(Hints of Child Abuse) First Year, AU in Potions class. Snape grasps what he otherwise would have missed. Looks may -not- be deceiving, but in a different way than he had even considered...
Summary: (Hints of Child Abuse) First Year, AU in Potion's class. Snape grasps what he otherwise would have missed. Looks may -not- be deceiving, but in a different way than he had even considered...
Potter. Perfect Potter and his Imperfect scar.
The phrase turned to variations as it laced through Snape's cheerless mind, annoying him possibly even more than the bespectacled boy had the potential for. Well, so Snape reasoned for a moment - then returned to his tirade, since every whisper of clarity would die out with every glimpse he got of Potter's gleaming disfigurement.
Well, the scar was far from gleaming, Snape admit begrudgingly. It just rested, slightly conspicuous, over the Golden Boy's left eyebrow. But it might as well have been a glowing beacon to his fame - what with how many times a day he must have flaunted it.
(Snape suddenly noticed that Potter was cutting his ingredients with more skill than he would have suspected the boy to possess. This only caused him to frown further and become more high-strung in his mental banter).
Yes, his dislike for the boy was not like his usual contempt for others, Gryffindor or not, yet they had barely just met. Even so, it wasn't like he had to even attempt to deduce the boy's character: those piercing green eyes withheld Lily's vibrancy, and his face was a nauseating animate sculpture of his father's. Even each scrappy tuft of hair on the Boy-Who-Lived's head was uncannily identical to the egomaniac which he (so unfortunately) remembered. The only differentiated detail, from his father that is, in addition to the hue of his eyes was the added scar, to which only gave him more to boast.
Therefore "Potter" and "celebrity status" were anything but incompatible, annihilating what little sense he has probably inherited from his mother's genes. This left nothing but a broiling mass of stupidity, sopping with undeserved pride.
And that was Snape's deduction.
Strangely, hate had a way of making him feel rather parched, and thirst only granted him with headaches that did nothing for his surly disposition.
Snape swooped down upon the other students, testing with his eyes, cursing at the Gryffindors through clenched teeth; words meant to pierce their concentration and give him leeway to remove points. He quickly found that Finnigan's partner, Longbottom, a round, gawky boy, would be a perfect candidate to lash out at in the future: utterly incompetent in the way he handled his ingredients, and the swaggering indications of clumsiness were woven thickly within his movements. He would have to keep his eye on him, though, in case the boy did any real damage...
Potter was finished cutting ingredients; Weasley began doing the rest. Every once in a while, the dark-haired boy's eyes would stray upwards from the class' assignment, and Snape watched as they seemed to falter in their keen gaze, defocusing and refocusing, and then the boy would shake himself awake and move his idle hands once again in slow, stirring motions over his cauldron.
So Perfect Potter thought he was too good for Potions - enough to sway on the spot and daydream? Or maybe he thought it was too easy; /too /lackadaisical of an activity!
He sneered and moved on; he halted his hissings at the Gryffindors, and instead moved on to assess his Slytherins and scrounge for talent. He did not remain disappointed.
"If you dimwits could stew your horned slugs half as skillfully as Malfoy, I'd deem you acceptable." He nodded to Malfoy, who smirked pompously in return.
Snape turned to catch Potter's gaze to let him know that he would never be deemed acceptable, when his vision began to obscure. Gradually, he saw green and only green as thick tufts of smoke rose into the air and settled around his eyes. His sight was deluged with it, but he could hear a telltale hiss, heightening in volume, which would reveal the moron that had screwed up such easy instruction.
He waited in anticipation, his headache throbbing from the mist and the sound. Someone was going to feel his pain, tenfold.
The air thinned and cleared. It was Finnigan's cauldron that had coughed and spluttered, when it fell into itself and dissolved into a heap of sludgy wreckage. Students clambered onto stools to escape the acidic potion that squelched at their heels.
However, Longbottom had received the full brunt of it. His legs trembled and fell under him, his face contorted in pain as boils erupted and stretched over his skin, soaked with the angry liquid.
Snape did not look happy (well, that was certainly a given, but - he looked more on the verge of a rage rather than the usual discontentment). With a flick of his wand the mess melted into nothing, and all that was left was silence from the class and Longbottom's newborn screams.
"Idiot boy!" he snapped, rounding on him. "I suppose you added the porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off the fire?"
Neville's cries died down at this, and he sniffled pathetically, nursing his arms.
Snape told Finnigan, his voice considerably more irritable than the norm, to take Longbottom to the hospital wing - and then he turned to Potter and his partner, Weasley, who had been working adjacent to the injured boy.
"You - Potter - why didn't you tell him not to add the quills - ?"
That's when he noticed that Potter's eyes were closed, and Ron was clutching the black-haired boy's shoulder; worry stark on his freckled face. Snape halted in his verbal attack, brow furrowed in a touch of wonderment. But then he understood.
"I suppose you couldn't move in time if you were dozing /during /class, Potter." The Potions Master's rebuking headed in a new direction. "I daresay, that is quite a talent of yours - mixing while sleeping - if the only one."
Snickers rose from the Slytherins. Weasley glared heatedly at the professor, to which he ignored. "Well then, Mr. Potter, where have/ your boils /sprung?"
Potter's eyes shot open; oddly startled, and Snape was met with a peculiarly candid stare. "I'm fine, sir," he amended, and gently brushed away Weasley's offered hands. His friend snorted disbelievingly, and so he added, "Just a little stunned, is all."
Snape's bottom lip curled upward slightly, in a miniscule portrayal of amusement. So Potter was choosing to play the tortured hero now, was he? To humour, or not to humour... he glanced around for a split second, and noticed that Malfoy was practically leaning on the very end of his seat, anticipating, a grin twitching at the ends of his own lips.
"Well, roll your sleeves up, Potter. Let's assess the damage."
Potter could only look up at him, bewildered, as if he had asked something truly strange.
The classroom tittered, and Weasley looked even more worried, if such a facial expression were achievable. The Granger girl bit her lip, Snape noticed, fixing the tousled-haired boy with a most peculiar stare.
Potter blinked, and as if stepping out of a trance he gripped his arms to him in a desperate sort of self-hug; Snape knew by then that the boy was odd, but /really/. The students, Gryffindors and Slytherins alike, seemed to think so too, all giggling or ogling at his behaviour.
He chose to count to three in his head before Potter's face truly could aggravate him no further.
"/Potter, /did you not hear me?"
Potter shook his head, his scraggly mop mimicking his movements. "Y-Yes, you asked me to roll up my sleeves sir, but I'm fine."
Snape would have laughed, if only for the fact that the Potions Master never laughed. (He only cackled on occasion, but that might only cause the class to faint from extreme shock. Which could be helpful, however...) "Did you not see what happened to Longbottom, Potter?"
Silence from the boy. Eventually he caught on that he is supposed to give a reply of some kind - oh really; the questioning tone had simply not been enough? /Incompetence/. It truly was beyond imagining.
"Yes, Professor. I saw."
What perception. "Good. And I suppose you realize that he erupted in boils, then? Don't play stupid Potter, I can see the potion residue on your sleeves - roll them up so I can see, and tell you whether you should go off to Madam Pomfrey or not."
Silence again. Then more titters from the students.
His temples were killing him. "Could you all be silent for once!" he snarled at them. The majority of the classroom flinched in response. (Not quite a fainting epidemic, Snape noted with a touch of disappointment). "I don't have all day, Potter!"
The boy sucked in a deep breath. If he did not wish an even more hellish year than Snape had planned for him...! "But I told you - I'm fine, Professor."
One of Potter's friends, Dean Thomas, was making violent signs with his hands as if to say, "Arguing with Professor Snape only leads to the pain and suffering of you and your descendants, as well as everyone you love and admire, and everyone in close proximity to everything above."
At least, that's what Snape expected it meant. He was close, sort of.
Weasley's eyes were boggling practically out of his face. He obviously thought his friend was going to die.
Hm... enticing, but not today. Curiosity has a better hold of him. What did Perfect Potter have to hide?
He also realized what he would have to do to convince him to show. He hunched down in front of Potter, hands balancing him over the desk, his lips edging close to the reluctant boy's ear. He noticed in morbid satisfaction the young wizard's immediate stiffening. But now the rest of the class was blocked from view - even the Weasley boy's vantage point was semi-obstructed.
"/Potter/, I implore you to roll your sleeves up, if you know what's good for you."
It happened quickly and immediately. Potter gripped his sleeve and yanked the material backwards then forwards. Snape only had to lower his eyes to see.
It was only for a second, and the professor allowed himself to retreat and stand up straight, letting the momentary image to absorb itself into his system.
"Bloody hell," blurted Weasley (he had been attempting to lean over to see), and the child went even more rigid, "you got it almost as bad as Neville there! How are you still standing?"
Snape noticed that Potter went slightly lax at this. Weasley did not see the entirety of what Snape had.
He strolled over to his potions cabinets. "Why would he not be standing if his arms rather than his legs were injured, Weasley?" he mocked. "Surely our celebrity can handle it."
Because of high tolerance to pain, that is...
He swung a cabinet door open. "Potter, you will not be going to the hospital wing - I did not have enough healing salve for the mess Longbottom made of himself, but I have just enough for you."
He pretended not to hear Weasley's quiet mumbling of, "Oh, /goodie/."
"The rest of you will continue with your potion," Snape called as he rummaged, but the bell sung through the dank dungeons just then, signaling the end of their first Potion's class. And worsening his semi-improved headache. /Urgh/. "There will be no homework today," he drawled in irritation, "however that is a rarity. Dismissed."
The students were broken out of silence and immobility as if they had been in reverie, and began to gather their things. As they were jumbling out, Snape added as an afterthought (in case the boy really was very daft), "Mr. Potter, you will stay here, obviously."
"Can I stay with him?" Weasley piped up boldly. No wonder he had been sorted into Gryffindor. His stupidity was rather /astounding/.
"No, you may not, Weasley," he sneered as he drew a few bottles of medicine from the cabinets, "as you have your next class and I do not need you. Goodbye." He gathered the glass bottles in his arms and strode back to Potter's and Weasley's desk, dumping the lot of it on the polished surface.
Snape charmed the potion residue from Potter's robes. Weasley was gazing curiously at the number of remedies.
"Does he really need all of that?" he asked suspiciously.
"Yes, he /does/," Snape forced through gritted teeth, "and unless you don't want to mysteriously require them too, you'd best be on your way."
Weasley visibly gulped and sent a helpless look at his friend. Potter simply gave him a reassuring smile and a nod, an exchange that somehow made Snape feel a bit nauseous.
It seemed to work, however. The fiery-haired brat finally left, but not without another cautionary glance in the Potion Master's general direction. Oh,/ please/.
The dungeon's door shut just as Snape was finished sorting out the order of potions to be applied, and he halted completely, his expression neutral. He stared at the boy, who licked his lips.
"I - I have Herbology, professor."
"I'm quite sure the plants have the decency to wait for you, Mr. Potter," he answered dryly. Then, "I think I deserve some sort of an explanation."
In disappointment, the boy's leaf-green eyes were cast downwards, solemn but unresponsive.
Although it was quiet now in the dungeon, Snape's headache was far from cured. The sharp sting of silence began to thread again and again through his temples - doing nothing for his limited patience. He bit out, "Mr. Potter, I do not appreciate being ignored. When I ask a question I expect to receive an answer."
"You saw," is all Potter finally said, his voice practically mute. His guarded eyes rose to meet Snape's probing ones. "You saw, and I don't really think there's really much left to say."
Thoroughly unconvinced, although instead of persisting, the Potion's Master unscrewed the cap of a concoction used to heal shallow cuts. "Hold out your arms. This will sting a little," he added, uncharacteristically for the child's benefit.
Thankfully, the student did as he was told. Gently, Potter rolled the sleeves of his robes upwards, this time not just for a wary split second.
Boils indeed were splashed over his arms, claiming the recesses of pale skin, but Snape was never jarred by anticipated findings. It was the unexpected that had left an imprint of disconcertion over him.
Potter's arms, underneath and between wherever the boils happened to be - were claimed by series of cuts, scabs and bruises ranging from old to new, light to heavy inflictions that had been done with seemingly malicious intent. Yellow - blue - purple - and black smudges that masked him... in other places too, Snape would think.
Potter's arms looked thin and brittle. The salve was applied carefully, and Potter hardly flinched.
High tolerance to pain, far too underdeveloped, and starved... emaciated, really.
"You won't tell anyone?" Potter said so softly, Snape had to strain to understand. He didn't stop in his application, but said,
"It's best that I do."
Potter tore his arms back to his chest so rapidly that Snape saw it lucky that the bottle of fluid did not spill. He resolved to calm the child.
"Potter, not just yet. I still have questions, which, unless you answer, I will report you immediately to the Headmaster. Now give back your arms, unless you want ghastly scarring on more than just your forehead."
"I for one don't understand why you should be so... mortified," Snape said with a raised eyebrow, "I am simply asking for information due to my student's injuries, you understand."
Potter looked more wary than full of understanding, but he wasn't so much anymore like an insect waiting to be squashed (more a frightened rabbit).
Snape continued to apply different salves, explaining in a gentler tone than what he was used to what each of the remedies did. Two were for the boils, a few for the bruising, depending what stages they were in...
"You live with muggles, I presume, Potter?" his voice was slightly scathing, although he himself did not know exactly who the malice was directed towards.
Snape saw a glint in Potter's eyes, and supposed that he had used the break in speech to regain his Gryffindor stupi - er, bravery, and evidently had come to his own conclusions. "I don't know what you may have against muggles," his back straightened as he summoned such bravery, "but you're wrong." He met Snape's eyes evenly. "Sir."
If Snape was caught off-guard by the mood swing, he didn't show it. "I don't know what made you come to such a deduction, Potter," he decided to say, and was finished applying the substances and began capping them, "as I have nothing against muggles." He was done, and used a cloth to gather the residue on the boy's smoothened arms. His eyes bore through Potter's, and his lips stretched in both disdain and amusement. "However - I don't quite know what you 'have against' Slytherins, but you are sadly mistaken."
Potter swung his arms away again in defiance, and Snape looked him on.
"Was it them?"
The Golden Boy, who looked simply tired and feeble, blinked twice. "What? You think the Slytherins -?"
"Was it your /family/, boy -" and at that last word the child cringed and looked away, guiltily; but Snape hadn't noticed that. But he did notice the child's mortified expression. "I'll assume that your aunt and uncle abuse you, Mr. Potter, and that this has been going on for sometime, in more places than more than your arms - violent intent."
He saw the colour rise in Potter's cheeks. "It really wasn't!" he stated, hurried, in desperation. And his demeanour changed again, almost as if he was ready to rant until Snape's headache consumed his very sanity. "Actually, the only reason my arms are so bad is because he had to /stop/... punishing me there, on my back I mean." His speech grew quicker and more fervent as the red blotches spread throughout his pale face. "It was starting to affect the way I walked, and my teachers and other people were asking questions." The boy cleared his throat, abashed.
"My aunt and uncle fibbing and telling them I was crippled didn't seem to work, if I was up and at it one day and hunchbacked the next. Of course, they had no more friends and neighbours to trick, with me coming here..." he kicked the ground nervously, "but I suppose a student scuttling oddly all over the place would be strange anywhere." A bout of nervous laughter sent twitches of unease to his pale fingers.
"Indeed," Snape seethed. Well, that had been easy, he noted, but what was also apparent was his own rising alarm. He was /angry/, he realized, and the majority of the emotion was not directed at Potter.
Surveying the nervous boy, he realized something that bothered him. Why had he not wondered at this turn of events, without judgment unclouded by contempt? The unkempt, thin, quiet boy amongst the other wizards-in-training had stood out.
Well, James had been rather small too, he recalled, though the difference was still incomparable. So much alike, but only a replication of face.
Snape felt touchy and hateful at making an error like this. He had been readily prepared to load years' worth of animosity on the boy's skinny shoulders, and now - fate had to be laughing at him, he thought near boiling point. Deep breaths were needed to calm him as he allowed those thoughts to carry on.
Yes... what had really made Potter different from his father were not his eyes or his scar... but what had remained unseen, he realized lamely. What had gone on, ignored and overlooked by Dumbledore's blind spot. Snape straightened at this. How could Albus not have known? Then again, Albus' twinkling eyes surely could not see everything...
"Sir," Potter's lack of patience rivaled his own it seemed, "I have -"
"Herbology, yes," Snape snapped.
Potter's face was grim. "May I go?"
Really, was it wise? "Yes, you may."
"You won't tell anyone?"
He closed his eyes briefly and sighed. "If you wish, Mr. Potter, then not for the time being."
A few sheets of parchment fluttered from Potter's grasp as he attempted to gather his things. He stooped under the table, retrieving them.
"Although you must understand that abuse -" Potter's fists clenched at the word, crinkling the pages, "is something very grievous, and your relatives are the ones at fault. You must understand this, Potter."
There were some things that he himself could not begin to understand.
Potter - /Harry /Potter/, /he amended (wondering how he could possibly change how much hatred that surname sent through him), who was now at the door, turned and said, "Thank you, sir." He abruptly left, before Snape could respond. Snape wasn't sure how he would have replied, anyway.
And at last, the Potions Master was left alone. He sat down at his desk, preferring to stare pensively at the wall. Had he not had a spare period right now, he would have felt too numb to teach, he realized.
His imagination sketched a familiar picture. Snape could see in his mind's eye, a little boy of eleven, with dark hair and fair skin, thin and delicate, but deep in secrets; in his own thoughts, dreams and terrors. He was alone in an empty backdrop, to gaze at the untouchable world before him, never allowed the opportunity to ask questions, or receive any answers. He was starving for so many things, poking unthinkingly at the badge on his breast, an emblem of a snake.
Snape didn't even notice that his headache had at last gone away.