Chapter 2: the apology

Immediately, the man under him tensed.

"How dare you bring that up, you little-"

But he never got the chance to say what he exactly thought Harry was for the boy blurted out. "I'm sorry" He paused. When Snape made no move to speak, he continued. "I'm sorry I invaded your privacy. I'm sorry I embarrassed you. I'm sorry for what my father and his friends did to you. I'm sorry for being rude and disrespectful to you. I'm sorry for not trying hard enough to learn occlumency. I'm sorry for being crap at it - and at potions for that matter. I'm sorry for wasting your time. I'm sorry, sir. I truly, deeply am."

Snape didn't know what to say. As much as he would have liked to spit a scathing remark, he knew the boy was sincere in his apology and he sounded almost… desperate? Be as it may, the brat had seen some of his most embarrassing memories and he wasn't about to forget that. He opened his mouth to say something but Harry beat him to it.

"I should never have looked into your pensive, sir. I wasn't even looking for your memories. Well not that kind of memory anyway. I was sure you and the order kept things hidden away from me and felt so left out and I wanted to know, I wanted to help. I never meant to see this and honestly sir, had I known I never even would've considered looking." Once launched, nothing seemed to stop Harry and he continued speaking.

"I know you think I enjoyed what I saw, that I somewhat approve. Well, let me tell you, sir. I don't know nor care if you did or said anything to provoke them. You really didn't deserve any of it, no one ever does. This kind of thing is never warranted and I do not condone it in any way. Regardless of our mutual dislike, I most certainly did – do – not find any of what my dad and his friends did anywhere near funny. As a matter of fact, I think they were cruel horrible bullies and I totally get why you hate them so much, because after seeing this memory I did too. I hated them. I was ashamed and angry - because I know what's it's like to be picked on believe me - but most of all I was disappointed. You know why? Because everyone only ever told me how great my dad was and how much he and I were alike - and I used to love that, I really did because it made me feel close to him, you know? Like we actually had something in common, something to share, even though I never knew him. But if that's what he really was like… then I'm not so sure I want to be like him anymore."

To his horror, Harry realized that tears were rolling down his cheeks and he felt his face redden.

"I don't expect nor ask you to forgive me, sir. I really don't." Harry said honestly. "I only ask you to think about what I said and, although I know it's hard for you, try to see past my father's face and get to know Harry Potter instead of James Potter." Harry finished.

For the first time in a long time, Snape was at loss of words. He didn't know what to say, what to do. All this time he had seen the boy as an arrogant spoiled attention-seeking bullying brat. But now, he saw something else. He saw an honest and respectful boy wanting nothing more than to see the good in people. He saw a young innocent boy that made a mistake and was trying to make up for it. He saw a just boy, willing to stand up to unfairness. He saw a boy. Not the son of his arch enemy. Nor the son of his best friend. He saw a boy, he saw Harry.

Not knowing what else to do, Snape gently brushed away Harry's tears from his face and then stroke his hair. Then, when the tears stopped he whispered into the child's ear. "I will try… Harry."

A wide grin spread across Harry's face. "Thank you, sir. It's all I ask."

The next hour was spent in silence. Snape's hand, though it had stopped stroking the messy raven locks, still rested on top of Harry's head. As the time passed, the adrenaline faded away and the pain became considerably harder to bare, for Harry especially. The coldness didn't help as shivers ran through his body, contracting his damaged muscles and putting pressure on his many broken bones. His breaths became ragged and eventually turned into painful shuddering gasps.

As a new wave of tremors spread through his limps, Harry sucked in a sharp breath clenching his eyes shut and gritting his teeth. His fist closed around the black robes on which he lay so tightly that his knuckles turned white. Had Harry not been in so much pain, he would've been surprised to feel the hand on his head stroking his hair once again, while the other one wrapped itself around him and drew soothing and warming circles in his back.

"Breathe, Harry. Take deep breaths, slowly. In and out." Snape guided gently.

"Can't… hurts" Harry croaked.

"Yes, you can, Harry. Just breathe slowly, ok?"

Harry followed the Potions Master's directions, taking slow deep breaths.

"Just like that. Keep going." Snape encouraged him. "You're doing great, Harry."

"Hurts" Harry said choking back a sob.

"I know" Came Snape's reply.

"Hurts… so much." Harry said as more hot tears streamed down his cheeks. He didn't even notice his eyelids starting to close.

"Stay awake, Harry. Don't go to sleep."

"Tired" Harry whispered.

"I know and you'll go to sleep very soon, alright? As soon as we get out of here. Just try to stay awake for now." Snape said gently. In an attempt to stimulate him, he tried to get the boy to talk.

"Tell me about your friends, Harry. What are they like?"

A small smile appeared on Harry's lips as he thought about his friends. "Ron's…fun…. Eats…a lot… Plays… chess." He paused to breathe and winced as pain shot through his abdomen." Her…mione's...smart. Reads… a lot… Makes… Ron… and I…study…ARGHH" Harry gasped in pain.

"You're doing great, Harry. Keep going." Snape supported. "Where did you first meet?"

Harry's face was contorted in agony as he tried to get the words out. "Ron…platform… Hermione… ARGHH…. train…"

"What about your muggle friends from primary school?" Snape asked, trying to get the boy to keep talking.

"I… didn't…ARGH"

"You didn't what?"

"Have…. friends…"

Snape frowned. "Why not?"

"…freak…"

"What do you mean 'freak'?" Snape asked confused.

"ARGHHH" Harry gasped.

"Come on, Harry. Deep slow breaths. There you go. Now keep talking. What do you mean by 'freak'?" Snape inquired genuinely curious.

"…me…"

"you?"

"said… I…ARGH… was… one"

Snape paused, truly confused now. "Who said that? The kids at school?" Harry gritted his teeth to keep himself from screaming in pain and nodded. "Why would they say that?"

"my…aunt…n'uncle…"

"Your aunt and uncle told them that?" Snape asked incredulous.

"to…Dudley… m'cousin…n'his…ARGHHH…gang…"

Anger and confusion. Those were the two prominent emotions that went through Snape's eyes. "Why would they do that?"

"…m'wizard… hate…magic…"

Suddenly, realization hit him and it all made sense to Snape. Petunia had always been jealous of Lily's magic and had called both her and Severus freaks when they had received their acceptance letters to Hogwarts. Dread invaded Snape's mind. What had the woman done to the boy? Surely, she wouldn't have hurt her own blood… right?

"Harry, did they hurt you? Your aunt and uncle, did they hit you?" Snape urged, his fear apparent in his voice.

For the first time in hours, Harry raised his gaze and emerald tear-filled eyes found concerned obsidian ones. Then Harry clenched them shut and slowly shook his head, though Snape knew it was in despair rather than denial. A sob escaped the boy's mouth and the movement caused him to feel a sharp pain in his abdomen as he cried out in pain. His breathing became shallower and his face relaxed as the welcoming darkness started to envelop him once again.

"No, no, Harry. Stay with me."

Harry opened his eyes but couldn't see anything. He squinted to clear his vision but it was blurred by tears and dark spots were forming as well.

Suddenly, the sound of hurrying footsteps and voices were heard from afar.