Severus awoke in a foul mood. It had taken hours to fully fall asleep and then his dreams had been plagued with memories of his childhood, and yet in his dreams it was not his face he saw. Instead he saw a young boy with a mop of brown hair and deep emerald eyes.
He awoke to find one of the many cats hacking up a hairball all over his feet. So his lack of sleep and the smell of cat puke had put him in a foul mood. But he was determined that he would talk to the boy today. He would get to the bottom of this.
However the world seemed to conspire against him. He was already in a foul mood when he found out that the boy in question was not in his class that morning. It seemed that every other brat had made it to school, so why not the brat he was supposed to watch for a week. Severus felt his temper flare. He only agreed to this pitiful little job because he had been manipulated and now the only reason was not there.
Severus was sure he would get to the bottom of this. He stared at the little faces in front of him. His voice went cold. "Well it seems that not all of your classmates feel the need to be here. Where is Potter?"
No one said a word. Wide eyes stared at him nervously. Finally a small girl broke down with a quiet voice. "He is at the nurse's office sir."
He saw the child flinch as he moved in closer to her, his dark eyes intense. "Oh, and what was your Mr. Potter doing at the nurse's office?" He ignored the part of him that worried just a touch at the thought of could have happened. Why the boy hadn't been taken to the nurse for a swollen arm what would he go to the nurse for?
"Umm, he fell off the slide this morning. He hurt his arm pretty bad. A teacher sent him to the nurse." Severus merely nodded to the child but in his mind he was cursing. It was obvious what the boy was doing. He had noticed Severus watching his arm and now he had an excuse for the injury and an excuse not to see his teacher for a bit to create a story.
Severus sneered at the children around him. If it was bad enough, he probably wouldn't see Potter for awhile. That was his last thought about Potter before class began. It was going to be a huge migraine day.
Severus was never so grateful for lunch break. The children were loud and obnoxious and he was desperately fighting back an urge to hex them all, or at least silence them for awhile. He made it through the morning imagining the peace and quiet that would come if only he could silence them all and glue their little backsides to their chairs. Or he could turn them all into rats and use them in a few potions. Yes, he liked that idea. Of course then he would have to explain their disappearances not only to parents but to Albus as well.
At recess someone had come in to say that Potter had been sent to the hospital to have a cast placed on his arm and he would not be returning to school that day. So much for getting to the bottom of the arm issue.
Oh well, at least it was lunch and he could finally get away from all the bumbling children. He had gotten into the habit of eating in the room by himself. All the other teachers wanted to talk. They wanted to know how he was doing and he had no desire to indulge them.
However today he had decided would not go to waste. He entered the teachers lounge and found the kindergarten and 1st grade teachers sitting around enjoying their lunch. As he had predicted they were eager to hear how his week had gone. One woman was a jovial thing, rather large with curling hair dyed a hideous blonde. She was sickeningly happy when she heard which class he had taken over.
"My my, you have some interesting ones in that class. Have you had any difficulties with young Dursley or his little friends?"
He smirked. "Hardly. They know a disciplinarian when they see one."
She laughed at that and he could feel his teeth clamp down. The sound was grating. "Well, boys will be boys I say and those would definitely be boys. Not like his little cousin. No two different boys out there. Oh no. Little Potter is the complete opposite. Prefers to be on his own that one does. No friends really. Not that I think he really cares mind you."
She was interrupted by a young woman off to the side. "I wouldn't say that, Betty. He was very outgoing when I had him. At least for awhile."
Severus saw this as an opening. He turned to the younger teacher. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, well, he was just so excited and enthusiastic when he first came to school. Did you know that he had quite a vivid imagination? Always making up stories about magic and such. He was very popular too. Very liked by the other children. Quite honestly I think he would have been an outstanding student but a few weeks into school and he started to draw back into himself. Few of the other students would be seen next to him and he would just raise his head up high and walk past them all. And all this at just five years old."
Severus nodded, recognizing some of the symptoms of abuse and now angry at himself for not noticing it right away. Considering his background, you would think it would be forefront on his mind. "Any reason for the behavior change?"
She shrugged. "Not that I know of. He kept up with his studies. He just became quiet. He was a bit accident prone. He was constantly falling off the swings. Came in from recess with bumps and bruises and broken glasses all the time."
The loud woman broke in again. "All too true Liz. Very accident prone. He was always bumping into desks and tripping. Course I didn't get him until about half way through the year. But very quiet. Hmmm, how is he doing? Still in his cousin's class?"
"Yes." Severus nodded. He let it drop but young Liz spoke up.
"You know, I warned his aunt about that. I told her it was not good to have them in the same class. Too much competition I believe. She wouldn't hear of it though. Seemed to think that having Dudley in Harry's class would help Harry. She seemed to think that Harry was a bit dimwitted if you know what I mean."
Before more could be said a bell rang. Liz looked up. "Oh dear, my afternoon kids will be here soon. Enjoy lunch everyone."
Loud obnoxious Betty soon followed after. "I should make sure everything is ready for my little dears. They are always so energetic after lunch." With a smile and a wave he was left with the other teachers still at lunch. Figuring he could learn little else, Severus left as well. If he was quick, he could allow fifteen minutes of quiet to help reduce his headache. Something told him he was going to need it.
Severus wandered back to the cat house slowly. Good lord, one more day down. Only a few more to go and he could go back to his life. He was tired and grumpy and he was still no closer to an answer to his problem. At the start of this week he had expected to walk in and out and back to Albus with stories of the spoiled spawn of James Potter. Now he wasn't really sure what was going on and it was getting troublesome.
If something was really wrong with the boy today proved to Severus that it would be difficult to get the boy to say anything. Without his confession there was little he could do about changing the situation. He could take his observations to Albus, but they were just speculation. He had no confirmation of those suspicions and he could not ask for the removal of the child without solid proof.
As Severus neared the neighborhood his eyes strayed to a small front door. There was no sign of the small boy that lived inside the walls. It was then that Severus made his decision. Without a backwards glance, he turned around. If the boy would not come to him, he would go to the boy. He was going to get to the bottom of this. But first he needed to take care of something at the school.
Sorry it took so long to update. I know how I want this to end and the pieces in the middle, but it is taking the time to write it out. Thank you to everyone who has stuck with it. OK, off to update the next one.