Of Possibilities and Interrogations
It is a generally accepted fact that people avoid what they are afraid of. The frightened shopper hurries to her car in an effort to escape, the arachnophobic leaps away from the eight-legged crawlies, the child withdraws into their shell. Severus Snape had correctly deduced that Silence Potter was afraid of him. He had taken advantage of that fact for several weeks, watching with poorly concealed amusement as she paled and stuttered, running jerkily away. He knew it had been wrong, cruel even. Revenge for something that, quite honestly, had nothing to do with her, and everything to do with her father and his own mistakes. But now, Silence Potter wasn't behaving, ignoring generally accepted facts, acting strange.
She had started seeking him out.
It had been quite a shock to find Potter curled up on the floor of his private storage. Especially since Minerva had dropped by seconds earlier to ask if he'd seen the girl in question since their encounter in the hallway the previous day. Apparently, she hadn't returned to the common room and the Granger girl was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Something about being the reason she ran off in the first place. He'd actually pulled a double take, then stared. All he had done was stare.
Silence Potter had looked a mess, a haphazard heap of indecisiveness. She'd looked up at him with those bottle-green eyes, blinking owlishly in the morning light. Her hair – unmanageable on a good day – was an absolute disaster, matted and tangled. But, the bags beneath her eyes had gone. She looked rested for once, content. That in itself was strange – and not to mention worrisome. He hadn't been able to say anything for several minutes, too surprised to think clearly. In the end, he'd sent her scurrying to the Gryffindor common room with a torrent of threats that he'd never actually go through with.
Severus groaned and leaned back in his chair, bringing pale long fingered hands to the bridge of his nose. That had been nearly a week ago. Since then, he'd found her in his storage a further three times, and sitting on the bottom stairs twenty-seven times. She'd taken to reading there. Lurking in abandoned hallways, lingering in his classroom after lesson's end, and – perhaps the most peculiar of them all – following him in the hallway.
It was as though she was asking him to yell at her.
Something at the back of his mind tried to make itself heard. It'd been doing that a lot recently. It kept bringing up his childhood, as well as a list of children the school had flagged over the last sixteen years. He could never quite make sense of it though, only the instinctual inkling that something was amiss in the Potter case – something that he'd immediately disregard. There was no possible way that Potter fell under the same criteria.
He knew she was spoiled, and ungrateful, too proud to associate herself with lesser beings.
But all the same, his gut churned uncomfortably. Well, maybe it was worth looking into. Or, at least, getting the girl some quality time with Madam Pomfry. She was acting out because of separation anxiety from her home, yes, that was it. She was having a difficult time adjusting to Hogwarts.
He sighed, and stood, crossing to the fireplace in a few swift steps. With a practiced hand, he threw powder into the flames.
"Poppy, I want a word."
Not the girl, but the phenomena wherein there was a lack of sound. Not surprisingly, the girl was actually contributing to that phenomenon, leaving Madam Pomfry to fret about what it all meant. She resisted the urge to click her tongue disapprovingly as she observed the first-year. She was far too thin, bony even. The girl was going to have some serious medical problems if she didn't fatten up, especially if she remained this way a few years down the line.
An eating disorder? Very possible, likely even. Unfortunate, but manageable. Beside her, Minerva readjusted her pointed hat. The Deputy Headmistress had informed her several days ago that she needed to take a look at the Potter girl, but it was Snape's message that finally made the meeting happen. Of course, his involvement was to be kept confidential. For understandable reasons.
They weren't making any progress though. Since Silence had entered the infirmary ten minutes ago not a word has passed her lips. Poppy didn't like it, not a bit. At the best, it meant they were dealing with some type of social anxiety disorder, at the worst an abusive household. Either scenario didn't suit well with her. After a moment, she decided to ask a different question – since "Do you like your classes," wasn't getting any response.
"Are you getting along with your classmates?"
The girl twitched slightly.
Was than an affirmative or a denial? True, he who was silent is understood to consent, but this wasn't a court case. Maybe she shouldn't ask her yes or no questions. Poppy glanced again toward Minerva, noticing how the deputy headmistress seemed to grow more severe with each passing moment. No doubt she was jumping to hasty conclusions and swearing vengeance on the muggles.
"Do you miss your home?"
The answer was so abrupt, especially when she hadn't been expecting it that Poppy actually had to backtrack for a moment. She felt the temperature in her hands drop a little, but worked to keep her face perfectly placid. The abusive household was starting to look ever more likely and she wasn't happy with that. No, she was feeling sick and disgusted, a jittery panic within her. This was Potter, the Girl Who Lived. She couldn't come from a household like that.
"Really?" She did her best to sound casual. Stop herself from jumping to conclusions – Minerva was starting to look murderous. She nudged the witch in an effort to snap her out of it – it would only cause Silence to close down again. "Any particular reason dearie?"
She was starting to close down again; Poppy could feel it. "What's different at home?"
Even her voice seemed tiny now. But there were no danger answers just yet. Of course it was smaller, she lived in a two-story muggle house. Hogwarts was a castle with grounds. The girl was fidgeting with her fingers, tugging on the end of her nails like a nervous habit. She glanced around the room, and Poppy was struck by the idea that she might be looking for a clock.
"Well, if you ever feel like you're having trouble fitting in or need someone to talk to, come back. Okay?"
The girl nodded and leapt to her feet as though she'd been electrocuted, eagerly dashing from the room as though worried that they'd change their minds. Poppy sighed and rubbed her temples, similarly getting to her feet. First Longbottom getting locked out of the Gryffindor Common room for the night and now this. Counseling had never been her strong suit. Physical aliments, she could whip up a cure to anything, but mental afflictions she was at a horrible loss.
She looked up. Minerva had gotten to her feet and was pacing the length of two empty beds. She sighed, getting to her feet as well. "Don't be hasty, Minerva."
"She could barely look you in the eye," the transfiguration teacher exclaimed, sounding anxious. "If those muggles—"
"I'll have Dumbledore do an investigation, but with her being at school and away from them it'll be very difficult to ascertain anything." She sighed heavily, walking as if on autopilot toward her office. "Severus is really the only one who should be able to tell for sure. And if Miss Potter is hanging around him as often as he claims, he may be able to determine it."
If anything that only riled Minerva more. "He is blinded by his prejudice and hate for her father, there is no way he'll ever believe that she isn't the pampered girl he assumes her to be."
"If she hangs around him long enough, perhaps he will see that she is not."
Are dreams a place of solace or of fear? They depict the world in twisted and warped ways, suspend logic and reason, and delve into the deepest recesses of the mind. But, sometimes this skew of reality is comforting, is pleasant to experience and behold. A frolic across summer grass, a joyous occasion, a wistful fantasy. Silence wouldn't know, she'd never know. She's been betrayed by sleep. She tried to escape the labyrinth of her tumultuous thoughts, but always seemed to fail. Her dreams, her terrors haunted her at every unconscious moment, the covers pulled over her thin body with white knuckles. She didn't want to dream, didn't want to remember, didn't want to see the slam of images that attacked as soon as her lids closed.
She didn't want to wake up screaming.
"Si, I'm going to kill the light now, alright?"
She felt rather that saw Hermione's frown. "You should get to sleep too. You haven't been sleeping well these last nights. You won't be able to concentrate in class."
There's a reason why I'm not sleeping… Silence turned over on her side, her gaze naturally seeking the crook of the stone and the wooden floor, the juxtaposition of material strangely interesting to her. She could see the grains of dust missed by cleaning, the texture of the rough stone and aged wood. It drew her toward it, allowed her mind to wander unhindered.
She couldn't sleep. She wouldn't sleep. The dreams, before suppressed with a nicked bottle of dreamless sleep, had returned brutal force – drowning her mind in adrenaline, soaking her sheets with sweat. She wanted to go to the infirmary and get another, but she couldn't. It was too risky, too suspicious. And she couldn't ask, too many questions, too uncomfortable.
They had been getting worse, anxiety chilling her senseless. She felt the fear before she even passed out, tried to tell herself that she was safe without any success. She missed her cupboard. She wanted the safety that came with the small place, the walls hard and sturdy. Her curtains were flimsy, weak, easily pushed aside. She couldn't handle it, couldn't adjust. She wanted the darkness and solitude of her cupboard, wanted to feel the way it protected her. After all, it was the only place they left her alone…
"Good night, Si."
She took a deep steadying breath, the rock before her gaze drifting away, melting into nothingness as her thoughts ran rampant.