Western Blood, Eastern Life

Chapter Six: Blood Red

It had taken a week for the yellow bruises on Hoshimi's body to fade. It had taken a week longer than that for Asayake to speak to her again. Luckily, as of yet anyway, Harry hadn't bothered her, preferring to stand and stare at her at his usual distance. Hoshimi supposed that it was a good thing. She didn't want to deal with Harry. Didn't want to deal with the truth he had stabbed into her heart like some white-hot blade.

Yes, the truth was far sharper than any of the blades that she had begun sinking into the vulnerable flesh of her arms that very night after her fight with Harry and Asayake, and it was far more painful as well. Truth was – if it could rightfully be called that – it was an old habit of hers that made her sit in her bed with the curtains drawn tightly. Habit that made her pull out the small aikuchi(1) that she always carried with her and trace old scars with that sharp instrument in the way that a lover caresses his chosen. Habit that made her hiss with pleasure as ruby blood welled and spilled down her arms in tiny rivulets, taking with it the stress that had built and built from the moment she had arrived.

Classes had passed in a blur for Hoshimi after that day – not that she had paid much attention to them in the past – slipping from one insignificant minute to the next. She had ignored the open gaping stares from her classmates as her bruises stood out in stark relief over her pale gold skin. Ignored the snickering and jeering from the Slytherin crowd, and she had ignored the cold, haughty eyes of Draco Malfoy, who seemed to believe that he had gotten the better of her. In all honesty, she didn't care about him. All she cared about, like some sick, depraved junkie, was her next bloody fix. The only thing she looked forward to any day of the week was going up to her room and dragging that blade lovingly across her scarred and ravaged arms.

She supposed that was when Professor Snape had decided to step back into her picture.

It was a week after Asayake had started to speak to her again, November had already begun to wane and pass into the cold death that was December – something Hoshimi was trying to deny. She had been sitting in Potions, half heartedly stirring the cauldron with her eyes practically glazing over in her boredom. She had never even seen him approaching her from behind.

"Miss Yamino."

She was surprised to say the least. She jumped what felt like a foot in the air and would have stumbled forward and hit her steaming cauldron had it not been for Snape's fast reflexes. He caught her by the arm and hauled her back into balance, but in the process, he had disturbed the fragile bandaging around her arm, causing her to gasp at the sudden influx of pain. Snape did not miss this, and his black eyes narrowed.

He released her, allowing her to sway a little, her hand going over her abused limb and feeling blood seeping through the fabric. Horrified, she looked at Snape's hand to see traces of red on the fingers. Oh shit, she was in for it this time. She was certain of it.

Snape did not speak right away. He waited until he was certain he had every eye on him, and on her, before sneering nastily. "Detention Miss Yamino. For your obvious inability to concentrate in my class." He then strode off, brushing his hand subtly against the side of his robes, the small traces of blood easily fading against the darkness of his robes.

Hoshimi let out a silent curse and sank on to her stool even as her heart sank down into her bowels. She was doomed. She was sure of it. Snape would undoubtedly tell Dumbledore, and she would undoubtedly be expelled or worse, locked in that St. Mungo's place that she had heard mentioned, where they would undoubtedly place her in some kind of padded space and never let her out again. She had seen it in muggle movies.

Asayake was looking at her strangely; her blood eyes narrowed a little. "Don't worry so much Hoshimi. It's only Snape. What can he do?" These words did little to comfort Hoshimi. She knew full well what this dark man could do to her right now, and not one bit of it was for the greater good.

The rest of the day seemed to pass more slowly and more vividly for the normally unmindful Hoshimi. The world, for the first time in nearly a month, swam into some kind of focus, and Hoshimi was reluctant to be in it, wishing privately for the blissful ignorance the last three weeks had passed in. Still, Hoshimi could not get rid of that knot of unease that was her stomach. Try as she might, she knew what was coming, and no amount of denying it seemed to be allowing her to escape it.

So it was that Hoshimi found herself standing at the door to the Potions classroom. Not really a classroom, but a dank and gloomy dungeon, but apparently, no one here was that specific. Hoshimi wasn't much interested in semantics. She was trying to calm the feelings of dread that were claiming her entire self and making her shake. She took a trembling breath and shut her eyes tightly. She would not go to the executioner's block like this! She dug her fingers into her palm until they stung and took another breath, finding this one far steadier. Only then was she satisfied with herself to push that foreboding door open and step inside.

"You're late Miss Yamino…"

She cringed and resisted the sudden and strong urge to bolt and run. Instead, she forced herself to turn toward that cold and vile voice, giving the man the coldest look she could muster.

"You never specified an exacttime Professor." She felt some smattering of satisfaction as she saw the scowl on his face, but both were fleeting at best. He calmed himself after a second, and she went back to her feelings of dread, especially when he began to regard her again. Damn mind readers.

"Come here Miss Yamino."

To say that she was loath to do so was probably an understatement. She surveyed Professor Snape as he reclined lazily behind his desk; his dark eyes practically dancing in malice. Come to think of it; she was nearly positive that she had never seen this brooding man so happy in all her time here. That made the dread grow. Still, she took one step forward, and then another, making sure to hold her head high and walk to her death with the grace and dignity that her family had always shown. He noted this, and the overt glee he was showing lessened a bit.

"I am not a patient man Miss Yamino. Come here and sit."

She did so, taking the small, rickety seat in front of his desk. She crossed her legs primly and placed her hands on her lap. Her Great Uncle would have been proud. Professor Snape didn't look half as pleased, but something sparked in his eyes, a type of recognition. She supposed that it was the best she could hope for. She met his eyes, knowing that he could see into her mind and not particularly caring. She watched him note this and sneer.

"You know why we're here Miss Yamino."

She nodded, no use denying the facts. After all, it was the truth that had gotten her into this mess. Might as well be the truth that cut off her head.

"Then you know that it has nothing to do with your lack of attention in my class, because while that is annoying, I can find little fault with your work."

Why was he stalling this? First she thought it was to torment her, but now he was complimenting her? She stared at him unabashedly, trying to discern the problem. Then, with a start, she realized it. This was making him uncomfortable. Had he never encountered a troubled student in his time teaching?

"Professor…"

He obviously knew what she was going to say and cut her off with a gesture. She shut her mouth and sank a little in her seat. So much for getting out of this mess.

"Let's see them Miss Yamino." He sounded almost resigned, and Hoshimi looked up at him, incredulous.

"S-see them?" She sputtered out, cursing herself for doing so. How could she ever sound as weak as that? It was pathetic really. He didn't seem to notice her hesitation though and continued regardless.

"Yes Miss Yamino, I must see what I am dealing with here."

Knowing that he was looking forward to this just as much as she was, gave her some comfort. She sighed and gave in, sliding her robe off with out any kind of flourish. Her crisp white shirt beneath it still held some spots of crimson. She hadn't had time to change it. Her fingers shook as she unbuttoned the stiff cuffs at her right wrist and slid the fabric up her arm. She stared fixedly at the wall as she slid her arm onto the desk, trying to ignore his near silent hiss of surprise and horror.

She didn't know what he had expected, but it obviously was not what he was seeing now. She felt him pull back the bandages on her arm, revealing the bright red mars that stood out in stark relief against the pale skin of her arm. That was, if he could find a big enough patch of skin to compare it with. She had cut the skin of her arm nearly to ribbons.

He took a long moment to calm himself before he finally spoke again. If she hadn't known better, and if she had been looking, she would have said he looked slightly green. "The other arm Miss Yamino."

She complied, repeating her earlier process and laying it on the desk with its fellow, looking at the wall once again. Her left arm was in much the same state as her right, and while he was looking at it, Hoshimi swore she heard him let out a muttered obscenity. However, she was truly surprised when he pulled out his wand and cast a spell on her arm. She looked down at her arms in state of somewhat shock. He hadn't made them disappear, –she supposed only Madam Pomfrey had that ability, the old bat – but he had progressed the healing process, closing the still open wounds and making the scabs harden. Hoshimi had to fight very had to resist the sudden urge to scratch them. She pulled her hands away and quickly shoved the sleeves back down, trying her best not to look at the Professor who was now staring at her intently.

He didn't let her continue that line of action though. "Look at me Miss Yamino."

She really didn't want to do that, but she still found herself raising her head and meeting those dark eyes. She resisted the urge to shudder as his eyes probed her own. Had she ever mentioned that she hated telepathy?

Eventually, he blinked and pulled his eyes away from her, allowing her to sigh at the release of what could only be described in her mind as pressure. Her relief was short lived though.

"You will come to my classroom every evening after dinner from now on. You will be brewing more advanced potions, since you seem to be so very bored with my lessons. You will also be inspected for cuts and drug use every night." She opened her mouth to protest, but he silenced her with a look. "You will Miss Yamino. Also, don't try lie to me about anything. I will know."

He stood and gestured to a cauldron in the corner that was already simmering; the ingredients were lined out on the table. Knowing that there was no way out of this. She sighed petulantly and stood, trudging over to the cauldron. He looked a bit pleased. Damn bastard.

"The instructions are on the table. You have one hour to complete the potion." He then strode away into his office, shutting the door behind him.

Hoshimi watched him go before letting out a string of curses. Well, he had promised her that she would work in his class. She sighed, running a hand through her hair and looking down at the parchment. She had no real idea what the potion was, but the instructions were easy enough to follow, so with another sigh, she got to work.

Thus, she established her pattern. Hoshimi would spend her days doing absolutely nothing except avoiding those who gave her trouble and dozing through her classes. Her evenings were spent in Professor Snape's classroom, making potions she had never heard of in her wildest dreams. It was a welcome distraction from the mundanity of life, and she actually began to forget the purpose of her English sojourn.

Most of the time, Snape kept to himself in his office, leaving her to work in silence and welcome solitude. However, every few days or so Snape would feel the need to make some conversation, which usually consisted of some kind of terse interrogation. He would ask her questions, and she would answer them. Most of the time, they were small talk like and unimportant to her. Sometimes though, they were down right personal and awkward.

"How is your mother?"

She blinked and looked up from crushing the dried Billywig stings. He was looking at her intently, and if she dared to guess, she would say he was anxious for her answer. She tried not to think about it and focus on the question at hand. It was not a very simple question to answer. Not anymore at least.

"She's w—" She paused and sighed, setting down the mortar and pestle and burying her face in her hands, digging her palms into her eyes. She pulled them away after a moment and noticed that Professor Snape had moved closer to her. Sighing, she continued, "She's not well at all." She wasn't sure why she had answered that way. Outside of the family, there was no problem. But, she couldn't deny what her Father's death had done to her mother.

Snape, thankfully, said nothing, waiting for her to continue. He never took his eyes off of her though. Hoshimi felt that it was disconcerting and sank into her chair with a deflating sigh. She didn't speak for another long moment.

"She's… not taking things well…" She couldn't say more than that. She couldn't possibly explain this to him.

Snape didn't press her though. He sighed and turned away from her, walking back to his desk and pointedly not looking at her. She stood back up again and went back to grinding the Billywig stings. She finished that and dumped them in, trying to not feel the awkwardness of the room. Why had she shared that with Professor Snape?

"Professor?" Both Hoshimi and Professor Snape turned toward the voice. Hoshimi nearly cursed. It was Harry standing at the entrance to the Potions classroom, looking at her in confusion. Snape sighed, settling back into his scowling features and sneering at Harry. Hoshimi realized for the first time that he hadn't scowled at her all evening.

"Is it that time already Potter?" He turned to Hoshimi. "That will need to stew until tomorrow night anyway Miss Yamino. You are excused." Hoshimi, before she could even think about it, dropped a bow and picked up her bag, moving quickly out of the room, ignoring Harry's green eyes as they followed her out of the room.

What business had Harry with Professor Snape?

Harry stepped, rather dragged himself out of Professor Snape's classroom an hour or so later, cradling a rather aching head. It had gone well for once, Snape had not been able to dive into his lately very vulnerable mind and make him relive – once again – that ever present, ever hateful day at the Department of Mysteries. Made him watch Sirius' death again, and again, and again. Snape seemed to get a particularly sick pleasure out of his torment and agony.

Still, letting Snape know half the things that were going on in his brain was simply not advisable. He didn't want anyone to know that he wasn't thinking about Sirius. He was guilty enough about it already. Guilty that he wasn't grieving over his Godfather, but there would be time for that later he told himself.

That led Harry to the real focus of his mind, the one thing her had managed to keep hidden from Snape despite all of his prodding: Hoshimi. What had she been doing in Snape's classroom? What was she hiding? Why in hell was she plaguing his thoughts?"

He continued to stumble down the corridor, continuing his line of thoughts. What did he know about her? She was Japanese, his age, a coward, a drug addict And who knew what else. She was also a coward. There were other things too though; like her CD player and her books. The fact that she was always alone. Also, Remus seemed to know her. Seemed to like her.

Then –of course – there were the things he didn't know. Why she was here was probably the first and foremost thing. He didn't believe that codswallop story about her being a representative of the Japanese Imperial Empire. They would have sent someone older; a student was far too obvious. There had to be something else to it. There was also the fact that he knew absolutely nothing about her background except her ethnicity and a distant memory of the name of her old school.

Truth be told, he knew nothing about the girl.

While he had been thinking, he had stumbled out of the dungeons and up to the second floor. He stopped, looking around and trying to figure out exactly how he had gotten there. He really wasn't exactly sure. It didn't really matter though, he had promised to meet Hermione in the library after his lesson anyway. He sighed and made his way to the double doors of the library; eyes only barely taking in the ornately carved oak in the designs of books, quills and scrolls. He was then inside; the ever prevalent scent of decaying paper assailing his nose. He didn't understand why Hermione liked this scent so much.

"Harry!"

He turned obediently toward the voice and gave a weak smile before ambling toward the table. He sank into a chair with a sigh and turned his attention to the amber eyes staring at him worriedly. He sighed again.

"I'm fine, Hermione. Don't look at me like that."

She flushed in embarrassment, her eyes darting away from him a moment. He took that moment to glance around the room, hoping to see long dark hair and cold black eyes. He saw nothing like that though, so he sighed and turned his attention back to Hermione, who had turned her attention back to him. God, the way she looked at him always made him feel so terribly guilty.

"Harry, I've been worried about you lately. You're brooding more than usual, and you look more distant…" He had been brooding? He hadn't realized that. He had realized the distant part though. He hadn't been paying attention to his friends lately. He knew that, but he was trying to solve a mystery! He suddenly jumped as a fist crashed angrily into the table. He glanced up, meeting the flashing eyes and thinned lips of a rather angry Hermione. When had she perfected her imitation of McGonagall?

"Just like that Harry! You're not even listening to me! You're so obsessed with Sirius that—"

"I am not obsessed with Sirius!" He shouted, causing Madam Pince to send a nasty glare his way. He immediately lowered his voice. "It's not Sirius all right Hermione. I'm not so hopeless that the only I can think of is my Godfather, but thank you for reminding me of him!" He stood, still trembling from exertion and now from anger. He had to get away. Books were liable to start flying if he stayed any longer. He grabbed his bag, chancing a look down at Hermione. He instantly regretted it. She looked terribly hurt, tears stinging her amber eyes. It hurt him to the core to see her like this, but he held his ground. He began to walk away when he heard her ask a question.

"Then who are you always thinking of?" He sighed turned his head back to look at her. She was not going to like this, but he couldn't lie to Hermione.

"Hoshimi Yamino." He then made his hasty exit.

(1) an Aikuchi is a noble woman's dagger.