...is both terrifying and surprising
|sequel to 'a sadness runs through him'.
warnings for serious mental health issues, aftermath of a suicide attempt, and suicidal ideation.
there may be a set of deleted scenes. there may not be. if so, it will be called 'hope of morning'.
the aftermath is both terrifying and surprising.
harry wakes with flitwick’s steady, still figure at the end of the bed. he slides on his glasses and peers through the dim, not quite dark. his eyes take a moment to adjust.
it takes his mind a little longer to catch up.
at first, he doesn’t remember the tower, or snape, or being stupefied. but the pieces come, slowly, slowly, and then harry wants to die.
everyone will know.
and harry attempts to scramble out of bed, a chest-gripping panic sweeping through his slight body- he doesn’t know where he’ll go, what he’ll do, but he can’t take everyone knowing and then-
“i wouldn’t do that, harry.”
harry is one foot on the late autumn-chilled floor and he freezes at the sadness practically dripping off flitwick’s voice. there’s not pity there.
harry’s voice sounds choked up and desperate even to his own ears, but flitwick just gently pushes him back into bed, where he shivers.
“where’s my wand?” harry ask, because that’s the simplest question. he doesn’t look flitwick in the eye. maybe they kicked him out of hogwarts for being a fuckup-
his breathing picks up and flitwick’s calm voice doesn’t really help.
“confiscated,” flitwick says and harry feels the world crumble around him. maybe flitwick catches the absolute terror and exhaustion and darkness in harry’s eyes because he quickly adds, “until we can trust you with it again.”
“i’m not expelled?” harry asks carefully. he’s not sure what’s worse- being expelled and having to live with the dursley’s or staying and everyone knowing that Harry-Fucking-Potter tried to kill himself. having to look ron and hermione in the eye. his teachers. hedwig.
“no,” flitwick says, surprised. “of course not.”
harry just looks down at the blankets. “who knows.” it’s not a question.
“professor snape, professor mcgonagall, and headmaster dumbledore,” said flitwick. “your friends know that you are currently in the hospital wing, but not why.”
harry is quiet. he stares at his fingers, curled together in his lap. He can imagine snape sneering, ‘i guess you’re as big a failure at killing yourself as you are with everything else in your life.’ he can see dumbledore’s twinkling eyes fading and disappointment that would drown harry. mcgonagall looking at him with pity and scorn. and it hits him.
he tried to kill himself.
he could be dead right now.
(he isn’t sure if living is all that much better)
he isn’t sure what to feel. there’s numbness (it’s everywhere and harry feels so lost in it) and fear. guilt.
it all feels wrong somehow. isn’t he supposed to be realizing that life is wonderful and how stupid he was to try and kill himself?
isn’t there supposed to be relief?
“what happens now?” harry asks softly. his voice floats across the quiet hospital wing and is absorbed by the thick curtains pulled around his bed.
“you’ll be on watch at first,” said flitwick. “if we think you are stable enough, we’ll set you up with meetings with either madame pomfrey, professor sprout, or myself. after that...it’s up to you.”
there is solemnity there. harry’s confusion and fear are briefly overcome by his curiosity.
“why you?” he blurts. his eyes quickly dart up to flitwick’s for a second, but then flit back to hands as if burnt.
“i have experience and training,” flitwick says. “you are far from the first to attempt at hogwarts, harry.”
something heavy joins the weight in harry’s stomach. the thought of others feeling the same as he, harry-
“don’t i get a choice?” harry asks weakly.
“no,” said flitwick. “not at first. in the end, however, it is up to you if you will survive this.”
“umbridge won’t let me out of my detentions,” he says and the all-too-familiar anger and despair wave over him. her face
haunts him and his hand aches.
“she has to,” says flitwick. he smiles sadly at harry and waves his wand, dimming the room even further. “sleep, harry. we can talk more tomorrow.”
harry doesn’t even realize how heavy his eyelids are until then and he curls up under the blankets, forgetting his glasses on his face.
just before he falls asleep, he swears he feels someone gently remove his glasses and run a light hand across his forehead.
harry wants to scream. flitwick is guarding him again and a familiar, almost week-long battle is waging yet again.
“you will,” says flitwick and harry glances back at the toilet.
“why can’t i just close the door for a few seconds?” harry asks, glaring at flitwick. “i can’t do anything- you made sure of that!”
“better safe than sorry,” says flitwick and he crosses his arm and sighs. “harry, I will not be looking in the room. just relieve yourself.”
harry’s cheeks feel hot, but he gives in. he returns to his bed, where flitwick turns and faces him.
“miss granger and mister weasley have been told of your situation and will be visiting later today,” flitwick says crisply, “as your progress has deemed you stable enough for visitors outside of-”
“what?” harry snaps, nearly throwing himself out of the bed.
“you can’t hide from your friends forever,” says flitwick, with a hint of sadness. “you’ll need them to lean on.”
harry looks away.
it’s maybe an hour before his friends are supposed to arrive and harry’s head is shoved under a pillow as his shoulders shake from suppressed sobs.
i want to die i want to die i want to die i want to die i want-
it’s an endless litany and harry is so furious with himself. he should have died why didn’t he die i hate snape i hate him i hate him
sprout is talking quietly, reading him a book or something but harry’s ribs are aching and his throat feels torn and cold and his nose is running.
he can still feel the breeze blowing through his hair the stars in the sky the lightness that caught him the split second before snape summoned him and he still doesn’t know what’s worse living or dying but everything is too much and HE WANTS TO DIE.
there is a hand on his back, and harry flinches but the hand stays firm.
“This too shall pass.”
harry tries to respond but all that’s comes out is a muffled half-sob half-sniffle. no it won’t. i’m harry potter and everything only gets worse. it gets worse. it gets worse.
sprout seems to understand and just keeps her hand gentle, still on his back. it helps in ways harry can’t articulate. he’s been starved for positive human contact- hell, any human contact- and the silent care of sprout’s actions help more than she could ever imagine.
harry’s sobs fade to hiccups and it is sprout’s quiet, “It’s snowing,” that gets harry to lift his head from underneath the pillow, snot and all.
wiping his nose, harry looks out the window that is charmed so he can’t get out of it or break the glass and sees the soft fall of snowflakes, gently dancing around the pane.
sprout sets her hand on his shoulder and smiles softly, sadly. “It’s early,” she says. “I don’t think it’ll last long, but that’s alright.”
harry watches for a long time and the beating in his chest slows to a comforting, steady rhythm. eventually, sprout returns to her spot at the end of harry’s bed and harry just watches the snow dance.
it’s not okay, not yet, but for a moment, harry can just breathe.
Hermione comes in first, Ron close behind. her eyes are red-rimmed and so are Ron’s and harry’s heart twists. his eyes find the familiar creases of the blankets.
“‘Lo, Harry,” Ron says quietly.
“Hi, Harry,” Hermione continues. she sits at the end of the bed as Ron takes Sprout’s vacated seat. “How- how are you?”
harry shrugs. he knows Hermione is biting her lip and Ron is running a hand through his hair at his non-answer.
“Harry-” Hermione says, a note of pleading so raw that harry swallows hard and his hands shake.
“Fine,” he says roughly and Ron lets out a puff of air.
“No, you’re not,” says Ron, sounding frustrated. there’s guilt there and anger and pain and harry knows it’s his fault. that he put it there.
“I-” harry licks his lips and falls quiet. he doesn’t say anything else, but that is an admission as much as anything he could have said.
harry is not alright.
Ron and Hermione know it.
“Oh, Harry,” hermione says in a soft voice and harry’s throat feels tight and nose burns. shame burns in him and he wishes that-
he doesn’t know what he wishes. that he succeeded? that everything was better? that he hadn’t hurt his friends by being so-
“No, Harry,” Ron says in that tone. the one that makes everyone stop and listen because this is Ron being serious. the one that made harry realize Ron is far more sensitive and intelligent than anyone will ever give him credit for. “You are not going to blame yourself for this..”
harry’s head shoots up and green eyes meet steady wells of blue. Ron sighs and pulls a freckled hand through his hair.
“I’m no good at this,” he admits, glancing at Hermione. “But I do know you.” a shadow of guilt falls over Ron’s freckled face. “Even though I somehow managed to miss this.”
Ron leans forward and there is maturity and depth in his face that startles harry. “Yeah, maybe you should have told one of us,” he says, frustrated but gentle, without any cutting edge.
“But, mate, it's not your fault. We should have seen this coming. And now that we know…” he shrugs. “We're here for you, y’know, if you wanna talk.”
“Ron, that was almost sweet,” Hermione says in a far-too fragile voice. there are tears in her eyes and in her throat and harry tries to smile.
it doesn't quite work, but that's okay because Ron and Hermione notice and the joy that flashes through their eyes at his mere attempt at smiling fills him with an overwhelming mix of emotions. mostly guilt and pride.
he knows that Ron is angry at him, knows that it probably took all the time from when he was told to now to get the control and maturity necessary to not just forgive harry but absolve him, but Ron still loves him. Hermione still cares.
...maybe Flitwick was right about his friends helping.
soon enough Pomfrey and Sprout usher harry's friends out, but they sneak in one last hug that leaves harry's head whirling.
harry is nowhere near okay, but he can almost smile and maybe, just maybe he's healing.
harry still wants to die sometimes. He doesn't say anything and takes the mood potions they've got him on and though he's feeling better and though he's thrilled at the prospect of leaving the hospital wing, the nights are bad.
When he is unable to sleep, the old refrains repeat until harry is cursing Snape, cursing Flitwick, cursing everyone. When he can sleep, he's haunted by Cedric’s unfeeling eyes, Quirrell's body disintegrating under his hands, Hermione petrified, Ginny half-dead, the Graveyard, always the Graveyard, the Dursleys, and the tower…
He's supposed to be freed tomorrow, albeit with tracking charms and notification spells and one of his friends always has to be with him, but he's going to be free. Maybe he should tell Flitwick that at night, the view from the window draws him and he wants nothing more than for everything to stop.
But harry isn't willing to risk freedom. Not after having it taken from him, year after year, one way or another.
And yeah, harry is terrified to face the other students. He knows there is no way they didn't notice his absence. He knows they probably know why he was gone. And he is terrified.
In all honesty, it's the second scariest thing he's ever done (the first was letting Hermione and Ron see him After).
At the time, he doesn't even take Umbridge into account.
Maybe he should have.
“Nice to see you back, Harry,” Neville says when harry walks into their dorm room after dinner. Hermione and Ron flank him as he sets down his bag and on his bed.
“Yeah,” harry says quietly, awkwardly.
“So, where were you?” Seamus asks, sitting up on his own bed. He shoves a pile of papers and books on the ground and
harry flinches at the sound. “The most common rumor said that you were in the hospital wing, but Dean here,” he throws a wadded up ball of parchment at his friend, who bats it away with a quick ‘screw you’. “Went up after stumbling up the stairs and ending up with a broken nose.”
“I saw the curtains around your bed,” Dean says, glaring at Seamus for bringing up his accident. “What was up with that?”
Ron and Hermione tense and harry swallows.
“Misfired spell,” harry mutters, with a pleading glance at his friends, who nod slowly. “They had issues reversing it and it was embarrassing.”
The three boys relax a bit, though Neville still looks suspicious.
“You got it sorted out though?” Dean asks and harry nods.
“...yeah,” he says, and this time he knows he’s lying. He swallows and turns to Ron and Hermione. “So, my homework?”
Ron groans in sympathy and Hermione summons a thick stack of notes.
“Most of the teachers said you didn’t have to turn in any homework because of the….” Hermione’s voice drops, “...circumstances, but they want you to read and catch up. A couple of the more practical teachers want you to make up…”
Hermione prattles on and harry tries to pay attention, but his mind is wandering. It’s been doing that more. Eventually, she notices harry isn’t all there and smiles sadly.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she says. It’s a promise and harry swallows hard.
“See you tomorrow,” he says. Hermione relaxes a little and the shadows under her eyes lighten a bit. She darts forward and wraps harry in a tight hug and whispers something that has harry going stiff.
“I love you.”
She squeezes him one last time and leaves the room. The words echo in harry’s head and he swallows hard. It’s platonic and harry is more than relieved of that, but he is loved.
He’s only heard that once before and that was from his dead parents in the midst of a hopeless battle.
There is a warmth in him and he stupidly feels tears in his eyes and Ron seems to sense that harry is emotionally compromised because he gets up and pats harry’s shoulder.
“Er...me too, mate,” Ron says and it takes all harry’s self control not to cry like a baby.
harry opens his mouth to say something, but a sob almost comes out and he snaps his mouth close but Ron seems to understand.
“Night,” Ron says awkwardly and that’s okay because people care about harry. People love him.
harry casts a silencing spell on the curtains and curls into a ball. He isn’t sure why there is so much pressure in his eyes,
why his chest is so tight, but he pants out short little breaths and he is so sad and angry and above all, joyful that it’s all he can do to keep breathing.
Flitwick’s quiet words and reminders to breathe carry him to sleep and for the first time in what seems like forever, harry doesn’t dream.
The morning dawns and harry is fucking terrified. It’s Monday and though his first class is easy enough (History of Magic) it’s the rest of the day that makes him want to hide away from the world. Snape and Umbridge.
He knows that all his teachers have been told about him. He knows that Snape was the one that found him. He knows that
Umbridge is furious at having to delay harry’s detentions, that she’ll want blood.
There’s a sick feeling in his stomach and there is anger too, always anger, but most of all fear.
And yet, there is a reason harry is a Gryffindor and he gets up and dressed anyway, even if he skips breakfast and eats in the dorm with Ron, thanks to a helpful Hermione. He stares at his desk throughout History of Magic, the fear growing stronger and stronger and meets Hedwig. He apologizes over and over and Ron is tactful enough to pretend to be feeding Pigwidgeon a treat. Later, they tell him about Hagrid being back, tell him about the giants, and Umbridge, and though they are careful, very careful to cut out anything they think might upset him (harry isn’t stupid, he can tell), it helps harry feel the tiniest bit more normal, even if he is sitting on snowy stone and petting his beloved bird’s feathers. They tell him about thestrals and that Neville can see them and maybe harry might want to talk to him?
harry gives a noncommittal shrug and they roll with it.
As they walk towards the dungeons, Ron smacks himself in the face and tells harry that he is invited over for Christmas and harry’s heart soars until he realizes that Mrs. Weasley would have to be told about what he tried to do.
They talk about the DA in whispers, about the planned meeting that was supposed to be that night. harry wants to go. He loves the DA. He needs it. He’s tired and mixed up and scared of what they’ll say, if they’ll be curious, but he needs the normalcy. He’s tired of being treated like glass, even if he feels like it.
Ron and Hermione try to talk him out of it, but not very hard. He thinks they see the desperation in his eyes.
They set the coin, feel it grow warm in their hands, and walk, shoulder to shoulder, towards the dungeons.
Snape isn’t as bad as harry thought. Oh, he’s nasty and vile and a total arse like usual, but he only sneers at harry and says nothing about the tower. In fact, he doesn’t say a word to harry at all or even mention him.
It’s weird and harry feels unbalanced and he’s torn between anger, confusion, and relief when he stumbles out of potions with probably the best specimen he’s made all year.
Divination is so much worse than he expected.
Firenze is sick today. Unfortunately, Hogwarts has a substitute.
Trelawny goes on and on and on about harry’s death and the nearest and the near miss he had not even a week ago though she never says it in plain words. harry has to hold a furious Ron back, tells a lie about feeling sick that isn’t really a lie and they run out of the room. Ron punches a wall and harry sits, putting his head between his knees.
He can feel the wind in his hair, see the stars that were so clear that night, the chill of the coming snow. He knows the lightness of falling, of being yanked back hard against the stone.
Ron is calling, distant, and harry is shaking so hard he feels like he is going to fall apart he feels so weak and he wants to die he wants to die he wants to die he should have died-
A body is wrapped tight around his own, hugging, rubbing his back. Another voice joins it, familiar and safe. A sob tries to rip itself free of harry’s throat but he swallows it, body shaking harder. He will not cry. He is not allowed to cry. He is weak but he will not cry.
But someone else is.
When harry finally calms down, he realizes he is being held by Hermione and Ron, who are crying too and harry realizes that his eyes are wet. They lean back and laugh and sob, three kids way in over their heads. harry notices the scratches on his arms where his nails bit into his skin and Hermione quietly heals them. She asks what happens.
Ron snarls, “That bitch Trelawney.”
harry tells her about Trelawney's bragging.
Hermione almost marches into the classroom herself but it’s harry’s quiet request that has her falling to her knees beside him again and whispering those words that make harry’s heart warm and tight. I love you.
The doors open as class ends and the three of them stand, wrapping their arms around each other’s shoulders, harry in the middle. His arms burn a bit because they are both taller than him but that’s okay.
They spend the next break studying. None of them can really focus. Hermione and Ron are trying to get him to talk and harry is ignoring them and they are all aware of that. They sit closer than they normally do and on some level of normalcy harry threw away when he ‘fell’- and even in his mind he doesn’t like to admit that that’s not what he did because that would make it more real- Harry thinks he should be angry and uncomfortable. But he’s numb and tired and, goddamnit, it feels good.
Time passes too quickly and the class that harry has been dreading the most all day roars its ugly head.
harry’s body is heavy as he drags himself towards Umbridge’s classroom, the dread practically pouring off him. Hermione and Ron are shooting him worried looks but harry is too focused on just putting one foot in front of the other to particularly care.
They reach the classroom and while the door is wide open, harry, for one long moment, can’t bring himself to go through it.
It’s when Hermione opens her mouth that harry steels himself and strides in, head held high.
Umbridge sees him and a slimy smile works its way onto her face and harry’s stomach rolls. He looks away and hurries to a sweat, only for her to call in a high and dangerously sweet voice-
“Mr. Potter, may I speak to you after class?”
harry hesitates and reluctantly nods. Her smile widens and a shiver crawls downs harry’s spine.
Eventually, the rest of the class filters in, the few that hadn’t seen harry yet that day sending curious glances at him. The bell rings.
“For those of us who have been attending classes like normal students,” Umbridge begins and harry’s stomach begins to sink, “We covered chapter nineteen. I expect you will all read the next chapter quietly in your seats like good children. Is that alright?”
“Yes Professor Umbridge,” the class mutters.
“Now, your homework,” she says, sending a saccharine sweet smile at harry, who shudders. “Set it on your desk and I will collect it.”
harry stares at the whirls in the wooden table in front of him as Umbridge nears. There is rustling beside him as Ron and
Hermione pull out their scrolls to set beside their books and even though nothing has really happened yet, a tight, balloon-like feeling is expanding in his chest. His fingers shake.
“Mr. Potter, where is your homework?”
harry licks his lips and tightens his fingers around each other. “I wasn’t able to complete it m’am,” he says quietly.
“I believe your time in the Hospital Wing would have allowed you more than enough time to complete your work, Mr. Potter,” Umbridge says.
He has to force himself not to snap at her, focuses his eyes on the table and on his tightening fingers, because he knows that Umbridge knows he wasn’t allowed to do on schoolwork then. “I wasn’t allowed to, m’am,” he says, and the honorific sounds like anything but.
She leans in close to him, feels her eyes boring into his skull. “I know your tricks, Mr. Potter,” she says, voice high and childlike, and terrifying. “Yet another lie, yet another attention-seeking display, yet another attempt to get out of your well-earned punishments-”
His breath hitches and suddenly harry is back on the tower, back with the wind brushing through his hair like a caress and he doesn’t even realize he’s standing, shaking, until Hermione grabs his wrist.
“Well, Mr. Potter?”
“Harry, just sit, please,” Hermione whispers. harry shakes and his lungs are tight and painful and he collapses in his seat, normally dark complexion pale and sickly. He feels far away.
“After class, Mr. Potter,” she sends over her shoulder, like a sweet reminder. “And with that show of disrespect, another detention.”
“Harry, what happened?” Ron asks under his breath as Umbridge moves away. “What did she say?”
“Nothing…” harry says, voice as insubstantial as himself.
“No, you aren’t doing this,” Ron says, stubborn. “You aren’t shutting us out again. Not after what almost happened-”
“Ron!” Hermione hisses and Ron snaps his mouth close, paling.
“I’m sorry,” harry says, quiet and guilt ridden. “I didn’t-”
“Quiet!” Umbridge calls as she returns to the front of the room. “Please open your books to the next chapter, children.”
And so class continues. harry isn’t focusing on the words, barely noticing the open book’s pages swimming in front of him, only flipping forward when he remembers to. His mind is on the tower, on Cedric, and Umbridge’s words are circulating in his head, no matter how much he knows that she is full of bullshit and nothing else.
Before, he was so angry. Angry and hurt and filled so much and pushed so far past some unspoken line that he felt almost numb.
Now, there’s nothing.
He’s deflated inside and empty words knock around in his head. Scenes and images play in his mind.
He remembers Dumbledore visiting, on the third day. He saw blue eyes that’d lost their sparkle, aged shoulders curled forward in regret. harry was used to being a nuisance, used to being a source of irritation and fury for those around him, but that guilt, that pain....he’d caused it.
He didn’t know how to fix it. And fuck, he didn’t know how to fix himself. Wasn’t that the problem? harry potter couldn’t handle it anymore, harry broke and he took everyone around him down with him. There were shadows under Hermione’s eyes, guilt sewn into the jaw of Ron, pain stealing the twinkle from the eyes of a man who was the closest thing to a grandfather he had. He’d caused it.
He wished he’d succeeded.
He wished he’d succeeded because then harry wouldn’t be around, wouldn’t be there to remind everyone that he was a fuck up, that he brought destruction and pain and grief into their lives and nothing more. Umbridge wouldn’t be there to gloat, Snape wouldn’t be there to spit venom that he pretended didn’t bother him but sank so deep into his skin, Cedric’s ghost wouldn’t haunt him in his dreams, and Hermione’s tear-filled eyes when she thought he wasn’t looking when she visited him that week-
The bell rings.
harry startles, eyes refocusing on the page in front of him as Ron and Hermione stare at him.
He gives a wobbly smile, but before he can say anything, Umbridge is clearing her throat.
“I’ve got to talk to Umbridge,” he says. “Meet you later?”
“We can wait outside,” Ron offers.
“That’s okay,” harry says, sliding his book into his bag. “You guys don’t have to wait for me.”
Hermione frowns slightly, but she gets up as well. Soon enough, they leave the room and harry is left alone with Umbridge.
“What do you want, Professor?” harry asks, fingers clutching his book-bag strap hard enough to turn the joints white.
“Do not think for a minute that I will let your little game continue,” she says. “You will continue your detentions tonight. Your selfish, attention-seeking little act ends now, Mr. Potter.”
harry says nothing, just grinds his teeth.
“Be here after dinner,” she says, high and faux-pleasant. “Off you go.”
harry goes, meets an anxious Ron and Hermione outside the door and contemplates. He plots.
harry doesn’t eat much at dinner. He cuts his food into tiny pieces, pushes it around, and if Hermione or Ron notice, they don’t say anything. Ron is still trying to get him to talk about what Umbridge said, doesn’t seem to believe his technically true excuse of her reminding him that detentions resume the night.
“Harry, she’s going to use the-” Hermione says and harry’s fingers tighten around his fork.
“I know,” he says, hisses through his teeth. “I can handle it.”
The words carved into the back of his hand tingle.
“You shouldn’t have to,” Hermione shoots back.
“I can’t do anything about it, Hermione. She’s the teacher. She set the detention. I have to go. There’s nothing we can do about, so can we please just stop talking about it?” harry snaps, slamming his fork down.
Hermione flinches back and through his anger, harry feels a twinge of guilt.
“We’re just trying to help you, mate,” Ron says.
harry grinds his teeth and glances up at the head table, where he sees the professors watching him. He takes a breath and runs a trembling hand through his messy hair.
“I’m just a little stressed,” he says, looking at his plate.
“...I know. We are too,” Hermione says quietly. “We’re just- we’re just worried, Harry.”
The food vanishes from the plates and harry sighs. “I know,” he finally answers. “Look, I have to meet Umbridge. You guys go back to the dormitory.”
“Harry, one of us are supposed to be with you-” Hemione says quickly, but harry shakes his head.
“My wand has a detection spell, I have a tracking spell, and I’ll be in detention,” harry says dryly. “Go. Please.”
“A-alright,” Hermione says. She stands, glances at Ron who is studying harry.
“Stay safe, mate,” he finally says. Blue eyes meet green; harry looks away.
“Sure,” harry replies.
With one last glance behind them, Hermione and Ron disappear into the crowd. harry takes a breath, straightens his back, and tries his best to banish the thoughts fluttering around his mind like evil butterflies.
At first, the detention seems normal- mostly quiet, blood seeping down the back of harry’s hand, Umbridge occasionally making a few high-pitched comments that makes harry want to shout or throw something- but then, as his hand finds a rhythm, Umbridge changes the subject of her small comments to his attempt- never referencing it explicitly, but enough that harry knows exactly what she is talking about.
Her words echo in his mind- cowardly, selfish, attention-seeking, arrogant- and rattle there. He knows not to listen to her, knows she is trying to get a rise out of him, knows she wants him to admit he is lying, but she is merely repeating what his own mind is spitting back at him.
A lump grows in his throat, his fingers shake and he forces himself not hiss when his letters become irregular and fresh cuts slowly heal beside the deep set scars.
When he is finally freed, when he escapes the pink office and Umbridge’s smothering gaze, his eyes drawn in the direction of the tower. He stands still, for a moment, wonders if he is fast enough, would he be able to fall before anyone got to him, detection spells be damned, and shudders.
Flitwick’s face pops into his mind, reminds him to breathe and he does.
He can’t promise himself more, but he can do that.
10 years later…
Harry James Potter is twenty five and standing in front of Hogwart’s fourth years in one of the spare rooms. Flitwick and Pomfrey are sitting behind the desk as Harry paces. He’d never quite kicked the habit.
“Suicide,” he begins. Immediately, nearly sixty heads pop up to stare at him. “Does not discriminate. It strikes every race, every age, and every gender. It is a symptom of a disease, a sign of extreme distress, and never simply a bid for attention.”
His shoulders relax, and Harry lets out a slow breath. It took ten years for him to get this far, ten years to finally be able to talk about it and (mostly) calmly dismiss the thoughts that popped into his mind from time to time. Ten years to grow and become mostly okay.
(He doesn’t think he’s ever going to be completely okay, doesn’t think he’ll ever fully escape the nightmares and flashbacks, but that’s okay because he’s living. He’s not just surviving, he’s living and growing, and that is so wonderful that he sometimes can’t breathe and begins to laugh so hard he starts to cry and that’s okay too).
He begins to speak, begins to tell his story. Harry was far from the first to attempt and far from the last.
It was actually Ron’s idea to have fourth through fifth years go through one session a year of suicide prevention and mental health lessons.
Sunlight spills through the open window, a breeze tousles Harry’s hair and he is calm.
He’s not quite okay, and perhaps now everyone will know, it won’t be just a rumor, but it’s okay.
Not today. Not tomorrow.
He can promise himself that much.
Harry soaks in the afternoon sun and lives.