Chapter 2 : Congratulations Arista!
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“I damn well hope so!” she gasped. “You’d better have a very good explanation as to why my dad’s suddenly become four years old again!”
“It was a Youth Potion . . .” Neville began, only to be interrupted once more by a little voice.
“You said damn. That’s a bad word.”
Arista flushed. The child was right, she should’ve watched her language. She fought to keep from laughing however. Even at four, her dad was still lecturing her. “You’re right Da—I mean, Sev,” she corrected herself hastily. “It is a bad word and I’m sorry, I shouldn’t talk that way around kids, uh, your age. But I’m a little upset right now, okay?” She turned back to Neville. “How did this happen?”
Neville told her the whole story and Arista listened with growing dread to his tale of melted cauldrons and misread potions texts.
“But how long will he be like this?” she cried. “Will the potion wear off eventually?”
“I don’t know,” Neville hung his head. “I don’t even know what went wrong in the first place.”
“Oh, Neville!” Arista groaned.
Then she felt a tug on her robe and looked down and met her father’s innocent brown eyes yet again.
“Do you know where my mummy is? I want to go home.”
The heartfelt plea caught at her heart and she found herself kneeling down in front of the child, who had somehow managed to walk over to her without tripping over the yards of black fabric that had once been his professor’s robes.
“Um . . .well, your mom had to go away for a little while, Sev, so she left you here with me. My name’s Arista and I’m your—” –daughter was on the tip of her tongue, but she caught herself just in time and replaced it with “—cousin. You’re going to be staying at Hogwarts until your mom gets back from her, uh, trip,” she improvised.
“Oh. Okay.” His little brow furrowed. “Hogwarts. My mummy says that’s where she went to school. She says that someday when I’m big I’m gonna go there too, ‘cause I’ve got magic just like her. I’m a wizard.” He lowered his voice when he said that last, till he was whispering. “Shh. It’s a secret. Don’t tell my daddy. Daddy doesn’t like magic. Or wizards. Daddy says I’m supposed to be a normal boy, not a freak.” Severus suddenly halted and peered frantically about the room, his eyes darting like a cornered animal’s. “Does Daddy know I’m here? He’ll be so mad if he finds out I’m at a magic place and then he’ll . . .he’ll take his belt to me.”
He began to tremble and huge tears gathered in his eyes.
Neville was staring at his former professor, his mouth opening and shutting soundlessly, thunderstruck with horror.
Severus was sniffling sharply, giving Arista a pleading look. “Please, can you take me home? Before Daddy finds out? I don’t wanna get the belt again. It hurts awful!” Then he burst into tears, sobbing hysterically.
Arista was down on the floor in a flash, instinctively reaching out to grab the sobbing child into her lap. “Hush, Sev, hush now. It’s okay. Nobody will ever hurt you like that again, I promise. You’re safe here, Dad. Shh.” She patted his back over and over, recalling how he had done that to her after a nightmare over the summer. She could feel his little heart beating wildly against her chest. “Your dad will never know. Shhh. I’ve got you.”
She continued to hold and rock the little boy, tears of anguish streaming down her own cheeks as she absorbed Severus’s fear and pain. She had known that her father had had a horrible childhood, but even she had never known just how bad it really was. He was only four and he had been beaten with a belt, and more than once. The child Severus was so fragile, so small, how could anyone, least of all his own father, hurt him like that?
Her empathy flared, and she touched the kid’s mind lightly, easing the panic and fear, soothing the stomach-churning anxiety with feelings of reassurance and love and safety. She began to sing softly. “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word . . .” for that was the lullaby Severus’s mother had sung to him when he was small, or so he’d told her once.
The adult Severus Snape would have never allowed her to touch his mind this way, he kept his emotions tightly shielded from all but the most cursory contact. But the child Snape was an open book, and he welcomed her gentle embrace and the soothing wave of warmth and love she projected at him. She wrapped it about him like a warm fuzzy blanket, cocooning his soul in her endless web of love and compassion.
“Shh. Don’t cry. Nothing will ever hurt you as long as I’m here, Sev. Not your dad, not anyone,” she told him firmly, still hugging him and rocking him. He clung to her fiercely, his head buried in her robes, but gradually his sobs died.
He hiccupped softly, then lifted his face to gaze into her eyes. “Promise?”
“Promise. You’re safe here, Severus Snape. Your father can’t ever come here. And nobody here will ever beat you, I swear on my mom’s grave.”
He sighed in relief and sniffled, going to wipe his nose on his sleeve.
Arista conjured a handkerchief and held it to his nose. “Blow.”
“Good job.” She gently scrubbed the tears from his face, then snapped her fingers and changed his black professor’s robes into a child-sized pair of black jeans and a green long sleeved shirt. As an afterthought, she also gave him a little black robe with a Slytherin patch on it, like the students in his House wore.
“There! That’s better.”
He glanced down at himself and gasped. “Wow! You did magic! Like my mum does sometimes when Daddy’s gone.”
“I sure did,” she grinned at him. “Everyone does here, it’s a wizard school.”
“I know that,” he replied with just a hint of exasperation. He began to run his hand down his robe, enjoying the soft feel of it. He’d never been allowed to have anything like this at home.
Arista glanced up to find Neville staring at her four-year-old father with pity and sorrow written all over his face.
“Arista . . .my God . . .I never knew . . .!”
“Shh, Neville!” she ordered. “We’ll discuss it later. Now’s not the time or the place. Little pitchers have big ears.”
She gestured pointedly at little Severus.
“Oh. Right. Sorry. But what are going to do with him, Arista? Now we have no Potions Master.”
And I have no father, she thought sadly. In a manner of speaking.
She stood up, brushing off her robes. “Come on, Neville and Sev. We need to visit Professor Dumbledore. He’ll know what to do.”
“Who’s he?” asked the child curiously.
“He’s our Headmaster. You’ll like him. He’s very sweet and he likes to give kids candy.” Arista told him.
Severus grinned. “Really? What kind?”
“All kinds,” his daughter laughed. “But especially—”
“Lemon drops,” Neville finished, smiling too. He couldn’t stop staring at the little boy, who was adorable, so utterly unlike his former stern professor.
“I like them. And chocolate bars too. They’re the bestest. Can we go there now, Arista?”
“Yes, come on.” She held out her hand.
A second later she felt it clasped by a much smaller trusting one.
Then she and her four-year-old father walked quietly out of the dungeons, trailed by a shell-shocked Neville.
* * * * * *
Some twenty minutes later they were all in the Headmaster’s office. Severus was sitting on the sofa, sucking on a lemon drop and holding a large Honeydukes chocolate bar in one hand, gazing in awe at all the things in the office, while Arista and Neville explained to Dumbledore about the potions accident.
“Sir, do you know when it will wear off?” Arista asked worriedly. She was speaking softly, so as not to alarm the child. “He can’t stay a four-year-old. I need my father!”
Dumbledore looked grave. “And the school needs its Potions Master, among other things. However, because the potion used to de-age Professor Snape was experimental, we have no way of knowing how long it may last. It could wear off tomorrow or in a few years.”
“A few years?” Arista repeated in horror.
“That’s a worst case scenario, Arista,” Dumbledore hastened to reassure her. “We can make up an Aging Potion to restore him to his proper age, but that takes 3 weeks to brew and is a master-level potion besides. Also, we need to analyze the potion Neville made before we can even begin to brew an Aging Potion correctly, my girl, so we can make sure there is nothing in that Youth Potion that will react unstably with the Aging Potion and possibly kill your father.”
“I understand, sir. But master-level potion or not, we need to brew it. I’ll try and brew the Aging Potion myself, I’ll use my notes and ask Trish to help, she’s almost as good at potions as I am. Hermione too, maybe she can analyze Neville’s solution while we’re trying to figure out the Aging Potion.”
“But who’s going to teach potions, Professor?” asked Neville. He had no love for the subject, God knew, but he knew it was an important part of the school curriculum and others, such as Arista, didn’t share his opinion.
“I shall find a substitute to cover Professor Snape’s classes,” Dumbledore replied. “In the meantime I think it best, Arista, if you and Trish moved into your father’s quarters for the time being. It’s much easier for you to watch a small child down there and his potions lab is right next door.”
“Yeah, but sir . . .how can I look after Dad and brew this potion at the same time?”
“Why, Miss Snape, you’ll do what most parents do, go to work and hire a babysitter,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling. “You said you touched his mind, Arista. Did you notice anything . . .different about him?”
“Other than the fact that he can’t shield and his magic is dormant, you mean? No. He’s not brain damaged, if that’s what you’re getting at. Emotionally, he’s a normal four-year-old kid. A very bright four-year-old, but he has no memories of when he was an adult. At least I don’t think he does.” She bit her lip hard. “Professor, he doesn’t remember me, his own daughter! He thinks I’m his cousin!”
“There now, child. I’m sure his memories will return to him once you administer the Aging Potion. That’s a side-effect of too much Youth Potion, the regression of emotions and memories. Be patient, it’ll all work out.”
He looked over at Severus, who was sleeping soundly, his little face smeared with chocolate. The other half of the bar was still clutched in his hand. Dumbledore smiled fondly. He had never seen the younger wizard so relaxed and peaceful, the adult Snape was usually a bundle of restless and finely controlled energy.
“I can help you watch him, Arista,” offered Neville shyly. “It’s the least I can do.”
“Thanks, Neville,” Arista said gratefully. “I’ll ask Mel, Drake, and Kit too. You can take turns during the day, inbetween your classes, while Trish, Hermione, and I are brewing and analyzing.”
“What about your classes?”
Arista thought fast. “I’ll have to get the lessons from all the teachers and try and make up the work at night or whenever I can find the time. What else can I do? God, Trish is gonna flip when she finds out.”
Dumbledore gave her a look of approval. Like her father, once she had made up her mind, she went at her task with a vengeance, and didn’t whine about how difficult it was. “I’ll be sure and inform the rest of the staff about your new project, Arista.”
The little Healer rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Parenting and Potion-making 101.”
The Headmaster chuckled. “Congratulations, Arista Snape. You’re now the parent of a four-year-old former Potions Master.”
“God help us all,” she said, using one of her father’s favorite phrases. Then she called Trish on her spellophone.
A/N: So what do you think of little Severus? And what will everyone else say when they find out? Review please!
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by Cheryl Dyson