"Sorry for the short notice about this, Albus," sighed Remus as he walked through the door into Dumbledore's office, having just left Harry with Hagrid. "But I think it will be good for Harry. You should have seen him ..."
"Is it really that bad?" Albus asked, sounding surprised by the look on Remus' face as Remus took a seat at the desk. His wrinkles showed, and Remus noted this.
"I doubt I am wrong about this," Remus muttered. "He is obviously in a very deep state of depression - and I sure hope I am wrong but he has a few cuts and scrapes that don't look ... entirely accidental. Whether that turns out to be true or not I still think he should be taken for counselling. I've never seen him like this before. It reminds me of when James crashed at my place the time he and Lily had that really bad row while they were still dating. He was a wreck, only Harry's even worse if that's possible, and you know how upset James could get."
Albus seemed to pale, and then said, "Is that why you suggested he spend a few hours with Hagrid?"
"Yes. Harry seems to be able to talk a little bit better with Hagrid than others. I didn't want to push Harry too hard for answers. I was worried he would refuse to confide in any of what has been going on if I did. I'm hoping either he will be improved by a short visit, or Hagrid will be able to offer some insight that will help us figure out how we can help Harry. "
"I hope so," muttered Albus.
Remus looked at the clock.
"Nothing to do but wait, I suppose," said Albus as he glanced out the window, a mournful expression on his face.
"I wish I was wrong about this, Albus," Remus muttered. "But I don't think I am."
"I fear you are all too correct," muttered the headmaster.
So they waited, and waited. The knock on the door that came at last was a gunshot in the silence.
Harry shut his eyes tightly. The door creaked open.
Don't think about it don't think about it
So the whole psychiatry thing as muggles called it, wasn't all that it cracked up to be. Well, okay, you could definitely say that in all reality, it was cracked up in a sense, although it was nothing like Severus expected it to be. The whole process felt a little surreal, and Severus felt pretty crazy sitting in that quiet office, with its soothing paint and soft chairs, the inspirational posters getting on his nerves.
Inspiration I'll give them inspiration breathing in perfect get it inspiration expiration breathing in and out and in again see that's all the inspiration I have right now see?
They started with how he was feeling, (that yellow potion was brewed wrong - letting it build up in my system won't make a difference - it's brewed wrong I can tell) he and the healer that was supposed to be working wonders on his mind. An unlikely thought, in his opinion. Feelings, they started with feelings (No son of Tobias Snape's will be a crier). And when that approach was done and the healer came to the conclusion that the only feelings Severus was talking about was the lack of them, they moved on to what happened when he was discovered as a spy. The Healer clearly thought that something extraordinarily horrible had happened to trigger Severus' sudden expedition into suicide.
That's not it you dumb Healer well heal this find this read me try and read an occlumens because I'll never tell - hah - you think that it is the spying that got to me? The torture? No no spying is different spying spying torture that wasn't it -
All that torture hadn't been the thing to break him - it was just the pebble that hit the already crumbling mountain and set its fate in motion. It wasn't the torture, or the spying, or the years of secrecy and the forced paranoia from it. No. It went way back, and Severus hadn't even been sure what had started the purposelessness until the nightmares came back. The nightmares that he'd started having in the hospital wing, initially of torture, had shifted into something new. They had evolved from torture racks to kitchen tables (from Voldemort to Daddy from hate for the sake of hate to what should have been love but wasn't oh yes - hah - the foundation had been set years and years ago a foundation of failure a big fat crack hidden under the walls and bricks and wooden boards even I didn't see - HAH - just wait you'll see the house come down sit back and watch sit back and watch it's started already with the roof coming off watch wait watch).
Severus was actually pretty amazed at how persistent the man was (Joseph, he was called, and he was specially chosen for Severus due to his affiliation with the Order. It had only been when Dumbledore started calling in favours that awful night that Severus realized just how far the Order went now, and he got the sense he'd only seen the tip of the iceberg). Joseph insisted on a name rather than a title (Healer) which Severus supposed was a sign that he wasn't conceited like all the other Healers he'd ever met seemed to be. But still, Severus didn't think it would work. He knew it wouldn't work. The trouble was that he didn't trust Joseph, or anyone for that matter. Maybe, just maybe if the healer was a woman (less of them had tried to kill him and he'd yet to meet one named Tobias so that was a plus) he might have been able to say something, anything, but not like this. He didn't trust men, not after Tobias. And the funny part was that this so called Healer seemed to be able to tell Severus didn't trust him, and kept asking what made it difficult to trust him. But Severus couldn't tell him that, could he? Of course he couldn't, because the Healer was right, Severus didn't trust him. So he couldn't trust him with the knowledge of why Severus didn't trust him. Simple. It made the whole exercise feel rather futile. And stupid.
"Maybe we should switch subjects for a change," Joseph suggested after a while, sensing Severus' impatience. "How about we talk about something positive for a while?"
"Positive?" said Severus skeptically.
"Well, why not you tell a good story, perhaps something nice. Maybe a memory or story from when you were a kid?"
Big mistake. Hah. Nice story? Sure.
"I haven't got any nice stories about being a kid," Severus barked, his hands clenching on the chairs. The Healer didn't seem too surprised, oddly enough. Like he had planned this.
Well, the only nice parts of being a kid had Lily in them, but now all those memories just reminded him of losing her, of failing her of being discovered as a spy, thus failing, then falling.
And that was the problem. All the good things couldn't fight the bad ones anymore. There were good things. They just weren't enough. It just wasn't working, and all he could see now were the holes in his life where something should have been. Anything. Good versus Bad, and Good was losing. Wasn't that why he was here? Wasn't that why he had fallen in the first place? He didn't need a healer to see it.
Fighting. Failing. Falling. Failing falling fighting kitchen tables and broken chairs and stop it stop it stop yelling please just stop daddy stop - "I haven't got any nice stories about being a kid!"
"So tell me a bad one," said Joseph quietly after a moment of silence, leaning forward.
So tell me a bad one so tell me a bad one which one which one there are so many -
Severus wasn't sure what made him do it (was it because he was tired of being silent or because he was tired of talking about torture that didn't hurt like it should have or was it that he wanted to feel how much being a kid hurt again because it hurt so bad it almost felt right or was it that he wanted to be heard he didn't know which he didn't know), but he opened his mouth, and let the words fall out. One by one by one.
When I was five,
"When I was five," Severus began numbly, his eyes clouded over with fallen chairs and broken glass and angry faces and the way Mother looked when she cried. His ears became full of the sound of yelling and crying and everything else that brought him back thirty years to Saturday night. Saturday night, a night he wished he could say was unique but in the end, in the end, was just another Saturday night with the Snapes. Just another night in the life of a five year old who had known nothing else of life. Just another night of his life, the life he wished he'd never had.
Harry preferred not to think of the meeting that had taken place in Dumbledore's office earlier. He had been working hard to make the whole thing as blank as possible within his mind.
This wasn't quite successful. He lay awake in his four-poster bed, in Gryffindor tower, the early evening light seeping through the drawn curtains around his bed. His head pounded with the anguish that remained from the meeting, yet he could not cry. He wished he could, and even the fear and pain of having been found out seemed to be dulled by the deep numbness that was rising within him. Dumbledore and Remus had made him tell them the whole story, when he had started hurting himself. And quite frankly, he didn't really want to remember what he'd said or what they had asked. They had made him tell them how the cuts got there, how many there were. If he was suicidal - which he wasn't. But most of all why he had the scratches. They wanted to know why. They had made him feel crazy without even meaning to, because both seemed almost afraid of the way he had reacted, afraid to know what had made him do such a dreadful, awful, inconceivable thing such as deliberately cut the arms of the precious Boy Who Lived.
They feared his actions because they didn't know what it was like to commit them. Even Remus, who turned into a werewolf every full moon and bit and scratched himself (or at least he had been violent until they invented wolfbane) did not really know. But that was different, wasn't it? Remus wasn't quite human then. He was a werewolf - a monster created by his circumstances, so he didn't do it on purpose, of course. And no matter how many ways Harry tried to say to Remus that it was the same thing, really, that he had to fight it like Remus had to fight the Werewolf, the words couldn't come. Remus and Dumbledore just saw Harry, a teenager with cuts of his own making. They didn't see the circumstances or cause like Remus could see Fenrir Greyback's photographs, like those published in the article that was in the paper not too long ago, detailing Greyback's crimes and warning the public he was believed to be alive still. Harry's cause was still alive too, yet it didn't stare out of the photographs, but out of his own eyes, a compilation of all those moments that had been internalized and could not be forgotten. They forced their way out when it got too much. A childhood spent amidst hatred ... a life of being bullied, being the freak ... the blood he saw on his hands though everyone insisted it wasn't there. Those circumstances weren't murderers that found their way into the Daily Prophet. They were silent, and somehow, in the eyes of the world, that made them less valid a reason for Harry to react in such a way.
So Harry could tell Dumbledore and Remus didn't understand, and all they did was pity him. The whole meeting had passed in a foggy haze. When it was over Hagrid had taken him back to his dorm, and he had been given a phial of dreamless sleep potion, with instructions to take it even though it was still hours earlier than Harry was used to going to bed. It was clenched tightly in Harry's hand at the moment. He was afraid to drink it, that they might have put something else in it, some sort of truth potion and they were waiting to swoop in on him because they didn't trust his words. He knew they didn't trust him, because he had caught the small house elf peeping into his dorm every so often, monitoring him. He knew he was being watched. So that was another reason to avoid the potion. Or maybe he was just afraid to sleep. Afraid of what would come tomorrow, for Professor Dumbledore and Lupin hadn't decided what to do about it yet, and for all Harry knew were still in discussion now. He feared what they would suggest, for he had no idea what sort of proposal they would come up with. They thought he needed fixing. They thought he needed help.
"I'm fine!" Harry said to his (almost) empty dormitory, clenching his fists and not caring that the house elf probably heard him. "Why do they always have to stick their noses in my business?"
When Harry's brain responded with because they care, he scowled.
I wish the Dursleys had cared. Maybe I wouldn't be like this if they had. Maybe -
"Shut up," he muttered, and pulled the cork from the phial in sudden determination. With what felt like an odd air of defiance he downed the whole thing. Just before it took full effect and sent him into a deep sleep, he felt a flicker of fear and uncertainty grab a hold of him. The phial fell silently upon the pillow, the sleep swallowing him instantly.
When I was five ...
The memory came into focus at first like a badly tuned telly, with the picture sliding in ripples across the screen until the knob was twisted into the right spot. Then, the picture focused, and Severus remembered it like yesterday, his father coming home late at night and the scream from the kitchen. He was five, and the scream was scary so he ran down from his room and into the kitchen. He was only five, and he was holding his blue baby blanket to his chest as he watched Daddy screaming at Mummy.
And the chairs seemed to topple like in a dream, and the empty glass bottle Daddy had in his hand hit the wall (CRASH!). Severus started to cry as the pieces of glass cascaded to the floor a few feet from him.
"Go back to bed, Severus - please sweetie, go back to bed," begged Mummy in a low voice as Daddy backed her up against a wall.
"Don't you ever think about dipping into my beer money again, woman!" roared Daddy, his words slurring. "I bring it home, I spend it, got that? What did you use it for?"
Mummy just cried.
"I SAID, WHAT DID YOU USE IT FOR, YOU SLUT?"
Severus didn't know what a slut was but he was pretty sure it wasn't good because Mummy flinched like she'd been hit.
"A school j-jumper. The school complained that Severus didn't h-have one and seeing as it's been so c-cold he needed one for his uniform to be complete."
"And you just listened, and let them complain?" said Daddy in a dangerously low voice. Severus backed into the corner by the table. Daddy was going to be angry and he knew it, so he shrunk down and slid under the table.
"He needed one," said Mummy hoarsely, arms up and backing into the opposite corner as Daddy raised his fists.
My fault my fault my fault, Severus thought as he shut his eyes tight. That jumper was too good to be true, he had known it all Friday morning; he knew it by the way Mummy walked like she would break the floor with every step, which she did all day yesterday and all day today until Daddy got home from the bar and when Daddy finally snapped the floor moaned like it had been broked like Mummy was afraid of, and now that it had started Severus really did hear something break. It didn't sound like glass or the floor like before when Daddy thumped across it, no, it sounded like something Severus hadn't heard before. It was a dull, crunching snap, and he wasn't sure what had happened but Mummy screamed and he'd never heard her scream that way before.
"NOW LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE!" raged Daddy, and Severus wanted to run to Mummy, who was on the floor now holding her wrist to her chest, but he was scared. From a distance he saw Daddy's big muddy boots and Mummy's wrist gone all funny and the way she shook but didn't make a sound.
"Fix it, fix it bitch," Daddy said like he wasn't sorry at all, and Mummy pulled from her pocket that thin stick, her wand, and she waved it but nothing worked because her hands were shaking too much, shaking like they did most of the time.
Daddy raged and stomped up stairs and Severus hugged his blue blanket tighter as he looked out from under the table then ran for Mummy when all was clear.
"I'm s-sorry ‘bout the jumper Mummy 'm sorry!" he cried as he fell to the floor beside her.
"Shh, shh, Severus, it isn't your fault," she whispered, her eyes glassy with pain. "It isn't your fault."
It's not my fault it's not my fault
"It isn't your fault," Mummy whispered. "It's mine, honey. Shh. Not yours."
"It's mine, she said," Severus finished hoarsely as the memory fell away and the world was still, his hands cold and shaking. "She said it was her fault."
He fell into stunned silence.
"It was neither of your faults," Joseph said after a moment, when it was clear Severus had no more to say. "You must understand that, Severus. That was on your father, and him alone. He was using what little money your family had for things that he shouldn't have. It was not fair of him to do that, or react in the way he did."
"But she thought it was hers. And I could never convince her otherwise. Never." My fault my fault. "If she'd believed it wasn't her fault maybe ... maybe she would have left like she wanted to."
"Or maybe she wouldn't have," said Joseph with a sigh. "You can never know, and it is important you see that it was not your fault that she stayed."
"Yes," Severus muttered, simply for something to say. But it was. If I hadn't been born, she could have left. Simple.
He wondered if the so called Mind Healer could hear the words that he didn't say. Deep down, a part of him hoped so. Somehow he wanted to be told he was wrong again, that he really was innocent. But his hands would never be clean. Not with the life he had led.
Remus tapped his fingers on Albus' desk, his tea untouched, unable to get the worrisome words of Hagrid's from his mind.
"What are we going to do?" he asked, almost to himself, feeling sick after the evening's revelations.
"Would he be able to stay with you a while?" Albus suggested, an expression of deep thought upon his features. "We could have a Mind Healer come and visit Harry daily - I know a few who are affiliated with the Order, one that specializes in young adult cases. You would not need to worry about money; the school has an emergency fund. Besides, Harry does get along well with you."
"I don't think so, although I wish I could. I cannot get any time off work." Remus sighed slightly. "And I don't ... I don't know if I could help him. I am afraid that I just would not be enough."
"I respect your wishes. It was merely an idea."
Remus looked out the window thoughtfully. "I doubt Harry would appreciate this suggestion right away ... but what about the psychiatric ward in St. Mungo's? I'm sure they have one. They have a teen ward, don't they?"
"Yes, yes they do," said Dumbledore slowly. "But ... I do not know if it would be safe enough for him."
"What other option do we have? He would be with kids like himself, some worse off. Perhaps he would not feel like he was going through his hardships alone. Besides, they have people there that are trained to deal with difficult situations, and understand to an extent what he is going through. You or I could not possibly help Harry get over something of this nature. We have too little experience in matters such as this."
"Well, he would not be able to leave the ward. It isn't as though he would be wandering through other areas of the psychiatric floor," muttered Professor Dumbledore. "I still would feel better if he were to stay here at the school. I can get a Healer to come in to talk to him about it."
"Albus, the solitude is not good for him. He needs to be watched, and be with others. I see no reason why he would not be safe at St. Mungo's. Their security is top notch, especially in days like this, and you can always send some undercover Aurors to keep an eye on him. Nowhere else has better resources to help him through this."
"Perhaps you are right," muttered Albus reluctantly after some time of consideration, like he was taking other matters into account that they had not discussed. Remus was sure the situation would be complicated, and involve a great deal of covering up for the order. "I can see no other way. So long as he stays in his area and does not wander. There is no reason for him to endanger himself further. We must make sure he has not got his invisibility cloak."
"Of course, Albus," said Remus gratefully, reheating his tea with a tap of his wand. "This will be good for him. You'll see."
"Oh, I have no doubt he will do alright. I suppose I merely ... worry too much. The teen ward, it's quite separate. Yes, he'll be fine."
"I don't want to go," was Harry's short answer when Lupin came into his dorm at noon the next day. Harry was still lying in bed, his pyjamas on and hair a mess. He didn't care. "Can't I just stay here?"
"I already explained that, Harry," sighed Lupin from where he sat at the foot of Harry's bed, having pushed aside the curtains so that he could do so. "There will be no one at the castle who can be there as much as is needed."
"I do just fine on my own." Harry gave Lupin a look of defiance.
"No, you do not. And don't feel bad about that. James was better off with company too. Too much alone time is hard on anybody, and you need some time to get sorted out, as well as a place to do that. Hogwarts is not that place. But this will be somewhere safe you can go, where you can properly deal with these things, and talk about what is bothering you." Lupin held up a small pamphlet that had a painting of a tree with birds magically fluttering in and out, and nestled in the branches was the name Willow Branch Centre for Adolescents. Harry looked away. It was sickeningly cheerful.
"Harry, please," Lupin said softly. "I know you don't want to go. But I promise that things will get better. These people will be able to help you, and maybe you'll meet some people there that you can relate to."
"Wait ‘til the Prophet gets a hold of this," muttered Harry darkly. "Now they'll have proof I'm mad."
"Harry, St. Mungo's has a very rigid policy about that. Everything is strictly confidential, and the other patients are bound to a magical contract not to divulge names of the people within the center, and this rule goes for everyone, all the time. Not just because you are going there. I promise that nothing will get out. We have plenty of people in the Order of the Phoenix that are ready to set false trails for the media should they begin to suspect where you are. Those are only some of the precautions being taken. It will all work out. You just have to trust us."
Harry thought for a moment. He looked at Lupin' pleading expression. He knew that Lupin was only doing this because he cared. But he couldn't say yes, and Lupin seemed to know this.
"Harry, if you won't do this for yourself, then please, do it for Sirius. He never wanted you to feel like this. He wanted you to be happy ... please."
"FINE!" cried Harry, mad that Remus had gotten to him. He crossed his arms. "But nobody can know! You can't tell anyone. Not even Ron and Hermione."
Lupin sighed, and then said, "It is up to you to inform them of where you are, Harry. It is your decision on whether or not you lie, or tell them the truth. I would suggest you trust them. But I cannot force you to tell your friends.
"Meet me in the Entrance Hall at two-o-clock so I can take you back to Privet Drive to get some of your clothes and books. Sunday morning I will bring you to Willow Branch."
"That is such a stupid name," Harry said childishly. "And that dumb house elf better stop spying on me."
Lupin had no response to this, and instead patted Harry on the knee and got up, leaving the dormitory.
"I will be staying here in the rooms that connect to my old office," said Lupin. "If you need me come and find me, alright?"
Harry nodded wearily and then rolled over on his stomach, breathing in the scent of his pillow. He had missed his four-poster, and it made his stomach ache to know that he was not here to stay.