A/N: Despite the long wait, here is the second installment: The Fight. This is Harry's side of all that happened. This is his journey through his depression and self-harm.
Warnings: Self-harm (cutting), mild slash HP/SS. TRIGGER CONTENT! Be aware.
This installment is set up differently from Ron's. This one starts from the end of the war and goes forward. It does not go back and forth between the present and flashbacks.
Depression and self-harm are serious issues and are not to be taken lightly. Keep this in mind but please enjoy the story.
Harry stared unblinking at the beautiful dark cherry wood casket. He didn't hear a single word anyone said. He was numb to the tears that fell down his cheeks, oblivious to the shaking of his body. His mind was in complete chaos, had been since the final battle. He felt like he was always thinking but not thinking at the same time. Any thoughts that were clear were thoughts of everything bad that had happened. He could think of nothing but the deaths of almost everyone he knew. He could think of nothing but the fact that he was now a murderer at only seventeen. He could think of nothing except the confusion about who he was.
He briefly heard the final 'Goodbye, Hermione Granger' and saw the crowd move with distant and absent vision. His feet moved on their own, taking him to where, he didn't know.
He automatically stopped at the call and looked blankly at Ron as Ron stood in front of him. Ron's eyes and face were red and his cheeks streaked with tear tracks. Harry absently wondered if he looked the same way.
"You ready to go? Mum's waiting if you are," Ron said.
Right. He was going to stay at the Burrow. He didn't know if he wanted to but he didn't have much of a choice. He didn't know if he wanted to be around the Weasleys but he knew they wanted him around. Well, he thought they did. He wasn't sure about anything anymore, nothing except his pain and absolute sadness.
"Yeah, let's go," Harry said and followed Ron through the masses of people. He could hear the people talking and could hear so many crying. He wondered if he was still crying. He couldn't tell. He couldn't feel it. He knew he wanted to cry. He wanted to crawl into bed and cry for eternity.
"Come on, Harry, dear," Molly Weasley said, her voice sounding far away. "Let's get you home."
He was aware of the Side-Apparation and was nearly sick when the transportation stopped. Mrs. Weasley kept hold of him and helped him into the house. He was brought up to Percy's bedroom.
It didn't last long. He threw a fit the minute he realized whose room it was. They moved him to Bill's old room instead. He was okay with that. He hadn't gotten Bill killed.
He kicked off his shoes, pulled off his tie, and removed his jacket. He crawled into the bed and didn't move, keeping his back to the door. He stared unseeingly at the wall even as his eyes began to burn from the lack of blinking.
He didn't want to close his eyes, not even for the millisecond that was blinking. He saw nothing but the bodies and the blood and the death. He was not allowed the luxury of sleep when so many would never again wake up.
The single blink that happened was an involuntary action. The single blink took him away to an unconsciousness filled with pain.
He was eighteen now. It didn't mean much. It was just a number. It was an age dozens of people would never reach, a birthday they wouldn't see because of him.
He was lying in bed, his suit still on. He had only kicked off his shoes. He didn't move. He didn't want to. He stared at the wall, his back to the door. He ignored the various knocks on and the calls through the door.
He wasn't allowed the luxury of food when so many would never again taste a Hogwarts feast.
He wasn't allowed the luxury of friends when all his friends were dead, condemned to being murdered by him.
Harry blinked slowly, involuntarily. The faces of the Death Eaters had joined the images of bodies and death. In the dark, he could see what he had done. He had murdered almost everyone he knew. He had murdered a man without thought. He had now helped condemn countless people to Azkaban sentences, the St. Mungo's psych ward, and the Dementor's Kiss. He had only helped release three. The others he had killed.
He didn't even hear Ron's call. The tears burned his eyes, staining his cheeks in their fall. His mind raced, running in never-ending circles though it always returned to the same fact.
He was a murderer.
Harry sat in the sitting room. He was alone, physically. He always had his thoughts and memories for company. He couldn't remember where the Weasleys had gone, only that they would be gone for a while.
He stared at the flickering red coals. He was alone. That was best. He wasn't allowed to have company. He didn't deserve it. He was the one that should be in Azkaban.
He wondered what it would be like to be there. He knew you could only remember the most horrible experiences due to the Dementors. Would that affect him? He didn't appear to really feel anything. Nothing but sadness and guilt and hopelessness. If he already felt all that Dementors were supposed to bring out, would they affect him?
Faces flashed before his eyes, followed up by their dead bodies. This was a common occurrence. It was his punishment for what he had done. He would forever relive his actions.
He shivered unconsciously. He didn't notice when he did it anymore. He was always cold. Even now, sitting in front of a fire, he was cold, the heat of the flames not reaching him. He only wore heavy sweaters and pajama pants. He couldn't remember the last time he had dressed in anything else since the Death Eater trials.
His eyes fell down to the coffee table. He stared at the small carving knife that lay there, its blade glinting at him, urging him to give in. Hermione's smiling face morphed into the pale, bloody face he had found on the battle field. The dead eyes burned through him and his tears fell. He still couldn't believe she was dead but it shouldn't be a surprise, should it? She was his friend which meant she was going to die. All his friends had. He could count on one hand how many had lived. Were they really living though? Most of them had lost everything because of him so maybe he had killed them as well.
The metal blade glinted again. He hadn't thought it was possible to feel such pain but be numb at the same time. He was hollow but filled with excruciating pain that just wouldn't abate. He couldn't get away from the pain and the pain made sure nothing else mattered.
The knife was in his hand and he was slowly turning it over and over. He didn't really know why he had the knife but just holding it was giving him an odd feeling, almost a feeling of relief. He didn't understand but he didn't release the knife. Instead he gripped the handle a bit tighter and the blade was now sitting on his left forearm. He didn't know what he was doing or why, but it happened. The blade pushed and slid across the skin, leaving behind a line of red.
He watched, transfixed, as the blood slowly trickled out of the cut. The knife moved again and repeated the action, creating another cut just next to the first. The blood from both cuts flowed together and down his arm. The flow was joined by more blood when he made a third and fourth cut.
He stared at the cuts for a long time, unaware of the tears on his face. He barely noticed when the knife switched hands but he watched as four cuts appeared on his right forearm, mirroring his other. The knife fell to the floor but Harry just gazed at his arms.
In the back of his mind, he knew what he had done and what he was now seeing was wrong but that thought was not strong enough to make too much of an impact in the moment. He didn't know how long he sat on the sofa just staring at his bloody arms but he soon realized he was sobbing. That thought about the situation being wrong returned, this time louder. He stumbled to his feet and shuffled over to the fireplace, grasping almost blindly at the mantle for the pot of Floo Powder.
He winced when he knocked it off the mantle and it crashed to the floor. He didn't care though. He just sat on the floor, grabbing a handful of the powder, and tossed it into the fireplace. He closed his eyes and choked on a sob when he realized he had no idea where the man was. He had no idea how to even find him.
In desperation, he said the name. "Severus Snape." He hoped he had said it loud enough because, to him, it didn't seem as though he had spoken louder than a whisper.
It was only seconds that passed but it seemed like much longer. It felt like he waited for hours, painful hours.
The voice that came from the fireplace reached Harry's ears and he looked into the fire. He really couldn't see much through his eyes blurred with tears but he knew the voice.
"Snape," he choked out, his voice quiet from disuse.
"Potter? Why on earth are you calling me?" Snape asked.
Harry managed to see the moment that Snape's face appeared in the fire. That explained why he hadn't really been able to see anything in the fire before.
He couldn't answer for several moments but he eventually forced the words out while holding up one arm.
"I need help."
"I killed them all," Harry whispered several hours later. He was lying in a bed in Snape's house in Spinner's End. His arms were wrapped in white bandages and he hadn't moved since Snape had appeared in the Burrow. Snape hadn't asked questions but had just quickly acted, healing the cuts and wrapping them. He had cleaned the spilt blood and then brought Harry to his home, leaving a note for the Weasleys.
"Maybe you did or maybe they would have died even if they had never even known of your existence," Snape said. "Suppose we'll just never know."
"They fought for me. They died for me."
"They fought for our world, like you. They died to protect our world, like you."
"But I came back."
"We do not all get that choice."
Harry was quiet for a long while. "We should," he whispered and a single tear ran down his cheek.
"Potter, you have to tell them," Snape said.
"I can't," Harry muttered. "They won't want me to leave."
"But you want to."
Harry nodded miserably.
"Then leave but you must tell them."
"What if they ask why?"
"Potter, you tell the truth. Say you want to live on your own. You want and need some time and space."
"They'll know something's wrong," Harry said quietly, grasping his forearms. "What if they find out?"
Snape's eyes narrowed. "Have you—?"
Harry shook his head. "It's been a couple of days."
"Good. Now go and tell them."
"No. Go, Potter."
Harry gave him a pained look but slowly dragged himself to the fireplace. He took some Floo Powder and tossed it into the fire. He swallowed thickly and said, "The Burrow." He stepped into the flames and was taken away to the Burrow.
When the spinning stopped and he was in the sitting room of the Burrow, Harry's mind raced. What was he supposed to say? How could he tell them? They would want to know why he was leaving and surely they would notice that something was wrong.
Well, they hadn't noticed anything for the past month though there had been close calls. He just couldn't help it. He knew it was wrong but it helped. He had to do it. It made everything seem bearable. He unconsciously rubbed his arms again. He had been fighting against it for the last forty-eight hours. He wasn't sure how much longer he could hold out.
"Harry, you're back."
He looked up at Ginny and swallowed thickly again. They would all be so angry with him. Ginny was already angry. She was waiting for them to get back together but he didn't know. He didn't know if he wanted to get back together. He was confused about things. He wasn't ready but she had been waiting.
You didn't ask her to, a quiet voice said that sounded like Snape. Ever since that first day he had had a voice that sounded like Snape in his head.
"Where have you been going? You're never here," Ginny said, crossing her arms.
"Sorry," Harry said quietly.
"What is going on with you?"
"You're acting weird," Ginny said.
Ginny made an annoyed sound and stalked out of the room. Harry watched her go, feeling his chest tighten with guilt which only made him clutch his arms tighter as the urge grew.
"Oh, Harry," Molly said, entering the sitting room. "Ginny told me you were here. Would you like some lunch?"
Harry swallowed painfully. He shook his head. "No, thank you," he said. "I-I have to tell you something."
"What is it, dear?"
Harry couldn't meet her eyes. He gripped his arms so tight he was sure he was cutting off the circulation. He couldn't do this. He couldn't hurt this woman more than he already had. And surely she would figure out what he was doing to himself. When she did, they would all see what a weak freak he was. He felt tears burn his eyes but he fought to keep them hidden.
He found himself flinching at her voice and he hunched in on himself.
"I-I—" He swallowed again. "I'm moving out," he said quickly and quietly.
"Where are you going to live, dear?" Molly asked.
"Grimmauld Place. I'm fixing it," Harry said.
He heard Molly sigh and felt the tears threaten again.
"Well, I suppose I should have expected this," Molly said. "It is not surprising you would want to be on your own now."
"I'm sorry," Harry muttered.
"Nothing to apologize for, my dear," Molly said. "You are growing up and you have been through a lot."
"'M really sorry," Harry said even as Molly shook her head with a small smile and placed her hands on Harry's shoulders. Either she didn't notice the way he tensed and flinched or she chose to ignore it.
"Do not apologize, Harry," she said. "You are an adult and you need time to get through everything that has happened. Just know that you can always come back if you need to and you can visit at any time. Everyone deals with grief and trauma differently. Some need to be surrounded by family and some need to be alone."
And some have to mutilate themselves, Harry thought bitterly, trailing his hand down his left arm.
"Thank you for letting me stay here," Harry said.
Molly smiled again. "You are as much my son as the others. You have a home here. You have a family here. Remember that."
Harry tried to smile, he really did. Instead he just gave a tiny nod and said, "I will."
Harry sobbed as he collapsed to the floor, his arms red and the puddle growing around him. He knew it hurt and he knew it was wrong, but he just didn't care. His thoughts and memories were far more painful. The blood pooled around him as he watched it leave his arms, but he just couldn't make himself do anything about it. Why should he? Why should he get a reprieve from pain and a chance at a happy holiday, a happy life when no one was there to join him?
He looked up through his teary eyes at Severus who was looking back at him calmly before moving to his side.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, his breath hitching.
Severus shook his head. "I expected it. It is the first Christmas."
"But-but I failed," Harry said and sniffed as Severus cleaned up his wounds, healed them, and then wrapped them. "You-you said I have to stop doing-doing this."
"I did," Severus agreed, "but you will not be able to stop in a day just because I said you must stop. You must realize that this will take time. We have been working on your health, on this, for nearly four months now. You have been doing well but do not think me disappointed when you slip."
More tears left Harry's eyes. "It's just hard. I forgot about what it would be like at Christmas."
"There are many more firsts to get through and they will all be hard," Severus said. "Try to come to me when you feel the need to harm yourself. I can help you deal with the memories and the pain and the urges."
Harry pulled his now bandaged arms close and wrapped them around himself. "I'll try."
Severus' lips tilted into a small smile. "Very good. Now let's get you into bed. I think today would be best spent resting."
"To fallen friends and family who will never be forgotten."
"To one year later," Harry mumbled as he turned the small knife over in his fingers. "I think this has been the hardest year of my life. I think it was easier when Voldemort was still alive."
"When he was still alive or when your friends were?" Severus said softly as he watched the young man across from him. He was ready to act should Harry make any motion towards hurting himself. He knew he should just take the knife from Harry but he also know that Harry was trying to prove to himself that he could resist the need to cut.
Harry shrugged one shoulder. "Maybe both."
"Why was it easier?"
Harry shrugged again. "I knew what I was supposed to do. I had a purpose each day. Now I have nothing. I have nothing I have to do, I don't know who I'm supposed to be anymore."
"You are supposed to be you, just Harry Potter," Severus said. "You are not meant to be anything special, just a young man that survived a war and is now free to live a stolen life. As for what you are supposed to do." Severus paused. "You don't have to do anything. You can do whatever you want even if it means never leaving this house and never speaking to another living soul."
Harry's lips twitched but never made it into a smile.
"That might not be a good idea," Harry said. "I tend to get into trouble when left to my own devices."
"Trust me, I remember," Severus said and he knew if Harry was well he would've laughed.
Harry gripped the knife. "I still really want to."
"I know," Severus said. "The question is do you think you can walk away?"
"I want to," Harry said, his voice falling to a whisper as he continued to turn the knife over. Severus remained silent and watched as several minutes later Harry let the knife settle on the table and pulled his hand into his lap.
Severus couldn't stop the smile the appeared on his face as he reached out and took the knife out of reach. "Well done."
"I just wish that meant I was better," Harry said.
"I know," Severus said, "but it does mean you're healing."
Harry nodded. "Thank you."
"Please let go," Harry said quietly as he cringed away from Ginny's embrace. He wanted to just shove her away but he knew it wouldn't be taken well and he didn't want to be mean. He just couldn't handle the touch. He could barely take Severus' touch and Severus was the man helping him get through his problem. He dropped his eyes to the floor when Ginny pulled back and frowned at him.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
What could he say to that? He couldn't say the truth, that would involve revealing, well, everything and he wasn't ready for that. He wasn't sure he ever would be. "I don't really like to be touched right now," he finally said. It wasn't technically a lie. He just wasn't telling the entire truth.
"Is everything all right, dear?" Molly asked and he winced. Of course they would wonder why he didn't want to be touched. Now what was he supposed to say?
"I'm fine," he said. "Just been having some nightmares. Been a little jumpy." Again, it wasn't technically a lie. He did have nightmares. They just weren't the main reason he was jumpy and had an aversion to touch.
He sighed mentally in relief when Molly just nodded and said, "Understandable, dear."
But, of course, things were rarely that easy. It's why he was in the current position, wasn't it?
"It is not!" Ginny had growled angrily, glaring at Harry. "I'm supposed to be able to touch my boyfriend."
Harry blinked. "I'm not your boyfriend," he said.
"No, I'm not."
Ginny huffed. "Well, if you would finally ask me out again."
Harry looked at her. Was that what he wanted? To be with her? "I won't," he found himself saying. "I don't want to be with you anymore. It's not what I want."
"And what about what I want? I waited all this time," Ginny said angrily.
"I didn't ask you to," Harry said and he hadn't. Despite the fact that his guilt over making Ginny wait was one of the many factors in his self-harm, he had never asked her to wait for him. She had made that decision herself even though he had never given any type of promise or anything that they would get back together when the war was over.
He glanced at her again and winced once more at her enraged expression. He very nearly expected her to slap him.
"Why don't you want to be with me? The real reason," she snapped. "Is there someone else?"
His mind flashed to Severus. Was there someone else? Even if there was, he knew he wasn't ready for a relationship. He had far too many issues to deal with. How could he care about someone else when he couldn't even care about himself?
"Not really," he said quietly.
"What does that mean?" Ginny said. "Who is she?"
"No one," he said. "Please leave it. I'm sorry."
Ginny scoffed hatefully. "I think it's time you got over yourself and the war."
Harry flinched and took a step back as though she had actually hit him. "I'm trying," he whispered and he wasn't even sure anyone had heard him. Wasn't it obvious that he was trying to move on? Wasn't it clear that he desperately wanted to? What he wouldn't give to be able to even think about the war without wanting to dissolve into tears and mutilate himself. "I'm sorry," he said again, rubbing his forearms absently. "I'm sorry," he said and fled. He couldn't stay there. He couldn't face them. He couldn't inflict his damaged self onto them when they were so clearly healing from their own war experiences. The moment he was outside the wards, he Disapparated back to Grimmauld Place.
It was yet another night where he lost the fight with himself and only went to find Severus once he was a sobbing mess and dripping with his own blood.
"I can't," Harry murmured as he stared at the Burrow.
"You can," Severus said. "You have been doing well lately. I know this will be hard but I am here with you. Remember that."
Harry swallowed thickly and rubbed his covered arms once again. He nodded stiffly and Severus slowly led him towards the tilted house with a hand on the younger man's lower back. He knocked on the door when Harry made no move to and was careful not to be too far away when Harry was surrounded by Weasleys. A few of the guests looked at Severus curiously, wondering about his presence but said nothing as they greeted a skittish and quiet Harry.
Harry was eventually herded into the sitting room where he took a seat on the far end of the sofa. He watched as Severus settled into a shadowy corner that was near his position on the sofa. He curled up on the sofa and wrapped his arms around himself. He didn't want to be here. Surely one of the many guests would notice that something was wrong with him. He didn't exactly act the way he used to. Besides how was he supposed to deal with Christmas and his latest revelation at the same time? He clutched at his forearms, wishing he was alone and had some kind of blade. The thought scared him but he also reveled in it.
No one was talking to him but he saw and could feel them looking at him. Did they know something was wrong but were too scared to say anything? Did they think if they addressed his problems that he would go off right there and cut himself? Did they think he was seconds away from committing suicide?
Severus' words reached him easily though he was sure he was the only one capable of hearing them. He wasn't aware of anyone approaching him and so he flinched and hunched over when Ron was suddenly on the sofa next to him. He wrapped his arms tightly around himself and kept his eyes on the worn carpet, unconsciously leaning away and towards Severus.
"What's up, mate?"
"Nothing," he said quietly.
"Mum said you asked for Snape to come. Why would you want the bastard here?"
Harry swallowed thickly and once again moved his arms so he was grasping his forearms instead of his torso. He leaned further away from Ron, further from the potential anger and disgust, closer to Severus.
"We've been talking on occasion," Harry said. "I thought it would be nice to include him."
"But no one wants him here. No one even likes him," Ron said.
"I do," Harry said and cringed at the incredulous look he knew he was receiving. "He's been…helping me."
"How could he ever help you? He hates you," Ron scoffed hatefully.
Harry swallowed again and gripped his arms tighter. He didn't want to have this conversation. He wasn't ready. Everyone would find out about everything and they couldn't know. They couldn't!
"Not anymore. I don't think," Harry said quietly. "He's just helping me deal with some stuff." Vague, he could do that, it could work.
"What can he help with that I can't? I'm your best friend," Ron said.
Harry shrugged. "Just stuff."
"Personal stuff," Harry muttered reluctantly.
"We share everything, mate, why won't you tell me?"
Harry trembled. Why was Ron pushing? Why was Ron continuing to ask questions? Ron was always one to let things go. But he wasn't.
"Because you won't understand," Harry breathed and knew immediately it was the wrong thing to say. It only incited Ron further.
"Understand what? Look, if this is about this girl of yours that is stopping you from being with Ginny, maybe you should just end it. You don't seem as happy as you were with Ginny," Ron said.
I was never happy with Ginny. I never would've been. I can't be. I'm not happy. I'm never happy. I might never be happy again.
"I wasn't with Ginny long enough to be happy, Ron, and there's no girl," Harry said, wishing with all he had that Ron would stop. He held his arms so tight he was sure he was cutting off the blood flow and his fingers had gone numb with the force of his grip. It was getting harder, it was so hard. It was all he could think about. He had to do it. He had to, he couldn't ignore it.
He had to…it would help…he had to…he deserved it…
"Then why won't you date my sister?" Ron said.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no…
"I don't want to. She's not what or who I want." The words were leaving his mouth without his knowledge.
"Then what the hell do you want?" Ron snapped.
Harry flinched at the anger. He couldn't answer. He couldn't tell. His fingernails were digging through his bulky sweater and digging into his arms. His arms were feeling tingly from the lack of circulation.
"Ron, you don't—"
"Don't what? Understand? Then help me."
No, no, no…
His voice was so quiet even Harry himself had barely heard the solitary word. He felt his ribs stinging at how hard he was pushing against the arm of the sofa, at how he was bending over the arm of the sofa. He was curled up as much as he could be without being in a ball.
This couldn't be happening.
"You're—no, no that can't be right," Ron said as he shook his head. "You're having me on."
Harry's face was twisted in agony. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
Ron's mouth turned into a frown. "You're-you're gay?"
Harry nodded brokenly, trying not to show that he was aware the entire house was silent and everyone was staring at him.
"But it's wrong," Ron said.
At the words, Harry flinched so violently it was painful. His hand muscles tensed and he felt his nails break the skin on his arms.
"No, I'm sorry," Ron said and Harry watched him get to his feet. He could feel his heart pounding hard as Ron backed away. "I'm sorry for ever being around someone like you. This is just wrong."
When Ron disappeared from the room, everything flew out of focus for Harry. Any sounds were blocked by the feeling and sound of water rushing into his ears. His vision blurred from the pools of tears. His entire body went cold, his heart stopped. He was numb to the gentle hands that pulled him to his feet and from the house. He wasn't aware of the Apparation that took place and wasn't aware that he tore away from his helper. He wasn't aware of anything that happened for the rest of the night.
He wasn't aware of anything until the next morning when he woke up in his bed, his forearms wrapped, and Severus sitting next to his bed.
It had been months, almost a year. He hadn't seen or heard from Ron since last Christmas aside from the fight Ron had had with Severus. He supposed it was a good thing. Ron had realized what a damaged freak he was and it would be easier to hide his...condition from people who weren't around.
Harry rolled over in bed, ending up on his side and facing the wall. He had one of his arms lying in front of him with his sweater sleeve rolled up. The fingers of his other hand were slowly tracing the scars that littered the skin. He sighed as he stared at the offending marks. He knew what he was doing to himself was wrong but he couldn't bring himself to care. Why should he care about himself when no one else did? No one ever had except for maybe Hermione but Hermione was dead. She had been dead for over a year now. While he had turned nineteen, she would forever remain seventeen.
So he stood by his previous statement. Why should he care about himself when no one else did?
He briefly looked up at his doorway where Severus was entering. He was holding a tray that had a small bowl, a plate with two pieces of toast, and a small glass of milk. He turned his head away and returned to gazing at his arm.
"I'm not hungry," he muttered.
"And you know that has no bearing on whether you will eat or not," Severus said, walking over to the side of the bed and sitting down, the tray on his lap.
Harry sighed and rolled onto his back, carefully pushing himself up until he was sitting. Severus slid the tray over his lap and pushed it closer for him to eat. It was a small meal, just a bowl of soup. Severus always seemed to know how much he could handle and what type of food was best at the time. He took a breath and began to eat slowly. Severus left after he was sure Harry would continue to eat and Harry found he missed the man's presence.
It was a ridiculous thought. He was with the man nearly constantly and it wasn't as though the man could possibly enjoy his company. He still wasn't sure why Severus was still there or why Severus had moved into Grimmauld Place with him. Surely Severus had had a life before Harry had barged in with his pathetic little problems. Why had he ever called Severus in the first place? Since when did he ask for help? He had always managed everything on his own, taken care of himself so what had changed?
You wanted help. You wanted someone to care.
But Severus didn't care. He was there out of obligation or duty or some such thing. He didn't care what happened to Harry Potter. He just wanted to make sure Harry didn't do something stupid like he always did during school. Besides, he didn't want anyone to care because people that care only hurt or get hurt. He had cared about Ron and Hermione and now he had neither of them. Hermione was dead and Ron hated him, thought he was disgusting and a freak.
Not that he didn't disagree with Ron. He was a freak and he was disgusting. He had yet to find anyone to tell him differently so it was clearly true. He got people killed and had no right to be around anyone. He was good for nothing, his purpose fulfilled. He was only pulling people down and holding them back from their lives. Ginny had been waiting to have him as a boyfriend for a few years now and he had only led her on, kept her from her life. Severus was finally free from all that had held him prisoner during the war and before it and now he was trapped in Grimmauld Place saving Harry from himself.
He pushed the tray away, ignoring the soup that spilt over the side of the bowl and onto his bed. He threw his blankets aside but his foot got caught and he went crashing to the floor. His flailing hand knocked a book off his bedside table. He groaned and began to get back to his feet. However the upset book was open and the pictures within caught his eye.
He felt himself freeze and his heart shattered. He hadn't opened his photo album since before the final battle. Now he couldn't turn away. Ron and Hermione smiled up at him, waving and hugging each other. Hermione blew a kiss at the camera while Ron laughed happily. On the page next to it, the Weasley family smiled and waved. Percy stood stiff next to his family but his eyes were bright with love and happiness. He smiled slightly with affection as Fred or George pulled him into a headlock.
Now, he never forgot that they were all dead. How could he possibly forget that he had basically murdered everyone he once knew and called 'friend'? However, with Severus' help those thoughts had begun to occasionally drift into the background. Now, though, they were coming back in full force and he could do nothing to stop his descent into that deadly darkness that was always waiting just on the outskirts, waiting for him to fail.
He was vaguely aware of entering the bathroom and he was quite aware of the razor blade he slowly turned in his fingers. He was numb to the blade's meaning and to his intent even though he had the quietest of voices in his head telling him not to do it. The darkness was almost welcomed and easily drowned out that tiny voice.
His vision was soon filled with a deep red that flowed before his eyes like calm rivers. He felt absolutely nothing from the deep cuts that now adorned his arms and could only watch as the blood slid down his arms and dripped off his fingers.
He really didn't know that he was moving and was only slightly conscious of the fact that he was now in the bathtub. He was staring at his hand dazedly as he moved his fingers, letting the blood slide all over them before falling to the bathroom floor. He had no idea that his face was drenched with tears and he couldn't say what was happening when his head began to feel light, when his vision began to be invaded by little black dots.
His body began to tingle which he found odd. His head lolled against his shoulder as more black took place before his eyes.
He wouldn't be able to recall anything that happened after his eyes closed nor would he be able to recall when they closed.
"I hope you realize you very nearly died this time," Severus said the moment Harry woke up. Harry just opened his eyes and stared at the older man that was changing the bandaging on his arms. Severus gave a quiet sigh. "What happened?"
Harry didn't answer for a long while. "I saw them."
Severus nodded. "I saw the photo album on the floor. You know it wasn't your fault. You did not kill any of them."
Harry didn't answer.
"Mr. Weasley decided to pay a visit," Severus said, changing the subject as he moved onto Harry's other arm. Harry, who was already extremely pale, turned absolutely white. "He was the one to find you."
No, no, no...
"Harry. Harry, stop."
Severus' voice caught Harry who blinked and looked down. Apparently he didn't even need a blade anymore. He had gone after his already injured arms with his own fingernails. Severus was now holding tightly to his hands to prevent him from hurting himself.
"This is not a bad thing," Severus said. "He has not told anyone and he won't. He wishes to help you and wants you to get better."
"No one was supposed to know," Harry whispered.
"I know," Severus said gently, loosening his grip on Harry's hands until he was simply holding them in comfort. "There was always the possibility that someone would find out. Perhaps Mr. Weasley can help."
Harry shook his head, staring at their joined hands. Ever since the beginning of this whole mess, Severus had always been the only one Harry would let touch him. He knew Severus only wanted to help. The past few weeks, however, and now, the touch seemed to bring more emotions to Harry. He didn't just see or feel a man trying to help him. He saw a friend that he really liked, desperately cared for. He felt things for Severus that he had never felt for anyone else. What those things were, he had no idea.
"I don't want him to see me. He's not supposed to know."
"But he does," Severus said firmly. "He will not come here if you don't wish him to but he only wishes for you to get better."
"I can't see him," Harry said quietly, sounding frightened even to his own ears. But he was. Clearly Ron had already seen him on an extremely bad night but that didn't mean Ron had to be tortured with the sight of him even more. "I can't see him."
"That's fine," Severus said. "I'll tell him."
"I can't see him."
Severus squeezed his hands. "I'll tell him."
Harry closed his eyes and attempted to weakly squeeze Severus' hands back, ignoring the tear he felt make a track down his cheek.
Harry looked up from the blazing fire as Severus entered the room. He noticed the envelope the man carried and had a brief bout of his old curiosity. It passed quickly and he returned his gaze to the gently crackling flames.
"I'm not opening presents even if it's just a letter," Harry said. It was Christmas day but for him it was just another day. He had refused to decorate or have a tree. He had received presents from the Weasleys and some others but he had refused to open them. He just didn't feel up to celebrating Christmas. He figured it was lucky he was down in the sitting room rather than his bedroom as it was.
"You do not have to open it or read it," Severus said, sitting in a chair. "Perhaps you would like me to read it to you?"
"It is from Mr. Weasley."
"All right," Harry said eventually, curling up further on the sofa. He tugged the blanket around his legs, covering his arms once he was comfortable.
"'Hey, Harry. I know it's been a while, well, a long time. I hope you read this but if not that's okay. I'd understand you not wanting to hear from me. I'm sorry, Harry, about everything. I can't even believe I've acted the way I have, said the things I've said. I know I've always been difficult and sometimes a total prat but I think this has gone far beyond anything else. I'm also sorry for not seeing how badly you were hurting, for not seeing that you were having a harder time of the final battle. I'm sure Snape's told you that I found you yesterday. Don't be embarrassed or anything, please. I'm glad I know now. I won't tell anyone, I promise. Just, listen to Snape and get better, yeah? I'll talk to you later, I hope. Bye. Ron.'"
Harry watched Severus fold the letter back up and place it in his lap. He said nothing as he let Ron's words connect with his mind, a mind that always had a light fog over it. He let his eyes fall to the blanket that covered him and leaned his head to the side, letting it rest against the back of the sofa as he was sitting sideways.
"Harry, may I ask you something?"
Harry looked up at Severus and nodded.
"Why did you call me that day? Why didn't you call one of your friends or one of the Weasleys? You could have even called someone at Hogwarts. Why me?"
Harry's eyes fell again. "You've always helped me."
"So have your friends."
"You don't care about me."
Severus remained silent at the words.
"I need someone who doesn't care."
Harry raised his eyes to Severus', revealing the tears that had pooled there. "Because I don't care."
Harry felt his lips twitch as Severus finished reading Ron's latest letter. Apparently the twins had expanded their shop and were now considering a location for another shop. Harry was glad they were doing so well. He had always known they could be successful even though many had believed them to be wasting their time with jokes and pranks.
"I was thinking," Severus said, placing a simple peanut butter sandwich in front of Harry. "Perhaps you should write to Mr. Weasley."
Harry froze at the words but continued to eat the sandwich.
"You would not have to send it to him," Severus added. "I believe it may help you though. You have been listening to his weekly letters and I am sure you would like to reply."
Harry shrugged slightly. "Maybe."
"Think about it. You would not have to send it but I think it might help you to talk to your friend," Severus said and sighed quietly when Harry just shrugged again. "How are you feeling today?"
"It's not as bad today," Harry said, knowing the man was asking how badly he wanted to cut. Some days were better than others and the urge wasn't the loudest thought in his head.
"That's good," Severus said. "You did well the other day when you came to me as well."
Harry nodded, taking another bite of his sandwich. He had been severely close to cutting a couple days ago. He knew Severus always told him to try and come to Severus if he felt the need arise but he wasn't sure he had ever actually done it. The other day, though, he had been clutching a small knife and had held it to his arm, but he had pulled it away and walked to the library where he knew Severus to be. Severus had helped him through his thoughts and he had managed to avoid cutting that night.
"You're doing well," Severus said and Harry's lips twitched again, wanting to form a smile. "I'll be in the library and, if you do write that letter, tell Mr. Weasley he might as well start calling me 'Severus'."
Harry could tell he was smiling, at least a tiny little smile anyways. Smiling was foreign to him now and he wasn't sure his face remembered how to do it. However, Severus gave Harry his own version of a smile so Harry assumed he must've managed some kind of expression.
Harry looked at Severus who was sitting on the other end of the sofa, thinking of what to write to Ron in a letter he might not even send. He looked back at his parchment. He only had two words.
He wasn't sure what he should write. Even though Severus was the one that had been replying to Ron's weekly letters, Harry felt like they had kind of already been talking. It felt like they were talking when Severus read Harry the letters Ron sent. Ron was always telling him what was going on with him and the rest of the Weasleys and their other friends. He put his quill to the page again.
Severus said I should at least try to write to you even if I don't send it. He said that three days ago.
I didn't—don't—know what to say. Is there anything to say? I feel like we've already been speaking even though I haven't been answering. Severus reads me your letters.
He looked at Severus again. The man was reading and the book was apparently really interesting because he was completely enthralled.
He told me to tell you that you can call him 'Severus'. I smiled when he said it. Kind of anyways. It's been a while since I've smiled so I don't think I really remember how anymore.
He stared at the words sadly. They were true. He really wasn't sure he remembered how to smile anymore. It had been so long since he had been even remotely happy and hadn't had much to smile about. Glancing at Severus, he couldn't help but wonder if maybe that could change.
Severus helps though...a lot. I'm sure you know that by now. I'm glad he's here with me.
He couldn't help but look at Severus once again. He didn't know how the man felt about him but he was pretty sure Severus didn't hate him anymore. He, however, liked the man. He didn't know how much but he liked the man.
I really like him. He's different than 'Professor Snape' and I like that. He takes care of me.
I think he likes me too.
Harry bit his lip as he considered his next line. A lot had happened in the past couple years. He couldn't believe it had already been so long. He had been living with Severus for probably near two years now. Besides letters, he hadn't actually spoken to Ron in ages. He hadn't even left Grimmauld Place in months. He was sure the only reason he left his bed and showered and ate was because of Severus.
Everything was because of Severus now. It was because of Severus he was healing. It was because of Severus he was still alive. It was because of Severus he felt as though he might actually be happy again.
Do you still like me?
It's time for lunch now.
He wasn't sure about that question but he wanted to know the answer. He supposed he might actually send the letter. He really did want to talk to Ron but he also didn't. He knew from Ron's letters that Ron was beyond sorry for all that had happened and that he didn't care about anything, not about Harry's condition, his friendship with Severus, or even his orientation.
"Are you finished?"
He raised his eyes to Severus who had lowered his book and was casually watching him.
Glancing back at his letter he nodded.
"Do you want to send it?"
He knew Severus wouldn't force him to send it. It was completely his choice. So did he want to? Did he want to directly communicate with Ron? Did he want to say these things and ask these questions?
"Yes, please," he said and felt a warm glow at Severus' approving smile.
He definitely liked Severus.
How much did Severus like him?
Harry sniffed and wiped his teary eyes. He watched in despair as Severus gently cleaned his arm. He had no idea what had caused him to hurt himself this time. Well, perhaps that wasn't true.
"What's going on?" Severus asked quietly as he rubbed disinfectant on the wounds. "This is the fourth time in as many days."
"I'm sorry," Harry whispered.
Severus briefly rested a hand on Harry's cheek. In the past it would have been confusing and shocking, but Severus had been doing it much more often. He had become quite tactile with him.
"Do not be sorry," Severus said firmly. "Just try and tell me what's going through your head."
"I don't know," Harry muttered.
"You don't know or you don't want to tell me?" Severus said gently, wrapping bandages around the younger man's forearm.
Harry dropped his head. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry." Severus taped the bandages into place and gave Harry a small smile of comfort. "All done."
Harry gave his own tiny smile. He had begun to smile a little bit more ever since sending that letter to Ron and getting the reply. He still had it. He had all of Ron's letters but he knew the response to his own letter was his favourite. He had memorized it already. It hadn't been too long.
Harry! it had started. Of course I like you! I love you actually! You're my brother despite everything that's happened, well, everything that I've done. You know I'm sorry about all that but I promise to find a way to make it all up to you. And I know Severus likes you too. I know he likes you a lot. He really cares about you and I'm glad he's there with you too. I'll talk to you soon, mate. Bye! Love, Ron.
It was the first time Ron had ever signed a letter with 'love' and Harry knew he had done it for Harry's benefit. It had certainly worked. Harry had truly smiled—albeit a small one—for the first time in nearly two years after reading Ron's response. Well, after hearing it. He had been too terrified to read it himself until after Severus read it the first time. After that, he had taken it and read it over and over again for the rest of the day.
"I received a letter from Ron," Severus said as he cleaned away the first aid supplies.
Harry looked at him curiously.
"He has asked if he could visit as it is near Christmas. He will understand if you do not wish to as he has before," Severus said.
Harry bit his lip. "I'll think about it."
Severus smiled again. "I think that's more than he's expecting."
Harry blushed slightly. "Can I come into the lab with you? I know you wanted to do some brewing today."
"After our walk," Severus said. "Get your coat and gloves and scarf."
Harry nodded and got off the edge of the tub. Severus followed him out of the bathroom with a hand on his lower back. Harry felt its loss when Severus headed downstairs to get himself ready for their daily walk. He walked into his own room and pulled his cloak from the wardrobe and his scarf and gloves from a drawer. He clasped the cloak around his neck and buttoned up the three buttons near the neck. He draped his scarf around his neck and pulled on his gloves as he walked down the stairs to join Severus.
The man was just pulling on his boots when Harry joined him. Severus straightened once he had his boots laced and scrutinized Harry. Harry just rolled his eyes when Severus wound the scarf around his neck a couple of times.
"Boots," he said simply.
"Why can't I just wear my sneakers?"
"Because there is quite a bit of snow outside and your sneakers will get soaked," Severus said. "I will not have you freezing your toes off simply because you did not wish to wear boots."
Harry sighed but nodded and pulled on his winter boots. Once ready, Severus guided him out the back door and into the backyard. They always took two slow laps around the relatively large yard. By the end of their walk, Harry always had his arms hooked and wrapped around one of Severus'.
He loved the closeness he had with the man, knowing the man was only there to help him and didn't care or judge him for anything he did, was doing, or who he was. Oh, he knew Ron was no longer judging him and didn't care about things anymore but it wasn't quite the same. He didn't have these particular feelings for Ron. Ron was his brother, not his...whatever Severus was to him.
He clasped Severus' arm tighter as they passed the halfway point on their second lap of the yard. He knew he was gay, obviously, he had admitted it at that horrible Christmas that caused the rift between him and Ron. As such, he knew he would never be with Ginny or any other girl. Severus had helped him through his disgust for himself and had helped him see that being attracted to men was not a bad or wrong thing. To help, Severus had admitted that he was also gay.
Now, he knew he saw Severus differently. He wasn't just a friend or caregiver and he most definitely wasn't a father figure. He had Mr. Weasley for that and, really, he wasn't truly in need of a father figure anymore. Severus was different. Severus was...he didn't know. He had never felt the way he did before. Well, he had thought he felt this way with Cho Chang and Ginny but this was the first time it felt sincere.
He wouldn't dare say anything to Severus but he thought it was good to know he wasn't so damaged that he couldn't feel anymore. He knew he had Severus to thank for that.
"I am unsure if I like the idea of you thinking."
Severus' voice drew him from his musings and he looked up at the man. Severus was gazing at him in amusement with an eyebrow raised. Harry's lips twitched and he nudged the man in the ribs making Severus flinch away slightly.
"How are you feeling?" Severus asked.
"Do you want to cut?"
"I always want to but, no, it's not overwhelming."
"Good," Severus said. "Let's head inside. You may watch me brew if you still wish to."
"Always," Harry said and Severus snorted.
"There was a time you never would have come within a hundred feet of me and a lab."
"Ah, well, you know how things go," Harry said. Severus chuckled and led them back to the house.
Harry replaced the jar of flaxseed as Severus finished with it and handed him the vial of requested mermaid blood. He watched as Severus measured out a very specific amount of the reddish green liquid.
"Is 'mermaid' a general term like 'merpeople' or is 'mermaid' specifically female merpeople?" Harry wondered aloud. Severus glanced at him quickly before returning his eyes to the potion, stirring it as it faded from blue into a light purple.
"Did you never pay attention in Defence or Magical Creatures?" Severus said.
"If you must know, neither class ever taught merpeople. It was obviously missed by the ever-changing Defence professor and, though I love Hagrid, he wasn't the best professor," Harry said, tugging his sleeves further down his wrists unconsciously.
"'Mermaid' is tailored to females. 'Merpeople' is the overall term for the species."
"Interesting," Harry muttered, watching the very center of the potion that was turning into a red circle.
"Grindylow skin, please," Severus said.
Harry left his stool and searched the man's shelves and shelves of ingredients. Finally finding the jar, he returned to Severus' work station and placed the jar on the table. He ended up accidentally knocking a small carving knife off the table. Harry muttered to himself as he bent to pick up the knife and placed it back on the table. He was already sitting on his stool again when he noticed Severus staring at him.
"What?" he said with a frown.
Severus' lips slowly turned up into a small smile. He reached out and picked up the knife that Harry had retrieved, and held it up. "What did you think of when you picked this up?"
"That I had just knocked down one of your knives," Harry said. His eyes widened as he realized what Severus was getting at. He realized. He had had a knife—a sharp knife—in his hand and he hadn't thought—consciously at least—about using it to harm himself. He had simply picked it up and put it back where it belonged. He felt a small smile grace his lips.
"This is quite the step," Severus said, returning to his potion though his smile never left. "How would you like to celebrate?"
Harry smiled again. Whenever he made a significant amount of progress, Severus seemed determined to celebrate. They had celebrated the day after he had gone to Severus for the first time to avoid hurting himself. Then it had just been a more fancy dinner and a movie. He had fallen asleep halfway through, his head in Severus' lap and Severus rubbing his arm after tossing a blanket over Harry's body. He thought, watching the boiling liquid swirl around the cauldron. Then he had it, the perfect way to celebrate.
"I want Ron to come over."
"Ron is coming over again for dinner," Severus said and Harry nodded, pulling on one of his large sweaters.
"I remember," Harry said.
How could he not? The reason Ron was coming over was because it was another celebratory dinner. This time they were celebrating the fact that Harry had not cut for a week. Oh, he felt the urge to the entire week like always but he had managed to refrain, going to Severus each time he thought he couldn't do it alone. He felt it was getting minutely easier to avoid cutting but that didn't mean he was completely better. As Severus said, he still had a long way to go but he was getting better.
"How would you like to help cook the meal?" Severus said.
Harry paused briefly and then continued getting dressed. He had always enjoyed cooking back before the end of the war and before everything that had happened afterwards. He had mentioned it on occasion to Severus, mostly saying how he missed it. Since his first mention of it, Severus had casually suggested he try to get back into cooking but he had always refused. He had never cared before about anything that he might've liked once upon a time. Now, however, with Severus' help he was coming to care about things again.
"Not worried I might burn the house down?" Harry said and Severus snorted.
"I sincerely hope you're not that terrible at cooking."
Harry smiled a bit. "I can cook. I'll think about it. There's still time before we would have to start."
"Very well," Severus said. "Come. Breakfast time."
Harry watched Severus from where he sat at the kitchen table. Severus was cleaning up the dishes they had left from lunch so the kitchen was clean to start dinner. When he had seen Severus wash dishes manually, he had wondered why the man didn't just use magic.
"Just because we have magic, it doesn't mean we have to solely rely on it," Severus had said.
He had found over the past few years that Severus preferred to do most things the Muggle way. It was refreshing as he, too, preferred doing things the Muggle way, having grown up Muggle. He loved magic and he loved seeing it and using it, but he had never understood using magic for things that were so simple, such as washing dishes or hanging clothes in the wardrobe.
He continued to watch Severus. He knew now how he felt about Severus. He was greatly attracted to the man. He sometimes wondered if he was wrong to feel such a way about the man who had been helping him stay alive the past few years but then he would realize it was because the man had been helping him that he had come to care for Severus.
Severus was not conventionally attractive and he was completely aware of that fact, but Harry could see an abstract beauty in the man's Romanesque features. He loved Severus' sarcastic wit, finding it to be a great sense of humour in a more subtle form. And the man cared, cared about him.
He knew the Weasleys loved him but it wasn't the same. The Weasley parents had their own children to worry about and care for, no matter how much they loved him. The others had their own lives and, like Bill, had their own families. He loved the Weasleys but he knew, as selfish as it sounded, he needed someone that was just his. He needed someone that didn't have others to take care of. The Weasleys would always be his family but Severus was what he truly needed.
"All right, get up here."
Severus' voice pulled him from his thoughts and he smiled. He left the kitchen table and went to stand next to the man he knew he was coming to love.
"Are you ready?" Severus said. "You don't have to cook if you really don't want to."
"I think I'm ready," Harry said. "Besides, you're here if I have some sort of breakdown."
Severus placed a hand on one of Harry's forearms. "Do you think you can do this?"
Harry smiled again and pulled Severus' hand from his arm, holding it in his own hand. "The need is there as it always is but cooking is not going to push me to mutilate myself."
Severus squeezed Harry's hand gently. "Good. Just don't burn down the house."
Harry couldn't help it. He really wasn't sure why the comment was any funnier than usual. Perhaps it was because it was Severus and because he had finally realized just how he felt about the man and because he truly was getting better. Whatever it was, laughter spilled from his mouth for the first time in years. Severus looked absolutely shocked and amazed and it only made Harry laugh a little hard. Apparently the laughter was infectious because it wasn't long before Severus was joining in.
He had never really heard Severus laugh either. The man had chuckled every now and then but he had never really laughed the way he was now. He loved it and he wanted to hear it more often. It felt so foreign yet so wonderful to laugh again, to feel truly happy. He knew he was still healing and it would be some time before he was completely healthy again, but he finally felt happy again after so long in a suffocating darkness that had consumed his entire life and being.
Looking at Severus, he knew it was because of him. Without Severus, he would still be in that darkness or he would be dead. It was because of Severus that he was alive and healing and happy.
He couldn't recall moving but he was soon kissing Severus. For a brief moment he panicked, worried that he had just completely ruined everything but the moment passed as he realized Severus was kissing back and not shoving him away. It was a simple kiss that was nothing more than happiness and admittance to hidden feelings.
They pulled away eventually and stared at each other.
"No protests?" Harry said quietly.
"Why argue against something I want?" Severus said and Harry smiled again before leaning in for another kiss.
They were in the middle of their embrace when Harry thought he heard a quiet shuffling sound. A thought flickered in his mind about how Ron was coming over for dinner and he quickly pulled away from Severus. He stared over Severus' shoulder with wide eyes at his shocked friend.
"Ron," he breathed. He shifted unconsciously, ending up half hidden behind Severus and tightly clasping his hand and arm.
No one said a thing as they stared at each other. Harry stared at Ron, terrified. He had just gotten his friend back. He couldn't stand it if he had just lost Ron again. He knew Ron had been making attempts to be fine with his orientation and was more than okay with it now, but being okay with someone's orientation and catching them kissing a man that was once their professor were two completely different things. Perhaps the potential relationship between Harry and Severus would be too much for Ron.
Harry grasped Severus' arm tightly and his other hand slid to his own forearm, squeezing it.
"What's for dinner?" Ron asked.
Harry blinked but then recognized the question for what it was. He relaxed and smiled at his friend who had just accepted the new development without question or judgement.
"Happy birthday!" Ron exclaimed the second he stepped out of the fireplace and Harry laughed. Apparently Ron was a little too excited as he tripped coming out and nearly fell on his face.
"Hey, Ron," Harry said and Ron fell heavily on the sofa next to him, though he made sure to keep his small package held high.
"Here," Ron said, holding the package out to Harry. "Mum made a cake even though she knew you weren't coming over. She figured since I was coming here it was a good enough reason to make a cake. She made me bring you a piece."
Harry smiled and took the wrapped cake piece. "Thanks."
"Shower," Harry said. "We got up not too long ago."
"Since when does he sleep in until eleven?" Ron said and Harry chuckled.
"Since I made him. We'll also be going for a walk today but down the street and not just in the backyard. And I'm choosing a potion for him to brew," Harry said. When Ron raised an eyebrow, he added, "I asked for a calm, simple day."
Ron nodded in understanding.
"Good morning, Ronald," Severus said as he entered the sitting room.
"More like afternoon," Ron said.
Severus glared but there was no heat or meaning behind it. Harry grinned and watched as the man sat on his other side on the sofa. Despite their one person audience, Severus gave him a light kiss and for a few moments they leaned in close to each other, whispering.
Harry adored their relationship. They had only been together for a few months but the change had made all the difference. Harry knew he was getting better and happier, and knew their relationship had helped his healing. Though Severus had been there helping and had been living with him for a few years already, he knew now that he had someone he didn't have to share. He had someone that was all his. He sometimes thought that Severus didn't know just how much he was helping but Harry had no intentions on saying anything. Why mess with a good thing?
They kissed softly again and then turned to their attention to their guest.
"You are sure about this?" Severus said as they stood outside the Burrow.
Harry looked at him and smiled. "When am I ever not sure anymore?"
"Point taken," Severus said and, with his own smile, he knocked on the door. They were called in and it wasn't long before Harry was being snatched into a hug.
"Harry!" Molly exclaimed and Harry found himself being pulled into one of her familiar hugs. It was a testament to how much he had healed when he returned the hug. "Oh, you are looking much better, dear, much better than last year."
Harry smiled. "Severus has been a big help and a good influence." His lover didn't smile or respond but his hand brushed the back of Harry's neck.
"Excellent," Molly said. "Welcome, Severus."
"Thank you, Molly," Severus said.
"Hey, Ron," Harry said and began to talking to his friend. He wasn't really paying attention to Severus, not even when he helped Harry remove his cloak. He paid no attention to the fact that he was in a T-shirt, something he had only recently begun to wear, and that his scars were on display for all to see. As Ron and Severus were the only ones he ever saw, they were used to his scars and didn't notice them anymore. He had known he would attract attention when he chose to wear a T-shirt and so he wasn't surprised when he heard a gasp from Molly.
"What on earth happened, dear?" Molly asked.
Harry saw Ron's eyes close and knew what he was thinking. For a long while, he hated anyone addressing his scars. Ron had learned easily to act like they didn't exist.
However, he simply gave a tiny smile and said, "I've been having a hard time these past few years. I resorted to low and drastic measures but Severus has been helping me overcome it from the beginning."
"Not low or drastic," Severus whispered in his ear and he smiled at the familiar words. "Just hurt and desperate."
He smiled and nodded at his partner.
"Oh, Harry," Molly said sadly.
"I'm okay, Mrs. Weasley, I promise. I'm not perfect but I'm getting better," he said and was hugged once again.
"Everyone's in the sitting room, dears. Make yourselves comfortable," Molly said, releasing Harry.
"Do you need any help with the meal?" Harry asked. Ever since that day he had helped make dinner for Ron's visit, he had continued to cook. Now he cooked at least one meal every day much to Severus' delight. He knew there was a running joke between Severus and Ron about whether his cooking or Molly's cooking was better.
"No thank you, dear," Molly said. "You go sit and socialize."
Harry smiled and followed Ron into the sitting room, Severus following behind. He smiled and said hello to everyone he passed as he moved to sit on the sofa, pulling Severus down beside him. He kept hold of Severus' hand but he knew the man didn't mind. If he had, he would have pulled away. He was aware that the sitting room had fallen silent and knew it was a combination of seeing his scarred arms and seeing the obvious relationship between him and Severus.
"Harry, what are you doing?" Ginny said and Harry looked at her. Despite Ron's attempts at interfering, Ginny had still constantly sent him letters and had apparently been a total nightmare at home. "Get away from him."
"Ginny," Ron hissed.
"I'm where I want to be, Ginny," Harry said calmly and she glared.
"You're supposed to be with me," she said.
"I told you and Ron's told you that I'm gay. I'll never be with you or want to be," Harry said. "I have who I want."
"I want you!"
"But I don't want you," Harry said, making sure to sound polite and sincere so she wouldn't be too hurt. "Severus is the only one I want."
Severus squeezed his hand, making him smile.
"How can you want him? He's obviously hurt you!" Ginny said, becoming hysterical as she gestured to his arms. "He's made you scared to leave or say anything!"
Harry shook his head. "Severus didn't do this to me. I did this to myself. The only thing Severus did was help me stop and make me happy. I am anything but scared of him."
"I can make you happy too!"
"No, you can't. I'm sorry, Ginny."
She screamed and stomped from the room. Harry felt bad for hurting her but it wasn't as though she was caught by surprise by his orientation. His relationship was a surprise, yes, but she had known for some time now that he was gay. She had simply refused to accept it which did nothing but hurt her.
"Did-did you really—" Dean said hesitantly.
"Yeah," Harry said. "I had a hard time after the war. I couldn't handle everything that had happened. Severus helped me, though, like I said. He's been helping me from the start."
"Well, it's not what we would've expected," Bill said, "but you're obviously happy and he's obviously managed to help you if you're still here with us. So, congratulations."
Harry smiled and hugged Severus' arm. Conversation started up again and everyone completely forgot about what they had learned. Apparently seeing Harry with Severus stopped any potential protests that may have arisen. When it was time for dinner, Ginny reappeared but she remained stonily silent throughout the entire meal. However, she was the first to protest when Severus brought to light one more secret.
Harry was reaching for another roll and as he was pulling it back to his plate, Severus briefly rested his hand on top of Harry's. Harry looked at him and rolled his eyes with a smile. He pulled away when he knew Severus was done and he began buttering his roll. Everyone was able to see the simple silver band that glinted on his ring finger.
"How could you?" Ginny screeched as she stared at the engagement ring. She threw down her utensils and napkin, and stormed out once more.
Harry couldn't find it in himself to feel bad or sorry for her. He was with the man he loved and he was now engaged to be married to said man. He certainly wasn't going to apologize for being happy and with someone he loved.
"Engaged?" Molly said quietly as though she didn't want to be wrong.
Harry smiled and nodded. "He asked me last night." It hadn't been anything spectacular. They had been having a regular dinner and Severus had slid the box across the table to rest beside his hand. He hadn't said anything even when Harry had opened the box, he had just looked at Harry. Harry had slid the ring on and said 'yes'. They had smiled at each other, briefly joined and squeezed hands, and then returned quietly to their meal.
It had been perfect.
"How long have the two of you been together exactly?" Arthur asked.
"About a year but we've been so close since the end of the war. He's done so much for me," Harry said. "It's as though we've been together the past few years instead of just the last year."
"Congratulations, 'Arry," Fleur said.
"When's the wedding?" Kingsley asked.
"We were thinking next December," Harry said.
"A year? Are you sure you want to wait so long?" Molly said.
"I want a winter wedding but I don't want to be married in just weeks," Harry said. He glanced at Severus and smiled. "We'll wait which gives us that much more time to plan it just right."
"It's going to be your fault if these go all over the floor," Harry said as he laughed. Severus kept grazing his ribs with his long fingers, knowing that Harry was quite ticklish. It would have been fine had Harry not been in the middle of making sandwiches to bring out to their waiting guest.
"Why did you have to invite him over?" Severus said, wrapping his arms around Harry's waist. "If I recall, this day should be for us."
"Tonight will be for us," Harry said. "I want him here for a while to celebrate. He was the first."
Severus sighed. "Make it up tonight?"
Harry looked over his shoulder at his husband. "You know I will."
"I'll hold you to that," Severus said and kissed his temple. "Come on then. Let's not keep Ronald waiting any longer."
Harry smiled and placed the last sandwich on the platter. He picked it up while Severus picked up the cake. He left the kitchen with Severus following and entered the sitting room where Ron was sitting on the sofa, looking at their wedding picture on the mantle and waiting for them.
"Lunch is served," Harry said and Ron smiled.
"I should be serving the two of you," Ron said as they placed the dishes down.
"If we wish to be given food poisoning, we will call on you," Severus drawled. Harry punched his husband in the shoulder, making Ron laugh.
"So, why am I the only one you invited over?" Ron asked.
"Because you were the first one to accept everything," Harry said and smiled. "I want to celebrate my two best relationships."
"Hiding something from me, love?" Severus said, raising an eyebrow. Harry laughed as Ron choked.
"If only I was able to hide anything from you, dear," Harry said and shook his head slightly when Severus smirked.
"It took me a while to accept everything," Ron said. "I nearly didn't. I was nearly too late."
Harry smiled softly and sat on the arm of Severus' chair. He leaned into Severus' side when his husband's arm automatically slid around his waist. "Everything good takes a while," he said.
"Yeah," Ron said, grabbing a sandwich.
"Everything good takes a while."
A/N: You probably noticed that I did not really focus on Harry's self-harm. I hope I did all right with his healing progression. As I've said, I do not have experience or personal knowledge of self-harm, but I do of depression. As such, I focused more on showing Harry's emotional healing and progression rather than his physical healing and progression.
Coming Soon: The Observations - this will be the final installment and it will be Severus' side of things. It will show how he felt about everything that happened and how he helped Harry get through the depression.