Harry stood at the barred window of his room and wished desperately for Hedwig to return. Three more weeks here and then back to Hogwarts. When he couldn't spot her, he went back to his bed and laid himself on his stomach. Damn, almost every movement still hurts. Uncle Vernon had beat him with his belt yesterday because he hadn't managed to mow the whole lawn. The welts on his back and especially his bottom hurt a lot and his black eye too. I deserve every single one of these hits, Harry thought bitterly. Why did I let Cedric grab for the trophy with me. Why do I always have to act like a damn hero. I don't want to be a hero. He punched his fist into his pillow. A rustling sound reminded him that he had laid Ron's last letter under the pillow. He pushed his face into the pillow and enjoyed the jolt of pain which came from his bruised eye. Yes, you deserve it. You are responsible for his death and you should be punished much more for it. Harry thought about getting the shard which he had hidden in his drawer to make some more of the cuts on his arm. It always felts so good to punish himself. And it felt good to see the scars after it. Harry pushed up his sleeve and stroked over the hardly dry scars that covered his underarm. Satisfied that it still hurt he scratched a little at them and grinned evilly to himself. But then his temper turned completely and he felt a heavy weight on his chest and the feeling that he was going to cry. Maybe I'm going crazy, he thought scared. Why do I always want to hurt myself? He let go of his arm and threw his face violently back into the pillow. Again the rustling sound was to be heart.
This time Harry took the letter out from his hiding place. He unfolded it and started to read.
How are you? I hope everything is still okay. I'm glad that your relatives have left you in peace this summer.
Harry had lied in his letters to Ron and Hermione. He didn't want them to know that his uncle had changed and now was reacting violently against him. He felt embarrassed and really felt that he deserved to feel pain for Cedric's death.
You won't believe what Mom just told me. Bill has a fiancé and is visiting us tomorrow for a week. She is an animo. That's someone who can speak with animals and magical creatures. Isn't that cool? I will ask her to tell the gnomes to hide themselves better, so that I never have to degnome the garden again. That's such a wicked feature isn't it? Okay, you should know that. You can speak with Snakes but mom says it's different. She can speak with them in our language and they understand her. That's so wicked.
Mom is calling for dinner, Harry. I have to go.
Please answer soon.
Harry sadly laid his bruised face on the pillow. I feel bad about lying the whole time to them. Hermione doesn't write as often as Ron because she is on a journey to Greece with her parents but Ron asks in every one of his letters how Harry is feeling and every time Harry lies.
He had answered this last letter four days ago and Hedwig still wasn't back. Normally Ron answers faster and Harry thought he must have to tell a lot with the animo in the house. Maybe he is too busy with her that he doesn't find the time to write.
Harry heard the doorbell ring and tried to listen who it was. Oh please not Aunt Marge. When he beats me in front of her or let her beat me, I will die of embarrassment.
As hard as he tried he couldn't hear anything. It was perfectly quiet. That's odd, Harry thought worried. His wand was hidden under a loose floorboard with the moving photo of his parents and some other stuff his uncle should not see. Maybe I should have it near me. Harry moved arching from the bed in the direction of the hiding place of his wand.
He could hear footsteps coming up the stairs to his room now and Harry froze in shock to listen. When the handle of his locked door turned while someone tried to open it, he shook himself out of his stupor and tried to reach his wand faster. But with no success because the door to his room banged open before he could reach it.
In the door frame with their wands raised were Professor Snape and Professor Moody (the real one this time).
Harry looked at them like a deer caught in headlights. He had expected everything but not this. His uncle, his aunt, Death Eaters.... But not someone from Hogwarts, and definitely not Snape. What was he doing here?
Snape moved further into the room and Moody's eye was frantically scanning the whole place.
"Pro - Professors?" Harry stuttered when he found his voice again.
Snape was now moving in his direction, and Harry backed instinctively away from him. This caused the Professor to stop in track.
"Potter, we are here to check on you," he said while eying Harry closely.
Harry had the feeling he got x-rayed by Snape. He isn't as cold as he was the last years, Harry thought confused. He almost seems to look worried. But he can not be worried about me, can he?
"Why?" Harry asked confused. "Has something happened? Has something happened to Hermione or Ron?" Harry started to panic. Maybe that was the reason why Ron hadn't answered his letter. His breathing became frantic and his gaze jumped from one Professor to the other. "I haven't heard from them for days." He didn't even notice that he moved nearer to Snape to get an answer.
"Calm down, Mr. Potter. We are here to check on you, because there are rumors that you aren't well," Snape said while he made another cautious step in Harry's direction.
Harry looked at Moody, who still was hardly in the room and now was scanning him with his magical eye. What can he see with it? He can not see my wounds, can he? Harry felt nervous under the piercing looks of his Professors but mostly under the gaze of Moody's magical eye. So he moved a little that the frame of Snape was blocking the view of Moody's eye on him. But this also made him realize that Snape was now standing directly in front of him.
When he tried to back away again, Snape grasped his arm. "Mr. Potter, tell us what's going on here? Why do you have a black eye?"
Now Harry really panicked. He tried to wriggle out of Snape's gasp but the man had a hurtful grip on him. "Nothing is going on. I'm fine. Let me go." Harry struggled wildly but with no effect. His eye fell on Snape legs and he shortly thought about kicking him and then try to pass Moody who still was blocking his escape route. One glance in Snape's face and he changed his plans. Maybe better not, he thought and gulped in fear.
"You still have the chance to answer my question correctly, Mr. Potter. If you decide to hold your tongue or continue lying to me, I will have a closer look at you myself." Snape said dangerously while looking Harry straight in the face. Their noses almost touched each other.
Harry again gulped, the fear of having them see his injuries, especially the self-inflicted, made him almost pass out. He couldn't speak and just stared at Snape in fear with wide open eyes.
"Okay, that's enough." Snape said sternly and had Harry's back pressed against his chest in one fluid motion. He restrained first Harry's right arm crossed over his chest so that he could hold it in place with his upper arm and elbow while he drew Harry's left arm from his body and pushed the sleeve up.
"No, stop it, Professor. Let me go!" Harry shouted desperately. He felt tears sliding down his cheeks and his face heat up in embarrassment. His weak struggling was useless because Snape knew exactly how to hold him, and Harry didn't even know if he wanted to get out of Snape's arms any longer. He felt very embarrassed that they knew what he did but at the same time he was glad that his secret has been discovered and he wasn't alone any longer. Being encircled by Snape made him feel safe and warm. It felt as if he hasn't to go through all this alone from now on.
"What's this, Harry?" Snape asked demandingly but not harshly.
Oh Merlin, he called me by my first name , Harry thought in despair. "I'm sorry, Sir" he answered and started to sobbing. His face was wet now and he had stopped struggling.
Snape realized that Harry had calmed down and was cooperative now. He loosened his grip and pushed up the sleeve of Harry's other arm as well. There also were cuts but not as many as on the left one. "Stop crying, Harry! That doesn't make it any better," Snape scowled him but still his voice was more worried than angry. "Why in Merlin's name are you doing this?"
He didn't wait for an answer to his question. He more spoke it to himself than to Harry. But he wasn't finished with what Albus had sent him here for. The Weasley's were not only speaking about self-inflicted wounds but also about Harry's uncle abusing him. Harry seemed to have given in to his examination and so he decided to try his luck to have a closer look. Without saying another word, he gripped for Harry's belt and started to loosen it.
Harry was shocked but didn't struggle. Will he spank me bare bottom for hurting myself? He was scared but he would accept everything from Snape now if he just wouldn't leave him alone again. He was fourteen years old, almost fifteen, but he felt like a small child who desperately wanted an adult to take care of him and make everything better. More tears were running over his cheeks and he said, "I'm sorry, Professor! Really." he didn't think there would be a great chance that Snape wouldn't spank him when he apologized but he had to try it. "I won't do it again. Please don't spank me."
His trousers were already lowered now and Snape just went to shift him again but he stopped when he heard Harry's pleads. One hand under Harry's chin forced him to look directly at Snape. "I'm not going to spank you, Harry. I'm going to have a closer look at your injuries like I said before. I'm not going to hurt you." He turned Harry to his side so that he could push up his shirt to expose the dark and angry welts on Harry's back.
Harry could hear Alastor move nearer. The heat in his face increased. And when he felt Snape's finger at the waistband of his worn out briefs, he couldn't stop himself from trying to flinch away.
But Snape already must have calculated this in because he quickly bent Harry's upper body by encircling his back with his left arm. Now Harry's side was fixed on Snape's front and he felt Snape lowering his briefs in a fluid motion.
Harry hissed in pain first because of Snape's arm on the welts on his back and then because of the fabric of his briefs being moved away from the still half open welts on his bottom.
"Sorry, Harry, this will be over soon." Snape said gently.
"Hold him like this a little longer," Moody ordered Snape.
Harry felt an odd sensation at his backside but the pain faded. He couldn't stop himself from sighing in relieve.
"Better?" Snape asked while letting Harry's upper body go.
Harry couldn't speak, his face was red like a tomato. So he just nodded. When he realized that he was standing in front of his Professors with his trousers at his ankles he quickly moved to put his briefs and trousers on again.
"Be careful, Potter! That was just a spell to clean the wounds and dull the pain. They are still open because Poppy is much better than me in healing spells." Moody was growling.
Harry could feel that the anger wasn't directed at him. He put on his trousers more carefully and was relieved to feel no pain. Now with the two men at his side and not being alone any longer, he didn't feel the desire to hurt himself. Quite the opposite, he wanted them to take all the pain away from him. Bodily pain as well as emotional pain.
"Poppy?" he asked because he couldn't remember hearing this name before. "Do I have to go to a hospital?"
"Madam Pomfrey, Harry." Snape explained. "She is already waiting for you."
He didn't react on Harry's questioned look because Moody was speaking to him now.
"Take Potter to Hogwarts and I will take care of the bastards down there." He motioned with his head in the direction Harry assumed his relatives were. "I hope they are already very sore by being stupefied for that long." Without another glance at Harry he moved out of the room.
"Okay Harry I have to hold you while we apparate." Snape explained while encircling Harry.
Harry didn't complain. He encircled Snape with his arms and laid his head against Snape's chest. A small smile creeped up on his face and he sighed in relief. I have never felt that safe in my whole life!
When Snape felt Harry hug him and heard him sigh, he automatically fastened his embrace. You are getting soft, old man, he said mentally to himself and rolled his eyes.