A GILDED CAGE: A HARRY POTTER FAN-FICTION STORY
Word Count: 1817
Rating: PG for discussions of suicide and abuse.
Summary: Part of Potions & Snitches Spring 2016 Fic Fest. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Harry thought for certain that he had found someone to give him a third option (death). Severus shows him that there is another choice.
It was his eyes that caught his attention. They were the eyes of someone with nothing left to lose. Normally, such eyes left him wary, but the sight of such eyes in this boy left him with only a surprising amount of concern.
“Professor,” He greeted him tonelessly. “May I speak with you in private?”
“If you must,” Snape agreed, ushering him into his office.
Once there, Potter slumped into a chair and put his messy head in his hands.
“What has gotten the Saviour of the Wizarding World in such a state?” Snape sneered, watching the boy closely.
Into his hands, Potter bit out a short laugh.
“Worried?” Potter asked, looking up at him with bloodshot eyes.
It was the eyes that always got to him. He tried to imagine Lily’s face surrounding such eyes and the thought made him sick. Loathe as he was to admit it, he did want to know what had left Potter in such a wretched way.
“If I am the only thing standing between you and another dangerous harebrained scheme, then yes.”
“You shouldn’t be,” Snape spat out, leaning back in his chair with an ominous creak.
Potter pulled a crumpled handkerchief out of a pocket and began to meticulously clean his glasses.
“I was hoping that you would be able to supply—or help me procure a fast acting poison or potion of some kind.”
“You cannot possibly think that I would help you commit murder,” Snape barked, incensed at the nerve of the boy.
“You might be willing once you hear the target,” Potter answered, still wiping his glasses and not making eye contact.
“I doubt it.”
Potter shrugged and he sneered at such plebeian behaviour.
“Such verbal games do not interest me, especially coming from you. Either tell me the so-called target or leave,” He urged in a cold voice.
“I beg your pardon?”
It wasn’t often that he was caught blindsided by Potter. He decided that he didn’t like the feeling.
“I need to die, so I thought you might be pleased to help me reach that goal,” Potter answered, putting away his handkerchief and returning his glasses to his face.
“Why would you need to die? And why do you think I would take pleasure in such an act?”
He kept his incredulity and shock carefully shelved behind his occlumency walls as he waited for an answer.
“Hasn’t Albus told you? Hasn’t the Dark Lord told you?” The boy sneered, looking at him finally.
“Told me what?” Snape growled lowly.
“I’m a horcrux.”
Shock filled silence.
“There is no way that the headmaster would speak to you of such dark magic. And I can hardly believe that you are in correspondence with the Dark Lord.”
“Believe it,” Potter said, slamming a very creased piece of parchment on the desk in front of him.
“I will not fall for such foolish tripe,” Snape roared, his uncertainty getting the better of him at last. “Get out of my office and take your lies with you!”
The sight of the boy flinching backward took a great deal of the wind out of his sails. Did Potter honestly think that he would hurt him?
“I thought,” Potter’s voice wavered. “I thought for certain that you would be pleased to be rid of me.”
“I will be, but that does not mean I will help you commit suicide.”
Potter flinched again at the word, and any urge to see boy gone from his sight suddenly left him.
“Because I have to get rid of Vold—the Dark Lord first?”
“Because I do not wish to see any student of mine dead,” Snape countered.
“How very noble of you,” Potter sneered, clenching his arms over his chest tightly in obvious disbelief.
“What does the letter say?” Snape asked in a mild voice.
“Read it and find out,” Potter challenged, standing up.
“SIT!” He barked.
Potter dropped with a thunk, and inwardly he smiled.
“Tell me what it says,” Snape instructed in a voice that didn’t allow for disobedience.
Potter raised his chin defiantly.
“Would you like for me to call the headmaster?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Mr Potter, I am at the very end of any patience I may have had for this conversation. Either explain, or by Merlin, I will have you explain it to the aurors!”
“My family hates me.”
Whatever he thought he was going to hear, it wasn’t that. Two surprises from Potter in one conversation, and he was ready for Firewhiskey. He’d almost rather deal with hormonal couple spats in Slytherin, maybe even Hufflepuff.
Well, maybe not Hufflepuff, he edited silently.
“The headmaster tells me that they dote on you like a prince.”
The laugh that came from Potter was one that he had never heard the boy make. It was bitter desperation and fiery anger all rolled into one short broken sound.
“Does he now.”
It wasn’t a question.
Snape raised an eyebrow.
“My uncle was recently approached by some of Voldemort’s people. Under no duress, and with the promise of a hefty reward, he has agreed to hand me over to Voldemort as soon as I arrive there for the summer holidays.”
Snape flinched at the repeated use of the Dark Lord’s name.
“According to whom?”
“My dearest doting uncle,” Potter sneered, slamming a piece of muggle paper down on the desk in front of him. “Dear old Tom wrote me and told me that as one of his horcruxes, he can promise me a much better home than the one my relatives provided for me. As tempting as his offer is,” Potter glared at him, “I think I would prefer not to be locked in a cage the rest of my days, no matter how pretty.”
Unbidden, a memory from one of his mother’s records surfaced in his mind.
“She’s only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see,
You may think she’s happy and free from care,
She’s not, though she seems to be . . . “
“What’s that from, sir?”
He jerked from his memory, unaware that he had spoken aloud.
“A song from the turn of the century,” He answered thoughtfully.
“I think, I think that’s what everyone sees me as, sir,” Potter admitted. “They think I’m some great person, or great celebrity I guess, but I’m not,” He whispered.
Snape watched as tears filled those green eyes.
“I’m no one, sir. I have no one. I don’t have anywhere to go, and the only thing I can do is to remove myself from the equation. If I’m not alive, then Tom’s hold on this earth is broken—at least partially. I’m not smart enough to win in a fight against him. I’m not strong enough. You’re right,” Potter’s lower lip shook and he dragged a hand though his hair. “I don’t know anything. I’m too stupid to win. I can’t,” He gasped and wrapped his arms around himself tightly as he hunched forward in the chair.
“Have you thought to ask anyone for help with this, Mr Potter?” Snape’s voice was measured, controlled.
“Who’s going to listen to me?”
“It seems that I am going to,” Snape allowed.
“But why? You won’t help me die. How can you help me?”
“Mr Potter,” Snape folded his hands across the top of his desk and leaned toward the openly weeping boy. “I won’t help you die, but I can help you live.”
“To begin with, I will help find you another place to go home to. We have some time, given that the Easter holidays have just begun.”
“I can’t put anyone else in danger. Everyone I come in contact with dies. I’m a curse.”
“Enough of that, Mr Potter. There were extenuating circumstances in each of those cases.”
Potter shook his head and wrung his clearly soggy handkerchief.
“I’m a dangerous freak.”
“According to whom?” Snape’s voice was low.
“My uncle. And even Mol—Mrs Weasley—said that I was danger to her children. I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t want me either.”
“Take this and listen to me,” Snape snapped, throwing a clean handkerchief at the boy.
Surprise brightened Potter’s face and he scowled at the sight.
“Anyone who sells a relative to a dark lord isn’t worth listening to. As for Molly, I don’t know what to tell you. I did not hear her, nor do I know the context in which she was speaking of. I do know that she has often fought the headmaster on many of his plans for you, and I believe that you should not discount her so quickly.”
Reassuring Potter was not part of his job description. At least he could take comfort that the boy had at least stopped dripping tears all over his office.
“I won’t go somewhere I’m not wanted. I’ve been unwanted all of my life. I’d rather be poisoned.”
“Yes, well, we’ve established that, have we not? No, do not answer that. I do have other things to be doing.”
Like finding you a home. Like keeping you alive.
“I’m sorry I’m wasting your time,” Potter whispered.
Another flinch. He felt like cursing. Or drinking. Drinking would be very good right now.
“I will find you somewhere that you are wanted.”
“Really?” Potter’s voice sounded impossibly young and hopeful.
Fifteen is young, he reminded himself.
“What if no one wants me?” Potter whispered.
“Then I will take you.”
Wide green eyes met cool dark ones in shock.
Snape half expected to be turned down immediately. He almost expected the boy to storm out of his office at his suggestion, and truth be told, such a familiar Potter-esque action would have gone great lengths to settle the growing unease in his soul.
But of course not. The boy-who-lived-to-surprise-him managed to yet again.
“I promise you Potter, on my magic, that if you need a place to stay, a place to call home, then I will do my best to provide you with one.”
Magic sung out between them as his words took hold.
“Even though you hate me?”
“I do not hate you, but I do tire of your constantly reckless choices.”
“They’re not reckless if no one cares what happens to you,” Potter pointed out.
“Well, clearly someone does. Now go away.”
Looking down at the endless pile of grading he had to finish in the next week, he almost missed Potter’s final words.
“Thank you, sir. Thank you for everything,” The boy said, running out before he could respond.
“You are welcome, Harry,” Severus said to the emptiness of his office.
He hoped he wouldn’t have to take in the brat. He hoped he could find someone else to ply the boy with.
But if he couldn’t, then he would do as he had said.
He always tried to do as he said he would.