His life was untitled. It meant nothing. There was nothing in his life that meant anything, thus the whole of it meant nothing. Nothing nothing nothing. Severus couldn't understand how one second he could be fine and then the next he could realize he'd been lying in bed for hours and still had no desire to get up. It was like a tidal wave that crashed over him without warning, a tsunami that left all but desolation and devastation in its wake. He was the sole survivor, and he wished he wasn't.
Severus stared at the ceiling. He knew ceilings. Oh, how he knew ceilings. This one was smooth, institutional. Off white from years of the stale air he breathed indoors here. He had memorized the ceilings in his quarters, too. Every crack. Years of lying down on the sitting room floor in a fit of exhaustion. Years of lying in bed on weekends and wishing he couldn't see the ceiling anymore. Years of recovering from one disaster or another, caused by the Dark Lord or himself. The arches at the top of the hospital wing, their shadows and hidden fissures. He knew ceilings. What a useless area of expertise that was.
No use to society. Lying here in a mental ward. Not needed. Not wanted. Purpose served, done.
How could he ever hope to contribute to anything, or be successful in the world when the smallest things sent him crashing to the floor in a heap of bones? Made his legs become lead and his chest tighten into a heavy, monstrous mass that dragged him down.
The room seemed strangely empty now, with Potter gone. Potter was off talking with Richard. Severus had taken him to one of the healers, who had healed his cuts. Then, seeing as Richard had some time, Potter was able to get in to talk a little with him about the incident.
Great. Severus had done a good thing. He'd made sure Potter was safe, and with someone who could get him out of his head a little.
So why the hell do I feel so bloody terrible?
Because you were wrong. Wrong all along, at least partly. Wrong wrong wrong -
So Potter was definitely not what he seemed. He rang alarm bells. Familiar ones. Any other kid and Severus would have been asking about the family. But Potter's adored him, right?
Or did they? To be honest, Potter had scared Severus. The pain on his face, the reaction from the mention of his godfather ... if Severus didn't know better he would have said that Potter felt like he had nobody else in the world now that Black was dead.
Too tired for this. Doesn't matter. Nothing does.
Severus gave a small sigh. Yes, he had been wrong. Somewhat. He didn't know what to think anymore. Oh well. He supposed he'd have something to talk about with Joseph later in the evening.
Wow, when did deciding what to talk about with my healer become normal?
Severus supposed he should have a shower before he went off to his meeting, but he didn't have the energy. It seemed so pointless. He would only have to do it again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. The days stretched before him, grey, dull, and listless.
Snap out of it snap out of it snap out of it you'll never get anywhere if you keep this up never get anywhere anywhere anywhere anywhere failure failure -
"Just shut up already!" Severus cried loudly, anger flaring in his chest. He sighed, the cold replacing the fire as soon as it had come. "Just leave me alone."
He stared up at the ceiling again, examining the cracks and chips in the paint.
One ... two ... three ...
"I'm so sorry," whispered Harry, beyond tears, shivering as he sat in the chair in Richard's office, his arms bandaged and cleaned up. They had some dittany applied to them, and the bandages remained to protect the newly formed skin.
"Harry, you do not need to keep apologizing to me," Richard repeated gently for what must have been the fifth time. "Now, how about instead of apologizing to me again, you try apologizing to yourself? You were going to treat yourself with care. You have done well up until now, but today was a slip up. You deserve to be treated with respect, not just from others, but yourself included."
"Try saying it," prodded Richard. "Try telling yourself you're sorry. How about you picture yourself as you were as a child, and imagine you are apologizing to him. It might make it easier to remember a more vulnerable version of you."
"I'm sorry ... Harry," muttered Harry, doing as Richard said. "I'm s-sorry."
Harry tried to stop the tears, but Richard said it was okay. So he let them fall, and Richard prodded him to keep going. Explain himself to his inner child, who was frightened by what had happened.
"I'm sorry," Harry said louder, seeing the little boy in the cupboard, crying too. "I did not want to hurt you, Harry. I just ...I felt so bad over Sirius. That newspaper threw me for a loop. I'm going to do better."
"Good," said Richard. "Ready to try out that contract again?"
"Yeah," Harry said, wiping his eyes.
"Alright, now that you want to continue to try not to harm yourself, we have to think about what that means. What do you think you can do next time you feel overwhelmed and have the urge to self-harm?"
"Er ..." How should I know? He tried to remember some of the techniques Richard had said before on the matter.
"Take your time, Harry."
After a moment of thought, hesitantly, Harry spoke. "I could ... go take a shower?"
"If it relaxes you, definitely," said Richard. "What else? What if you can't take a shower? You've said before you only hurt yourself when you're alone."
"Oh, you said before that I could ... find someone to be with? Or talk to?"
"Yes," Richard said. "You can come find me next time, or talk with a friend. Any of the other healers here would be happy to listen if I'm in a session and cannot get away to help. Those are good suggestions, Harry. Any other thoughts or ideas?"
"I guess I just have to be ... kinder to myself, forgive myself when I make mistakes so I won't get so mad," Harry said, staring off into space and thinking deeply. "Maybe when I feel guilty ... no, that's stupid."
"No suggestion is stupid. It's just a stepping stone toward a better solution. You were doing well. Let's hear it."
"Er, maybe I just feel guilty? What I mean is, Sna- Professor Snape, he ... well, he said it wasn't my fault, really. That he tried to stop Sirius from going and that I should have been given more information in the first place, so maybe if Dumbledore had been straight with me, I wouldn't have gone, right? If anyone else said it ... I dunno ... it's just with Snape, I know he'd never lead me on. He always tells me the flat out truth about what he thinks about me and doesn't pretend if something is my fault. I mean, it kind of sucks sometimes but at least I know where I stand with him. So ... he really must think it isn't my fault, and he usually would be the first one to blame me. So maybe ... maybe I just feel guilty, but just ‘cause I feel guilty, that doesn't mean I am. Or is that silly?"
"That is great thinking, Harry. How about the next time you feel overwhelmed or guilty, you remember that. You can make it a mantra, something you repeat over and over to yourself. Why not try summarizing that thought now, and saying it aloud?"
"Er, okay," said Harry, rubbing his eyes slightly, relieved Richard liked it. "How about ... ‘just because I feel guilty doesn't mean I am guilty'?"
"That sounds good," said Richard. "I think you are developing some good thoughts and tools to help you achieve our goal. It's not going to be easy always, but keep telling yourself that mantra, and remember what we discussed for options besides hurting yourself next time you are overwhelmed. I think that's about all the time we have, right now, however. I have another session I have to start soon, but before we finish, have you got any other things you want to discuss?"
Harry thought for a moment. "No, I feel okay now. I really do."
"Good," said Richard. "Take care Harry."
"Bye, Richard," said Harry, exhausted but feeling calmer as he headed out of Richard's office and into the main room. He fingered the bandages in his arms.
"Hey, Harry!" called Stephen, sitting over in the cluster of sofas and armchairs by the windows.
Harry smiled back at Stephen, and he went over to him. He sunk down on sofa beside him.
Stephen looked down at Harry's arms, wrapped in the white gauze. Stephen grew sober. "Rough morning?" he said in a low voice.
"Yeah," Harry said quietly.
Stephen nodded, meeting Harry's eyes. He did not say a word, but there was a depth to his gaze that even Richard lacked. It only took that three second glance for Harry to feel more understood than he ever had. Stephen had been there. Stephen knew.
Then, Stephen rolled up his sleeve. There was another small cut on his wrist, healed over from a few days ago with fresh pink skin. He rolled his sleeve back down. It looked like it had been done with fingernails too. Nothing sharp around here.
"Did you tell someone?" Harry asked in a low whisper. He couldn't believe the way he felt after seeing that. It was like a hammer had hit him in the stomach. Was this how Ron and Hermione would be feeling when they got his letter?
They care this much. I've known why Stephen is here all along. They haven't know about me.
He felt suddenly sick, and for a second he knew how Hagrid had felt when he'd seen the cuts on Harry's arms.
"Yeah," muttered Stephen. "Joseph talked with me about it two days ago."
They looked at each other a moment. Harry nodded slightly.
"You want to go play Ground Quidditch?" Stephen asked after a minute. Then, he admitted, "I know it really helps me if I've had a ... rough morning, and stuff."
"Lead the way," Harry said, allowing Stephen to offer a hand to him to help him off the old, sunken sofa.
Suddenly, Stephen's face adopted a look Harry could only describe as mischievous.
"Race you," Stephen said, glancing to make sure the healers weren't looking.
Then he took off, and Harry was chasing after him and laughing more than he had in a long time. The Healers saw, of course, but as no patient was in danger of being run over so they didn't try to stop the two. Harry got the feeling the healers were enjoying the laughter just as much as Harry was.
Maybe things won't be so bad. Maybe I can do this.
Severus opened his eyes after having been asleep for a while. It was mid-afternoon. He still had some time before lunch. He felt a little better. And hungry. But still terrible.
Come on, Severus, get up.
He tried thinking of Lily sitting by his bed, convincing him it was worth it. He didn't know why he bothered, because that had stopped working a long time ago. Severus closed his eyes. When he opened them he caught a glimpse of Daisy's pine tree. Lone. Silent, bare of needles. Blackened, stick-like branches, but beautiful.
There was a flicker. A spark. It wasn't much, and it died as soon as he'd felt it, but it had been something. Curiosity. It had been curiosity.
Daisy, why are you here?
Then that spark came again, as he stared, wonderingly at the pine tree.
What made you talk to me? Why would you talk to me?
She had skipped breakfast. She would probably be at lunch, then. Daisy had to be hungry, right? Everyone got hungry, though they didn't always feel like eating. He thought there was a chance she would be there, though.
Severus tried to sit up, but the world was sitting on his chest, a heavy, time-devouring earth pressing into his lungs and keeping him on the bed. He tried to push it away and sit up, but fell back onto the bed.
Come on Severus. Get up or you'll never know what brought Daisy here. GET UP.
He gave it another try, but exhaustion claimed him again.
He stared at the lone pine tree.
Don't give up on yourself. Don't give up. That's why people are sent here, right? People aren't ready to give up on them. Guess Dumbledore wasn't ready to give up on me, even if he is a manipulative bastard sometimes.
Am I ready to give up?
But something was keeping him from lying there. Something was keeping him from stopping in his attempts. He had to know. He needed to know. Then he'd be at peace. Then he could stay in this bed forever and never care. Just a few hours out of bed, that was all. An afternoon to find Daisy. Find out why she was here, maybe interrogate Joseph later during his session if that proved fruitless. Yes. That was it.
Severus took a deep, forceful breath. He did not quite know how he did it, but it cost him almost all his energy. He sat up and moved the world from his chest, just for a moment. Just long enough to get up out of bed. He swayed a little, his mind still caught in the toxic dream world he had been inhabiting so long. It made the world look strange. It made the floor seem too far away from him, and the furniture the wrong size. The light seemed strange too, like it was too bright and too unmoving. But he took a step forward, dragging the world on a shackle from his ankles. But he dragged it forward.
Daisy. Daisy Daisy Daisy what brought you here do you wonder what brought me here do you care what brought me here why did you talk to me I have to know I have to know, one more step come on just do this Severus and then you can be at peace. Peace. Peace
Does that exist anymore?
He wanted to believe peace existed for him. And most of all he wanted to believe it existed in life, in living. He supposed wanting to believe was a start. It was a start.
He opened the door and left the room.