Understanding by MagnificentAndStrange
FeatureSummary: Winter break of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts brings awful memories of his life with the Dursleys and new stresses in the forms of Quidditch rivalry and wizarding biases. Still trying to figure out what Hagrid’s three-headed dog is guarding, Harry’s also struggling to adapt to a world that he didn’t know existed mere months ago. When fighting between the Slytherin and Gryffindor teams gets out of hand, Harry suffers because of it and Snape must help him begin to heal.
Categories: Fic Fests > Bingo! Fic Fest, Healer Snape, Teacher Snape > Professor Snape Main Characters: .Snape and Harry (required)
Snape Flavour: Canon Snape, Snape Comforts
Genres: Hurt/Comfort
Media Type: None
Tags: Injured!Harry
Takes Place: 1st Year
Warnings: Abusive Dursleys, Bullying, Physical Abuse, Self-harm, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 10530 Read: 3595 Published: 12 May 2023 Updated: 12 May 2023
Story Notes:
This fic was written for the Potions and Snitches Bingo Challenge, I filled every prompt in the purple bingo card (card #6, I believe) for a blackout. Some prompts are only vaguely referred to or mentioned in a comment by another character, others are part of the plot. Please read the tags of this fic, as those will be the things that will have a bigger focus in the story. Self-harming and Abuse are both heavily featured in this fic, if you think that that will trigger you in anyway, this might not be the fic to read right now. Please take care of yourself!

1. Understanding by MagnificentAndStrange

Understanding by MagnificentAndStrange
Christmas at Hogwarts was something Harry hadn’t been able to imagine until it happened. He had done what he could to ignore the excited chatter of the other first years about what the holiday would be like at their homes, their family traditions, the presents that they hoped for, the food that would be served. Even those staying in the castle until next term were looking forward to Christmas but Harry found his stomach knotting up just thinking about it. He had endured each previous winter break from primary school with such intense dread that he couldn’t possibly envision getting through a holiday happily now.

Aunt Petunia was always her most demanding during Dudley’s birthday and Christmas. She would order him to clean the house until every surface shone, shoving his hands in near boiling water to wash mountains of dishes from feasts that he’d been made to cook daily and hitting him when he didn’t move fast enough. Dudley’s friends were also constantly over during holiday, tracking mud inside and blaming it on him then tormenting him by locking him outside in the cold and laughing when Uncle Vernon punished him for not being where he was supposed to be. Harry had gone to bed many nights in his tiny cupboard, bruised and shaking, wishing desperately for the holiday to end.

He’d woken up before dawn yesterday and bolted out of his four-poster in Gryffindor tower, half-awake and sure that he was late cooking breakfast and scrubbing the floors before he remembered that he didn’t have to worry about that now. Harry swallowed, staring blankly at the library worktable Ron and him had settled at, digging the sharp edge of a quill into the soft part of his palm until the memories were drowned out in a rush of pain.

He looked down, noticing blood welling. He watched beads of it trickle toward his fingers before quickly tucking his hand into his cloak pocket and setting his quill aside as Ron staggered over with an armload of books.

“Wish Hermione was here to tell us where we’ve already looked when it comes to Flamel,” Ron muttered, “I don’t think we’ve searched these but I couldn’t get near the Restricted Section. Half the Slytherin Quidditch team’s hanging around that area, I bet you anything they’re planning revenge now that Fred and George got into it with Flint.” He dropped the books heavily on the table, causing Harry and nearby students to jump at the loud noise. Madam Pince stuck her head out of the next aisle, hissing warningly before swooping after a third year practicing charms in the corner.

Tensions between the Gryffindor and Slytherin Quidditch teams had grown increasingly worse since the last match. It didn’t help that after Marcus Flint had ‘accidentally’ knocked Oliver Wood down a flight of stairs, Fred and George had retaliated against Flint with a boil curse that had sent the huge Quidditch captain to the hospital wing for half a day. Now both houses were locked in a weird power struggle with non-Quidditch house members getting involved in it and Harry found the whole thing far more nerve-racking than being picked last in sports at primary school.

“Thanks for looking,” Harry said once his heart rate had slowed from the loud noise. He pushed his essay aside one-handed and reached for a book at the top of the teetering pile, “might as well have another go at it.” He opened the text at random, clenching and unclenching his hidden hand, feeling the sticky heat of blood drying on his skin. The sharp ache in his palm was a comforting distraction from the ugly thoughts swirling in his head.

He didn’t want to think about the Dursleys, didn’t want to remember that he was one term closer to having to go back to Privet Drive, back to the cupboard for all he knew. He chewed his lower lip, disgusted with himself. It was like the further away he got from his relatives, the more he realized just how differently other people lived and how strange that made him in comparison. The Dursleys had called him a freak for years but he’d never felt it as much as he did when at Hogwarts.

“I can’t believe the load of homework Binns assigned,” Ron complained as he dragged his quill sullenly through a patch of ink that had spilled on the worktable when he’d dropped the books, “I mean, what kind of holiday is it, if we’re stuck writing about Gorvin the Gruesome and the Creature Inheritance Laws of 16-whenever?”

“Dunno,” Harry mumbled, not looking up from the heavy text that he’d been flipping through, half-heartedly searching for Nicholas Flamel, “Maybe we should’ve asked Hermione for help before she went home?”

“She said she was already caught up,” Ron groaned, throwing down his quill loudly, “I can’t see how though, we’ve been working like house elves and still have Snape’s and Binns’ assignments left.”

Harry jumped at the sudden motion from his best friend, fingers tightening automatically on the cover of Virtue and Villainy: Famous Wizards and Witches of the British Isles. Ron glanced curiously at him and Harry looked away, nervously adjusting his too-large glasses. He hated how easily he still startled, hated how Ron and Hermione would stare at him whenever he froze up or flinched. He tried so hard to be normal around them, moving food around his plate to make it look like he’d eaten as much as the others, laughing at jokes he didn’t understand, pretending to not mind the way other students still followed him in the corridors because he was apparently famous. As exhausting as it was trying to figure out what was acceptable to do or say, it seemed to be working. Ron and Hermione were still by his side at least and there was no way they would want to be friends with him if they knew what a mess he really was.

“What’s a house elf?” Harry asked quickly, hoping to brush over his reaction. His heart sank instead at Ron’s look of awkward surprise. He was getting very used to that expression on most of the other students’ faces whenever he asked a question that his peers apparently grew up knowing. Ron at least wasn’t rude about it, even if it was clear that it somewhat embarrassed him to have friends that didn’t know much about the magical world. And really, it was mostly Harry as Hermione seemed to have the entire Hogwarts library memorized.

“They’re a magical creature sorta like a goblin, only not,” Ron tried to explain, “I’ve never seen one before but Mum’s always going on about wanting one, says Great-Aunt Muriel owned one years ago.” Harry frowned in confusion and Ron elaborated, screwing up his face in thought, “They do all the housework, see, basically whatever their master wants. Mum reckons one would be dead useful to have around home as they’ve got magic of their own they can use, as long as they’re doing what’s expected of them.”

A hot coiled sensation began in Harry’s chest, radiating down to the injured hand that he clenched tightly in his pocket, relying on pain to keep himself quiet. He didn’t want to look at Ron, not until he was sure he had control over his expression. He had thought the wizarding world was better. They had magic, they could do so much….and yet there were a whole group of creatures spoken about as if they were objects, treated the way the Dursleys treated him.

“Harry? –“ Ron questioned as Harry stood quickly, gathering his parchment and quill and shoving it into his bag, not caring that the dried blood on his palm was partially visible or that the tip of his feathered quill had snapped in his rough haste.

“I have to go,” he said abruptly,

Ron opened his mouth as if to argue, but then shrugged good-naturedly, “right, yeah it’s almost lunchtime, I’ll see you there.” Harry didn’t bother to correct Ron’s assumption that he was leaving to get to the Great Hall early. There was no possible way he could stomach food right now, not when he couldn’t get the other boy’s unfazed description of house elves out of his mind.

* * *

Harry found himself in a dusty bathroom off the 5th floor, breathing rapidly and struggling not to throw his bag across the room. He didn’t know why he was so angry, why the things Ron had said made him feel the way he did when Dudley blamed something on him and laughed when Harry was punished for it. It wasn’t Ron’s fault really, except, well he hadn’t seen anything wrong with it and that was the worst part.

Harry dropped his bag on the sink counter, rifling roughly though it in search for his quill. The end of the gray feather dangled from where it had nearly broken in half, but the nib was still dangerously sharp. He rolled his sleeve up, brushing aside flakes of blood from his hand before laying it, palm up on the counter. Harry stood still, heart racing in his chest. He caught a glimpse of his reflection, too short to see more than his face and shoulders in the dirty glass. He glared at the small boy in the mirror, hating the distress visible in his green eyes, the way his thin face whitened further, telegraphing his emotions.

It was his fault for reacting like he had. If it had been Hermione that he had stormed away from she would have followed, asking him questions. He would have probably lost it right there in the corridor and said something about what it felt like to be someone’s slave and everything would be ruined then. He had to work harder at keeping what happened in the muggle world a secret from Hogwarts. No one had ever wanted to be friends with weird Harry Potter from Privet Drive.

He brought the quill down hard, digging it into one of the lines running across his palm. Sharp pain radiated up his arm, so sudden and fierce that he caught his breath, biting down on his lower lip. Blood curved from the puncture wound, dripping down his bony wrist. Harry watched transfixed, a heavy numbness descending, blocking out everything but the burning pain. He dragged the quill up between the joint of his thumb and fingers, slicing into the webbing there.

He wanted to disappear, to go somewhere where he didn’t have to think or feel anymore. At the Dursleys it hadn’t been difficult, he’d used an old nail when he had to, but he didn’t often, not when the punishments were so common and the pain of a beating lasted for days. Blood was running freely and Harry angled his hand over the sink, knowing better than to make too much of a mess. Aunt Petunia never let him hear the end of it if he got bloodstains on anything.

The ache that followed the pain left him drained, lost in a relieved haze for a long time. At least this he could control. No one could hurt him in quite this way now that he’d done it first. He breathed in, lungs seizing in a cough on the dust in the room and Harry came back to himself, piece by piece. He saw the blood first, scattered over the counter and he inhaled roughly, dropping the quill and grabbing for a nearby hand towel to clean it up. A burning stabbing sensation shot through his other hand but he refused to look, cleaning the counter as well as he could reach before turning his attention to the sink. Blood circled the drain slowly and he blinked, staring at his palm slick with blood oozing from ugly puncture marks and cuts. Harry touched one, shuddering at the pain but not quite feeling it yet. That would come later he knew, maybe tomorrow.

He turned the faucet on, let it wash over his hand, not really noticing how it worsened the stinging. Harry looked up, too tired to do anything but stay still, blood turning the water pink. There was no point in trying to fool the skinny scarred boy in the mirror into thinking he was someone heroic. Here he was just Harry, the orphan no one wanted, as worthless as his Aunt and Uncle always said he was.

Blood was still welling from some of the marks but not very much anymore and Harry awkwardly blotted the area with the towel before wedging the stained cloth behind the sink in hopes that no one would find it. He rinsed off his quill, shouldering his bag over his other arm and tucking his cut hand into his pocket. It hurt horribly but he felt too far away from it to care. His mind was calm now, exhausted enough to sleep for hours.

* * *

The walk back to Gryffindor Tower was quieter than it had been all year. Nearly everyone was at the Great Hall for lunch and celebrating the end of first term. Half the castle had already left on the train that morning and most everyone else were going to travel home the next day by something called ‘flooing’. Harry was just glad that he could finally walk through the corridors without people staring at his scar or trying to talk to him. He kept his gaze on the floor, still so lost in the distant pain-infused trance from earlier that he narrowly avoided running into Professor Snape.

Harry ducked into a dark side corridor just in time, freezing as the Potions Master passed by, black teaching robes swirling in his wake. He stopped breathing when Snape paused in the corridor, the lit torches gleaming on long black hair and deathly pale skin as the man’s head turned to the side as if listening. After several agonizingly long seconds, Snape turned on his heel again, striding away. Harry leaned against the stone wall for a moment, trembling. Ever since his first Potions lesson, Snape had made no secret that he hated him. From that moment on, Harry had been dreading the punishment that a powerful wizard like Snape could come up with. Now that he’d learned that Snape had jinxed his broom during the match and was trying to steal whatever Fluffy was guarding….well there wasn’t anything he could do but try to avoid the Potions Master as much as he could, a feat near impossible when he had double potions once a week.

Back in the empty boy’s dormitory, Harry dug out one of Dudley’s massive hand-me-down shirts from his trunk. Several inches of the hem had been shredded by Aunt Marge’s bulldog Ripper grabbing unto his shirt to bite him the last time Marge had visited. Harry tore the mangled half of the fabric apart and bandaged his left hand carefully with the scraps, trying not to get blood on anything. He climbed into his bed and pulled the curtains shut afterward. He lie on the blankets, shivering as he sank into the throbbing sensation through his hand and arm, reminding him over and over that he was a ungrateful freak who deserved to be punished.

* * *

It was late afternoon when Ron found him, yanking the curtains back so that Harry shot up, blinking rapidly and backing up against the headboard without conscious thought. “Hey,” Ron dropped onto the foot of the bed, brow furrowed, “you alright?”

Harry opened his mouth, then shut it. He didn’t know how to handle Ron or Hermione when they worried about him. They couldn’t really mean it, he knew, they were just being nice, but it still made the terrible shame inside him worse and he shrugged helplessly.

“Well,” Ron said, rubbing the bridge of his freckled nose awkwardly, “it’s just you sort of disappeared for awhile. I didn’t see you at lunch and you seemed a bit off in the library and then Seamus told me that the Slytherin Chaser, Pucey tried to hex Katie Bell so their team’s definitely after ours and you better be careful, ‘cause you know, Flint’s got that whole ‘kill the opposing Seeker’ outlook.”

“Oh,” Harry said, not sure what else to say.

“Anyway, with half of Gryffindor gone on the train, we’ve got some space in the common room, even Percy’s not hanging around right now, he’s got some ‘super-important’ Christmas decorating prefect meeting he’s at.” Ron made a face and Harry smiled, fiercely relieved that Ron wasn’t angry with him for leaving the library so abruptly earlier.

* * *

The last thing that Harry wanted to do was sit in the common room with his homework. It was still rowdy with students packing to go home for the holiday and arguing over games or essays whilst a group of 18th century carolers wandered tipsily throughout the paintings in the room, singing off-key Christmas hymns. At the center of it all in the tattered comfortable armchairs near the fire were Fred and George. They were loudly making fun of Slytherin, surrounded by the few members of the team that hadn’t left and some younger years. The common room seemed just as crowded with half of Gryffindor house as it did when everyone was there, what with the noise and the strange caroling and no Percy to yell at everyone to settle down. Ron wanted to be in the center of the cheerful rabble though so Harry followed him, ducking his head at the fascinated stares trailing after him. He hated when others watched him. In the muggle world, it had always meant that the Dursleys were waiting for him to make a mistake so they could hit him, and around other muggles it was usually because he was so scrawny and ugly with his big round glasses and massive torn clothing.

Ron clearly wanted to be part of the group laughing at Fred and George’s jokes, settling at a small table nearest to the fire and only half paying attention to their History of Magic homework that they were still working on. Harry pulled a crumpled roll of parchment out of his bag, a strange shiver running down his spine as he grabbed the same quill that he’d used earlier and a bottle of ink. A headache was beginning to form behind his eyes from the noise around them, his muscles so tense that they ached. Harry squinted at the tiny writing in their textbook, wishing Hermione was there to explain the connection between the Amended Creature Inheritance Law of 1678 and the Goblin Rebellion of 1677. He jotted a few words down while Ron frowned at his own textbook, muttering under his breath about idiotic ghost teachers.

“Hermione must have stayed up all night to finish this,” Ron glared at his notes, shuffling them around half-heartedly, “this is worse than that transfiguration essay Professor McGonagall set last week.” He picked up the top of his parchment, reciting, “’Which creatures petitioned for the continuation of musical instruction and performance within their educational systems, in an attempt to overturn the Inheritance Regulation Law of 1633 that claimed music was a magical weapon when used by said creatures?’ That can’t be that fae group in Cornwall, can it? Dad mentioned something about a group of witches that claimed to be the descendants of some fae goddess or something and refused to follow the statute of secrecy. They’d show up at all sorts of muggle places, dressed in fae robes and waving flutes and stuff.”

“Er,” Harry shuffled through his notes again, trying to remember when the statute of secrecy had happened. Hagrid hadn’t mentioned an exact year and everyone talked about it like it was so obvious that he felt stupid asking. “I think it was sirens, not the fae that petitioned. There was something Professor Binns said about a shipwreck off the coast of Ireland being blamed on them…” he couldn’t remember what it was that Binns had said exactly, no one could recount word for word what Binns said, except maybe Hermione. But he didn’t have much more than ‘sirens’ and ‘shipwreck’ scribbled in his notes so maybe Ron was right about the Cornish fae witches….

“What’s the point of all this?” Ron moaned in disgust, “I mean, when are we ever going to come across a siren or a fae anyway? Most of them were killed off by the Ministry ages ago.”

Harry swallowed past the tightness in his throat, hating the casual way Ron mentioned things like that. The muggle world was bad enough the way it treated those that didn’t fit in, he didn’t want to think that wizards and witches were also out hurting anyone who didn’t look exactly like them. “There’s more to the magical world than just humans, Ron,” he pointed out quietly, clenching his injured hand, needing pain to distract him from the anger still churning in his empty stomach. So what if Ron didn’t understand what it felt like to be mistreated or hated for existing? Why did it matter so much to him that his friends cared about these things?

“I guess so,” Ron stretched, yawning and glancing over at Fred and George who now had wands out and were shooting sparks at one another, their audience rambunctious enough that Harry almost didn’t hear Ron’s curious, “what happened to your hand?”

Harry looked down sharply at his bandaged hand, repressing the urge to quickly hide it out of sight. The Durselys had never cared if he’d shown up injured, they went out of their way to encourage anything that would cause him pain, but he had a feeling things were different at Hogwarts. “Hedwig caught me with her claw accidentally,” he lied after a pause, fiddling with the edge of his parchment.

“Right, well – OI!” Ron shouted indignantly as a burst of colorful sparks crackled close to them. Harry lurched to his feet instantly, prepared to run before a loud chorus of laughs halted him. He dropped his gaze to the floor, face red. Of course, it had only been a joke, he was stupid to not play along, especially as George was grinning at him whilst Fred clapped Ron on the shoulder, “sorry there, Ron, we’re just practicing what to try out on the Slytherins next.”

“Sure you are,” Ron groused, “I thought Wood told you to lay off after Flint had to go the hospital wing for that boils curse you hit him with.”

Details,” George waved a hand airily, “I admit we were all prepared to stop the fun then and there but Pucey hexed Katie –“

“He didn’t actually hit me with the hex, he’s got rotten aim,” Katie Bell declared from a couch near the fire.

“The point is, we’ve got work to do,” Fred summed up, tossing his wand in hand and catching it, “you’ll want to freshen up your defensive charms as well, Harry, Flint’s out for blood and you’re a handy target.”

Harry couldn’t quite match Fred’s adventurous grin. Slytherin had started it, they deserved to know that Gryffindors weren’t going to take things lying down but he couldn’t help thinking that Flint wouldn’t be so set on going after their Quidditch team if Fred and George hadn’t riled things up with that boils curse. Flint was ruthless when angered and underhanded to boot and the rest of his team was just as bad from what Harry had heard. The Slytherin Quidditch team seemed to make a point of going after the younger and assumed ‘weaker’ members of Gryffindor team during a match and there was no ignoring the fact that Harry was significantly frailer than anyone else on the team.

“What are you planning anyway?” Ron asked.

“Ah now, no giving away all our secrets,” Fred mock chastised, “we may have thought of a few small things, nothing so menacing as our first ideas.”

“A jelly-legs jinx mixed with a fur-growing spell…” George suggested in a wistful tone,

“An Incontinence Concoction in his pumpkin juice…” Fred murmured dreamily.

“We’re still fine-tuning the process with this lovely assortment of Gryffindors,” George bowed to their surrounding group who cheered in response, “but don’t worry, we don’t plan to leave things in suspense too long. Most of the Slytherins are heading off for Christmas break and that means that Flint and the others will be flooing out of here tomorrow after dinner.”

“Time is of the essence,” Fred exclaimed in mock seriousness, clapping his hands together and rubbing them, “so who’s ready to get cracking on this?”

Harry’s headache was making it difficult to focus on anything other than the overwhelming urge to sleep. He muttered some excuse to escape to the quiet of the dormitory with his unfinished homework, guilty for not staying behind with Ron when everyone else seemed so interested in what the Weasley twins were up to.

Harry liked Fred and George, they had helped him get his trunk on the train and hadn’t really stared at him after the first shock of finding out he was ‘famous Harry Potter’. Yet, Harry couldn’t help shrinking away from their loud gestures and exuberant behavior. He’d never cared for Dudley’s ‘jokes’ when they’d been played on him and he didn’t really like how both Fred and George cared more about things being funny than fair. If he had been sorted into Slytherin, they might have been awful to him instead. Harry hadn’t forgotten the way they’d booed whenever any of the other first years had been sorted into Slytherin during the Sorting. It hadn’t been very good of them and that bothered him nearly as much as the stuff Ron had said about magical creatures. Harry collapsed unto his bed, dumping his unfinished essay near him and staring at the ceiling, clenching and unclenching his hand until the makeshift bandaging began to show spots of blood and the pulsing pain in his hand drove every other thought out of his mind.

* * *

By the next morning, half the school were whispering about a prank being pulled on every Slytherin dorm that housed a quidditch player. Some of the younger years that had been bullied mercilessly by a few of the Slytherin players were beside themselves with excitement. “I heard they all had stinksap dumped on them the moment they stepped out of bed!” a Ravenclaw exclaimed in front of Harry and Ron in the corridor. Their friend whooped, gleefully countering with, “I heard their trunks were jinxed to come alive if they tried to put anything in them when packing for holiday.”

“wha’ do you reckon?” Ron asked Harry, grinning as some second year Hufflepuffs passed, enthusing about a spell that had flipped the entire Slytherin dormitory upside down and turned the Slytherin quidditch team into geese. Each rumor was more outlandish than the last and Harry felt more on edge than ever at the strangely carnival feel to the air.

“I don’t think there’s a spell that can do that,” he muttered, wishing it was the end of the day. He’d been hopeful that Fred and George would hold off on whatever prank they’d planned until most of the castle was empty but apparently not. The corridors were awash with gossip and festive cheer and Harry shoved his hands in his pockets, hating it.

“Well, no,” Ron jumped a trick stair, “not anything Fred and George could’ve learned yet, but the stinksap one or the trunk sounds like them and I didn’t see any of the Slytherin team at breakfast. Lee says that Snape’s still sorting it all out,” he grinned, “imagine Snape having to clean up after Fred and George…bet they’re loving that.”

“They shouldn’t have done it,” Harry muttered, ducking out of the way of a group of much taller Gryffindor girls.

“What do you mean they shouldn’t have done it?” Ron demanded way too loudly, even with them moving closer to Gryffindor tower where it was less likely for any other House to overhear them, “it was brilliant, whatever they did do. Bet Flint and the others will think twice before going after our team.” Harry shrugged, jerking to a halt as Ron caught him by the elbow, “C’mon Harry, you’ve got to admit, it’s –“

“Let go,” Harry didn’t recognize the sound of his own voice or that he’d already jerked back, stumbling several feet away from his friend. Ron stared, hand still extended. Harry swallowed, crossing skinny arms over his school robes to hide the way he was trembling, “I only meant that they’ll get in trouble,” he muttered, green eyes flickering away from Ron who was still staring open-mouthed, “Snape’s furious, and we know he’s trying to steal something –“

“Yeah, but it’s not like he can do much about Fred and George even if he can prove it’s them. Sure, he jinxed your broom but it doesn’t mean he can just off anybody. He’ll probably take points or give them detention with Filch.” Ron pointed out, still eyeing Harry a little strangely and Harry bit his lip, looking away.

He hated how uneasy he felt, hated that he couldn’t stand the way people laughed at others, even if it was the Slytherin Quidditch team they were laughing at. Hated especially how naïve Ron was, thinking that just because they were in a castle with other teachers around that Snape wouldn’t retaliate in some way. Ron knew Snape was capable of cursing his broom and stealing a guarded magical artifact of some sort right under Dumbledore’s nose but he still didn’t think Snape would actually kill someone. Most adults were capable of murder, Harry had learned that years ago. He knew exactly how to keep himself quiet and out of their way when they were angry. The fact that Ron didn’t, that Fred and George and the whole castle seemed eager to put themselves in danger, all for the sake of humiliating others, made him sick.

* * *

The rest of the day was tense at best. Harry did everything he could to be the sort of friend Ron wanted but he couldn’t bring himself to laugh or gossip about Fred and George’s prank, changing the subject whenever it came up so that Ron was beginning to look more and more confused. Only visiting Hagrid that afternoon kept things somewhat normal, distracting them both from what was happening up at the castle. The snow had fallen thick enough that Harry and Ron’s cloaks were soaked to the knee as they trudged out to Hagrid’s hut. It was odd, Harry thought, seeing so much snow. In Surrey it had been slushy and brief even during the colder months, melting before it could really stick to the ground. It was a lot colder in Scotland, the wind and snow cutting through Harry’s school uniform.

Despite it being freezing outside they agreeably followed Hagrid to the edge of the forbidden forest where he showed them where he had grown and cut the trees now decorating the Great Hall. Fang tagged along and Harry found it easier to relax around the large dog than it had been the first time he met the boarhound. He’d never felt comfortable around dogs, not after the amount of times Ripper had bitten him whenever Marge visited and meeting Fluffy hadn’t exactly changed his mind. Fang wasn’t so bad though, much like Hagrid who Harry could admit to himself would’ve probably terrified him if he hadn’t seen the man threaten the Dursleys on his behalf and then proceed to take him to Diagon Alley and buy him his first ever birthday present. Even the inside of Hagrid’s hut was welcoming and the small touches of Christmas didn’t bother Harry the way reminders of it usually did. Probably because Hagrid had interwoven pine garlands with unicorn hair and hung owl feathers from them instead of ornaments.

Ron and him stayed for tea and an awful ‘minestrone soup’ that Hagrid had cooked. Ron fed his to Fang when Hagrid’s back was turned while Harry braved a few mouthfuls. It seemed ungrateful not to eat what Hagrid had made even if tasted horrible, but his stomach still didn’t take well to a lot of food especially when cooked by Hagrid. They left as the sun was setting, Ron and him shivering from the fierce cold by the time they reached the front doors.

* * *

Dinner that evening was as noisy as the opening feast had been, the remaining students that were leaving for holiday right afterward loudly saying their good-byes or digging into their last Hogwarts meal before they returned for the start of next term. There were still a lot of congratulatory remarks about Fred and George’s recent prank, the twins grinning and looking utterly relaxed despite the baleful stares from Slytherin table. Harry glanced across the room then quickly looked at his plate when Flint glared directly at him before the huge Chaser turned away to say something to Bole, one of the Slytherin Beaters, next to him. None of the Slytherin Quidditch players appeared any worse for the wear after Fred and George’s trick, but they were all angrily scowling at the rest of the Great Hall.

“Snape looks furious,” Dean hissed to Seamus and Harry, gesturing toward the head table with his fork.

“Snape’s just put out he doesn’t have a culprit to pin anything on,” Fred remarked, winking as he reached across Ron’s plate for a jug of pumpkin juice.

Harry glanced up at the head table. Some of the staff had already left for the winter break. Only a few chairs were filled. Professor McGonagall was talking to the headmaster while Professor Flitwick seemed busy reading a letter and Quirrell picked at his food. Snape sat apart from the others, not eating. He wasn’t glaring at their table the way most of Slytherin house was but there was a cold stillness to his pale face, his dark eyes watching the room with terrifying intensity. Harry shuddered, dropping his silverware, too unsettled to even pretend to eat.

No one else seemed concerned about what Snape’s punishment would be for the mysterious prank. Ron was already chatting about visiting Hagrid to Lavender and Parvati who shrieked in disgust at the mention of the minestrone soup. Dean and Seamus lobbed chocolate frog cards across the table at each other while Neville seemed utterly absorbed in a heavy tome about Herbology that Hermione had lent him before she’d left.

Harry waited impatiently while Ron lingered until after the last dessert vanished from their table and most of the students leaving Hogwarts had gone to wait for their turn at the ‘floo’. Harry still had no idea what that meant but he kept quiet, fiddling with the edge of the bandaging on his hand under the table, pressing against the injuries in hopes it would silence the twisting unease inside him.

Finally, he couldn’t stand it anymore, “I’m heading to bed,” he muttered, slipping off the bench. Ron waved, still trying to wheedle information out of George about what he and Fred had really done to the Slytherin Quidditch team. Harry hurried out of the rapidly emptying Great Hall, wishing he’d remembered to slip his quill into his cloak pocket that morning. He hadn’t thought he would need it again so soon but he desperately wanted to escape this twisting apprehension right now and he wasn’t sure how else to –

A faint cry stopped him in his tracks halfway to the second floor. Harry froze on the stairs, listening hard. It came again, garbled but high, too far away to make out anything but a wordless pleading. Harry bolted up the steps, feet tangling in the hem of his cloak and nearly getting caught in a trick stair in his haste. The second floor was empty of students and ghosts and Harry skidded to a halt, panting and listening. The cry echoed again, closer this time, near the end of the corridor and he ran toward it, fumbling to pull his wand from his pocket and yanking open the door where the terrible whimpering was coming from.

“Expelliarmus!”

Harry’s wand was ripped from his hand, his small body thrown to the floor with the force of the spell. He rolled over, shoulder hitting the leg of a toppled desk, staring up at the ugly leer of Marcus Flint standing over him in an unused classroom.

“Little Potter fell for that easy enough, didn’t he, Marc?” Miles Bletchley, the Slytherin Keeper gloated, sliding off from where he had perched on one of the desks and moving closer. He waved his wand over something in his hand, giving an ugly laugh as it let out that terrified mangled cry for help, “Don’t even know what a looped orb is, do you, muggle trash? I got this noise off some little blighter that got too close to my family’s warded property, paid for it in blood he did.”

“Like this one will,” Bole grunted, muscles bulging in his arms as he crossed them over his chest, “How long you reckon we have before we’ve got to floo out of here?”

Flint leaned down, mouth in a tight angry line. Harry lie still, not daring to breathe as he felt the tip of the fifth year’s wand dig into his cheek, “not long enough. Volnero!

Pain erupted along the left side of Harry’s face as he was flung backward again, knocking over a desk. He scrambled to get to his feet, instinctively trying to put distance between him and the much larger boys, only for a vicious hex from Bole to send him sprawling to the ground.

“Those blood traitors on your pathetic team think they’re clever, don’t they Potter?” Flint spat out, “but they won’t be so ready to play games with us when we’re done with you.”

Harry threw himself to the side to evade the next hex, the heat of it searing his arm as he lunged for where his wand had been tossed aside, knowing he hadn’t yet learnt any spells worth using but desperately needing some sort of defense. Bletchley surged forward, slamming his booted foot down hard on Harry’s bandaged hand. Harry felt the jolt of the impact up into his heart as an audible crack sounded in the room. His whole body jerked, a strangled gasp leaving him.

“Brave one, aren’t you?” Bletchley sneered, “let’s find out what will really make you scream,” he pressed down hard with his boot, Bole chortling next to him.

Agony blazed through Harry’s hand and wrist. He locked his jaw, biting on his lip so that he tasted blood, determined not to cry out even as the pain grew, the edges of his vision darkening when Bletchley ground down harder with his boot and Flint hit him with another hex. His head slammed against the stone, body convulsing as Flint slowly traced his wand over Harry’s throat, something like a hot blade slicing though the small first year’s robes and into the skin

“Carve the halfblood up, Marc,” Bletchley crowed eagerly, “he deserves a few more scars.”

Flint said something but Harry was gone, the numbness seeping into his terror so that he felt the body he was in shudder, his mind falling somewhere else. He was and was not in the room, watching shadows loom above a half-starved boy who refused to scream. Some noise outside the room came and the pressure on his arm lifted, the shadows leaving one by one while the tallest pulled something from his robes, dropping it on the ground. A cloud grew, his lungs searing, a thick haze pulling him back into the body on the floor, plunging him into a lake of fire so that he gasped raggedly, choking on the strange air, the floor slanted under his feet.

Harry struggled to his knees, blood trickling from stinging cuts along his jutting collarbones, his school robes had fallen partially off, trailing on the ground as he fumbled for his wand. He couldn’t crawl properly, the world twisting, his arm hurting so that he could only pull himself, coughing toward the door. His throat burned, colors bleeding and morphing oddly around him.

The door flung open, lantern light searing in the half-dark and Harry tried to stand as a rough hand grabbed his arm, “Miserable filth, as if I don’t have enough to do,” the muffled voice of someone echoed in the classroom. The grizzled features of Hogwarts’ caretaker blurred before Harry, half-obscured with a dirty handkerchief pressed to his face. “Students setting off garroting gas, messing up the dormitories, Peeves switching faucets in the loos….I’ll go to the headmaster if I –“

“No, please don’t,” Harry choked out, terrified at the very idea of the headmaster knowing the mess he’d caused. He was in trouble, Harry knew. He had been punished for something he’d done or something someone else had done, and it had gone wrong in someway and he would be in trouble for that also. He knew how Uncle Vernon was, how they all were if he was where he wasn’t supposed to be.

“Shut up!” Filch growled, “disgusting brats, running around the castle when its after first-year curfew, oh I’ve had my hands full with you, thinking you can do whatever you want when my back’s turned,” he hauled the small boy into the corridor. Harry staggered, trying to stay upright as the walls around him pressed in. He coughed, blood welling in his mouth, dripping from his bitten lip that was beginning to swell.

“You’ll tell me what you and your nasty little friends were up to boy, or you’ll face far worse than writing lines or being banned from Quidditch,” Filch hissed, shaking him. He leaned down to stick his unshaven face close to Harry, fingers digging painfully into the boy’s bony shoulders. Harry wavered on his feet. He tried to meet the man’s gaze, but the terror from before was crashing over him and he couldn’t breathe around the way his chest and throat burned. Everything was blurring and folding around itself so that he reached numbly to adjust his glasses that had slipped nearly off, the lenses scratched but remarkably unbroken.

Harry sucked in a breath as his arm was grabbed, Filch’s grip twisting his wrist where it seared already with hot stabs of agony. “Dueling in corridors, brawling after hours…” Filch muttered furiously under his breath, “I’ll get the truth out of you if I have to beat it from your miserable little hide...”

Harry stayed as silent as he could, struggling to hide his coughs or the way his feet slid out from under him as Filch dragged him down the corridor, lantern swinging in his other hand. He knew from years of experience that it always hurt worse if he fought or argued. The pain in his arm was nothing but a broken bone, the marks carved at the base of his throat only shallow cuts. It was nothing compared to what could still happen if he whinged too much or stepped too far out of line.

“—go back to chaining up the little miscreants, muzzling you the way that stupid three-headed beast of Hagrid’s ought to be, none of this point-taking nonsense….oh you’d face a real discipline if I had my say, you and your sneaky friends –“ Filch jerked him forward as he ranted and Harry gasped, white-faced with pain, falling back into the dark haze from before.

The excruciating pressure of Filch’s fingers twisting into the rags around his hand to further restrain him from running was somehow separate from him. The torches flickering on the walls spat colors and burned too brightly, the stairs sliding apart under him so that Filch shook him angrily again, pulling him roughly down the steps, stone catching Harry’s ankles. He was lost, drifting above his body except for stabs of pain as he was dragged onward, lacing up through his arm and pulling him momentarily back into himself before he could slip free again.

Filch was still speaking but Harry could not understand the disjointed noise, he was aware only that they had finally stopped in front of a wooden door in a dark corridor, the pain in his lungs traveling into his head at the wet cold scent of the stone surrounding them. Filch banged on the door, the sound echoing painfully, lingering after the door was pushed open and Harry yanked through. Candlelight cut across his vision, mirroring the room in light so that for a moment Harry stayed above his body before the rushing motion stopped and he saw the dark thin shape of the potions master rise from the desk across the room.

Filch dropped his wrist, shoving Harry forward. He stumbled, feeling stone under his shoes, the world swirling around him and a tearing inside his lungs so that he crashed to his knees, aware all over again of the pain.

“What happened?” he heard Snape demand from far away. Filch mumbled something about ‘catching him sneaking around’ that Snape didn’t respond to.

Black boots and the trailing edge of a cloak entered Harry’s vision. His head spun, his breath ragged. He flinched as strong fingers touched his sunken cheek where it throbbed and stung from Flint’s first hex, aching into his teeth. Harry lifted his head at the light pressure now on his jaw, meeting dark eyes. Snape looked down at him, melted around the edges with the light shifting behind him so strangely that Harry stared, paralyzed. Everything was over now, he’d had his brief illusions of freedom during the first few months at Hogwarts away from the Dursleys but it no longer mattered. Everything that had happened was falling apart because Snape hated him and had already tried to kill him once and a raw noise left Harry at the thought of dying here in this room full of shadows and light, the floor so cold beneath him.

“He’s been drugged,” Snape hissed, the man’s eyes ink black as they trailed over Harry, “where did you find him? Was there anyone else in the area?”

“Gone when I showed up,” Filch muttered sullenly, “probably out dueling with him, then scampered when they got a whiff of the garroting gas they set off.”

“Garroting gas?” Snape whirled on the other man with a sudden ferocity that made Harry’s insides freeze with fear, “you should have taken him straight to the hospital wing! The poison can become lethal if left untreated especially if it was an undiluted potion!”

“The little brat wouldn’t say what happened –“ Filch protested but it felt as if glass was sparking sharply to the surface of Harry’s lungs, blocking out words. He doubled over, coughing, blood wet against his teeth.

“Get out,” he heard the potions master order Filch roughly, the caretaker retreating hastily. Harry swayed on his knees, knowing it would happen soon. Footsteps came near him again, the tall man crouching in front of him. Light bleached out Snape’s skeletal features, the walls crawling with something horrid so that Harry closed his eyes tightly, shivering.

“This is going to burn, Potter,” Snape said quietly and a strange relief momentarily cut through the terror eating Harry alive. It was almost nice, Harry thought, that Snape would warn him before killing him instead of just going ahead with it. He didn’t have to, but he had and so Harry didn’t fight as his head was tipped back carefully again, long fingers gripping his jaw and cold glass touching his mouth. Searing heat slid down his throat and Harry shuddered. It was like drinking burning oil but the more it burned the less his throat hurt, the dizziness lifting in waves so that he fell forward. A hand caught the sharp edge of his elbow, steadying him. Harry blinked his eyes open, inhaling shakily at once more feeling the floor stable beneath him. The candles hovering in the air shone against glass jars lining the walls but the distorted colors were gone.

He swallowed, still tasting blood from his split lip. Each trembling breath shocked him with its ease even as he swayed, too exhausted to resist as Snape moved his hand holding the half-empty potion. Harry tensed, waiting for the man to bring it crashing down against his skull like Uncle Vernon had once done with a brandy bottle. It had made such a mess of glass, alcohol, and blood in the living room that Aunt Petunia had been furious with Harry for days.

The faint ring of glass on stone was the only sound other than Harry’s shallow unsteady breaths. He stared at the floor where Snape had set aside the bottle, feeling the potions master’s eyes on him, “who did this to you, Mr. Potter?” the man asked in the silence and Harry shook his head wordlessly, turning his face away. No one ever believed him when he told the truth about Dudley bullying him, it was better to just take what happened than to risk a worse beating.

Snape drew in a sudden sharp breath, hand moving swiftly to yank the collar of Harry’s school uniform to the side, exposing the dripping cuts at Harry’s clavicle. “What happened here?”

Harry tried to pull back, staring wide-eyed at the man kneeling across from him, still so tall, powerful in the sharp features of his thin face, his cold black eyes. The potion had to have been only a temporary reprieve. Snape must want to kill him when Harry was fully aware of what would take him apart. The first year cowered as fingers settled just below his throat. A dark look crossed Snape’s face, eyes scarily intent as he studied the blood seeping loosely from the boy’s skin, pooling in the ridges of prominent collarbones before trickling down the sternum.

The wood of Snape’s wand was jet black, simple but for the elegantly carved symbols at the base that Harry stared at, determined not to cry out. He hadn’t when Flint and the others were bullying him, he wouldn’t now. He waited for the final blow, the spell that had killed both his parents as Snape’s wand hovered a few centimeters from his neck. A warm, slight tugging pressure slid along his injured skin and Harry stilled as he felt the cuts stitch back together, the blood vanishing with another wave of Snape’s wand.

“Answer me, Mr. Potter,” the potions professor spoke in that same quiet, almost gentle voice that confused Harry more than ever. Wasn’t Snape going to kill him? Hadn’t he tried earlier during the Quidditch match? Hagrid had said Snape wouldn’t kill a student, but Harry knew the man had tried to get past the three-headed dog. He had hated Harry without even knowing him. Harry shook his head again, eyes following Snape’s wand before shying away. Nothing made sense anymore. It was better to not say anything. Telling would only make things worse.

Snape watched him steadily and Harry stared at the floor, trembling. He heard the Potions Master exhale and braced himself to endure the man’s frustration over his defiance. Instead, Snape tilted his head, long black hair falling forward, “you were not dueling,” the man stated more than guessed, “not with rivals your own age. The cutting curse is not something a first year would know, even the poorly executed spell used on you is far beyond the skill of an eleven year old.”

The man’s eyes were still fixed on him though Harry hadn’t dared to look up, “this has something to do with the Slytherin Quidditch team.” Harry flinched in surprise at the certainty in Snape’s voice, hating that even that gesture alone gave away the truth. It wasn’t like it made a difference anyway, he thought bitterly. Everyone knew Snape favored Slytherin. Harry had gone through this before with Aunt Petunia. She’d ask questions sometimes, enough that he’d eventually confess that he had been fighting with his cousin or that a teacher had given him a higher mark than Dudley, only for her to slap him for lying or ‘causing difficulties’. By the age of six he’d known that she would always take Dudley or Uncle Vernon’s side even when directly witnessing what really happened.

“I am aware there are…tensions…between Gryffindor and Slytherin House, particularly after the incident this morning,” the potions master hissed, “but this has gone too far.”

Harry shrank back, fear warring with exhaustion. He wanted it to end. If Snape meant to hurt him or kill him he wished the potions professor would just get it over with instead of trying to trap him into saying something. Without the stinging pain at his throat, the fear was what strangled him now. He could feel the numbness descending, sparking pain through his arm. Some part of him watched from the corner of the room, tiredness clouding all but the briefest awareness before he was pulled back in by fingers at his injured wrist.

“Mr. Potter?” a voice murmured and Harry gasped, biting his lip hard as the shock of the pain hit him all over again. There was a blur of black, Snape shifting closer, one hand gripping Harry by the elbow once more while the other unwound the blood-spotted bandages. It hurt terribly, Harry shivering at the careful motions.

“Your wrist is broken,” the potions master told him quietly, a hard edge to his voice, “how exactly –“ he halted and Harry stared down at his hand, still partially covered with bandages. The wrist was strangely swollen and bruised purple-black which made his pale hand appear distorted and even uglier with the barely scabbed marks along his palm and fingers, blood leaking from where pressure had reopened the wounds.

Snape very carefully pulled the rest of the bandaging free, dropping the stained rags on the floor. He didn’t say anything for a long time, seeming not to expect an answer anymore. Harry raised his head uncertainly. Snape met his stare fully, face blank but for a faint line between his brows, his eyes dark and knowing.

A small jar of pickled tentacles floated from a shelf high along the wall and hovered near them. Harry blinked but Snape offered no explanation, unstopping the jar and pouring the brine unto a clean flannel he had summoned from somewhere. Harry’s small thin fingers seemed to disappear in Snape’s as the man inspected his hand closely, avoiding any movement that would jostle the wrist. The first press of the cloth against his skin brought relief so intense that Harry sagged in place, closing his eyes.

“What did you use?” Snape asked, his low voice soft in the candlelit room.

“A quill,” Harry found himself unexpectedly answering, eyes opening.

Something crossed his professor’s face, a terrible sort of understanding and it was at that moment that Harry knew that Snape didn’t want to kill him. Maybe Ron and Hermione were wrong about who had tried to curse his broom. Maybe Snape had a reason for trying to steal whatever was hidden on the third floor or maybe he didn’t. Either way it no longer seemed to matter. Harry watched as the cuts on his hand closed over, fading so all that remained was the burning pain in his wrist.

“Hold still,” Snape murmured, fingers tilting Harry’s face up and to the side, his other hand dabbing the damp cloth across the throbbing pain along the boy’s cheek and lower lip. Sensation there vanished strangely, the sharp agony disappearing to a dull distant ache and Harry blinked, trying to understand it.

It was quiet enough that Harry could hear the faint sputtering of the floating candles in the room, the distant sound of dripping water that was always audible in the dungeons. He blinked tiredly, limbs trembling more from exhaustion than anything else now. He watched the professor, looking away as Snape’s dark eyes fixed once more on him.

“You need to go to the hospital wing,” Snape set the cloth aside, directing the jar of tentacles back to the shelf with a sharp motion of his wand.

“I’m alright, Sir,” Harry whispered.

“No, you’re not,” Snape stated quietly, “you haven’t been alright for quite some time, have you Mr. Potter?” Harry stared at the floor, opening his mouth to offer some sort of protest or excuse but Snape cut him off. “It’s well past first-year curfew, you have bruises, a broken wrist, signs of being tortured and drugged, not to mention your refusal to say who was responsible for hurting you – “

“I’m sorry!” Harry exclaimed, hunching his shoulders in an attempt to make himself seem even smaller, frantic with a miserable sort of fear that he had made things worse and really angered Snape who hadn’t done anything but try to help him since Harry had been dumped in the man’s office.

The potions master stared, “Pain is not something any child should apologize for. The fact that you think you have to….” he shook his head, standing. Harry froze, realizing all over again how tall Snape was. He’d never been so near another adult for so long without being hurt or threatened and he stared blankly at the hand his professor extended before tentatively taking it, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet.

His legs shook beneath him but Harry quickly dropped the man’s hand, stepping back. It was very unnerving the way Snape studied him, as if he were seeing through Harry to the deepest most horrible part of him. Swallowing tightly, the boy shifted nervously on his feet. He didn’t want to appear anymore pathetic than he already was.

“I will escort you to the hospital wing, Mr. Potter,” Snape said, straightening his long black cloak, “your Head of House and the headmaster must be informed.”

Harry sucked in a breath, backing up another step, “please don’t say anything,” he pleaded. He couldn’t risk getting into anymore trouble, he’d be expelled for sure and sent back to the Dursleys.

“Your wrist is broken, Potter,” Snape stressed, watching him closely, “someone used a cutting curse on you and garroting gas, these are serious matters that should not be overlooked.”

“It’s nothing, really!“ Harry insisted desperately, instinctively clenching his injured hand and gasping at the agony jolting through his wrist.

“ ‘Nothing’ didn’t cause the injuries you came here with,” Snape replied, tone careful once more as if Harry were something irreparably fragile “it didn’t cause the ones you gave yourself.”

Harry paled, hating the way his voice wavered when he spoke, “I don’t need to go to the hospital wing, Sir.”

“Yes, you do. You need proper medical treatment and you deserve to feel safe within this castle. Anything less is unacceptable.” Snape strode to his office door, sweeping it open and gesturing for Harry to follow him.

For a moment, Harry didn’t move. Fear and exhaustion kept him pinned in place and he didn’t know what Snape wanted anymore. He’d arrived there so sure that his potions professor would kill him but Snape kept trying to help him whilst speaking such uncomfortable truths that part of Harry wanted to flee and part of him secretly wished to never leave the refuge the man’s office had unexpectedly become.

“Madam Pomfrey will be able to mend your wrist properly and she has assisted students in the past who have struggled with self-harming,” Snape said to him in the stone corridor and Harry looked away. They walked a few paces more before the man offered softly, “talking may help.”

Harry shook his head sharply, keeping his head down in case Snape chose to lash out for his continued defiance. The dungeons looked more sinister and magical than ever with only flickering torches to light the way. Snape had slowed his strides so Harry could keep pace but overwhelming fatigue was seeping in and they paused at the top of the second floor staircase, Harry’s bruised ankles burning and unsteady.

“Sit here,” Snape directed and Harry sank gratefully down unto the top stair, flinching at how even that jostled his wrist. The torches were far below them now, the doors of the Great Hall open just enough that fairy lights from the Christmas trees decorating the hall and faint moonlight from the tall leaded glass windows lit their surroundings. Snape was barely more than a shadow near him. Harry had the odd thought that, here in the night, they looked much more alike with their black hair and bony ghostly pale faces.

“Harry, this cannot continue, do you understand?” the potions master said into the quiet and Harry looked up at the man’s hawkish profile, so tired that he could no longer keep pretending he knew what to do or say in this strange magical world.

“I don’t know,” he whispered, and then “I’m sorry,”, even though Snape didn’t want him to apologize anymore, but the man had called him ‘Harry’ and he wasn’t sure what to say.

“Promise me that you will go to your Head of House if you feel that you may harm yourself again.”

A shudder passed through Harry but he forced himself to nod, murmuring “yes sir” aloud in case Snape couldn’t see him in the dark. He didn’t mean it. Harry couldn’t envision himself ever going to anyone about the one thing that actually helped him cope. Professor McGonagall was just as strict as Snape and she would ask even more questions. She wouldn’t understand either, not the way Snape had right away without Harry having to say anything. But Harry couldn’t refuse a direct request from Snape, not after already being so difficult. He’d find a way to get around it all, when he wasn’t too tired to focus on much else than the sound of his and the professor’s breathing in the cavernous area. Snape turned his head slightly in the dark, the motion measured, controlled in a way that Harry knew meant the man had instantly caught Harry’s lie.

“If you will not talk to the school matron or Professor McGonagall then you must speak to me,” Snape stated with a resolve that confused Harry more than anger would have. Snape knew he would have broken a promise, knew he was lying about it now but he didn’t sound surprised or furious only determined, and tired in the same bone-weary way Harry felt.

“I –I don’t have anything to say,” Harry whispered, tensing and uncertain at how little fear he felt when the man turned to him, reaching unerringly in the dark to help him stand.

“I find that very unlikely,” Snape remarked, slowly leading the way to the hospital wing, eyes on Harry as they passed a flickering torch along the corridor. “I think there is much that you want to say but you do not believe anyone will listen.”

“Will you?” Harry dared to ask, the words half between a wish and a challenge.

“Yes,” Snape answered immediately, stopping and turning to look down at him, black cloak swirling around both their feet at the sharp movement, “I will.”
The End.
End Notes:
Thank you for reading and commenting! I have considered writing more to this/continuing the story with a sequel, so I may come back to it at some point.

Bingo prompts for the blackout bingo were: house elf, breaking a quill, I will punish others for your failure, unhealthy coping mechanism, winter break, noxious gas, interrogation, muzzled, incontinence, disassociation, food aversion, power struggle, hiding an injury, thwarted escape, banned from quidditch, using bandages as restraints, drugged, breaking a promise, punishment, broken bone, music/dance school au, fae creature inheritance, lured into a trap, siren.


This story archived at http://www.potionsandsnitches.org/fanfiction/viewstory.php?sid=3850