paganaidd: Pic of Snape looking thoughtful (Digging For The Bones)
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 A Subtle Pattern
By Friday morning, Severus was ready to take up drinking in a serious way.  

So far, the healer’s exams had turned up no less than twelve children who were considered “at risk”.  Including one poor Hufflepuff girl, in her second year, whose case was so severe, that the healers had immediately applied to the Ministry  to remove her from her parent’s custody.  The others would need watching and extra support from their heads of houses, but they were not in any clear danger.  
Severus smiled bitterly at the surprise on many of the teachers faces when the healers had given their report yesterday evening.  They were appalled that this sort of thing could happen right under their noses, and a few indulged in what were really unseemly displays of emotion.

He had been ready to slap an hysterical Trelawny, when Lupin had intervened, telling her gently (more gently than Severus would have, anyway), but firmly, that such histrionics were not helpful to the situation.  He went on to tell her that if she couldn’t control herself, she should take herself back to the North Tower and stay there.

Severus found himself in the odd position of actually agreeing with Lupin, whom he hated with a passion only a little less than that he bore for Potter’s bloody father.  Lupin had almost as little patience for the general hand wringing as Severus himself did.  Perhaps because he didn’t bear the guilt from knowing Longbottom for two years, and never seeing it.

It wasn’t that Severus didn’t feel the guilt for the boy’s death, it was more that Severus had learned to live with the weight of guilt a long time ago and continue on with the task at hand.  Many of the teachers seemed nigh upon nonfunctional over this.  

To be scrupulously fair, the heads of houses were rising to the occasion.  Proving that, as peculiar as Dumbledore’s staffing decisions could be, he had chosen those individuals well.

Indeed, some of the worse cases were already known to the school, and had been under observation for some time.  Fileas Flitwik had already identified one Ravenclaw whose family was need of investigation, prior to this incident, Severus had been watching three Slytherins that the healers had confirmed had multiple suspicious injuries and Pomona Sprout had reported one case in Hufflepuff last year.  Minerva had left no reports of any, however.  

Severus didn’t think this was necessarily due to negligence on Minerva’s part.  He rather suspected that it was more due to the Gryffindor tendency toward foolish pride.  Certainly, he had supervised enough detentions with them to know how obstinate they could be.  Of the children who argued that these exams were unnecessary, the Gryffindors were often of the loudest volume.  

Well, if he cared to admit it, his Slytherins were not far behind in sheer indignation.  

It had been perhaps a mistake to cancel classes for the whole week.  That had been a Ministry idea, coming from people who had not the vaguest concept of how ill advised it was to keep this many teenagers idle.

Madame Hooch had taken it upon herself to organize the Quidditch teams in extra practices.  Severus approved of this heartily, as it also took many of them outside to watch.

The Muggle studies teacher, Charity Burbage had suggested that they bring in a counselor to speak with the more distraught children.  Another suggestion that Severus approved as acting head.  This death had hit the entire Wizarding world very hard, given who that the boys parents were commonly known as heroes of the last War.

He wondered if anyone had told Frank and Alice that their only son had been murdered.  Would they even understand?  They were both largely unaware of anything; victims as they had been, of a prolonged Cruciatis Curse.

By all accounts, Augusta was on her way to a breakdown that would necessitate a bed in the locked ward beside her son.

Since the story had been published in the Daily Prophet, in lurid detail, parents had been sending Howlers all week.  After the first few, Severus had forwarded all mail addressed to “Headmaster” to Dumbledore.  However, all the teachers had gotten a Howler or two addressed to them.  Some were the parents who were outraged that the staff had never seen the abuse, some were parents who took offense at their child being examined for abuse.

On the good side, the exams were progressing in an orderly manner.  The healers were planning on working through the weekend so that classes could resume on Monday, so there was the better part of three days of this yet to face. 

The files from the children to be examined today were in front of him on his desk.   Harry Bloody Potter’s file at the top.  The last piece of parchment was a note from Arabella Figg stating that she’d seen Harry the morning after he’d run away from home this summer.  


I’ve spoken to Harry this morning, as you asked.  He seems rather the worse for wear.  Has quite the shiner actually.  

He’s been given quite a bit of yard work by the Dursleys, but that’s nothing unusual.  I do wish there were a safer place to keep him.  


Quite the shiner?

That made Severus wonder, when he’d read it.  A black eye in a teenage boy might be anything, so he’d owled Arabella for clarification.  She had written back to say that Harry had told her a story about being in a scuffle with some Muggle teenagers when he’d run away.

From all accounts of that night, Harry had gotten directly onto the Knight Bus and had been there until Kingsley Shacklbolt had found him getting off at Diagon Alley.  If there had been an altercation, it must have been damned short.

Shacklbolt was currently one of the Aurors searching the area for Sirius Black, so Snape was able to ask him to come have a word this morning.  While he waited for the man, leafed through the boy’s papers.

There were his primary school records; they spoke of a quiet boy who seemed to lack motivation and was defiant at times. 

Severus snorted to himself, he knew that already.  

More reports went on to say that he never seemed to put effort into his homework, it often looked as though he’d done it in the few minutes between arriving at school and when the bell rang.  
Again, nothing new.  

Some way down the stack, there was a rather ominous set of correspondence between the school nurse and one of Harry’s teachers:

There was one note that speculated that the Dursleys were having money trouble, since the smaller boy was always dressed in the bigger boy’s hand me downs.  

Then there was a note from the school nurse, complaining that she had to tell Mrs. Dursley several times to get Harry’s eyes checked.

A third note in which the teacher commented that Harry often seemed injured in one way or another.  When asked, the child merely replied that he was clumsy.  

The reply from the nurse said, that since the injuries were very minor, it was likely that they were accidental, and that she’d speak with Mrs. Dursley about it.

There were many things Potter was, but never clumsy.  As quickly as he’d taken to his broom, Severus doubted the boy had ever had a clumsy bone in his body.

The other thing to be considered was the fact that Wizard children were so much harder to injure, and healed so much more quickly than Muggle children.

If Potter was being hurt badly enough to leave visible bruises, he’d have to have been doing something like playing Quidditch, or jumping from second story windows.  As a Muggle raised child, it was very unlikely he’d been doing either of those things.

As much Severus wanted to, he couldn’t deny that a subtle pattern had begun to emerge.

“Professor Snape?” Shacklebolt stood at the open door of Severus’ office, “You wanted a word?”

“Yes, Mr. Shacklebolt, please come in.” Severus waved at the comfortable seat in the corner.  Not the hard wooden one he always had students sit in.

Shacklebolt sat down, looking curious, when Severus flicked his wand to close the door.

“How is the Black situation?”  Severus didn’t want the Auror to think he’d called him here to discuss Potter specifically, and as acting headmaster, he was within his rights to ask.

“Not a sign of him, Professor.” sighed Shacklebolt,  “The dementors have even searched the Forest.  The Centaurs were in an uproar about it, but the Ministry insisted." Shacklebolt sounded irritated, as if insulted that the Ministry was insisting on using dementors to search for Black. "It's even possible the man has fled, but..."

“You don’t think so?”

“No.”  Shacklebolt said flatly.

Severus ran his hand through his hair, “As if we don’t have enough difficulties with this exam business.” he said bitterly.

Shacklebolt nodded in agreement, “I do wish I had something new to report.”  Shacklebolt stood, “If that’s all, Professor Snape?”  

Severus appreciated the man’s unwillingness to waste time on idle chat.

“Just one thing,” said Severus as if it had just occurred to him, when Shacklebolt had his hand on the doorknob, “I am trying to provide the healers with complete reports, on the home lives of our students.  I understand you were the one who found Mr. Potter the night he ran away, this summer?”

“I did,” Shacklebolt answered in his slow, deep voice.

“How was he when you saw him?  The healers want to know about any upsets in the student’s lives.”  Severus didn’t want to be too specific.  Given that the Daily Prophet had gotten hold of the Longbottom story already, the last thing that Severus wanted to happen was have them start speculating about the Boy Who Lived.  Aurors were very discreet, but the less said the better.

Shacklebolt replied, “He was a bit shaken up.  He was very upset that he had to go back to his aunt and uncle’s house.  Seemed to think he’d be in terrible trouble for just a bit of accidental magic.”

“We see that a lot with Muggle raised children.” agreed Severus seriously, thinking of the beatings his father used to give him for accidental magic, “But he seemed well, otherwise?  I’m told he was in a scuffle with some other boys and had a bit of a black eye.”

Shacklebolt shook his head slowly, “Not a mark on him, that I saw.”

Severus nodded, “Well, he wasn’t specific on the timing.  I suppose it was after he went home.” he said smoothly, “Thank you for your time.”

Shacklebolt nodded to Severus, “I’ll keep you up to date on the Black situation.” he said as he left.

Severus sat thinking about what this new scrap of information could mean.  Shacklebolt had seen no bruises on the boy, but the next morning Arabella had.

With a renewed purpose, Severus began looking through the file.  He applied his mind to it the way he would approach brewing an antidote to a potion.  There was a lecture he gave his Seventh years on this very subject, “Assume you know nothing about the poison.  That can get in the way of discovering the counter.  Use your diagnostic spells and you may discover a pattern.  They are often difficult to discern”

The more Severus stared at it, the less subtle the pattern became.


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