paganaidd: Pic of Snape looking thoughtful (Digging For The Bones)
[personal profile] paganaidd
 This is when I decided that this was going to be a long work and we all might as well settle in for the long haul.

Some descriptions of child abuse.

Trigger warnings will be posted here on out for many chapters. It is a very dark work (if you haven't read it before). However, all my stories end in a hopeful place and this one will not be the exception.

Harry stumbled a few times as Severus pulled him along, so fast was Severus walking.  Lupin kept glancing at them, concerned.  Severus glared at Lupin, over the boy’s head, daring Lupin to speak, or protest his manhandling of the Boy Who Lived.
Lupin, wisely, didn’t make a comment as the made their way to the hospital wing.  Although he looked pointedly at Potter and then Severus, the second time the boy stumbled.  Severus made an effort to slow his pace and loosen his grip, taking in the the boy’s ashen complexion.

Potter didn’t say anything either.  No arguing.  Not even his characteristic grumblings about unfairness.  Nor did Severus get the idea he was biting his tongue, to keep from saying something that would get him in deeper trouble.

That, more than anything else, concerned Severus.  One would think that Potter was going to his own execution.  Severus could feel the boy tremble through the firm hold he had on his upper arm.  This was the sort of reaction Longbottom had (Severus winced at that thought, but it was true) to him, not Potter.

When the Potter hadn’t turned up at his appointment this morning, Severus had checked the pitch first.   Naturally, the boy was there.  From a distance, Severus watched how Potter had practically fled from his teammates, with all the signs of someone who did not want to be confronted.  

Severus returned to the castle with further misgivings about Potter and a plan forming in his mind.

The boy did not return to the castle for lunch, and Severus knew for a fact that Potter had not eaten breakfast.  At four o’clock in the afternoon, Severus went down to the kitchens to ask the house elves if they’d fed the boy.  To a one, they denied it.  In fact they didn’t think he even knew where the entrance to the kitchens was.

Severus had watched the boy eat the night before, if he had been sliding food into his pockets, planning a prolonged fast (anything more than a few hours to a teenage boy could be considered prolonged), he was better at it than Severus would imagine.  Granted, he’d not been watching for it, but Severus had been a teacher long enough to recognize the signs of sneaking objects off of a table. 

Both of those scenarios were rather disturbing to contemplate.  Either the boy was accustomed to missing meals, or he was a fairly skilled thief.  Given that one of his best friends was rule-happy Granger,  Severus had to assume the former, rather than the latter 

Severus watched the boy walk into the Great Hall this evening, trying to keep his head down and remain unnoticed.  Severus had waited until the boy had almost finished what was on his plate (he didn’t like to do a medical exam on a child who was likely to pass out from low blood sugar.) and had signaled to Lupin to come with him.  In an effort to avoid the whole school gossiping about the missed appointment, Severus provoked enough of a response from the boy to get a reaction that was typical of their interactions.  No one looked askance at Severus assigning Potter a detention.

That reaction sat uneasily with Severus.  He’d grabbed the scruff of the boy’s neck, true, but not violently.  He’d merely pulled the boy up to stand, and the boy had reacted as though he’d truly thought he was going to be struck.  

Dumbledore had forbidden striking or caning a student when he’d become headmaster, more than forty years years ago.  As much as Severus had been tempted to throttle the boy, he’d never laid a hand on him, nor had any other teacher.  

Merely being a bit twitchy when a disliked school teacher grabs one by the scruff of one’s neck, proved nothing, but it was one more line in the pattern.

Potter looked downright ill, by the time they entered the hospital wing.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Lupin told the boy, kindly.  

Potter looked at Lupin like he’d grown a second head.  He squeaked something that might have been, “Yes, Professor.”

Severus let go of the boy’s arm when he’d closed the door of the hospital wing.  He locked it non-verbally. He was not going to put himself in the position of chasing down a thirteen year old who’d fled on frightened or angry impulse.

Cubicles had been set up in the long room to provide privacy for the healers, the assistants and their patients.  Severus gestured to the first cubicle, “I’ll be doing your exam, Potter, and Professor Lupin will be assisting me.”

“Are you expecting to need someone to hold me down?” Finally, Potter sounded more like himself.  He looked defiantly at the two men, his chin jutting out in a way that always reminded Severus of James Potter.  As always, it made Severus want to throw glass, just to hear it break.

“The exam is painless, Harry.”  Lupin said gently, “It’s Ministry procedure, that each exam be witnessed by a second party.”

“Oh.” That seemed to catch Potter off guard.  He subsided, biting his lip.

Severus pulled one of the exam gowns off the sideboard where they were stored, “Out of your robes.  Down to your pants, if you please.  Cover up with this.  It opens in the back.”

The boy turned an intriguing shade of red, as he took what he obviously thought was a very inadequate gown.  Lupin grinned a little, turning his face to the window so Potter didn’t catch it.

Severus gestured at the cubicle again, “Go change in there.  Open the curtain, when you’re changed.  Don’t take long.  I have no interest in prolonging this.”

The boy nodded, that ashen pallor back in his face.

“Do you have to be so brusque?” Lupin asked, very quietly, as the boy did as he was told.

“Yes.” Severus replied, with a glare at the man.

Potter pulled the curtain open. 

“Up on the table, then.” Lupin told him, with a little smile.  The boy complied.  Uneasily resting his hands on thin thighs.  The exam gown was longer than it should have been on a third year, coming almost down to his knees.

At first impression, Severus was very surprised at the boy’s thinness.  Under his robes, one didn’t notice it.  

He was tanned, in fact he was rather sunburned, and the tan ended where tee shirt sleeves would begin.   Potter’s legs were white, suggesting that the boy had worn jeans all summer.   

Severus noted almost faded straight lines across the shins and side of one of his calves.  

Potter’s arms, normally hidden under long sleeves, were indeed covered with a motley of green and yellow bruises.  

Fresh bruises and abrasions covered the back side of his right arm.  His knees were skinned and his chin bore the mark of his face plant this morning, at practice.  

Severus waved his wand at the parchment that would record the exam, “The patient is Harry James Potter, third year.  Performed by Severus Snape, Hogwarts Potions Master and Medi-Wizard.  Witnessed by Remus Lupin, acting head of Gryffindor House.”  Severus added the incantation that would record the results of the diagnostic charms.

“Now, Potter, this exam will be recorded.” Severus told the boy. 

Potter nodded, still biting his lip.

Severus started with the simplest charms that read height, weight, pulse, current magical usage, blood pressure and respiration.  He looked at the numbers, frowning in concentration.  The boy’s magic was highly active, as it would be if he were recovering from major injuries.  His weight was low and his height was at the very bottom of the growth scale.

Severus put the parchment on the instrument table, “Take off your glasses.”

The boy hesitated.

“Please.”  Severus, his tone not quite gentle, but trying not to threaten.  His suspicions were being confirmed with every step they took  “I will not do anything, without warning you first.”

The boy took off his glasses and squinted at Severus, biting his lip again.  

Those eyes, without the accustomed spectacles and the expression, so filled with anxiety, undid Severus for a fraction of a second.  That was Lily’s expression, when she was nervous.

It was a good thing the procedure of assessments had been so well drilled into Severus’ head when he was a potions apprentice.  He put away the emotion to deal with later.

He tested the boy’s eyes first, noting that he was quite myopic, but otherwise they were fine.  Severus gave Potter back the glasses, sighing in relief when he no longer had to look at Lily’s eyes unhindered.

“I’m going to run some charms now that will detect injuries both recent and old.” Severus said, falling into Medi-wizard mode,  “Lie back on the table.”

Potter did so.  Lupin watched the parchment while Severus ran the tests.  It took much longer than it should have.

The list of injuries had grown to the length of two feet, by the time it finished.  Severus noted Lupin’s expression was disbelieving and shocked.

 “Sit up.” Severus told the boy absently, as he went to look at the parchment with Lupin.  The catalogue of injuries was impressive.

“Potter?”  Severus strove to keep his voice even and dispassionate, “You have had several concussions.  At least three.  Do you know how they happened?”

Potter opened and closed his mouth two or three times, before he said, “I fell. I’m clumsy.”  the words were said with in an emotionless voice,  lessons learned by rote.

“Clumsy?” Severus said sarcastically, “The youngest Seeker in a Century? Clumsy?  I don’t think so.” he added venomously, “Do. Not. Lie. To. Me.  Not now.  Not about this.”

Lupin read the parchment looking increasingly upset, “Harry, we just need to know how you got all these injuries.”

Potter looked up at both the older wizards.  He seemed to consider, for a bare second, complying with the request.  Then something shut in the back of Potter’s eyes, “It’s nothing.  I play a lot of Quidditch.”  he shrugged with bravado.

“Please stand up, and turn around for me.”  Severus requested flatly.

Harry stood slowly.  He hesitated.  Lupin gave him an encouraging smile. Potter took a deep breath and turned around, as if it took an act of  will.  

“I need to see your back to run some more charms.” Said Severus, moving the back of the robe apart.

Straight, fading red lines littered Potters back from neck to knees.  Some of them as new as five days old, according to the charms.  

Seveus took a long breath.  He went to the drawer of the table, taking out a bottle of potion, “Please, sit again.”

The boy slid up onto the exam table.

“This is a diagnostic potion, I need you to take it now.”  Severus said evenly.

Harry reached out, slowly took the bottle and drained it.  Severus didn’t miss that the boy’s hand was shaking.

Severus picked up the parchment, again reading the different injuries it recorded.  He forced himself to wait for a full sixty seconds before continuing his questioning.

“Tell me Potter, how did you come to break the second, third and fourth metacarpals in your right hand?” asked Severus slowly,  “It appears to have been, perhaps, four years ago.”

“Metacarpals?” asked Harry, a little dozily.  His eyes were taking the characteristic glassiness one might expect, from the potion Severus had just given him.

Severus took the boy’s hand, turned it palm down and pointed to the hand bones between wrist and knuckle of his index, middle and ring fingers, “These were broken.  Possibly crushed.”  While he did so, he noticed that the pattern of bruising on the boy’s arm looked defensive.  The injuries one would pick up trying to fend off an attacker.

“Oh, that was Dudley.  He caught them in the front door.”  The boy looked a little surprised, as though he wasn’t expecting to hear his own voice.

“An accident, then?” asked Lupin, hopefully.

The boy laughed bitterly, “No, he just wanted to see what would happen.  He and Piers caught me.  Piers held me down and Dudley slammed the door.”

“What did your Aunt do?” asked Severus curiously.

“Took Dudley and Piers out so they didn’t need to hear me.  Aunt Petunia locked me in the cupboard because I was whinging too much.”    The boy sighed, sadly, “I didn’t mean to.  Aunt Petunia let me out when it was better.”

“Cupboard?” asked Lupin, he glanced at Severus his eyebrows drawn into a confused frown.

“Yes, that’s where they kept me.  Where else would you put a freak like me?” yawned Potter, matter of factly.  He rubbed his eyes under his glasses, as though he were suddenly very tired. 

To be expected.  The combination of potions Severus had given Potter tended to put those who were suffering from injuries to sleep.  They wouldn’t have long before the boy was insensible.

Long enough to get through this, however.

“Where did you get those concussions?” asked Severus. 

“S’ a concussion?” Potter asked, tiredly.

“You hit your head, often you’re dizzy and nauseous for a while.” Lupin replied gently

“”I s’pose Aunt Petunia did it.  She likes to whack me with the frying pan if she doesn’t like they way I did the dishes.  Or if I burn a meal...I haven’t done that in a long time, though.”  

“Those marks on your back?” asked Lupin, anxiously.  Severus already knew what the answer had to be.

“Oh, Aunt Marge told Uncle Vernon he ought to use the cane on me.”  the boy paused, as though considering something, “She showed him how to do it properly before she left.”

“Is that why you ran away from home?” Severus asked, sharply.

The boy shook his head, “No. That only happened after the Ministry took me back.”  He sighed, his eyes drifting closed.  He fell sideways, like a tree that had been chopped down.

Severus had been watching for it and caught the boy before he could fall from the table and do himself further injury.  He lay the boy down and transfigured the exam table into a hospital bed.

“Come on,” he hissed to the pale Lupin, stalking from the room.

“You gave him a truth potion.” Lupin growled accusingly, after throwing a silencing charm around them.

“Of course I did,” Severus retorted, summoning a  chair for himself.  After looking closely at Lupin, he also summoned another chair, a side table and the large bottle of firewhiskey Poppy, Pomona and himself had been working their way through this week, that was in Poppy’s office.

Severus poured a glass for himself and on for Lupin, which he shoved into the man’s hand, beofre continuing, “All with Ministry approval, I assure you.  I did not lie to Potter when I said it was a diagnostic potion.  How else are we supposed to diagnose child abuse if the victims won’t speak the truth about their injuries?  It is a mild one.  I mixed it with a calming draft.  He must not be sleeping, for it to make him so very tired.”

Lupin sank slowly into his chair, “We have to report this to the Ministry.” he said sipping on his drink.

Severus threw his drink down his throat, “We’ll do no such thing.” he said harshly.

“But, Severus, “ replied Lupin astonished, “Isn’t that what this whole business is about?”

“Can you imagine what the reaction to this would be?  After Longbottom?” hissed Severus, “It would cause a complete collapse in confidence in the Ministry.  And then, we don’t know where the boy would end up.”  

“Surely, you don’t intend to leave him with his relatives, after what you’ve just seen and heard?” demanded Lupin.

“Much may be said of me, Lupin,” Severus said dangerously, “But I do not condone the abuse of children.  Not even children as annoying as Potter.” Severus sagged back in his chair,   “I believe I have a way we can take care of this privately.”  he poured himself another drink, “It will take a little bit of arranging, and Potter will not like it in the least.”  

Severus drank his second glass of firewhiskey slowly enough to taste this time, while he considered the next step.  There was no question that it needed to be kept to the fewest number of people possible.  But, Severus couldn't do this alone.  The legalities of the thing required a witness. He eyed the other man, speculatively,  “I wonder Lupin, as the boy’s acting head of house, do you feel up to making a home visit?”  

Authors Notes for Chapter 5
Here is where my troubles began...

I was really surprised by a number of reveiws I received that accused me of "playing up" the abuse. I thought I was keeping close to canon here. No sexual abuse certainly.

The verbal abuse that we actually see in POA implies that Vernon used fairly harsh physical discipline with Harry. At one point he threatens to "Knock the stuffing out of him."

Harry replies that wouldn't make Marge forget whatever freaky thing he did.   NOT, "Uncle Vernon is all talk." which some of my reveiwers seemed to think.

Certainly Petunia swatting at him with a frying pan (and Harry not being freaked out by it) implies that she has hit him with objects in the past. I always pictured the iron skillet my grandmother used, although a stainless steal skillet would hurt a lot too.

Concussions are much easier to get than people think (thanks to Hollywood). The reason that Harry can have several and not be suffering from nerve damage is that he's a wizard. 

<Self disclosure>
In the house I grew up in, threats were promises. My parents never threatened something that they wouldn't follow up on. This was the experience of the people I hung out with in HS and College. If one's dad said he was going to knock the stuffing out of you, it wasn't just an idle thing  he said.

My folks never used implements usually but one can still do a lot of damage with just one's hands.

I could hardly get through the Dursley chapters of the books and was very glad that the movies decided not to linger on those scenes.

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