Harry had never been a Potions prodigy.
Perhaps that was what made it so ironic, considering what this particular potion would be used for. He snorted at his own melodrama as he squatted on his heels, peering at the lavender smoke wafting from his purloined cauldron and waiting for the next step. He had set up a makeshift Potions laboratory in an abandoned classroom, covering it with as many wards as he could think of. This potion could not be discovered.
It was called the Angel's Trumpet Draught and it took Harry three breathless trips to the Restricted Section under his cloak to retrieve the recipe. As long as he didn't muck it up... A slight smile touched his mouth as he stirred the concoction three times counter-clockwise, holding his breath. The colour shifted to a pale pink and he heaved a relieved sigh. He consulted the recipe to make sure, though he already knew the answer. It was perfect.
Perhaps this is all I need to succeed in Potions, Harry thought with grim humour as he extinguished the fire under the cauldron and bottled up the potion within. He had several spare vials that he intended to secrete around the castle, placed under a ward that ensured only he could see it. He didn't want anyone else to become curious and quaff it, after all. He was suicidal, not Dark. Not like Voldemort.
The draught became a siren song as he cleaned up, ensuring the classroom was pristine, no incriminating ingredients left behind. He wasn't stupid. The professors could break through his wards if they wanted to. They would find nothing but a tiny, clandestine potions lab and assume it was for nothing more sinister than a prank potion or two.
Tomorrow, he promised himself, fingering the last vial in his pocket. It would be particularly satisfying to down it in the middle of Potions. The Angel's Trumpet Draught worked quickly. Snape wasn't that good.
How will he feel? Harry wondered. A student's death on his conscience... Then again, it's me. No, he won't give a fuck, he decided as he passed Hermione and Ron in the common room, sparing a smile and mouthing his apologies as he slipped up to bed, toeing off his shoes and spelling shut his curtains.
Snape would never give a damn about him. That much was obvious. Despite the man's low opinion of him, Harry wasn't an idiot. He also wasn't his father and Snape didn't seem to understand that at all. Harry couldn't even remember the man. Did that matter? He snorted, punching his pillow. Of course it didn't.
McGonagall had already proved that she didn't care. She hadn't listened in first year and Voldemort had nearly stolen the Philosopher's Stone. She never listened when he pleaded to stay for the summer. Just a pat on the head and telling him that he had to go back.
Well, not anymore. Unless they planned to ship off a corpse. Harry had to laugh at that. He could just imagine the look on Aunt Petunia's face when she realised her freaky nephew was dead. After the initial shock and disgust, the Dursleys would probably throw a party. Ding dong, the witch is dead... Or in this case, it would be the wizard.
Harry sighed, returning to his mental iteration. The Headmaster couldn't care about him. Dumbledore had left him with the Dursleys. Left a baby on their doorstep, like he was a milk delivery or a newspaper. It was a wonder he hadn't been snatched off the street. Perhaps he'd have a better life if he had.
Oh, he supposed Uncle Vernon could be worse. He could deliberately break bones, instead of accidentally when he went too far. He could hit Harry's face, where it would be easily seen. He could damage Harry's internal organs (although Harry was fairly sure there was something wrong with at least a few of them, anyway). And Aunt Petunia only got him with the frying pan if he dodged too slow. So really, one could say that he deserved that. By this point, Harry Hunting had dwindled, as he could nearly always outrun Dudley and his gang.
On the other hand, at school, he had Malfoy. He had all of Slytherin, really, that bayed for his blood. Just last year, the entire school, just about, thought he was the heir to Slytherin and that he was letting loose a giant monster to murder the Muggleborns. Never mind Hermione was one of his best friends. That had just fed into the speculation, especially when she was Petrified. It still gave him chills, realising just how close she'd come to death. If she hadn't convinced Penelope Clearwater to look around corners with a mirror...
Harry curled in on his side. He didn't want to think about that. That didn't matter anymore. His friends were great, the ones who stuck by him, but it didn't matter. He'd try not to take it in front of Hermione and Ron. Or Neville. Neville was shaky enough, he didn't need to see Harry die.
Soothed into relative calmness, Harry drifted off into a thin, uneasy sleep.
He couldn't eat at breakfast. Under Hermione's anxious eyes, he managed half a slice of toast, fobbing her off with excuses that he just hadn't slept well. She peered into his eyes and he held his breath, hoping that she couldn't see the truth.
"Maybe you should see Madam Pomfrey," she said doubtfully. Harry forced nonchalance into his voice, lounging with deliberate casualness on the bench.
"I'm fine, Hermione," he told her. "I'll just eat more at lunch, okay?"
"At least take a piece of fruit with you," she said, mollified. "You can eat it between classes."
Potions was their first class of the day. There would be no chance for a snack.
He tucked an apple into his bookbag anyway, basking in her approving smile and Ron's hearty grin. He would miss them, he thought with a pang.
But they had each other. They would be all right.
He had no one.
He walked to Potions like he was in a daze. He barely glanced at the potion inscribed on the chalkboard, content to let Ron go and retrieve the ingredients. The bottle of Angel's Trumpet Draught seemed to burn against his leg.
"You will pay attention in my class," Snape hissed, snapping him to attention. "Ten points from Gryffindor." A hot flare of anger curled through Harry's stomach before he sighed, the cool fog of apathy blanketing every emotion once again. Whatever. He wouldn't lose any more points, unless Snape decided to deduct points for Harry having the audacity to die on his floor. The thought nearly surprised a giggle from him, though he clamped his lips shut.
"Git," Ron muttered in a low voice, as he savagely diced his ginger. Harry didn't have the heart to tell him he was virtually pulping them.
Snape had no such compunction, sweeping up and telling Ron in clipped tones that his prep work was appalling, start again, before Vanishing the whole mess.
"Are you okay, Harry?" Ron whispered as he settled on the bench with a new batch of ingredients. Harry nodded.
"Just tired," he lied.
Surprisingly, no one threw anything in their cauldron this time, but Harry could already tell they had failed. It looked like green sludge.
"Atrocious," Snape pronounced when he got to their cauldron.
In the crowd of people leaving, Harry managed to lose Ron and Hermione, slipping to the back of the pack. He looked over his shoulder to see Snape's back to him, inspecting someone's desk.
Good, he thought viciously. As the last students emptied out of the room, he pulled the vial of Angel's Trumpet Draught from his pocket and tipped it down his throat. It tasted sharp, like bitter lemons and burnt ashes, flooding his system.
As he collapsed to the floor, he heard a faint shout of alarm.
Then everything faded into blackness.