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Don't Touch Me
By ivybelle

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Category: Post-HBP
Genres: Angst, Drama, General
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 14
Summary: Harry has never liked to be touched. To him, touch represents fear and pain, punishment and anger. Can Ginny break through his defences and teach him the joy of touch? One shot.
Hitcount: Story Total: 5492


With thanks to my beta cariad.

Don't Touch Me

Harry has never liked to be touched.

He can never quite tell whether the hand that's reaching towards him is going to slap or soothe him. Even if that hand should happen to break through his defences and connect with his body, even then, he still sometimes has difficulty in interpreting the touch, whether it was meant to comfort or to hurt.

He thinks now that he is simply wired to expect that all forms of touch are a threat. He doesn't think how will this feel? Instead, he is conditioned to think how much is this going to hurt? He is grateful for the reflex to flinch away, knowing that it's more preferable to the torturous wait for his pain receptors to grade the pain.

He is aware that it was the Dursley's who taught him this relfex. Aunt Petunia's frying pan, Uncle Vernon's belt, Dudley's boots--Harry has been touched by each of these, and he knows exactly what they feel like, the type of hurt they cause. He knows what it's like to wait and wait, to cower in a dark cupboard, waiting and waiting, Aunt Petunia's screeching voice replaying over and over in his mind. 'Wait till your Uncle gets home! He can deal with you!' Harry understands the elaborate ritual of an awaited punishment.

He also learned from them the sheer unpredictability of an unexpected push, shove or slap, the unanticipated feel of a hand on his shoulder, warm pressure through the fabric of his tee-shirt. Too late, then, to flinch away, and he is left with the surprise of the result, the sting of a slap on his skin, the uncontrolled fall from a push.

What he will never acknowledge, however, were the times, born of the simple innate human need for touch, when he deliberately provoked a punishment, the times when he deliberately caused himself an injury, just for the feel of another person's touch. Anger or annoyance, no matter how grudgingly given, he just needed the feel.

Of all he learned there, though, most memorable was the soul-deep exhaustion that comes from constantly being on guard to protect himself against being touched like that again.

It wasn't until he started attending Hogwarts that he realized that not everyone had the same relationship with touch that he did. In a third year Potions class, he finally understood how Hermione was able to copy down every word, every definition, every instruction sneered by Snape. She was simply focused on Snape's lecture content. Harry, on the other hand, often missed half the lecture, missed jotting down an important note, because he was too busy concentrating on where Snape was standing. Was he close by? Too close? Was Snape holding something he might throw? Was Malfoy where he should be? What about Crabbe? Goyle? Harry didn't regard this surveillance as a chore, or a task that he had to remind himself to do; this self-protective behaviour was so ingrained within him that it came as naturally and as necessarily as did the taking of his next breath. In fact, later, in Defence Against the Dark Arts, when Moody demanded of him constant vigilance! Harry didn't find it amusing like the rest of his classmates did; he understood.

Harry knows that Madame Pomfrey probably came closest to understanding his reactions to touch. After all, he spent quite a bit of time in her care. She learned to announce to him exactly what to expect from her touch. This will sting, Potter! This is going to hurt, Potter! This will burn for a moment, Potter! She always held the same brusque attitude when she touched him, whether she felt his pulse, changed a bandage, or supported him to stand. There was purpose, intent, and control in her touch, and she made sure Harry knew it. He, in turn, learned not to cower away from her, and neither of them ever felt the need to make mention of it.

Sometimes Harry observed others, trying to understand the different ways they knew how to be touched. He had loved watching the touches between Sirius and Remus, subtle, secretive touches that seemed to take the place of entire conversations. In his memory, he sees Sirius sitting on a couch, a tangle of taut tension and anxiety, his knee jerking up and down as his heel taps on the polished parquetry floor. Up and down, tap tap tap. Up and down, tap tap tap. In the memory, Harry is across the room, hyper-alert, constantly scanning for the first sign of a violent outburst against Sirius's unbearably annoying movements. Up and down, tap tap tap. Sees, Remus, sitting next to Sirius, gently place his hand on Sirius's bouncing knee. Nothing more. He doesn't smack or punch or force the knee to stop, he simply rests his hand there. And Sirius doesn't jump up and attack him, doesn't slap the hand away, doesn't yell abuse in his face. They don't even look at each other. Instead, Sirius smiles, stills, allows his tension to slowly bleed away, and Remus's hand stays, sofly, on his knee.

Harry loves this memory, and recalls it often. He has tried to understand it, but really he's given up. It is a mystery to him, all that was said in that touch. He feels a sense of sadness that he cannot understand it, and yet he doesn't know why.

What he finds easiest to understand are his own experiences: Uncle Vernon's grip in Harry's hair, Mrs Weasley's aborted hug, Remus holding Harry's shoulder so tightly it throbbed, Voldemort's finger on Harry's scar, Dumbledore's grasp for support in the cave. There can be no misinterpreting these, and the sense memory of them remains stronger than any brief hug he's received from Hermione, any playful punch of mateship he's received from Ron.

How, then, can he account for those bright few weeks with Ginny, the best few weeks of his life?

Deep in his heart, Harry has always been aware that he does not deserve her. Ginny is all light and colour and joy. She is openness and transparency and sharing. She is a gift for someone who is worthy. He knows that he is none of these things. He has secrets and shame and dark places that no one can ever see. He has nightmares and regrets and fear. He knows too much about fear. He fears that one day, while she is looking directly into his soul, she will see exactly whatever it is that makes people hurt him or leave him. Then she too will hurt him, or leave him, and he knows he would not survive that.

Nonetheless, Harry is well-practiced at hiding his fears, burying them deeply away from the sight of others. As she ran towards him that day, with that hard, blazing look in her face, an aura of victory and joy pulsing around her, Harry finally saw beyond his fears and recognized her. He stepped into her aura and marvelled at how right everything felt--how right it was when he opened his arms to her, when, for the first time in his life, he reached for someone, and it was her, Ginny; how right it was when he kissed her, and he understood it then, all the unsaid things a kiss can mean, and he never wanted it to end. In every place where they touched, and every place he yearned to touch, beyond anything he had ever felt before, it all felt so right.

By the pure magic of love, Ginny transfigured the solid brick wall that once protected his heart, his soul, into a creature that purred.

It was as if, with the loss of that one wall, all his defences fell, all his barriers collapsed. He was free to be someone else. With time, with only her, he learned not to flinch. He learned not to strike out in reflex. He learned not to hide away. He tried to learn the pattern of her touch--the where, the why, the how. But she was an explosion of spontaneity, of unpredictability, of wanton outrageousness. So he did his best to cover his mistakes, to excuse his misinterpretations and make light of his confusion.

In return, she teased and tormented him with his fear and his need, his denial and desire, his rejection and yearning. She retreated and advanced according to his mood, wove an unsteady path between his mixed messages--donttouchme, donttouchme, donttouchme and yes, yes, yes. She reached for him at every opportunity, and allowed him to determine if they were to connect. She seduced him with every touch sensation in her arsenal: the slide of her hair on his arm, the flicker of her eyelashes on his cheek, the tingle of her tongue against his, the pressure of her breasts against his chest, the arch of her hips into his, the tickle of her toes behind his knees. She tried everything she could think of, anything to get him to respond without fear, without terror, without pain.

She never once asked him, and he never once explained.

Harry is almost grateful for the excuse to end their relationship. He has valid reasons, after all. He wants to protect her, to keep her safe and shield her from Voldemort's interest. Yet even as he is re-erecting his barriers, rebuilding his defences, there is a tiny secret part of him, a part still locked in the darkness of a cupboard, that is just so relieved it is over. He has known all along that a transfigured creature will eventually return to its original state, and he remembers how safe he felt behind the protection of that solid brick wall. He convinces himself that he doesn't like being so confused all the time. He doesn't like not knowing what to expect next. He doesn't like that he liked her touch.

He reminds himself that, actually, he has never like to be touched.

And the memory is so strong, so powerful, that it reasserts itself as his truth almost immediately.

Reviews 14

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