Plot: Gender-Bender. Silence Potter had a hard enough time at Hogwarts already, her less than satisfactory home-life reflected in her withdrawn and skittish nature. But then her potions teacher seemed to decide that she was something to be hated and her school-life went down-hill from there.
Pairing(s): Canon. Eventual George/Silence, and hints of Draco/Silence
Rating: Teen - Subject to change. References to neglect and abuse.
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter. I praise her ingenuity. I own my original ideas and characters.
This is a story that I've had in my head even before I started A Different Choice, and it finally demanded to be written. In fact, I first began thinking for ideas for a story like this nearly six years ago but didn't have the ability to do it justice. Now, I've done my research on the reactions of abused children, so hopefully that is reflected in this - however, if you see something unrealistic please inform me! I adore reviews for days on end and appreciate any advice on how to improve my writing.
Of Brews and Concoctions
Silence Ana Potter stood behind the door, watching with wide green eyes, their clear depths flashing with an inappropriate amount of alertness as she surveyed, no, calculated the scene before her, as though she were determining the risks. It was an odd expression on a face so young, as though she were the survivor of some warring country and had not yet adjusted to a life were bombs did not explode on a daily basis.
Behind her, Hermione gave her an impatient push and she flinched, moving quickly forward until she was right up against the wood. Hermione would never know – she told herself firmly – never know that she was bruised and worthless. Never know anything other than she hated to be touched, in any way, shape or form. Never know until she was sure, sure that she was her friend. Her small thin hands clasped around the door-handle, the ancient wood worn by decades of hands, polished by the oil of thousands of palms. She took a deep shuddering breath, drawing in the pieces of courage that she still had, and opened the door.
There were no windows in the Potions Classroom, not that windows were a possibility in the dungeons. The only lighting came from candles and a shuttered lamp, and while many classrooms were illuminated this way, it seemed that these candles were dimmer than the others, casting only half as much light. The gloom was further deepened by the color of the walls – a nasty, dark monochrome grey, broken only by the indent of a heavy wooden door on ill-fitting hinges, which creaked and rattled with every slight gust of air. The only color in the room was even worse. Above the Potion Master's paper-strewn desk sat shelves lined with misshapen things – best not to ask – suspending in liquids of various sickly colors. It was best not to look at those for too long, she wasn't sure whether she would become sick or take an unhealthy interest in what resided there.
It was much colder than in the outside corridor, as though they had gone down another flight of stairs rather than walk a few feet. The air had a certain moistness to it that she had neither expected or anticipated, a humidity caused no doubt by the constant simmering and boiling of various concoctions. Her eyes traveled across the desks, organized into groups of four and two, placed meticulously so that every head would be angled toward the front of the room and the chalkboard hanging on the wall.
As the other students filed in, Hermione glanced at her – thankfully getting her attention without touching her – and nodded toward a desk in the front row.
"Let's sit there, Si. Best way to ensure we get everything right."
Si shook her head, turning pale at the mere thought of sitting within breathing distance of a male teacher. She glanced behind her and said, very firmly, "You can sit there, I'm going to the back."
"Why?" Hermione shot, perplexed. "I thought you liked your potions book."
"I do," Si said quickly, growing increasingly worried that someone would take the seat before she could. "I just like to be able to see everyone."
Hermione looked confused, but she nodded and followed Si to a group in the back corner of the room. She didn't look happy that she had to sit so far away, but after Si mentioned that she was probably already months ahead and that sitting in the back would be a test of wits, she brightened considerably.
As the class slowly filled up, she hid behind locks of messy black hair, long and bouncing with the barest hint of a natural curl, her bottle-green irises trained on everyone like a dog backed into a corner. A flicker of candlelight washed over her hair and a glimmer of dark red shone out, a color only revealed by rich yellow light.
Two other girls joined their table, both of whom Si had seen before in her other classes. Lavender Brown, a pretty girl with mousy brown hair and Pavarti Patil, a girl of Indian descent with thick black hair. They were both chatting animatedly about the coming class and, without much persuasion, Hermione joined them.
"Still have a few minutes before it starts," Lavender was saying breathlessly, though her eyes had a glimmer of worry in them. "I've heard the most awful things about him, I hope they're not all true."
"They can't be," Hermione said in an undertone. "Teacher reputation is always clouded with rumor and superstition. Like Quirrel's turban, they're saying it's to ward off vampires now."
"Still," Pavarti put in nervously, "It's a fact that Professor Snape doesn't like Gryffindor's. He's head of Slytherin house after all, and they don't like us at all from what I've been able to tell."
Si nodded in agreement, her eyes flickering with even greater urgency to all corners of the room. The professor in question hadn't made an appearance yet, and while she dreaded the moment when he would come, surely it was better than waiting for him to show up. From her vantage point, she could see another door now, pressed against the far side, to the left of the desk. She blinked, surveying it for a moment before returning to her sweeping. No doubt that was his office, and no doubt he was in there. She kept a watch on it from the corner of her eye.
"I've never been good at cooking, you don't think that means I'm doomed from the start, do you?" Pavarti asked them, now twisting her hands. Si looked at her.
"Only if you burned toast into charcoal."
The other three girls stopped and looked at her. It had become something of a reputation that Silence Potter was Silent. Of course, Hermione knew that wasn't true – she could be quite loquacious when she wanted to – but in the company of others she had taken to listening, rather than talking. Hermione laughed, and Pavarti looked slightly happier.
Before her, Neville was mumbling something that sounded oddly like potions notes under his breath. He seemed more nervous in this class than the others, as though he too had heard every rumor – and thought it was fact. Ron was at a table with two other boys, Dean and Seamus. The classroom door banged open again and she jumped at the sound, her heart doing funny little back flips. In strode Draco Malfoy, flanked by his cronies, Crabbe and Goyle. Beside him was a pretty girl, with dark hair and eyes that glimmered with a sardonic leer. Malfoy's grey gaze swept across the room, and then met hers. She tried not to flinch, but it was hard work. She bit her lip, and stared determinedly back, desperate not to show any more weakness than she already had. He smirked and sat down at a group near the center, his seat perfect for looking over at her, she noticed with great distaste.
Hermione scowled. She opened her mouth to say something – no doubt about Malfoy and his posse – when there was a creak and the class fell instantly silent as Professor Snape strode out of his office.
It was the first time she'd seen him since the opening feast, and there were several details she had been unable to make out from her seat at the Gryffindor Table. He was a tall man, and thin, though not abnormally so. Somehow, she had imagined him as hunched, but that was not the case. He was straight-backed, which only increased in making her feel dwarfed and child-like. His skin was pallid, a stark contrast to the black of his robes and gloom of the room – though, oddly it suited him. His nose was hooked, and she noticed with a glimmer of disgust that his hair appeared oily.
He swept across the room amazing speed, long billowing robes leaving a trail behind him like ink across parchment. It was with a strange, almost graceful speed that he moved, making her fascinated and terrified at the same time. His movements shouted predator to her, like a prowling feline, vicious and swift. She swallowed, and exchanged glanced with Hermione as he began to read the register.
Professor Flitwick had done this too. She'd been fairly anxious, until he'd finally reached her name. He'd paused, looked up and then toppled off his stack of books with an excited squeak. It'd actually made her smile, and marked him off her watch list. The man was hardly three-feet, after all.
Professor Snape did not squeak, nor did he make any sort of obvious sign of amazement. His thin lips curled into a sneer, muttered some nonsense about her being a celebrity and allowed his Slytherins to snigger at the comment. Her palms felt sweaty. This was not a good start. She'd gotten the impression that he disliked her, that opening feast, and it was beginning to look like her instincts had been right. Suddenly, she wished she was still waiting for him to enter the classroom.
"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion making," he began in a cold whisper. It made her blood freeze, and she dared not miss a single word.
"As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death – if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderhead as I usually have to teach."
It was so quiet that Si wouldn't have been surprised if everyone could hear her heartbeat. It was pulsing painfully in her chest, as though already running as far from this place as was physically possible. And then, those black eyes were all she could see. They were cold, and cavernous as though soul behind them had found a way to hide. And, they were narrowed in pure loathing, an expression she was not likely to ever forget.
Her breathing became unbearably shallow.
"Potter!" he shot suddenly and even though she had been looking right at him, she jumped. Malfoy's smirk broadened in the corner of her eye. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
She blinked. How could she answer when her mind was full of nothing except of getting as far away as she could from him and his tunnel-like eyes? She knew the answer, it was lurking somewhere at the back of her head. She'd read her potions text-book thoroughly, but the panic was clouding her senses, making it difficult to think. He was so much like him, his hate filled gaze only further proving that fact. Beside her, Hermione's hand had shot – as it habitually did – into the air. But he'd already asked her to answer it…
She was very aware that it'd been at least a minute now since he'd asked the question. Very aware that everyone had turned in their seats to look at her. She felt her face growing hotter, a lump of panic welling in her throat. She couldn't think, it was… a Draught of some kind, a sleeping draft, but what was it called?
"Did you hear me, Potter?" Snape spat she and she pushed back against her seat as though hoping to merge with it via osmosis. "I asked you a question." His lips were curling into a livid expression. The Slytherins were now chuckling more loudly. Her head was starting to hurt from the combined effort of watching Snape, the class, and trying to figure out the answer. She opened her mouth, to say something but her voice box wasn't working.
Professor Snape whipped around to Draco Malfoy, his eyes blazing. It was obvious he did not appreciate being interrupted, but as it was a Slytherin he seemed to let it go. "What," he said icily, "is so important that you needed to interrupt me, Mr. Malfoy?"
Malfoy smirked and glanced back at Si. She felt her hands clench beneath the table of their own accord.
"It's just, sir," he began smoothly. "Potter lives up to her first name rather well." He looked back at her, and she wanted, for one brief moment, to die right there. "Don't you, Silence?"
How did Malfoy know that anyway? Word of mouth? This was their first class together, and he was being just as arrogant as he had been that first day she'd met him. Si would have glared at him if the Professor wasn't glaring at her so vehemently. He was smirking nastily at her now, as though something he had been suspecting had been confirmed.
"Well, unlike every other teacher at this school, I will not pamper the great Child-Who-Lived. I want you to answer me."
The anger that had boiled at the mention of being a child quickly diminished. How was she supposed to answer him? Why did he have to pick on her? But, she already knew the answer to that – she was a freak and deserved to be singled out. He had started walking toward their table, and the predator flashed through her mind again. He was coming like a bat, a large over sized bat, like a vampire…
"Draught of living death!" she squeaked, her voice so choked that part of the sentence was incoherent. Professor Snape stopped, a table-length away. She could see every line in his weary face and noted with faint surprise that he was younger than she had previously suspected – his early thirties perhaps. From the look in his eyes, he hadn't heard what she'd said.
"Care," he said in a deadly whisper that non-the-less carried across the now silent room, "to repeat that, Miss Potter?"
Si took a deep breath, trying to think in spite of the fact he was too close for comfort. "The," she said in a small, yet clear voice, like water dripping on glass. "Draught of living death, sir."
For one wild moment, she thought she had got it wrong. He was staring at her with a mixture of emotions that she couldn't distinguish from the blinding amount of hate that was emanating from him. From behind him, Malfoy laughed.
"It speaks!" he said loudly to his fellow Slytherins and they chuckled.
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy," Snape said turning around and striding back to the front of the room. Si released a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. From beside her, Hermione put her hand down at last, looking rather dejected that she couldn't answer the question.
"In the future," Snape began, and her eyes snapped once more to his. "I want you to answer questions immediately. Regardless of what anyone else has told you, Potter, you are a student that deserves no… ah, special treatment."
Si nodded without meaning to, an instinctual reaction to an order. His black eyes narrowed again, and she knew instantly what he wanted. It was the same look in her Uncle's eyes when he wanted a verbal answer.
"Yes, sir," she choked out. She knew she hadn't said it near loud enough, but the Professor didn't ask for a repeat this time. Instead, he turned and began writing the instructions for the potion they were going to be working on.
Professor Snape did not like children.
He wasn't particularly sure, therefore, why he had decided to pursue a career in teaching – aside from the fact that said career was merely a cover for more serious matters. Even so, working in school had not been on his Hogwarts and Beyond Plan. Life had a funny – more like a sadistic – way of turning out for the worse, especially in his case. Indeed, he had never run across someone who could firmly say, "my lot in life out ways yours," and therefore he had become the man who took his misfortune out on the descendents of his tormentors.
As he strode among the desks, snapping insults at the Gryffindors and praising the Slytherins, he allowed his gaze to flicker toward the back corner where the child of the man he hated most of all sat, working on her potion. She was small, uncommonly so. She looked underweight as well, her young face thinner as was usual for an eleven-year old girl, but it was difficult to determine due to the looseness of her robes. But, the family resemblance was unmistakable, with her mop of messy black hair and clear green eyes.
Silence was an odd name. He had always thought it odd, but he had always known that Lily would name her daughter that. She had told him, one afternoon while lounging on sun-baked grass. She had liked the sound of the word, the way it rolled off her tongue like a caress. It wasn't how he said it, harsh and sharp, but hushed and soft, with the tenderness of a half-spoken whisper. And, Malfoy had been very right, it seemed to suit the girl's nature perfectly. In fact, it was discomforting how quiet she was, looking like daddy's little girl. He had expected without an inch of doubt that she would behave just like him as well, spoiled rotten at the hands of her relatives. Haughty, arrogant, and insolent, but he struggled now to apply those words to her. He could, crafty as he was, reason that her silence was merely an act of attention, a way to get people to pity her and treat her differently. Or, it could be the result of an aloof personality that thought itself better than everyone else. Yes, that's what he thought must be it. She was just like her father and no amount of argument was going to persuade him differently. There was just no way, no way that she could have his genes and not be the pig-headed fool that he was.
She did seem genuinely frightened of him, though. He had taught long enough to know when a student feared him – not to mention, that as a skilled legilimens he could read the emotion on a persons face as easily as reading a children's book. Her eyes had been wide, fearful, her thin shoulders hunched as though bracing against his words, and she'd sat as far back as had been physically possible. Yes, she feared him, and he knew – regardless of how wrong it was – that he would take that fact to his advantage.
"Are you alright?"
Si glanced up to meet Hermione's concerned stare, her brows knitted into a worrisome expression. Hermione was one of those people that picked up on things quickly, she noticed. She might not voice it aloud, but her face said otherwise. She knew when she had crossed a boundary with Si, when Si was uncomfortable with something. It was disconcerting how much she saw, in fact. She would, no doubt, figure out all her secrets eventually, whether by deduction or broaching the topic.
"He hates me," she replied flatly, the lack of emotion in her words strange to hear.
"You don't know that."
"Yes, actually, I do."
Hermione frowned but didn't press it. She seemed to realize this was an argument she would never win – and rightly so, as such an accomplishment would be tainted by the fact that she was wrong. Si bent back over her mortar and pestle, resuming the crushing of her snake fangs. Once it had been reduced to a fine powder, she tipped it slowly into the cauldron watching fascinated as the potion frothed and bubbled, turning a light cotton-candy pink. She paused, consulting her directions again before tipping a tad more, turning the color a lighter more pleasant variation.
She smiled, the upturning of corners of her mouth barely noticeable, and yet present all the same. She looked up – a habit of performing surveillance checks on the classroom – and watched as Neville dumped porcupine quills into his potion. She blanched, emerald eyes widening in horror.
"Neville!" she squeaked, but too late. An acrid green smoke erupted from his cauldron followed instantly by a putrid smell likened somewhat to burning rubber. Neville Longbottom yelled and leapt back as his the potion drenched his desk, the viscous liquid splashing upon his person. Within seconds Snape had swooped in on the mess, a berate of poorly followed directions on his breath. He banished the mess with a flick of his wand and sent the poor boy off to the hospital wing.
Si jumped, hitting her knee painfully on the underside of her desk. "Y-yes, sir?"
"Next time you see a classmate foolishly put materials into their cauldron, I'd suggest you do something more useful than squeak like a mouse. Five points from Gryffindor for your failure to prevent this catastrophe."
She blinked; dark lashes hinting at a beauty buried somewhere deep, suppressed by meals and esteem. Five points? She frowned, a similar expression of frustration coloring the faces of the rest of her house. Ron looked positively livid but managed to hold his tongue, his ears red as his hair. Malfoy laughed and her eyes snapped to him, the anger not yet gone from their depths.
It was a relief when the bell rang, ten minutes later. Hermione took her's and – upon her pleading request – Si's sample to the desk, ignoring the sniggering of the Slytherin students. She couldn't get out of the class fast enough.