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Chapter 4: Behind Closed Doors
Behind Closed Doors
"Ever since I was little, I knew that I was different from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon and Dudley. Aunt Petunia told me often enough that I was a freaky brat, and I'd come to a bad end like my drunken dad. They told me that he died in car crash while driving drunk and that's how come you were in a coma, Mum, and I had this scar on my forehead." Harry began, flipping up his bangs to show Lily the lightning bolt scar. "I asked her once or twice if I could go and see you and she told me it was a waste of time to watch you sleeping, that you'd probably never wake up and I ought to forget about you.
"But I never did. Uncle Vernon used to call me boy and brat and tell me I had to earn my keep, or else he'd chuck me in a foster home quick as blinking. So I tried to do all the chores he gave me, and not complain, even when Dudley used to make a mess and say I did it, he liked to see me get in trouble. I always knew Dudley came first, he got the best of everything because he was their son, and better than me. He got tons of presents on his birthday and at Christmas and I . . . I never got anything. Aunt Petunia told me once when I asked why that I was lucky they gave me a roof over my head and clothes on my back, that was more than enough of a present for the likes of me.
"I used to think it was my fault, that because sometimes I . . . made things happen . . . that it got them angry and if I could just control myself . . . But it was hard, especially when Dudley and his friends would chase me through the park, or make me eat dirt in the backyard. Sometimes I couldn't help it, I would make it rain . . . and once lightning came down out of nowhere and hit Dudley. It didn't kill him, just made his hair stand up and his eyes turn this weird color, nothing else happened, the doctor in the emergency room said it was one of those freak accidents that occurred every so often and Dudley was extremely lucky to not be dead or brain damaged. Aunt Petunia cried buckets in the office, and when we got home, she put Dudley straight to bed after letting him eat a whole gallon of ice cream and buying him a whole new video game system. Of course, he got sick after, and she blamed me for it. She grabbed me by the arm and shook me, saying that she knew I was the reason that lightning had come out of nowhere, and then she told me if it ever happened again, she would bash my head in with a skillet. Then she threw me inside the cupboard under the stairs, where we kept the mops and buckets and floor cleaner.
"I think I was five then. When Uncle Vernon came home, he took a paddle to my bum, it really hurt, and I had a horrible headache afterwards. I was wishing I could call lightning to strike him down, but nothing happened and that was when he told me that I was going to sleep in the cupboard from now on, since that was where freaks like me belonged." He wrapped his arms about himself and continued, his voice low and rasping, his eyes dark with remembered pain and fear.
"That first time . . . I was scared, it was dark and there were cobwebs, I knew it was unfair since I hadn't meant to hurt Dudley at all, I just wanted him to leave me alone. But I couldn't say anything like that, because Dudley was the little prince and they always took his side over mine, even when he was wrong. I remember how close it was in there, and stuffy, I felt like I couldn't breathe. I closed my eyes and imagined myself walking through a forest, with lots of trees and a cool breeze. And something odd happened again . . . a small breeze came and spun about me for a few minutes, cooling me and making the cupboard less hot. It made me feel better.
"They locked me in the cupboard anytime they were mad at me, or Dudley lied and said I did something, like break his toys or cheat on a test, I never needed to cheat, I always did my homework. Dudley never did, and he was always trying to copy off me. Once a teacher gave him detention for it, told Aunt Petunia he had a problem with copying and needed to do his own work. Of course, I got in trouble for not letting him copy my paper, it wasn't Dudley's fault he was stressed, the teacher just didn't understand. That was their excuse for anything that ever went wrong with him—he was misunderstood, teachers didn't understand how sensitive he was, or how brilliant. Once I got a gold star from my teacher Miss Miller in primary school, and Uncle Vernon took it from me and said she made a mistake, she should have given it to Dudley, since I couldn't be good enough to earn one for anything.
"Pretty soon I learned to never show them anything when a teacher gave me a good mark or praised me. I let them think I was slow, as stupid as Dudley, otherwise it'd be worse for me at home. Sometimes, at night, when I was alone in the cupboard, I used to dream about you, Mum. I'd dream that someday you'd wake up and come for me, and we'd go somewhere far away and I'd have a normal life with someone who . . . loved me. Because I knew they didn't . . . Aunt Petunia used to say she loved Dudley best of all, but never me. I was just in the way, her freaky nephew who ought to have been in an institution."
Suddenly, Lily grabbed him and held him. "Harry, don't ever say that! You deserve to be loved, you're not a freak or unworthy! Do you understand? My sister was a miserable nasty bitch who ought to have been thrown in prison for the way she treated you! She belonged in an institution—for crazy wicked women who abused children! May God forgive me, but I'm glad she's dead. Because if she were alive right now, I think—no, I know—I'd commit murder." She was both horrified and heartbroken to learn of the hell her son had gone through, her poor child subject to Petunia's misplaced jealousy and fear of wizards, to her favoritism and cruelty. She wanted to weep for all the pain and suffering her son had endured, but feared if she started, she would never stop. Her stomach roiled and her eyes stung with unshed tears. She held Harry to her, and whispered, "It's over now, Harry. No one will ever hurt you that way again. You're not a freak, you're a very special wizard with a special gift, and if anyone ever tries to hurt you again, they'll do it over my dead body!"
A choked sob escaped her in spite of herself.
Harry clung to her, awkwardly breathing in her scent, of peppermint and lemon, and a clean spring scent. "It's okay, Mum. Don't cry. I'm okay now."
She felt tears start to fill her eyes, and fought to keep from breaking down. Her son was trying to comfort her, when it should have been the other way around. And that, more than anything else, showed her that Harry had learned to be independent and to rely only on himself. A fresh wave of anger at her sister and her brother-in-law and nephew consumed her, and she trembled with the force of it. They were lucky they had died in that storm, it saved her the trouble of hunting them down and giving them the justice they so richly deserved. She could not fathom how they could treat her son in such a fashion. Their own flesh and blood, and they had treated him no better than an animal—worse even!
"Here. Lily, drink this," Severus said, handing her a Calming Draft.
She took the vial and asked, "What is it? Something to knock me out?"
"No. Something to help you deal with all those runaway emotions. It's a Calming Draft."
She gulped it down, it tasted like fruit juice. The effect was almost immediate. She felt the tightness in her chest and the tension behind her eyes melt away. She was floating in a pool of cool water, calm and unruffled. Somewhere else, a part of her raged and screamed and sobbed, but right then she was relaxed and calm. She would deal with those emotions later.
"Better?" asked the Mind Healer. He knew that it was a temporary solution, that Lily would need to come to grips eventually with her feelings, but for right now she needed to be calm, because getting stressed would hinder her recovery.
"Thank you, Sev."
He nodded, then turned to Harry and said, "Forgive me for listening in on your conversation, but I need to know what went on with your former guardians if I am to help you overcome your past, Harry. I know you have no reason to trust me, but I too will pledge that I shall let no harm come to you. My wizard's and Healer's oath on it."
Harry turned his head and looked at the other man. "Thank you, sir. If my mum trusts you then so do I."
"Good, because your gift will require a great deal of training. You are a stormcaller, Harry, able to summon and use the power of nature itself. It's a very rare gift and not one that should be used lightly. That scar on your forehead is the Mark of a stormcaller, you were born with it, it is not the result of a car accident."
Before Severus could say anything more, one of the mediwitches on duty arrived with a breakfast tray for Lily. Upon seeing Harry there as well, she immediately summoned a second tray and a small rolling table so he could eat with his mother. Then she looked over at Severus. "Healer, would you like something as well?"
"Not to eat, but I would like a cup of Black Bohea, cream and two sugars." Severus requested.
"Coming right up, sir."
She waved her wand and muttered something and tea popped up on the tray, steaming hot and fixed exactly as requested.
Harry's eyes went wide. "Now that is so cool! Could I learn how to do that?"
"You will. It's a simple Summoning Charm." Lily assured him. "I can teach you. Charms are my specialty."
While Severus sipped his tea, the other two tucked in hungrily. The food at the hospital was very good, nutritious, filling, and tasty. There were scrambled eggs with chives, bacon, toast, and white beans cooked with chicken broth. There was milk, orange juice, and tea. Severus observed that Harry ate very slowly, he appeared to enjoy his food, but when he was full, he had eaten barely half the plate. Lily, too, did not finish everything, and when she glanced over at her son, expecting his plate to be empty, but seeing it was still quite full, asked, "Harry? Aren't you hungry? Do you not feel good?"
"No, I'm just full. I've never really had this much to eat at one time before." He explained.
"What do you mean?"
Harry shrugged. "Well, I made all the meals at Privet Drive, but I was never allowed to eat most of it. I could only eat after everyone else was done and by that time . . . there wasn't much left, since Uncle Vernon and Dudley ate enough for three people each."
Lily's mouth tightened. "They starved you too?" She snarled a curse word under her breath.
Severus spoke up before she could go off on another rant. "Lily, I think we should do a full examination on him, and determine whether or not he needs a Nutrient regimen. You too, even though I've been monitoring you closely, your body has been in a stasis for years, and that tends to take some toll on you. I'd suggest you need some physical therapy to get your muscles stronger and working better again. Also a Strengthening potion regimen. I can do some of that here. I would recommend you remain at St. Mungos until the end of the week, three days from now. And then you may reside as a guest at my home, you and Harry both. Would that be acceptable?"
"Yes, Sev. I do feel rather weak and tired." She said. She glanced down at her plate. "I was starving, but after just a few bites of everything, I'm full too."
"That's to be expected. Your stomach needs time to adjust to eating solid food again. I'd recommend small portions for now, or else you could develop indigestion and diarrhea. The same goes for you as well, Mr. Potter." He told them. "Now, I think both of you could use some more rest. Would you like me to prescribe a Sleeping Draft for you?"
"Yes, please, Sev. I'll never rest else," Lily agreed.
"Do I have to go back to my room?" he asked, reluctant to leave his mother's side. He was half-afraid that this was just an odd dream and he would wake up and discover he was back in the cupboard.
Severus considered, then said, "No. I can have a bed brought in and you can share this room." He would rather have them both together, they could help each other heal, both emotionally and physically. "Now, would you like to try a potion?"
Harry considered. "Will it . . . taste nasty?"
"Not this one," Severus answered. "This one tastes like warm milk with honey."
"That sounds good," Harry remarked.
Severus summoned two vials and waited while his patients took them. When both were sleeping soundly in their beds, he departed to complete his rounds of the Mind Healer ward. He would inform the Minister and Dumbledore of Lily's unexpected awakening, and hopefully that would calm Fudge's paranoia and keep Dumbledore from meddling too much in his affairs. He meant to keep Harry and Lily safe at all costs. He too was appalled at the way Harry had been treated, and felt guilty that he hadn't kept a better eye on the boy, though he could have hardly known of the abuse the boy endured. Even so, he felt as if he should have known something was wrong, but even he would have never expected Petunia to sink to the levels of cruelty that she had. He's going to need some extensive therapy with me or another Healer. And given the way things are right now, I doubt if Lily would trust anyone but me to handle him. I just hope I can help him. Stormcallers were notoriously volatile when aroused, and any strong negative emotion could set them off. Severus knew he would have to proceed very carefully, or else risk yet another natural disaster occurring.
Sorry to keep you all waiitng, but I had a lot going on this week, and am still trying to catch up. I hope no one is getting bored with this story! Things will start to become more exciting when Severus takes Lily and Harry to his home and they begin training.