown that day with the Thestrals.
He found a part of the train, the very end of the final carriage, which was as silent as he could hope for, with only the whispering of the wheels and wind to keep him company. At least he was alone with his thoughts; past the baggage carriage and out onto the railed platform at the very back there were no students, no chattering voices.
Away from the confusing magic of the other students, he could feel the wards; heavy and layered and comforting, they felt like Hogwarts and for a little longer he could feel at home. They clung to the train like armour, making him feel as safe as he did in Gryffindor Tower.
Only a thin, waist high railing separated him from the rushing ground as the wet, green Wolds of Scotland streamed past and were left behind. He stared, leaning on that railing, at the mountains above Hogwarts, memorising them and keeping his mind occupied for a little longer. This was his place, here in the mountains, with the woods and the Thestrals; where Sirius chased a moon-mad Remus into the night. This should be home, disappearing back into those mountains, and it was crushing that he had to give the Dursley's sterile house that honour for another year; this summer and part of the next.
By the time his mountains disappeared from view, he knew he would be able to recognise them in the dark, from only their silhouettes against the stars. This crude, unrefined form of mind manipulation, not true Occlumency, could hold him in check no more and he sagged, fists clenching in his hair and a fierce grimace of grief and pain contorting his face. He fell back against the carriage door with a satisfying thud and slid down into a tense, crunched up huddle on the platform. A low, growling keen escaped from his throat, hissing past his clenched teeth and rising and falling as he took harsh breaths.
Harry could not understand how it was that so much could be taken away from you; when you had so little, how was it that you could lose so much? How could anyone handle this burning, raging feeling in his chest? Destroying Dumbledore's office had not helped, casting himself into magical exhaustion had done little but make him weak, and oh! How he despised his own weakness!
If he had been able to get away from Remus, been in time to stop Pettigrew escaping, had protected Cedric, if he had killed Bellatrix, if he had only been stronger! Sirius would still be alive; Mr Diggory would still have his son...!
A full throated cry tore from him, completely beyond his control. Energy was gathering in his limbs, burning him and calling to be used; if only he had been stronger!
Soon, it was imposable to contain; the terrible heat of his magic, fuelled and magnified by the strength of his emotions, tore from him and he lurched to his feet. Fists struck wood and splintered the nominally unbreakable, warded door. Great arcs of blue-white magic tore into the brass railings, scorching them black, disintegrating trainers warped the metal bars without protecting his feet from the bruising force, and still Harry lashed out, again and again, until there was no more left in him. The ferocity in his soul grew with every strike until it could burn no longer and blew out, like a star in its final moment, leaving Harry feeling empty, tired and just a touch calmer than he had been before.
With bloody knuckles held to his chest he slumped once again to the floor, his energy gone. Through his shortness of breath, in between splintered wood and blackened metal, he cried, exhausted and grieving.
He kept a straight back and his chin up while he made his way to pick up his trunk. It was almost more than he could manage after his bout of accidental, wandless magic, but he got it off the rack and lugged it to the carriage doors.
He was calm now, as he stepped off the train; the noise of Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters rushed over him, his face impassive, and his stride brisk and purposeful. He had donned modified robes that could pass as a long coat, transfigured from his uniform to cover the state of his muggle clothes, and he held them bundled around him protectively. His shrunken owl cage sat heavily in one pocket while he dragged his trunk behind him on a rickety trolley.
Silence spread like a plague, from person to person as more and more of them saw Harry. They had no indication that their precious, beloved Saviour, whom they had so recently maligned, had spent the previous five hours screaming and drowning in grief; his eyes were sore, but dry now.
They received no acknowledgment from him and the silence remained unbroken as he left the station, ducking his head and becoming inconspicuous as he entered the muggle crowd.
The muggle side of the barrier was louder, busy, and Harry slipped through easily, unnoticed. Even Vernon did not see him until he had already opened the car boot.
Harry was aware that the Order would be Most Displeased with Harry's swift departure, but if his guards could not find him, then neither could his enemies. He could not bear to see the people who had confined Sirius to that house, who had stopped the birds of paradise from coming. If Sirius had stayed in places abroad, he would still be alive. No. He had no wish to see the Order. Or Remus.
Uncle Vernon tried to pretend that he had not jumped when Harry had slammed the car door, but he never had been much for concealing anything. Harry caught a look at his reflection in the rear-view mirror and understood why his Uncle might fear him; a few hours may have taken the redness of crying away, but it couldn't conceal the blankness that Harry's eyes now held; all the fire burnt out of him. Let his Uncle be frightened, he couldn't have cared less.
Harry said nothing and eventually the car pulled away into traffic. The 'quiet' was disgusting, Vernon's heavy breathing, the roar of man-made rubber on man-made asphalt; it was horrible and Harry hunched in on himself. He longed for the roar of the wind and the feel of magic, but Hogwarts was so very far away. The trunk in the boot provided some comfort, at least; his picture album, now furnished and full of images of Sirius, the Marauders, even one of Snape and Lily. The man actually smiled, occasionally, when the photo didn't know he was looking. Harry was... unhappy with Sirius for what he had seen in the Potions Masters pensive, and that bore with it the guilt of thinking bad of a dead man. It remained that, despite his innocence with respect to the crimes he had been convicted for, he had still attempted double murder. He had risked, knowingly, the life of another person and jeopardised the life of one of his closest friends, unknowingly. Harry had had little chance to ask him about it and the tale hung over him like a guillotine, waiting to destroy any respect he might have had for Sirius.
"We were young, Harry..."
Such a limp reason; Harry didn't know if he could forgive them. And yet it didn't matter; the man was dead, gone, vanished, as was James Potter, as was Lily Evans and Harry's soul could not stand much more.
Harry was forced to begin memorizing street and road names to restrain the rekindled burning of emotion-driven magic that his thoughts were generating; it would not do to accidentally transfigure the car into something less stable, not when travelling at seventy miles an hour.
By the time they pulled into Privet Drive his face was once again empty, his emotions masked. He could keep it up for few hours at least, by which time he would be safe in Dudley's second bedroom, staring out into the dark and dreading falling asleep. His coat would turn back into robes soon and he'd be stuck with ragged jeans, t-shirts with holes in and his disintegrating trainers for the rest of summer; if the wizarding world could see him now...
Uncle Vernon barked at him to get out of the car, the first word's he'd spoken since the train station, and Harry clambered out and fetched his trunk. His knuckles hurt fiercely when he curled them around the handle and hauled it out of the car. Immediately after he'd slammed the boot closed, Vernon locked it, scowling at him with distrust.
He was ordered inside and he immediately disappeared upstairs; there was little point in talking to his relatives, after all. The house was as sterile as ever, despite being a little dirtier than it had been when he had left for fifth year, and his Aunt and Cousin were not in evidence. The photos on the walls remained still, the carpets did not have inbuilt cleaning charms and the staircase simply would not move. It felt so very wrong; dead and cold.
'His' room, Dudley's second bedroom, so graciously lent to him after the letters began coming, had been messed with, again. More of Dudley's broken junk had been tossed unceremoniously onto the shelves, none of it of any use whatsoever, and the cot he normally slept on had no sheet or duvet, though his ratty pillow was peeking out dustily from under the bed.
He closed the door and lent heavily against it, this was not 'home', this space wasn't his, and he didn't have a claim to it at all... Not that he'd ever left anything here over the school year to suggest his continued existence to his relatives; they wouldn't have been grateful for the reminder.
He managed to peel himself off the door after a long sigh and a rub of his face. His trunk went against the end of the little bed, and he went to find some bed sheets.
The first week was the hardest. His Aunt got him up at dawn each morning, usually not long after he had gone to sleep. Breakfast was to be on the table before Dudley got there; a target he made only twice, and then once the Dursley's had eaten, he was set to cleaning the entire house of the grime that had accumulated during Petunias lazy tenure.
There was no time to look at his books but there was no time to think either, at least during the day. By the time he shut himself in his room, the sun was setting and since he had yet to repair his desk lamp again all he could do was sit and stare out of the window until Sirius' death caught up with him again. Night after night, he went over the battle with his face scrunched up helplessly and tears making his cheeks sore and his head ache. Soon, the night of the Triwizard Tournament final joined in and Harry was stuck in a vicious, nightly cycle.
He stopped getting angry; he didn't hit things anymore, and he began shutting down. He spent the nights lying there, staring into the middle distance and unable to pull himself free from his waking nightmares. The lack of sleep had been a regular feature for most of his life, but that made him no less vulnerable to it, he didn't have the energy to rail against himself anymore or get worked up into another raging froth.
He rarely smiled at the Dursley's anyway but by the end of that first week nothing alleviated the well-deep and icy cold look to his eyes. He thought he must be scaring his Aunt, who began getting him up later and later and eventually just slipped a list of chores through his cat flap. She wouldn't even look at him anymore, Dudley never had bothered, and Vernon... well, Harry could do without his attention.
He hadn't had any visions, or headaches, and he wondered with a vicious kind of triumph whether Voldemort was hurt by his grief. That brought him to thinking about the prophecy and then it would start again, remembering the mad scramble to escape Umbridge and on, until Bellatrix fired that curse.
The reduction in his chores after that first week was not welcome; there was more time to think. At least he had Hedwig; she'd fly over to him when it got too much again and coo at him. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn't but he was grateful all the same.
That was the main reason he hadn't sent any post, despite the concerned letters from Ron and Hermione. Ron's handwriting was appalling and it reminded Harry that Sirius had not been the only casualty that night, the confundus had worn off easily enough, but the wounds left by brain tentacles, (Harry shuddered) would take longer to heal. Hermione was worrying about OWL results already, unsurprisingly. Neither mentioned Snuffles, or Padfoot, or the DoM, and both had told him to 'be careful'.
He didn't think he was up to the task of pretending his godfather didn't exist just yet, or writing a letter that he didn't mind being intercepted, be it by Death Eaters or Dumbledore. But, most of all, he wanted to hang on to the company Hedwig provided.
So she stayed.
He had the entire afternoon free, one day two weeks into the holiday, so he got his DADA books out and began hauling over everything he had learnt in five years of schooling and the additional material he had accumulated, working with the DA. The mere act of reading books on magic helped and knowing that there were no spells here that could have stopped what happened helped a little more, whilst adding to his frustration;
It wasn't enough to convince himself that no fifth-year student could have done better because, now more than ever, he was aware that he wasn't normal; there was no question that he was apart, singular, after hearing the prophecy.
Once his Defence texts were exhausted and he was convinced that he couldn't get any better without breaking the law, he moved on to his mothers' speciality, Charms. He couldn't practice, but he could learn the theory until it rolled off his quill like the knowledge was a part of his soul.
Before he realised, his birthday was creeping up on him and he had devoured his Charms and Transfiguration courses, in tribute to his parents and Sirius.
Perhaps most significantly, he developed a habit: at the end of each day, at about two in the morning, he would put his quill down, close his eyes and let himself feel, safe in the dark, with his relatives asleep. All that grief, and regret and pain would come surging to the surface and cover his mind like a heavy layer of snow, its surface blown into a fury by a storm. But, underneath, near the ground, the snow was still. Harry began to sleep better then, insulated from the violence of his own emotions by this strange stillness. Attempts to do the same during the day, however, left him almost catatonic and vulnerable to his Uncle, something he did not do twice.
He could do nothing but fall into a deep sleep in that state, but fortunately it was one he could hold onto for a few hours before the dreams returned. His daemons didn't hurt him enough for their satisfaction during daylight, it would seem.
Potions represented his next great challenge, one more fraught than Charms and Transfigurations. Those, he'd thrown himself at for the sake of people he'd cared for, Potions was for the sake of his own mistakes. It made his chest seize with that burning hot lack of air that these days predicted a wild outpouring of magic and rage as he turned the blame for his godfathers' death on himself. If he had just listened to Snape... Professor Snape, then Voldemort would not have been able to set his plan in motion. He managed to restrain his magic, barely, until his books stopped having the same effect on him.
With every formula, technique and preparation he studied, he was reminded of the Potions Professors voice, booming out over the classroom, banishing a potion that was about to rain boils, or poison, or fire down on his students. He was faced with the unavoidable realization that everything the man had done, so much, was for the right reasons. Harry even longed for a Pensive so he could confirm his suspicion that the man had glanced at the children-of-Death-Eaters during that initial, horrifying lesson.
"Ah, Harry Potter. Our new... Celebrity..."
All his suspicious behaviour in first year; hindering Quirrel. Second year; brewing the Mandrake draught. Third; throwing himself in front of an untamed werewolf. Fourth; trying to evict him from the tournament.
Fifth. Trying to teach him Occlumency. Harry had resisted so very hard, wanting desperately to know what the Dark lord was doing, desperate for knowledge that he now recognised could not be given to him until he had learnt what Snape had tried to teach. He realised, one night when even the early hours of the morning did not bring sleep and he lay stuck in his own body, that even the man's methods had been keenly attuned to Harry's skill. His best charms work had always been during a duel, his best flying had been against the dragon during the First Round and he had only produced a corporeal patronus once faced with a Dementor.
There was only one conclusion to be drawn from all of this; Professor Snape, Potion's Master, was a spy, and firmly on Dumbledore's side. He promptly pushed the thought as far down in the back of his mind as he could; Snape would die, if Voldemort saw that thought. Even if he believed he had Snape's loyalty, the man would still end up dead, once ordered to bring Harry to him using Harry's belief that Snape could be trusted.
He admitted it to himself, on that night of revelations, that it had been wholly his own doing that had robbed him of Occlumency. With the admission came the certainty that he could and would learn, should he be given another chance, hence his intense study moving on to potions. He would earn the right to apologise to the man, to be believed when he did so and he would start by showing respect for the man's life work; Potions.
It was much, much harder than theoretical wand work. He practiced preparation as he cooked for his relatives, trying, as he had never done before, to generate the different surface-area to volume ratios required. He felt like a fool when he discovered an appendix he had never bothered to read that explained the importance of sliced verses slivered and crushed verses ground; suddenly every incomprehensible scolding Hermione had ever given him began to make sense. He practiced stirring his relative's lunchtime soup until the spoon left a perfect figure of eight wake on the surface but despite all his efforts, he had the horrible feeling that it wouldn't be enough to brew a perfect potion, let alone earn Snape's respect.
As he couldn't risk brewing in the house, he concentrated on the why's and how's of the reactions, it even proved interesting; he laughed when he worked out how Neville's very first potion had generated so much heat as to melt the cauldron. That proved a useful avenue of thought; he began writing up why every accident he had caused or had seen occur, realising with grim satisfaction what Hermione had known all along; if any of them had bothered to read the assignments beyond just the recipe then none of the explosions and trips to the infirmary would have happened.
It also explained how Malfoy had always known what to throw into his brew to make it look like he had botched it. With a little effort... yes, Harry thought, he could learn to correct his potions for the addition of most common ingredients...
He was halfway through this new project when it arrived. No owl; Hedwig hadn't made it back before dawn and was hiding out in the trees at the bottom of the garden, no magical envelope fluttering in under its own power, just a small pop and a brown parcel dropped on his bed. With Severus Snape heavy on his mind, these days, Harry did not touch the parcel immediately. Using a long stirring rod, he flipped over the tag;
Padfoot and I have been were working on this for you together, it's done now, though. Take care, Harry, and talk to Professor McGonagall once you've finished reading the book. I'm sorIt wasn' I know you miss him. Hang in there.
He backed away from the letter, unable to keep calm. That hot feeling started up in his chest again and he struggled to breathe. The glass in his window cracked, the bulb overhead exploded, he dragged air in through a protesting throat, and forced it out again in a prolonged hiss.
Padfoot and I.
He could feel the wild magic, (could it truly be called accidental once you had a wand? He didn't know,) tearing its way out of him. Unsatisfied with just the lamps, Harry's meagre bed was next and the cloth around the package shredded under the force of it.
NO, NONO, NO! He had managed so well! He hadn't done this in weeks, not since the train, and now he was away from Hogwarts' magic, the Ministry would...! Destroying Dumbledore's office had been bad enough...
I know you miss him.
"AAh! No! No! Leave me alone! I can't... I can't!" Harry couldn't restrain his magic, as much as he tried, not when Moony's handwriting was staring him in the face like that. The full force of his grief came rushing back; for his parents, for Cedric and ...for Sirius. He fell to his knees as the floor bucked under the rush of magic. The sound of tearing wood and breaking glass filled the room as floorboards twisted and splintered and Harry's bedside lamp was thrown to the boards; the naked bulb didn't have a chance. Screams, both angry and frightened, sounded from downstairs, even as the floor stopped heaving, but Harry didn't hear them. He stumbled back to his feet and reached for the package. He could see that he had picked it up, but could feel nothing; he fumbled it and managed to clutch it to his chest with unfeeling fingers as he slumped, boneless, on the floor against the bed. Burning tears filled his eyes and he scrunched his eyes closed against the feeling.
"Oh, Merlin... I'm sorry, I'm so SORRY! I couldn't... there wasn't any..." His voice trailed off as something finally pierced through the firestorm of emotions around him. The pounding of footsteps on the staircase was loud enough to get to him. He choked, panicked and frightened, convinced that the ministry would break his wand, that the Dursley's would throw him out, that the Death Eaters would be waiting.
A final lash of heat formed in his chest and magic rushed out and impacted on the door, warping it out of shape and making the doorframe grow roots and branches and leaves. Not a moment too soon, it would seem; Uncle Vernon practically snarled when he couldn't open the door, yelling obscenely and obviously throwing his weight against the plywood. The door shuddered as Harry watched in numb horror, but the doorframe held and his Uncle changed tactics; he had already thrown Harry out once, after he had blown up Aunt Marge, and again after the incident with the dementors, (or so Harry had let him believe,) and now he was yelling his determination to do it again.
Harry thought he couldn't have gotten more panicked, but he did. He sailed through panic and right out the other side into a place of cutting clarity. His heart raced fit to burst, that horrible, clammy sweat still covered him, but he moved with purpose; his trunk was flung open and he pulled his wand out of its Ollivander's box. His clothes were already there, since he hadn't bothered using the broken wardrobe, so he threw his books in, followed by the reams and reams of parchment he had been using to study. He'd been surprised at how much he'd used, the second time he had ordered more, but he had re-written five years and two and a half subjects worth of notes... With difficulty, he picked up the package on his bed and laid it on top. He couldn't look at it, but the tremulous feeling in his chest promised that when he did open it, it'd be... intense.
He avoided looking at the broken glass and splintered floor, to the extent that he resolutely did not notice stepping on one of the fine shards and slicing the arch of his foot open. He ignored the pain, barely felt it, and pulled the glass out swiftly as he put his trainers on without socks. He scrambled under the bed, ripping up the loose floor board and retrieving his cloak and album.
The door gave another great shudder,
"That's it, Dudley, together now..."
"I'll buy you a beer, ok, Duds? Just help m-"
"Vernon!" A gasp, "look!"
Harry looked back at the door, terror creeping back into his panic. The doorframe was still growing, and it looked like his relatives had noticed;
"STOP THIS FREAKISHNESS RIGHT NOW! Do you hear me POTTER?" another great shudder and the flimsy door split right down the middle of the top panel and a gap opened up. Harry caught a glimpse of a red face with teeth bared and sweat dripping down its jowls. He shuddered in horror and backed towards the window, unwilling to take his eyes of his relatives.
This was his fault, he knew, and the Dursley's had every right to throw him out, but he'd rather he didn't get another bruise to explain to the Weasley's just before he left!
"You're not our family, Harry Potter! And I won't stand for this freakishness! You're going to leave, do you hear me! Don't you dare call this place 'home' ever again!"
So that was it... Harry felt the wards go down. When Dumbledore had explained about them, he had said that Harry needed to live there, using specifically the words "as long as you can call it home"... but now, he obviously couldn't any more.
The rush of magic falling out of the wardsphere and back into the ground felt like water from a hot shower as it trickled over him. It was almost comforting, until it disappeared, leaving him cold.
"What the blazes was that? What have you done to us?" Ah... his Uncle obviously didn't know the significance of that sensation... why would he? He despised Harry's magical heritage, after all. But Harry knew, and Aunt Petunia knew; she began screeching.
It was time to leave, truly and for good.
But how? If he cast any spells, his place at Hogwarts would be completely un-saveable. His trunk was pretty heavy, too heavy for his racing broom, but he couldn't leave without it! His Uncle had threatened to burn his books time and time again, and Harry knew that now, after this, he wouldn't just threaten. Harry'd lose everything. He could take his invisibility cloak, it weighed practically nothing, but his money pouch and album would take up the rest of his brooms weight limit, he'd be a sitting duck for aerial attack, with no practically manoeuvrability.
But... he looked at the door again, Vernon's fine leather shoes showed through the crack as he kicked it wider and it extended towards the floor. The man's vitriol hadn't stopped for a second...
An insane laugh bubbled up from Harry's chest, he really was trapped; between loosing the only mementoes he had of his mother, being utterly helpless - unable to even rent a room at the leaky cauldron – and being killed by Death Eaters. Or perhaps not killed; bound and shipped like cattle to Voldemort. At least he had considered his options this time, instead of rushing off on the first Wizarding transportation he could find. Professor Snape would be proud.
As if his thoughts had stunned the universe, it went quiet. Then the noise that had shut his relatives up came again; thunk, thunk. It was incongruously ominous for a knock on the door and Harry shrunk back into the corner between his destroyed bed and the window, he could hear Petunia hissing at Vernon as two sets of footsteps descended the staircase.
"That'd better be one of your lot, Potter, or you'll regret dumping plaster on the telly for the rest of the holidays." Harry couldn't help it; hysterical laughter escaped him again and he slid to the floor, dropping his head to his knees. Hadn't Dudley heard? His dear-old-dad was going to throw Harry to the wolves, practically already had! Was he trying to be menacing? After his father's impression of a moon-struck werewolf, it wasn't very effective.
"...upstairs. You take him away with you, you hear! I'll have no more freakishness in MY HOUSE!" The first footsteps of the staircase belonged to Petunia and Harry listened as she cajoled Dudley into the 'safety' of his bedroom. The second set was quieter, more controlled and faster, almost on his Aunt's heels.
The blasting charm fired at his warped door was much more effective than his Uncles bulk.