... Depths of Black ...
7. Single Plea, The Seventh Heaven Shatters
"I'm sorry." Harry whispered, breaking Severus out of his thoughts, majority of which concerned the same teen who had just spoken to him.
Or at him? Looking at the boy, Severus was pretty sure that Harry wasn't actually addressing him, who knew if the teen had been saying the same in the few minutes he was slythering back and forth in the corridors, gathering his thoughts.
Looking at the boy was all but curled into a ball - only the hand which Nilly was in process of wrapping in bandages sticking from it - he thought it entirely too possible.
He could see clearly that even that one hand was out of the protective cocoon of body and sheets unwillingly... just how vulnerable the teen felt.
"I'm sorry." Harry repeated, still speaking as quietly as he did moments before. "I should have realised that I was not to go outside during the night. I shall remember not to do it ever again. I'll accept the punishment, which I shall immediately receive, as it is corresponding with my transgression."
It sounded as if it was not even a human of clear mind saying that. It sounded more like something a person under the Imperius curse would say, soulless listing off of information the caster wanted to get from the victim... Or like someone under the influence of Veritaserum, saying the truthful answers to questions asked in a trance-like state, however unwilling to do so...
Most of all it however sounded like something rehearsed over and over. Something beaten into the young body and soul to repeat whenever something similar happened, be it the boy's fault or not. More likely not.
It disgusted Severus.
'How could someone bring anyone to hit a low such as that? How could someone want a child, of all, to be like that?' he thought to himself angrily, holding himself back as to not show the ire he felt on the outside. Then however his thoughts turned tired.
Because what disgusted him most of all was that it was him who brought Harry to that state this time around.
That he did not really take what Harry told him of his upbringing into account and lashed out unnecessarily, especially as he was more than sure that the boy did not actually tell him about everything that had been going on in his uncle's home.
It was another of many aspects Severus felt he should have taken into account before he let his temper bubble over the cauldron. He should have realised that Harry would by no means break a direct order.
'I should have more control of my body.' Severus thought to himself angrily at the end.
'Full-time. Whether it is after a new moon or not. If I did have the full control, then that would not have happened for sure.' the snake came to a conclusion.
Until that morning he had not realised just how big an impact could him not having any interaction with any human for the past years have. Just how ungainly the giant body could be when it came to interacting with a human. With a fragile teen under his protection even... He still saw the look of fear on Harry's face in front of his eyes.
'I wouldn't have hurt him for sure, if I had the control needed.'
He still heard the crunch of Harry's bones echoing in his mind.
Waiting for any reaction from the Master of the castle was making Harry nervous, even if he was not fully aware of it. Not quite in the real of conscious world, Harry's mind was still in a protective shell of sorts. A shell which he himself set up for the dire situations he often found himself in.
A shell which made harsh words seem kinder. That made the hunger not be as terrible. That made blows hurt less...
When would the blows finally come though? His Uncle never was one to wait like that.
His Uncle enjoyed dishing out his punishment as hot as possible, the sooner he gave it, the more angry he was for Harry's misdeed still... and the more pain he was sure to inflict on his nephew... Oh how the man enjoyed that.
Then however a realisation slipped through a crack in the shell.
He was not at the Mansion. There was no Uncle around.
That however only meant that he did not know what type of punishment he was to prepare himself for.
With Uncle it was easy. His punishments had certain predictability, only varying slightly, according to Uncle's mood... that applied all the more so since the time Uncle found out that he could never quite build resistance against lashes. Thanks to that Harry most of the time knew what kind of punishment he would get and as such, even if he could not actively protect himself from it, he was at least spared the despair of not knowing the how of it.
Why never mattered.
And when? Well, it was always soon. Harry knew the punishment was coming either way.
Getting caught taking some food? - not caring that Harry would not touch anything fresh, for fear of harsher punishment - Ten lashes from Uncle's whip, or crop, or belt, or whatever else he had on hand, really.
Harry realised early on in his life that even the food he could get like that was not worth the extra beatings. There were many more other transgressions which Uncle would punish him for, be they real ones or imagined. What Uncle counted as real ones though... one could never quite wonder about.
Like getting caught at - or leaving from - the Weasleys'. That earned him thirty lashes.
Not finishing all of his set chores? Twenty-five lashes and no food until the next day's lunch. - Getting only scraps for that either way.
Passing out in the garden? Getting awakened by a kick into the stomach and five lashes.
And then there was the first rule.
That was the only thing Harry was never really prepared for. Could not really prepare himself for... Because Uncle was unpredictable about that one. He always raged when Harry was accused of breaking that one. And it was pretty often that he was.
After all Dudley, who took as much pleasure in torturing Harry as he did in watching the latest wizarding trends, could easily accuse him of that one. There was no way to check for the truth in that one.
'And really, what is my word when compared to Cousins'? He beat me even if he knew it not to be true...' Harry thought to himself bitterly. 'As if having another list of imagined transgressions was not enough.'
Curling even more into himself Harry could not help but despair.
"I'm sorry." Harry repeated, not even knowing what it was he wanted to apologise for anymore. He did not know what he was apologising for at the Dursley Mansion either. The words however often placated his uncle enough to only get the "standard" punishment and not any additional lashes, or kicks, or whatever he was being punished by.
Why did it hurt to compare Severus and Uncle though?
Why did it hurt so much?
'He seemed to understand it. He seemed nice. He said he wouldn't punish me for asking questions. He said he wouldn't punish me at all. He offered me the Seventh Heaven Aunt said freaks don't deserve. He said he wouldn't send me back there...' Harry sank deeper and deeper into the pits of anxiety.
'But when did Uncle ever say anything truthful to me? What if what Severus had said were only lies also? What if what the snake mind said were only further manipulations on his part also? What if he is like Uncle? He also offered false securities at times, only to punish me all the harder when I broke some unspoken rule. Punishing me for breathing even. What if...'
Harry stopped his trail of thoughts for a fraction of a moment to look up at the snake who was in the room with him only to quickly look back. The reptile did not look exactly forgiving in that moment. Instead Harry would have sworn there was a frown on the otherwise expressionless face of the snake.
'What if having stayed at Uncle's would have been the better option in the end?'
Were Severus to know in which way did his jumpy charges' thoughts run, he would have stopped them immediately.
He however did not.
And as fate would have it, he did not really know what the increasing tension in the boy's posture meant, for he had his own doubts plaguing his mind. Doubts which made him hesitant about speaking up for fear of only making the situation worse.
What if he scared the boy further? What if he scarred him further? What if he, by an accident, hurt him again? Wasn't the boy hurt enough?
'He is...' Severus knew, not even needing to look at the frail child on the bed. The child who still refused to look anywhere but down, at his blanket-covered feet.
"I'm sorry." Harry said in a near-whisper, his voice cracking at the words.
'Only those words, which he had learned to repeat over and over in hope of not getting hurt as much...'
'Only hearing it once... would have been enough to know.'
In the end Harry worried himself into sleep.
It was not a quick process as to say. Harry tried to fight the pull of darkness, the anxiety over when his punishment would be gotten over with echoing through his mind and body with resounding strength still. Why wasn't it coming? Was that a part of it? Making him wait for the strike? Why couldn't it just be quickly gotten over with?
It was no wonder that the feeling of unease did not leave him even in his sleep. It was also by no means a wonder that another from his grand scale of nightmares-memories came to visit him.
It started as any other of those did.
In his not-deserving-to-be-called-that room.
The darkness of it was soothing in a way... not to mention that it was so small that his uncle was unlikely to go inside, simply because he would not fit inside.
It was a safe place, the occasional visit from Aunt be damned. Harry would choose one of Aunt's rants about his freakishness and uselessness over one of Uncle's moods any day and gladly.
The safety, however, was only relative, because Harry was not allowed to stay in his haven for long periods of time. In the end the call always came.
"Freak, come out you useless waste of skin!"
'What did I do again?' Harry asked himself, his conscious self by then fully merging with his younger, memory self. He went through everything he did the previous day, trying to figure out what could it be that his uncle wanted.
"Come out I said, what's taking you so long?"
'No good, no good, no good...' Harry started biting his lip, angering Uncle by making him wait was never an answer to his questions. If only Harry did not have the tendency to get lost in his own thoughts.
'That will be a kick or a punch for only that, what more?' Harry wondered, already rushing out of the door.
It did not come as a surprise to him that what greeted him when he stood in front of his uncle mere seconds later was a fist that sent him sprawling onto the polished floor.
"Don't ever make me wait, freak! Haven't you learned that already? Is it so hard to remember that? What do you have in that thing you call head? If you don't use it I may just as well have it cut off!"
'No good, no good, no good...' Harry repeated to himself still as he gathered himself from the floor. He knew, subconsciously, that his uncle couldn't quite have him guillotined as well as wouldn't be in right to kill him himself... that however did not make any of the death threats he was flinging at him any less terrifying to the child.
Soon Harry stood in front of his uncle again, his head bowed low. Another rule of the Mansion: Never look anyone in the face unless you have their explicit permission to do so.
"This is how you should have been a whole minute ago." Vernon Dursley snorted, enjoying the power he had over his nephew. "Wasting my time, as always."
Harry knew better than to reply to that.
"Now, first things first, here is your list of today's chores. You better have them done swiftly, there are important people coming over in the evening, for Dudley's birthday party, and I want you to be out of sight by then. Understood?"
"Yes, sir." Harry replied, reaching out to take the list from his uncle's hand. Before he however could take the scroll he was hit by it square over his cheek. And as could be expected another meeting of Harry's face with the much-larger man's fist came soon after, sending Harry on the floor once again.
"That, you little freak is for yesterday's transgression. Can you tell me what you did?" the man asked, his voice taking on a sweet tone which Harry did not like at all.
And Harry truly could not, as was often the case. Because the transgressions that were dealt with after were most the time something that was not really any grave offence. Things that only his uncle saw as worthy of punishment. Things that more often than not were not something that was even forbidden beforehand.
"Are you talking back to me?" the man raged, sending Harry, who had been trying to get up, back onto the floor with a kick.
He did not even give him a moment to try to answer.
"Petunia told me that you were touching her Chrysanthemums. Who told you that you were allowed to do that? I wouldn't be surprised if the flowers withered."
"But..." Harry wanted to explain the situation, but as could have been expected, didn't get the chance.
"Don't talk back to me!" Vernon fumed, sending Harry back onto the floor. "You were told to water the flowers, not touch them with your filthy hands!"
Harry only stood up and started apologising, as was expected of him.
"I'm sorry, sir. I was wrong to have touched the flowers. I shall remember not to do it ever again. I'll accept the punishment, which I shall immediately receive, as is... umm... as is..."
'How does it continue?!' Harry panicked, before he could remember on his own, however, he got "help" from his uncle.
"As is corresponding. With. Your. Transgression!" Vernon accentuated each word with a punch or kick. "How hard is it to learn a few words? Repeat!"
And Harry did.
It was however only the third try that he got it right, having stuttered through the second. His uncle did not appreciate that, it seemed.
Once he was satisfied the man delivered one more punch before throwing the scroll with listed chores at his nephew's fallen form.
"You better do the chores quick, freak. I want the mansion to be spotless for the evening." Vernon spat, before he turned around to walk down one of the Mansion's many corridors.
"Dudley's eighth birthday have to be perfect!"
Harry woke up with a start, confused and disoriented. Where was he?
As he wanted to push himself into sitting position he hissed in pain. Putting pressure on his broken arm was not the way to go, he realised quickly. It also answered his question efficiently, as the events preceding his falling asleep appeared in the forefront of his mind immediately.
The teen looked around the room searching for the one who had for sure been with him when he had fallen asleep. It however was to no avail. After all, how hard would it be to spot a giant snake?
'Where is Seve-...' Harry halted in his thoughts. He could not quite continue to call the Master of the castle that, right? After all the snake had by then realised just how worthless he was, right?
'How am I supposed to call him though?' Harry asked himself horrified. It would by no means help his standing if was stupid enough not to know, how bad would the punishment be for having to ask?
'No good.' Harry bit his lower lip, not yet fully freed of the reins of dreams. He had in fact rid himself of that habit already and his uncle may have had something to do with that. His uncle, biting too hard and a drop of blood on the floor, that was.
'There's no one to see now though, right?' an inner, impish voice told Harry.
'Need to remember for later then, now I should go and do something...' Harry resolved himself as he threw his blanket aside and got to stand up from the bed. When he tried to do that however a House Elf appeared at his side.
"You is not getting up from the bed." it said, making a shooing motion for Harry to get back under the blanket. "Master Severus' orders."
Harry froze at that.
"Orders are made to be listened to, eh." he whispered to himself as he dutifully shuffled his body to get to the centre of the bed and then covered himself with the blankets once more.
If the House Elf found something strange with his behaviour, it did not say so. It only took its duty as followed through and disappeared, leaving Harry torn over what to do...
In the same state he was before the Elf appeared, that was.
Not having slept a wink during the night thanks to the worries concerning his young charge, Severus decided to forego his breakfast in favour of checking on the source of his worries.
"Nilly!" he called out, summoning the Elf who was charged with looking after Harry.
"Yes, Master Severus, sir." the House Elf appeared within few seconds, obviously awaiting such an order. "What is you wanting from Nilly?"
"How is he doing?"
"Little sir be awake now. He is being not calm. He not wanting breakfast. He not leaving his bed. He not left the bed since yesterday when he tried to leave. He looking uncomfortable with it, but he not leaving. Just like Master Severus ordered."
"Just like I..." Severus trailed off, then something clicked. "Did you actually tell him it was an order, Nilly?"
"Nilly did, Master Severus, sir. Was that bad of Nilly?" the House Elf started to wring its small hands together.
"Not bad, no." Severus replied quickly, knowing that Nilly was prone to punishing herself for even the smallest of mistakes. "Just troublesome, I'm afraid. I'll go and check on him myself."
With that the snake slid away from the Elf and out of his room. Or at least what passed as his room now. He hadn't been in his actual room for years.
It only took a moment for Severus to appear in front of what he had assigned to be Harry's room.
"Harry?" Severus asked, following the call with a hissed spell, which made the door open.
"Are you asleep, Harry?" he called out again, knowing well what Nilly told him, but deciding that caution was the right course of action for the moment.
There however was no answer still.
It was only after the giant head peeked into the room that Severus understood why exactly.
For it was as soon as he - partly - entered the room that his eyes zeroed in on the small figure huddled in the centre of the bed, eyes closed, but definitely alert, if the sound of quick breaths Severus picked up was anything to go by.
Harry could hear the snake approaching, after all, the sound of scales sliding across the stone floors of the castle was nothing if not unmistakable.
'Why is he going here? What have I done this time? Did he remember another rule he should have set for the night? Am I going to be finally punished now?' Harry's thoughts whirled in his mind wildly.
"Harry?" the Master of the castle called out, speaking in the language of serpents. Thanks to the night spent with the snake mind of Severus' Harry could finally truly distinguish between English and Parseltongue, taking in the nuances, as well the tone which was used whenever either of the two languages were being spoken.
'What does he want?' Harry curled in on himself as he closed his eyes, much like a child that would think that by not seeing anything he or she became invisible to those around.
"Are you asleep, Harry?" Severus called out again and Harry could feel how his heartbeats picked up on speed, the heart pumping the blood through his body frantically almost.
There was a silence for a moment, followed by only the sound of scales sliding across the floor again.
Since he arrived to the castle it sounded like heaven's bells to Harry, for if nothing else, Uncle was scared of snakes to death.
At that moment though the sound rang throughout the castle's walls much like the drums which followed a convict to the gallows would have. The only thing that was missing were jeers, insults and tomatoes being thrown at him by the people, who had a sick sense of enjoyment and came to witness his death.
Severus did not need to look twice to see what he missed when he had been in the room the previous time.
'Is he waiting for a blow?' the snake wondered when he saw how tense the frail teen looked. 'The fact that I don't have hands, or legs, aside... Why?'
Before he could elaborate that thought however Harry spoke up, having shuffled to kneel at the top of the bed, his head still bowed.
"I am sorry for having broken the rules, I should have known not to go outside the room assigned to me during the night. Can I now receive my punishment? I have not yet been reminded of my place after the latest transgression." Harry responded in the language spoken in what would easily pass as emotionless voice. However Severus heard the slight trembling quality it had.
'What?!' Severus stared at the boy astonished, seething. 'And they call me an animal!'
That was the last straw.
Harry jumped at the heated response to his plea. When Uncle responded to him with words it was usually just the affirmation of the need for punishment. Then he just struck and more often than not also started throwing insults and listing the wrongs he had done. By no means did he ever refuse to punish Harry. Why would he? He was the one who taught Harry to ask for his punishment, were he to ever forget about one.
For having the man remember on his own often resulted in broken bones, or at least a scale of bruises and a mild concussion, in the better cases.
"I don't understand." the teen whispered, still not brave enough to look up at the snake, his grasp of the Parseltongue slipping right that moment.
"I won't ever punish you in the way your uncle did, Harry. Haven't you understood that yet?" Severus asked, switching to English as to not make the boy even more uncomfortable with the current situation. Harry did seem the type to stress over details, and not being able to call his Parselmouth abilities into the forefront of his mind could be counted among those. It would only make the situation worse.
Finally the boy looked up.
However at the blank look which the boy perfected Severus knew that the words didn't reach the boy truly.
"Just how watered down was the version of your life in the Dursley Mansion, Harry?"
The blankness of the face in front of him more than told him the answer.
"You didn't cover even a half of it, did you?"
No answer came yet again, Harry only cradled his broken arm close to his chest.
"What am I going to do with you?"
By then Severus knew better than to expect an answer.
So... uhm... sorry?
I in fact can't even begin to say just how SORRY I am for not having uploaded this story in more than HALF A YEAR, I truly am sorry beyond words... (at least the chapter is a bit longer than usual)
That aside I am planning to publish a NEW STORY on my B-Day, as usual. I have a few storylines prepared: about ten different stories for Drarry and Snarry, one for TMRHP and others which are not yet set on pairings (and I even have one for SSHPDM, he he). Is it safe to assume that you'd want another Snarry? Or would you rather I venture into the other pairings now? (especially as I DO have two ongoing Snarrys now)
It's too late to set up a POLL, so... opinions? o(O.O)o
I love you all so much for putting up with me.. \(QnQ)/
See ya~ ( "-.-)/