Authors Notes: In-The-Shadows (or as I like to say, Abby ^^), write Severus' charming POV. I write Harry's cute POV ^_^ The POV's may change fast, but I believe, along with our beta reader, Blessedsilence(thanks Chantry! ^^) that it's still easy to follow.
Part 4 - Comfort After Hours
By Shadows and Redrum
Rubbing his hands against his arms, Harry shivered. 'Why do I have to get cold so easily, it makes me look like even more of a wuss,' he thought disgustedly. It didn't really help that he had next to no body fat or even thick muscles. Sure he had 'some', it was kind of hard not to build a little muscle from doing all those chores. Sighing, he tried to surpass the shivers, even though it would probably make him a little bit warmer. He really needed some good sweaters.. even though it was summer time.
Harry gave a small smile when the last line of Snape's little speech finally registered to him. It was nice to know that he would be there for him, no matter how long it took. Not - well, more like no one - many people in his life had told him that they'd be there for him. So it was nice to hear it from his professor. The man seemed like the type that would never go against his word, so Harry felt almost... safe in the knowledge that his teacher would be there for him. Well.. at least for this anyway. If Snape found out he was gay and the way he lived.. who knew? But it was a nice idea to believe in for now, or however long it lasted.
Harry shook himself from his thoughts and flipped through the book again. He smiled slightly when he found the perfect poem. This time he remembered to close his eyes and picture himself alone, leaning against his favorite oak tree while reading a book of poems out loud to himself. Opening his eyes, his gaze stayed fixed on the book in front of him as he read.
"The Shadow-Lover by, Vanyel.
Shadow-Lover, never seen by day,
Only deep in dreams do you appear.
Wisdom tells me I should turn away,
Love of mist and shadows, all unclear-
Nothing can I hold of you but thought
Shadow-Lover, mist and twilight wrought.
Shadow-Lover, comfort me in pain.
Love, although I never see your face,
All who'd have me fear you speak in vain-
Never would I shrink from your embrace
Shadow-Lover, gentle is your hand
Never could another understand.
Shadow-Lover, sooth me when I mourn
Mourn for all who left me here alone,
When my grief is too much to be borne,
When my burdens crushing-great have grown,
Shadow-Lover, I cannot forget-
Help me bear the burdens I have yet."
Professor Snape's sneeze interrupted Harry's easy flow of words. The young man looked up, meeting Snape's gaze. The man's pale hand was over his nose and mouth and he was also frowning slightly as he met Harry's gaze. Harry gave a small grin when he saw the faint traces of embarrassment and even fainter traces of concern in the professor's dark eyes. Looking down at his book, strangely enough, Harry didn't bother to put the image of him alone with his poetry in his mind. Instead, he read the rest of the poem knowing, feeling and seeing (from just underneath his lashes) Professor Snape sitting in front of him.
"Shadow-Lover, you alone can know
How I long to reach a point of peace
How I fade with weariness and woe
How I long for you to bring release.
Shadow-Lover, court me in my dreams
Bring the peace that suffering redeems.
Shadow-Lover, from the Shadows made,
Lead me into Shadows once again.
Where you lead I cannot be afraid,
For with you I shall come home again-
In your arms I shall not fear the night.
Shadow-Lover, lead me into light."
Harry frowned, thinking over the words. It was obvious that the person in the poem wanted death, embraced it really. Because of their heavy burdens, because of their loneliness and sense of helplessness. And instead of death being portrayed as evil and lonely, it was portrayed as being an eternal lover. Where, in its arms you would never feel pain or loneliness again. You would never have any more burdens. The darkness, was really that person's light, their path to freedom and happiness. Death was portrayed as a welcome relief from life.
Harry had thought about death, life, reincarnation and all that before. He had even thought about taking his own life, numerous times in fact. But he'd always stopped himself from that final step, still having the hope that someday he would find the man that would make him happy for the rest of his life.
He wasn't naive by any means, he knew that all relationships, no matter how blissful and full of love, always had the bad qualities: fights, heartbreak, pain, anger and jealousy. But eventually, if you were meant to be and knew how to work things out, everything would be okay.
Harry had always wanted that, and that one small dream was what was keeping him from falling off the edge and into 'Shadow-Lover's' arms. Harry never cut himself or anything like that, he had enough pain in his life that he didn't need to be inflicting even more damage on himself. Besides, he had relatives for that.
A smile, however brief, graced Snape's features when Harry was done. He'd felt some tension in the younger man ease after he'd encouraged him. However small the victory, Snape felt very proud of both himself and his student. "Well done, Mr. Potter, much improved." Running another critical gaze over the young man's form, he noted his lips were tinged just slightly blue. Standing, he strode to his closet and retrieved his coat absentmindedly; it would not to do have any student freeze to death.
He gently placed it over Harry's shoulders and sat back down again. "Now, do you think you can achieve that level of skill in class, Mr. Potter? I realize your peers are often hard to ignore, but if you think about it, I'm the only one that's really listening. It's infuriating how few students actually care these days." Snape mumbled the last sentence before he could really stop himself; he wasn't used to sharing any feelings other than thoughts of improvement with students.
With the smallest possible hint of embarrassment, Severus settled back in his seat to await Harry's answer, actually resisting the urge to smile back at him. It was surprising how much closer to home the case of this particular student stuck, and the knowledge that not everything was under his control was quite unsettling.
Harry smiled and pulled the long, black, and surprisingly warm coat closer to his small frame. The coat was so large compared to him, that he was able to completely cover himself from head to toe in the soft and heavy cloth.
The black haired teen tilted his head, thinking over Snape's question. It was true that over half the class didn't really listen, even if they were in the top class. Harry didn't really understand how they could have gotten good enough marks to make it into the A level when they didn't pay attention in class, and handed in homework that was less than decent or just border-line of good.
Oddly enough, it actually made Harry feel better to know that only Snape would be the one to listen. Sure he was a bit afraid of letting him down by disappointing him in his dictation, but he was close to positive that he would be able to clearly read the poem when the professor called on him.
But.. what about the after school meetings? Surely the older man would call them off once Harry was able to perfect his dictation in class? That would mean less beatings of course, but he would miss the easy company of the somber man. Maybe.. maybe he could just screw up the odd time, so it looked like he still needed help. Actually, Harry didn't even need help. All he had to do was picture himself in that field and he'd be able to read fine. Of course he'd have to ignore his peers, but that was easy enough. He did it everyday of his life. But still.. Snape would stop the lessons if he got too good. It wasn't like Harry needed help in anything else. He was a good student, he always studied for tests and quizzes, he reviewed his notes when he was able to, and besides his speech, there wasn't much to improve on.
The professor had said to him to feel free to ask questions.. though Harry doubted his question was the kind the teacher had meant.
"What happens when my dictation improves? Will.." The young man shook his head and looked down at the table, pulling the coat even closer to him when a chill racked his body. He really didn't want to end these lessons. Although… what would they do once he improved? Like he had already thought, there wasn't anything he could improve on that would require Snape's assistance. So maybe that would be it? Maybe when he improved his speech pattern then Snape would ignore him just like all his other teachers eventually did.
Snape watched Harry hug the coat closer with mild amusement. It made him look even smaller and more vulnerable than before. It was amusing, but frustrating at the same time, another reminder of how complicated things could possibly get. Severus had no doubt he could handle it, it was just such an abrupt disruption to the routine he was so used to. It wasn’t like he hadn't thought of the possibility of a scenario like this before, but to have it actually happen was very surreal.
He could see the question in Harry's eyes long before he vocalized it, but he had to hear him say it. It had been weighing on his mind too. Harry was a very quick study; he'd noted from their first session and the fact that he might improve before they could build up much open communication was unsettling. But what could he do? If Harry improved he couldn't very well have him keep staying after; it would look way too suspicious.
Then again he couldn't just stop. Harry obviously needed someone to talk to. After a short, but seemingly long silence, Severus said, "Well, there will no longer be a need for you to stay after and work on it then. However, if you wish to discuss poetry and what not, I would not be adverse to the idea. It doesn’t look like you'll get much intelligent conversation from your peers anyway." It was a risk, Severus knew it, but he could not just stop now when he'd made so much progress.
Harry smiled brightly. He knew he probably looked like an idiot, but he was really happy that Snape had voiced that option. At least now he wouldn't have to deceive the older man, something he hadn't really wanted to do in the first place. "That would be nice. I don't really have a lot of people to talk to - about poetry." He rushed to say. God, did he have to make himself seem like such a naive and helpless child? Snape wouldn't care about his lack of friends, the man himself probably had no one to talk to either. Though he probably didn't talk to anyone for his own reasons, unlike Harry, whose age group wasn't very intelligent and mature.
It wasn't that Harry acted serious all the time, he knew when to have fun. Sometimes that's all he wanted to do, was to act like a child. But other times.. he wanted someone to discuss serious issues with. And so far, Harry hadn't been able to find anyone like that. He highly doubted Snape was the type to let himself go occasionally. At least he was someone to talk to, even if it was about poetry.
Harry titled his head down, looking at his hands. The high collar tickled his nose and he took a deep breath. He grinned when he smelled the faint traces of some kind of cologne mixed with a smell that he could quite trace. Maybe it was Snape's soap? His hair was long enough to brush against his shoulders, so it would obviously leave a trace of the shampoo on the collar and shoulders. The young man pouted, making himself look even younger then he usually did. 'I wish I could smell that good, but it's kind of hard when I'm only allowed to wash myself outside with the damn hose and nothing else.' Harry sighed and loosened the coat slightly. He was starting to warm up, but he knew that he'd feel chilly again in no time. He left the coat to drape casually on his small shoulders.
Severus’ lips twitched in the shape of a smile for a moment. It was unnerving how easy it was to do that around this particular student. Still it was really good to see him smile; his deep, bright eyes and full lips seemed to be crafted more for that than anything else. Plus it was hard not to smile seeing Harry snuggling into his coat like that, it was good he felt safe enough to smile here. “Well,” Severus said at last, “you may always feel free to talk to me.” He was very careful in leaving the phrase ‘about poetry’ out of that sentence. Eventually he wanted to talk about a great deal more than poetry.
As if reading his mind, that infuriating bit of bad memories incarnate started to smart again. ‘I really should put more ointment on it,’ he thought to himself, but wasn’t about to do so while Harry was there. They had better things to discuss than that.
The black haired teen frowned, thinking that statement over. He hadn't missed the lack of school related subject in that sentence. But could he really go to Snape with... anything? He highly doubted it. He may be comfortable around the older man, but he couldn't see himself sharing his past with him. Maybe when they got to know each other more? No.. Harry shook his head subconsciously. That would be stupid. If he told Professor Snape about his life at home, then the professor would obviously do his job and go to the principle, who in turn would call Children’s Aid. And then Harry would be worse off then he was before.
But at least he could talk about other things with Snape. He just had to make sure it wasn't about anything to do with his home-life or child hood. Maybe if he just opened up a bit... but could a teacher and a student really be friends? What about the age difference? What about the status difference? Harry sighed. Why did life have to be so complicated?
Harry sighed again and looked up. He frowned when he saw Snape scratching at his forearm again. Maybe it was a nervous tick just like Harry's stuttering was? Wouldn't hurt to ask, right?
"Are you nervous or something?" He finally asked, looking down at the black clad arm. Did the somber man wear anything besides the color black?
Severus resisted a start when he heard Harry’s voice. He looked curiously over at his black haired student for a few moments. ‘Nervous,’ he thought, ‘Why would I be nervous? I’m only tempting fate to bring about a situation which could get me fired if everything goes as planned. And the fact that I can’t control everything in this is making my crazy, so naturally I’m the picture of serenity.’ Taking a few mental breaths, Severus thought again, ‘But of course I can’t say that out loud.’
That was when he noticed the direction of Harry’s gaze and followed it to his arm. ‘Damn. That keen observation again.’ Normally Severus would politely tell any student who asked, which they never had, that it wasn’t any of their business, but things were different with Harry, and Severus had the sinking suspicion they always would be. After a few moments of intense mental deliberation, Severus decided to take the middle ground.
Looking up at Harry again he said, “No, it’s not a nervous habit. It’s just an old injury that acts up from time to time.” Glancing briefly at Harry’s arm he dared to add, “something it seems we both have experience in.”
For some odd reason, Harry could tell that the man wasn't telling the full truth. Frowning, he decided to leave it at that. It wasn't like it was his business anyway. Though Harry really didn't like being lied to, even if it was by omission, it was Snape's business, and it wasn't like he could do anything to make his professor tell him the full truth.
Harry glanced at his arm, following his teacher's gaze. Ahh, must be a child hood injury then. "I have a few scars too from my past… so it's understandable that you wouldn't want to tell me exactly what caused it." Harry smiled sadly. Everyone had their scars, both inside and out, some more then others. He was beginning to suspect that this man had his share of them too. Another thing they sadly had in common.
Harry frowned when he saw the his professor give the barest of winces. Maybe that scar pains him? Harry had found that even his oldest of wounds, no matter how healed they were or how old, sometimes hurt. But it had always helped to rub something cool over it, or sometimes something warm, depending on the type of cut. Maybe Snape was the same way? It was probably his presence that was stopping the man from putting any ointment on. Harry frowned. He'd always wished he had ointment or some other kind of cream to put on his scars and open wounds, but he had always had to use what ever was on hand. And ointment was definitely not cheap, or even remotely accessible to him. He didn't want to be too blunt or anything.. but he wanted to let the teacher know that he wouldn’t look or anything if he wanted to rub something on the scar.
Harry picked up the poetry book and tilted his head down enough that his hair completely blocked his vision of the professor sitting across from him. "Sometimes… it helps to put something on them. I never like people looking at mine, so I usually do it when no one else is looking." Harry winced. That sounded so stupid, but it should easily get the point across. And he had promised not to look, well, the message was there anyway.
Severus regarded Harry calmly for a few moments. It showed grace on his part to offer Severus an out if he felt uncomfortable having him see his scar, and Severus was very tempted to take it. However, how could he expect to gain Harry's trust if he didn't show a little faith himself? After a deep breath, that he really hoped was silent, Severus gently pushed Harry's poetry book down to the desk and said, "Well, if we share this difficulty, it would be rather foolish of me to hide wouldn't it?" It was simple and slightly blunt, as Severus usually was. It was hard knowing Harry would most likely leave the school knowing something he'd hoped to take to his grave, but if it would help Harry it was worth it.
Reaching into his pocket, Severus produced a small black vial and with both hands he forced himself not to shake as he undid the button at the cuff of his shirt and rolled it up, revealing a small pink triangle with the point facing his wrist, a raised mark about the size of a sliver dollar that had obviously been slowly burned into his skin. Not chancing to look up at Harry, Severus dripped some ointment onto it and began rubbing it into the mark; his thoughts racing all the while.
Harry gave a small smile when Snape pushed the book down. Lifting his head, his smile quickly faded. He knew how hard this was for the man, a person who obviously never shared anything personal with anyone. It was obvious that this scar was incredibly personal to him.
Harry looked down at his arm when the sleeve was rolled out of the way. He gasped quietly at the raised mark. It wasn't very big, but it looked like it had been painful. No wonder the scar sometimes hurt the man. It might have been phantom pains, since Harry himself sometimes got them, which were usually caused by a situation that reminded the wearer of the event that had caused the mark. Harry had gotten burns before, so he knew how painful it could be, though they had never actually been shaped like anything.
It really showed a lot of trust for Snape to show Harry his scar, a scar that was obviously very personal to him. Though that didn't really mean that he would tell Harry about how he got it, it was still far more personal than he had expected to get with the man. 'I guess it's not too bad if I talked to him about my past either. Well, more like my present, since it's all the same. He trusted me with this… so I can trust him too… at least, I think so.'
Harry stood up slowly, so as not to startle the silent man. Walking the short distance between them, he gently took the man's large hand away from the mark and started rubbing the ointment in himself. He knew he was being a bit forward, but he had had an urge to just… touch it. To somehow get closer to the mysterious professor. He really hoped he wouldn't be pushed away. But he hated to see anyone in pain, and he hoped to bring some relief to the ache that the scar caused.
Severus was a little shocked when he felt Harry start to rub in the ointment himself and let out a small gasp, but didn’t push him away. More then anything he was surprised that Harry wasn’t repulsed by the scar, but then again, he probably had a lot of experience with them himself; something Severus wanted to bring to a halt as soon as he could, even if he wasn’t quite sure how. Yet.
He watched the raven haired teen intently, noticing traces of concern etched on his features; another surprise. He’s been so focused on helping Harry it never even entered his head that they’d become friends as a result. It was an interesting concept that Severus found he rather enjoyed. They both, he guessed, could use a friend.
It was a few moments more before Severus quietly said, “Thank you,” to Harry. Pleased at the way things had gone and the progress made, Severus let his tension ease under Harry’s hand.
The young man smiled at the quiet statement of gratitude. He didn't pause in his movements, even when he felt Snape's muscles relax under his fingers. "It's not a problem," he said, equally quiet, "I know how it feels to have phantom pains." Looking up, he met the professor's gaze. "And I'm not disgusted by the mark either. It's just another show of something that you were able to move on from. I have a few of them myself.." Harry looked down, not quite sure if he wanted to continue. But.. .Snape had trusted him with the knowledge, so it was only right that Harry should return some of that faith.
"I never show anyone, just as I'm sure you don't either. So... thanks for trusting me with that knowledge. I won't tell anyone if that's what your worried about. I know how personal it must be to you." Harry said, looking straight into the older man's dark gaze. The feeling of smooth skin underneath his hand finally registered. The ointment had obviously dried, but Harry didn't really want to remove his hand. Letting it rest there, he glanced down at the joined flesh.
There wasn't much difference between their skin tones. Harry was slightly tanned from being outside all those times, but he was still paler than most people, although he was darker then his professor. The veins on the top of the professor’s hand were also very prominent since he obviously didn't have much skin on them.
He felt a bit uncomfortable when he finally noticed the difference of their clothing though. While Snape's shirt was loose, it looked like it had been tailored to his slim form. Harry's.. well, his was just large. It didn't even come close to hugging his frame. Even at the present moment, he could feel the wide collar of his shirt slipping off his left shoulder, due to his movements with that arm. He didn't bother fixing it though, he didn't want to remove his hand from Snape's forearm and call attention to it. He also couldn't fix it with his other arm since it was in a sling. He felt his cheeks get hot, so he tilted his head to the side slightly, letting his hair drape over the exposed shoulder. The coat had already been dropped on the back of the chair when Harry had stood up, so he didn't have it's warm presence draped around him anymore.
Severus met Harry’s gaze he spoke, his features relaxing into the ghost of a smile before he could stop them, and he didn’t really care once they had. It was brave of the teen to offer so much when he’d obviously been hurt by so many times before. Severus felt privileged to have the opportunity to help him. More than anything he really wanted to help him get away from those that beat him and get him somewhere where he’d be treated just as kindly as he was treating him.
Noticing Harry’s blush and overly large shirt slipping off one shoulder, Severus leaned forward and pulled it up again without another thought. “You deserve better.” he murmured without even realizing it. He wanted to say more but managed to bite his tongue in time. He'd made a lot of progress today and he really didn't want to push it.
Harry jumped at the gentle touch, causing the shirt to slip again. He backed up slowly, his hand falling back to his side. He looked at the professor with large eyes veiled behind thick black glasses. "I-I.. no..no one ha-has e-ever.." He looked down at his shoulder, the lightly tanned skin there still warm compared to the rest of his cold flesh.
No one had ever touched him before.. not like that anyway. He'd only had pain after someone touched him, so needless to say, he wasn't used to being touched in a gentle manner. Surely the man would... do something now? Uncle Vernon never left it at that, he always hit Harry after any kind of contact with him, saying that he had a disease and that he shouldn't go near him. Well, it was kind of hard not to accidentally brush up against a man that was so large that he took up the door way to the small house they lived in. It wasn't totally Harry's fault.
But he had never had someone hold him when he cried from a nightmare or serious wound. He barely remembered the feeling of a mother and father's touch from when he was a baby. Ever since his parents had died, which happened when he was around nine months old, he had never been touched again. At least, not in a loving manner. Even when aunt Petunia hadn't even bothered to touch him when he was a babe and he couldn't wash himself. Instead, she had taken a hose to him. It wasn't that bad.. at least he was a bit more immune to getting a cold from cold water.
She had never once laid a hand on him when he was younger. The only time she touched him was when he had done something bad and she slapped him. After slapping him, she would tell him to wait in his room until Vernon came home and could deal with him. And Uncle Vernon had definitely dealt with him when he had gotten home from work... Those usually ended up being the worst beatings since Harry had disturbed Vernon's wife. It was only fair that he pay the consequences of his actions.
Severus straightened his back in surprise at Harry’s reaction, cursing himself for pushing boundaries to soon. It wasn’t as if he’d never removed a hat from a student who refused to listen to him the first time, but it was different with this particular student. He watched panic flood the young teens face like a deer who’d stumbled on a quiet hunter and inwardly cursed himself again. He remained seated with a plain neutral expression he’d used so often on his face, trying to think of the best thing to do.
He searched Harry’s deep emerald eyes for a few minutes, feeling great concern for the teen, but trying not to show it. Maybe it had been too long for him, too much time had passed for him to remember what life had been like at 17; he’d have to be more careful. The last thing he wanted to do was drive Harry away by being too forward.
Bowing his head slightly; midnight strands brushing past his collar and into his eyes briefly before he raised his head again he said, “I’m sorry” quietly; not trusting anything else he could say other than that.
Harry's eyes widened. He hadn't mean to do that! He was such an idiot! Now Snape was probably thinking that he was a freak because of the way he had reacted. It wasn't even that big of a deal really. The only thing the man had done was fix his shirt for him. It was like any other kind of touch that a teacher gives their students. But Harry had never even had a teacher touch him before. They avoided him like the plague. If he accidentally forgot to take a hat off when he came inside, the teachers would tell him to take it off. Sometimes he didn't hear them because he was so occupied in his thoughts, but they never took it from him by force. They just spoke louder to him until he finally heard them. They 'never' touched him. That's why he had been so surprised to feel Snape's touch.
Well... surprised and maybe a little afraid. It wasn't like he had any good experiences with someone touching him. It always lead to a beating. How else would he react to it? But.. any other kid wouldn't have backed away like that. He was a freak… just like Uncle Vernon had always said.
The professor's words finally registered to him. 'He' was apologizing to 'Harry'. It was Harry's fault, not his.
The raven haired youth collapsed onto the ground, hugging himself as he shivered and rocked. "It's n-not you. It's m-me. S-shouldn't be sor-sorry. I sh-should." His throat started to burn when he swallowed. His eyes stung with the salty water that was quickly starting to travel down his cheeks. He let out a low piercing sound, a cross between a sob and a wail. He tried to stop crying, he knew he was appearing even weaker in front of Snape, but he couldn't stop.
Tucking his head down between his knees, Harry let the tears fall.
Concern expressively etched itself across Severus’ features as he watched Harry crumble in front of him. He knew the teen was suffering badly, but damn… That horrible family of his should be damned to the deepest level of hell for crushing him so much. If a simply touch could make him so bereft…
As he slid down to the floor beside the younger man who shook and trembled, horrible images of the past came flooding back to him. The thing he wanted most right then was to be able to comfort Harry, but would he even let him get near him? Unable to sit there and watch Harry fold in on himself like that, Severus reached out and touched his shoulder very, very lightly in a way that he hoped conveyed the message he had been so strongly thinking since he first noticed this teen was in pain. ‘I want to help you. Please, please let me help you.’
“Harry…” he murmured on the edge of a whisper, not hiding even the slightest bit of concern from his features. Normally Severus was a very composed man, and he’d helped one or two bright students like Harry in his career, but it had never been like this. He was actually afraid of what would happen if Harry refused his help; afraid that he might not be able to help as much as he needed it, afraid to fail again where he’d failed in the past.
‘Please, please let him trust me. He needs someone who will succeed where others have failed him.’ Severus thought intensely.
Harry felt the light touch at his shoulder. He flinched slightly and looked up. Tears blurred his vision, but he could still make out the form of the man kneeling beside him; concern was plainly displayed on the older man's usually indifferent face. Harry sobbed and leaned into the light touch on his shoulder. He was so tired and cold that he just wanted to fall into the professor's arms and weep, but he didn't know if Snape's concern would go as far as to comfort him. To hold him, as no one else had ever done in his life, while he cried.
If the professor had stayed this long without cutting him into pieces with his words, or hitting him while he cried, then surely the man could be trusted? Hadn't Snape put his trust in him when he showed him a scar that obviously meant a lot to him? The older man wouldn't tell anyone of his momentary weakness, and Harry was almost positive that Snape would try to help him the best he could. He knew he would never be able to get him out of his relative's house, but it was nice enough to have something to look forward to each day when he left for school.
Even if Snape eventually wanted something for all of this, Harry would be glad to pay that debt. Even if he cut off the after school sessions, just seeing and being around the man at the end of the school day would be enough. Harry felt safe in the man's presence. The raven haired youth didn't usually go with his gut instincts, since his mind always found reasons against doing so, but this was definitely the time where his instincts won out. Harry would try to trust Snape, even if the man wanted something from him, at least he would be able to feel safe and maybe even happy for the first time in his life.
Relief washed over Severus when Harry didn’t run away and actually leaned into his touch. Still unsure as to how much Harry would allow him to comfort him, Severus hesitated a few moments more, staying where he was. But then after a few more really gut wrenching sobs, Severus slid closer to Harry and gently gathered him into his strong embrace, careful not to hurt his arm or any other injury he might have sustained.
He was so thin in his arms that Severus was almost afraid he’d break if he moved too suddenly. Biting his lip, he was torn between driving hatred for the Dursleys and his deep concern for Harry. So Severus just continued to hold him, gently moving his hands up and down Harry’s back in a comforting motion, trying to imprint upon him the fact that he wasn’t going to abandon him or leave him alone; not until he could figure out a way to help him.
How exactly Severus was going to manage that, he wasn’t sure, but the devil himself could not possible stop him until he’d succeeded. That needed much deeper thought later, right now all his attention was focused on Harry and trying to offer him all the comfort he could.
Harry whimpered and clung to Snape's surprisingly soft shirt with his good hand. The warmth and feeling of being safe and cared for enveloped him in the same manner as the professor's arms wrapped around his small frame. The gentle and steady motion of the man's large hands moving up and down his back calmed him greatly. Eventually Harry's sobs died down to just small trickles of tears that still leaked out of his large emerald eyes.
Harry sniffled and lifted his good arm to wrap around Snape's neck, bringing the top of his head to rest comfortably underneath the larger man's chin. His embarrassingly small body actually fit quite well and comfortably in Snape's lap. Harry let out a small sigh, eyelids heavy. He leaned further into the man's hold and closed his eyes. The corners of his lips turned upwards slightly when he felt his professor shiver at the sigh.
Extremely tired from the emotional break down that he didn't often indulge in, the ebony haired youth fell asleep in the older man's comforting and safe embrace.
A small smiled found it’s way to Severus’ lips when he felt Harry’s breathing even out and his shaking die down. They stayed in that embrace until the even breathing of the troubled teen told Severus he’d fallen asleep in his arms. Glancing down at the small frame in his arms, he felt oddly privileged to be able to help Harry, and that he had at least a measure of his trust.
He looked so peaceful sleeping like that, a peace he obviously rarely got, that Severus could not bring it upon himself to wake him. Gently continuing to cradle the small frame in his arms, Severus let his mind drift to other subjects concerning him at the moment. He *really* didn’t want to let him go back to his relatives, ever again really. He’d stayed up almost half the night trying to think of options that they could look to if they ever both agreed to try to get him away, but as much as he wanted to help Harry, he couldn’t take any action without consulting him first. He’d been lied to enough already, not to mention he didn’t want to make things worse for him at home.
Still stroking his back lightly, Severus kept watch over his sleeping form.
Harry yawned and opened his eyes. He used his good hand to rub the sleep out of them and yawned again. Blinking his eyes to try to wake up, the young man snuggled closer to the warm pillow. Several moments passed before Harry blinked sharply, and the realization that he was still in Snape's arms made him jump up. He winced when he felt his head connect with the man's chin. Rubbing his head, he looked up at his professor. He could feel the warmth spreading over his cheeks. He hadn't meant to fall asleep like that, but he had felt so safe and warm… he couldn't help it. He'd never been able to have that sense of security before, and to find it in his professor..
Looking up beneath his lashes, he met the other man's gaze. "Sor-sorry for falling asleep. I guess I was pr-pretty tired." He gave a small grin and rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. The grin faded when he remembered exactly 'why' he had trouble sleeping. It was hard to fall asleep on the uncomfortable cot in his cupboard without agitating his injured arm. And for the first time in what felt like forever, he'd been able to sleep comfortably and securely. Even if it was in his professor's arms.
He smiled and looked up fully, "Thanks for.. you know." He shrugged. He wished he was better with words.. but at least that should get his appreciation across.
Harry let his gaze drop from Snape's and looked out the large window. His eyes widened and his smile instantly dropped to be replaced by a frown. Shit.. he was definitely going to be majorly late..
Severus, having been nearly asleep himself, glanced down when he felt Harry moving in is arms. He winced slightly when Harry’s head came into contact with his chin, but waved off the apology. He didn’t know the details of Harry’s situation at home but he could guess all too well. It just made him sick to think he had to put up with those people for even one more day.
Smiling unguardedly at Harry, Severus nodded briefly saying just, “You’re welcome.” He was just very grateful that Harry trusted him enough to let him help. Now that he had his trust… there might just be something he could do for him, though he needed to make a few phone calls first.
At the feel of Harry stiffening in his arms Severus’s gaze darted to the windows, causing him to tense a little as well. ‘Damn, I completely forgot about the time!’ Severus cursed inwardly, but, as with years of practice, he was the picture of composure outwardly. His arms still supportively around Harry, he made a suggestion. “Perhaps I should drive you home again. You could get there faster. I could drop you off a bit away from the house if you think a second appearance would cause trouble.” His only thoughts now were of reducing whatever anger that atrocious excuse for a family could inflict on *his* student. He would berate himself for being possessive after Harry was as safe as he really could be for that day.
The raven haired teen frowned, lost in his thoughts of what kind of punishment he would most likely get for being out so late. Feeling the arms around him tighten, Harry looked up. He pursed his lips when the older man's breath tickled them.
He frowned again, thinking the request over. It would get him home faster, and his punishment should be reduced if Snape stayed out of sight. But..
"Cause trouble?" Shit.. he didn't know, did he? No one was supposed to know… if Snape knew then he would go to Children's Aid and then the whole thing that he had already gone through with his other teachers would be repeated. Harry didn't want Snape in the middle of it all.
He grinned at the older man, though it was forced, he didn't want his professor thinking anything was wrong. "No, why would it cause trouble?" He glanced outside again, the sun was starting to set now, it must be at least 7 by now. Harry frowned, but quickly remembered the other's presence and forced a sheepish grin. "Thanks for giving me a ride. If I'm any later I'll probably be grounded again." It wasn't that Harry didn't trust the man… he did! He just didn't want Snape to know too much about his 'home' (if you can call it that) life. He didn't want his professor to go to the authorities and then proceed to ignore him after the whole thing blew up in his face because his relatives were such good actors. Harry didn't think he could stand it if Snape started to ignore him after spending all this time with him…
Severus mumbled unhappily in his thoughts, watching Harry tense and joke defensively. On one hand he wanted to assure him that he could be trusted, but on the other hand, he didn’t want to rush him. Trust, that was the key, and for that he needed more time. The most important thing right now was getting Harry home as soon as possible to diminish the anger of his relatives; as much as Severus hated to do it.
“Well then,” Severus started in what he hoped was a neutral tone, “We’d better get going. Wouldn’t want you grounded.” Gently pulling them both to their feet, Severus quickly grabbed his briefcase and coat and once Harry had timidly gathered his own things, they were out the door again; much like the afternoon before.
As they pulled away from the school, Severus’s mind was spinning. He wanted so badly just to continue talking to Harry and explain that he wanted to help and that he wasn’t going to give up, but somehow he knew that was a conversation for another day. At one point he was tempted to ask Harry to come see him during his lunch period, but he reminded himself in time that patience was the key to what he wanted right now. Desperately wanting to say something of comfort to Harry without getting too entangled in his words, Severus said at last, “You did well this afternoon Harry. I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow.”
The young man's eyebrows shot up in surprise. No one had ever said they actually 'looked forward' to seeing him. A small smile curved Harry's lips. Looking out the window, he spotted his relative's house. He unbuckled his seat belt and waited for Snape to come to a complete stop. He turned towards the man, and with slight hesitation he leaned forward quickly and wrapped his arm around the larger man. Squeezing slightly he whispered, "Thank you." Pulling back just as quickly, feeling a blush staining his cheeks, he smiled shyly and got out of the car. He jogged towards the house, hearing the car start up, Harry turned slightly and waved before heading inside.
Severus was mildly shocked when Harry leaned forward and thus his breath caught slightly in surprise. The hug was a little to quick for him to return, but he did smile slightly in return, murmuring “You’re welcome,” to the empty air beside him as he watch Harry run up to the house. Managing to glance back only once, he saw the slim figure waving through the light haze of dusk and returned the gesture as he drove out of sight.
It wasn’t until he drifted over to the shoulder of the road a little too much that he realized he’d been looking in his rearview mirror too long. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts he drove forward. Harry was safe (and he used the word loosely) for now. It was time to get a few things in order, admittedly more slowly than he would’ve liked.
The drive through the town was quite uneventful. It was about a half an hour before Severus reached the edges of his thick, hilly forest. Not many people knew Severus lived as far away from the town as he did, and those that did know could not believe why he’d go so far from home. And there was no one that knew exactly how isolated his home really was.
The Snapes were a very old, very rich family with no ties to any other family (that they would admit to anyway). It was a proud history of aristocrats and nobles and other such people full of it’s own skeletons and scandals, but at the end of it all it still left Severus as the soul heir to the Snape estate. That estate included a vast group of businesses that required little attention on Snape’s part, and he employed a very trusted friend to handle most of the work, and a rather large manor about a half an hour out of town in the woods. The land Snape owned was so vast he was technically going down his driveway as soon as he entered the forest.
He got none of the fame for his money though, much to his departed parents assured grief, he had his friend and business partner Lucius Malfoy handle all of that. He was made for it and built with an attitude to handle the burden of being in the public eye, because he too came from a wealthy family. His son left much to desire, even though Severus had made attempts to help him over the years. They both knew it was something of a lost cause because Severus did owe Lucius a lot. He was one of his few friends that actually understood his desire to live a private, quiet life doing something he loved, if the students bothered to listen that is.
It was this very person that Severus intended to contact as soon as he pulled inside the driveway. There were large black iron gates that he passed through on the way to his manor, made to look more foreboding by the dragon images worked into either side of the gate, part of his family crest. Parking the car in the left wing garage, Severus made his way up the smooth dark marble steps of the home.
From the outside his home looked quite professional, maybe even haughty or unapproachable in its splendor. Much like its master, however, the inside was rather snug and homey. Simple, rather than excessively extravagant. Fine furnishings stretched throughout the manor in a way that made it feel more like a cozy welcoming place than a stiff museum, as often happened to manors.
Making straight for his study, (e never really used the room, preferring his own sitting room and the desk there, but this was closer from what he needed now.) which housed four walls of bookshelves, a fireplace, and a large oak desk, Severus picked up the phone and dialed his friend's cell phone. “Malfoy here,” came the familiar brisk voice he often used to intimidate people, but Severus had known him too long for that.
“I need a favor, Lucius.”
“Ah, Severus, my friend. Blunt as always. What can I do for you?”
Severus breathed a shaky sigh that was in part nerves. “I need you to look into the business of a Mr. Dursley. I need to *persuade* him to give up custody of his nephew without a fight.”
He couldn’t see him, but he could tell Lucius was looking at the receiver as if it had suddenly sprouted three heads. “Severus, what are you up to?”
Sinking into his plush leather chair, Severus ran a hand through his hair and managed, “It’s a long story, Lucius.”
“I’ve got all night,” his friend persisted.
Severus launched into an account of his concern for his student and what had happened between them. Lucius nodded, seemingly joining him in his rage at Harry’s family. Lucius knew Severus’ home life as a child hadn’t been exactly functional and he knew better than to ask for details. He knew most of them already.
“So you’ll help then?” Severus added after he finished the whole story.
“Don’t worry. I’ll put the fear of God in him.”
A smile spread over Severus’s face, “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.” He opened his mouth to take a breath and keep speaking when a large black blur rushed past his office, followed by a crashing sound and the screaming of a maid. Rolling his eyes in a frustrated fashion, Severus said, “I’ve got to go. The marauders are causing trouble again.” Lucius just laughed as Severus placed the receiver down and stored out into the hall to deal with his rather mischievous companions.
“Why do I even put up with you!” he yelled half heartedly into the hallway. It was a love/hate relationship and it always would be. With one last glance at the phone in his office he marched off to deal with the other hard to control matters of his life.
Closing the door softly behind him, Harry was immediately greeted with yelling. Though for once, not at him. Frowning, the raven haired teen walked through the hallway, heading towards the sound of his uncle and aunt's loud scolding.
"How could you get suspended!" Harry's eyes widened in surprise. Dudley, expelled?
"It wasn't my fault! He hit me first!"
"That's not what the principal told us."
"Yeah, well Dumbledore is an ass, he doesn't know what he's talking about." The sound of flesh meeting flesh echoed out into the hallway where Harry was hiding out of sight of the doorway. That was a first.. Dudley never got hit, that pleasure was left to Harry.
"Don't you say that, mister! The man is well respected, if it wasn't for him you'd be suspended from school for a whole semester instead of just three months!" Aunt Petunia's shrill voice announced.
"Go to your room, we'll think up a suitable punishment for you to carry out until you get back to school."
"Whatever." Dudley stomped out of the room, purposely knocking Harry over on his way by. The falling teen glared at him, but Dudley didn't bother to give him his attention.
"Boy! We know you're out there!" Harry sighed and got up clumsily, almost falling over again when he pushed himself up with his one good arm. He walked into the small living room with his head down, making sure not to meet Vernon's eyes.
"I assume you were with that teacher again." Vernon stated. Harry nodded with a sigh. "Well, there's not much I can do since if I pull you out of there the professor will just stir up trouble." Harry looked up in surprise. Surely he wouldn't get off that easily? "You're damn lucky boy." The teen resisted a snort. "You'll continue to go to Mr.. Snape was it? And you'll continue to 'improve' your English," his uncle's voice was heavy with sarcasm, "but there'll of course be a catch to me letting you continue those damned sessions." Harry sighed, of course there was a catch. There always was. "Until you decide to cut off the sessions yourself, you'll be eating once every Saturday, and that's it." Emerald eyes widened. No... he didn't get enough food already! Now they were only going to feed him one day of the week?
"Go to your room." Shoulders slumped in defeat, Harry went to his 'room'. Shutting the cupboard door behind him, he winced at the sound of the lock clicking and the lookout being covered, blocking out the little light he had.
Harry sighed and went over to his cot. There wasn't much he could do... he didn't get much food to begin with, but to only survive on a meal a week? He'd read various books on that kind of thing, but at the moment he couldn't really get his facts straight. He was pretty sure a human couldn't live for seven days without water. He knew it was quite a bit longer for food... maybe a year? The person's insides would start to eat themselves to make up for the lack of food after only a few weeks, so he guessed it wasn't that bad.. He'd still get a meal (though, knowing his relatives like he did, he'd probably only get something incredibly small) once a week, so he could survive on that. He'd have to use the drinking fountain at school a lot more though. He was pretty sure that Vernon wouldn't let him drink either.
The small teen sighed and glanced at his wounded arm. The lack of nutrition and medication surely would make the healing process a hell of a lot longer. At least Snape had did an excellent job with making the sling half decent. Better then what Harry did with only one arm.
The young man sighed and lay down on his good side. He may go hungry, but there was no way he would back out of those sessions with Professor Snape. For one, the man would know something was up, and for another thing, Harry would miss talking to him and being in his company without anyone else around to disturb them with idiotic chatter.
Harry frowned. He was positive that it wasn't a good idea to get so attached to someone. Especially a teacher that he had only known for three days. But how had the man gotten so close to him so quickly? There wasn't anything special about him, surely? Well.. he did appear to be more intelligent than his other teachers. Harry actually thought that Snape had been able to see through his lies of being 'grounded' if he was too late getting home.
He was also pretty funny. Most people wouldn't find the somber man as amusing, but Harry did. He loved that type of humor, not many people could appreciate the art form that was sarcasm. It took a lot of intelligence to be able to cut down someone with just words alone. Snape was definitely that type of person. Although Harry was a bit afraid of being on the wrong side of that cutting tongue, he was pretty sure that Snape would never use it on him or actually hurt him intentionally.
The young man sighed and finally closed his eyes. It had been an exhausting day, and all he wanted to do was sleep. He also had the hope that it would bring the next day closer. He couldn't wait to see the older man again at school. He just hoped he didn't run into Dudley's gang, they might end up blaming him (though he was obviously not to blame, but they were stupid like that) for Dudley's expulsion. He sighed again (he was sure doing that a lot, maybe that was why he felt so light headed? No.. that was probably the lack of food) and tried to blank out his thoughts so he could actually get some rest.
After half an hour, Harry Potter was sleeping peacefully, with a small smile on his face as he dreamed of Snape and what tomorrow would bring.
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