Beta'd by Emerald Ashes
He was standing in the kitchen, struggling to reach the too high stove. He knew that, if he dropped the heavy iron pan, the bacon would spill, and, then Aunt Petunia would be angry. The grease in the skillet popped and sizzled, burning his hand as it splashed up.
"Don't burn Duddies bacon, boy! How many times do I have to tell you?!" screeched Aunt Petunia.
"I'm trying," Harry muttered, but the stove kept growing taller and taller. Desperately, he attempted to save the frying pan. It had slipped out of his grasp, spitting down at him from the towering stovetop. If he could just jump a little higher . . . A hand grab him by the scruff of the neck, spinning him around to meet Uncle Vernon's purple face.
"You worthless . . . abnormal . . . freak!" With each word, Uncle Vernon violently shook Harry. Harry tried to explain that he was making breakfast, and that it would be done already if he could just see the stove. But Uncle Vernon wasn't listening. Instead, he was dragging Harry out of the kitchen and into the hall.
"I'll be good. I promise! Please, no, please!" Harry begged, tears streaming down his face. He didn't want to go back into the cupboard. Fear gripped his insides. Something was in the cupboard, something with terrifying, red eyes. Uncle Vernon, ignoring his cries, pulled the cupboard door open and thrust him inside.
"Only place for freaks like you!" Harry heard him snarl as the door slammed shut. Suddenly, the floor beneath him vanished and Harry was falling down, down, down. He landed in front of a mirror, and a two-faced man with a high, cold voice and horrifying red eyes stood over him.
"Kill him! Kill him!" screamed the red-eyed face.
Hands were around his throat. Harry struggled wildly.
"Potter, Potter, HARRY!"
Harry sat up with a jolt, gasping for breath and covered in sweat. For a moment, all he was aware of was his ragged breathing; then, he noticed the hands on his shoulders.
"Breathe, Potter. You are perfectly safe, even from me" came Snape's dry voice. Looking up into Snape's face, Harry almost thought he saw concern in his professor's dark gaze.
It was a few minutes before Harry regained control of his breathing. The hand Snape left on his shoulder was oddly comforting, giving Harry something to focus on other than his horrible relatives and the events of last year.
"Do you often have such violent dreams, Potter?" Snape asked when Harry had finally calmed down enough to speak.
Harry hesitated, but, he supposed it couldn't hurt to tell Snape. After all, the man had woken him up instead of leaving him trapped in the nightmare.
"Sometimes," Harry told his professor quietly.
"Sometimes? Perhaps you could be a bit more specific, Mr. Potter."
Harry shrugged. "Once or twice a week."
Snape sighed. "I see"
An awkward silence fell as Harry fidgeted with the blanket across his lap. What was Snape doing at his bedside, anyways? It made Harry nervous that Snape had been watching him sleep.
"When can I leave the Hospital Wing, Professor?" Harry finally asked.
"As soon as Madame Pomfrey deems you well enough to attend class." Some of the old snark had returned in to Snape's voice.
"But I feel fine, sir."
"Do not argue, Potter! You'll leave when Madame Pomfrey says you can."
Snape turned on his heels, robe billowing out behind him. He had almost reached the door when he stopped again.
"Potter . . . don't forget your detentions, and be sure to bring your books."
Harry gaped at him. A part of him was relieved Snape didn't mention the Dursley's, but, on the other hand, it was a bitter reminder that adults were unreliable.
In the end, Madame Pomfrey released him from the Hospital Wing right before breakfast; however, that didn't brighten Harry's day.
"You're banned from Quidditch until you get your weight up to normal."
"But, Madam Pomfrey . . ." Harry moaned.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, but, it's really not healthy for you to play at your current weight. Goodness knows, I'm surprised you haven't been blown off your broom!"
Harry scowled at her, wishing he had Snape's ability to glare anyone into submission. Then again, that hadn't worked very well on Madame Pomfrey for him, either.
Just as she hadn't been fazed by Snape's glare, Madame Pomfrey wasn't impressed with Harry's.
"Don't give me that look, Mr. Potter. I assure you, it's for your own good, and, if you eat properly at every meal, you'll be back up playing dangerous sports in no time."
Yeah, right, given how touchy his stomach had become, that was never going to happen. Not that Harry intended to tell her that. If he did, he'd never get out of here.
"Is that all, Madame Pomfrey? Can I go now?" Harry asked instead. He was anxious to leave the Hospital Wing before people started asking more questions. Unfortunately, Madame Pomfrey caught his arm before he could make a run for it.
"Wait a moment, Harry,"
Harry turned and looked at her, exasperated.
"One last thing, Professor Snape and I have left the Notice-Me-Not spell, but, Harry, I would encourage you to come talk to one of the teachers or myself. We're here to help you." Madame Pomfrey had an imploring, almost pitying, look in her eyes.
Harry barely contained a snort of disbelief. "I'll keep that in mind. Can I go now?"
Madame Pomfrey sighed. "Oh, all right."
Harry didn't waste any time. He practically sprinted for the door to escape the Hospital Wing. He only slowed down when he arrived at the Great Hall. Looking around, Harry spotted Ron and Hermione.
"Where have you been?! Ron said you never came to bed, last night!" asked Hermione as he slid into the seat between his two friends.
"Later," Harry muttered. He could see Neville and Dean watching them curiously from across the table.
Harry had no desire to explain his trip to the Hospital Wing to anyone – not even Ron and Hermione. Especially not Ron and Hermione. If he told them, it would lead to questions he couldn't answer without outright lying. And, if he was honest, their reactions would be worse than if he told them the Dursleys wouldn't let him do homework. Hermione would most certainly go to McGonagall, and Ron, well, Harry wasn't sure what Ron would do. More than that, a part of Harry was desperately afraid that, if he told Ron and Hermione, they would no longer be friends with him.
He'd seen it happen to a kid in primary school. The boy was removed from his family for "suspicious" reasons, according to Aunt Petunia when Harry overheard her warning Dudley to stay away from such "bad influences." Of course, she'd looked directly at Harry when she said it.
In an effort to ignore the curious and slightly worried glances of his friends, Harry focused on his plate. His stomach gave an awful turn. He was so stressed over the whole incident with Snape that he didn't think he could stomach the dry toast he'd placed on it.
Wood was going to kill him when he found out Harry was no longer allowed to play Quidditch. Lately, Hogwarts wasn't the sanctuary it had been. Harry felt as if he was under constant pressure to be something he wasn't. People expected him to be like his parents – brilliant at school like his mum, or great at Quidditch and a trouble maker like his dad. But nobody seemed to understand that it was really difficult to be like someone you couldn't remember. More than anything, Harry just wanted to be himself.
With a heavy heart, Harry attempted to choke down some of the toast, only managing a few bits before he felt fuller than ever.
Thankfully, the day only consisted of charms and DADA. Ever since the disaster with the Pixies, Lockheart had limited himself to acting out scenes from his books. Sadly, this meant that Harry was often called upon to play a part. It was utterly humiliating.
By the time Harry's detention rolled around, he had successfully managed to avoid telling Ron and Hermione about the Hospital Wing, though not for lack of trying on his friend's part.
So, claiming Snape wanted him there early, Harry shoved his books into his bag and bolted from the common before Hermione could start in on it.
"Harry, wait up."
Looking back, Harry saw Ron jogging after him. Reluctantly, he slowed down to allow his friend to catch up.
"Look," Ron began once he was level with Harry, "I know something going on with you."
"I . . ." started Harry, but Ron held up his hand.
"Just listen to me for a sec."
Swallowing, Harry nodded.
"Hermione and I know something bother you, Harry. You've been all out of sorts since, well, since we met at the train station, and, Harry, we're worried about you, mate."
Harry shifted uncomfortably. He knew what Ron was asking him; he just wasn't sure if he'd ever be ready to confide in his friends.
"I don't know if I can talk about it," he whispered.
Ron patted him on the shoulder.
"Then just know we're here for you, mate, whenever you're ready."
Harry felt his throat tighten at Ron's words, and his eyes burned strangely, yet, at the same time, a warm, happy feeling was rising in the pit of his stomach. Harry couldn't remember the last time he'd felt like crying. He'd learned early in life that tears didn't make anything better for people like him. When Dudley cried, he got whatever he wanted. When Harry cried, all he got was a swift, hard cuff to the back of the head along with a sharp, "Shut up, boy!"
Harry hadn't cried since he was five-years-old. At first, it was in the hopes that his Aunt and Uncle would see that he wasn't a "wishy-washy freak". Soon, his dry eyes were instead out of spite because Harry refused to give his relatives the satisfaction of knowing they'd hurt him.
It took some effort to shove back the long forgotten sensation of tears, now. How pathetic it would look if Harry started crying like a baby over something so sentimental. He would never live it down. Once Harry was sure he could speak without his voice giving away his emotional state, he mustered a smile and said, "Thanks, Ron."
Ron grinned at him. "No problem, mate, and you'd better get to detention before Snape decides to assign you more."
"Enter," Severus called at the timid knock on his office door. Potter shuffled inside, clutching his bag, the very picture of nervousness.
The sight of him brought up the issue Severus had been fighting with since discovering the almost certain abuse the child suffered from. It had taken a while to convince Madame Pomfrey not to go straight to Professor Dumbledore. The problem was that they lacked definite proof, at least until Potter admitted to the abuse or someone witnessed it. The headmaster and older teachers meant well. They truly did care for the students, but, the problem was that Wizarding society tended to be very far behind the Muggle world in terms of progressive thinking.
Since Wizards lived such long lives, older wizard such as Professor Dumbledore, just didn't understand the effects of abuse, or even what constituted abuse. Indeed, most couldn't conceive of abuse between blood relations. Some of the more strict purebloods even view abuse as well-deserved punishment. There were no laws in the Ministry for the protection of children, and no establishment to ensure the welfare of children that were abused or displaced. An orphaned child either went to the closest blood relative or a family friend; failing that, most ended up in Muggle orphanages.
Cases of abuse were treated as overreactions or exaggerations. What they failed to recognize was that bonds of blood didn't necessarily equate to love or even affection. Severus knew better. He was all too aware of the cruelty that could come from a family member.
Unfortunately, this meant that there was very little he or Madam Pomfrey could do for Potter. There was no guarantee that, even if Potter admitted his relatives abused him, Dumbledore would take it seriously. The headmaster valued the blood wards that protected Potter from outside dangers as of the utmost importance.
Still, the best chance Severus had of helping Potter was to get him talking about his home life. Severus had a feeling it would be easier to talk down a raging werewolf.
Well, he had to start somewhere. According to McGonagall, Potter had come to Hogwarts without any supplies or completing his summer homework. Perhaps, if he could use detention time to catch up, the boy might be more inclined to let details of his home life slip.
"Sit down, Mr. Potter. You won't be scrubbing today."
Potter sat down, still looking nervous, and did not pull out his books. Severus sighed. The animosity he'd fostered between himself and Potter might just prove to be too much for them to overcome. For the child's sake, he had to try.
"Did you bring your books?" Severus asked, trying to keep his impatience at Potter's lack of understanding out of his voice.
Still he did not pull out his books.
"Well? Get started then. Your head of house tells me you're very behind. Surely you have work?" The sharp quality in Severus's voice made Potter jump and Severus cursed. This was not going well.
Potter quickly pulled out his books and started on a partly-finished essay. Looking at it from over his desk, Severus hoped it wasn't the one he'd set for potions. He wouldn't be able to read it.
Then again, Potter could barely see, given his appalling glasses. It was a true testament to his skill as a Seeker that the boy managed to find the Snitch at all.
"Potter, come here." The boy jumped again, nearly upsetting his ink bottle. Did he really inspire such fear in the child? It didn't bode well, if that was the case. Obediently, Potter came to stand in front of his desk.
"May I see your glasses?"
Potter stared at him, then slowly took off the spectacles and handed them over. Severus studied them for a few seconds. It was clear that the glasses were reaching the end of their life. He could see several loose screws, numerous scratches on the lenses and, when he tapped them with his wand to place a temporary enhancement charm on them, nothing happened. Severus frowned, certain that he'd done the charm correctly.
"How often do you repair these, Potter?"
Potter shrugged. "Sometimes once a month, if the screws fall out. More during the Quidditch season."
"These are next to useless, Mr. Potter. You require new ones."
The boy swallowed. "I . . . Aunt Petunia . . ."
The distress on the child's face was horrible. Without the glasses to obscure his brilliant green eyes, Severus was forced to face them head on.
"Do not be concerned, Potter. I'm sure something can be arranged."
"B-but, sir! Those have been fine, and-and my relatives, they won't like it."
"And why won't they like it, Mr. Potter? It is appallingly obvious that you are in need of a new pair of glasses, immediately, and besides, Wizarding methods of improving eye sight are much more effective than Muggle."
Potter bit his lip, twisting his hands together nervously. It was obvious Potter was trying to come up with the correct words to salvage the situation.
Finally, he said, "I can't get new glasses now, anyways, sir. I don't know where I would get them."
"Do not concern yourself with that. I will make the necessary arrangements by tomorrow."
Potter gaped at him. When he had regained some of his composure, the boy asked, "Why?"
Ignoring the lack of "sir," Severus sat back in his chair, examining Potter with a critical eye before answering.
"Because no child should be without proper necessities and," – a smirk came over the Potion's Master's face – "because I hope to see an improvement in the legibility of your essays."
Comprehension dawned on Potter's face. "I'm not sure new glasses would fix that, sir. I've never been able to figure out how to use the quills without getting ink everywhere."
The smirk slid off of Severus's face. He hadn't considered the difficulties Muggleborn students must have when they came to Hogwarts without even the rudimentary skills of using a quill. Now that he thought about it, with the exception of Granger, the essays with the absolute worst handwriting usually came from Muggleborns.
"Did no one teach you the proper way to use a quill, during your first year?"
Potter shrugged. "Ron tried to show me how, but he's really not the greatest of teachers, and Hermione's a bit too bossy," he said, blushing slightly.
Severus fought down an amused chuckle. With a slight flick of his wand, a chair flew over to where Potter was standing.
"Sit down, Potter. At the very least, I can remedy your abysmal penmanship."
Maybe Severus just imagined it, but he could have sworn he saw a slight smile blossom on Harry's face.
*collapses from exhaustion and aching wrists* Haha! Look! Almost 3,000 words! It's a miracle! Of course this long of a chapter probably won't happen too often I'm afraid. Snow days really helped out to give me time to type and I don't think I'll have many more of those. Anyway thank you so much for all the reviews! Over a hundred already! I couldn't believe it when I saw that.
Now I want to put in a few explanations for why Severus could see through the notice-me-not-spell. He actually couldn't at first he only started being able to see through the spell when Harry collapsed in detention because his magic briefly stopped powering the spell. Because the spell isn't a full glamor spell once you've seen past it you don't notice it again. Madame Pomfrey never could see the spell, she simply trusted Severus.
One other thing, Dumbledore and McGonagall are not going to be evil, just from a very old fashioned culture.
Until next time,