Chapter 3 : Reactions
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The sitting room was the same as always, except for the small boy sound asleep on the couch. Arista had washed the chocolate from his face and hands and tucked a soft green afghan around him. Now she was busy helping the house elves set up a small bedroom and summoning toys and books for Sev to play with when he woke up.
Drake had arrived by then as well, for Arista had called him right after she’d told Trish about the accident, and he was busy casting locking charms and unbreakable charms about the Potion Master’s quarters. “You’ve got to do that,” he explained at Arista’s raised eyebrow. “Kids his age are into everything. Trust me on that. My little sister Trina had her hands on something she shouldn’t of every minute.”
“Really? But Dad—Sev—damn it I keep calling him that!—seems like such a well-behaved kid,” Arista pointed out.
Drake snickered. “Sure he does now, Arista. He’s sleeping. All kids are angels then. But just wait till he wakes up and feels more comfortable around here. Something tells me he’s not gonna just sit in a chair and color all day.”
Arista thought of Marietta, her four-year-old cousin, and suspected that Drake was right. Still, she prayed her father wasn’t quite the mischief maker Marietta was. She had talked with Neville about Severus’s shocking revelation in the classroom, and sworn him to secrecy about it. Neville promised he would never tell a soul about it. “I’ll take it to my grave, Arista. I owe you and him that much for my parents, after all.” Then he had gone back to class.
“Oh. My. God!” Trish cried upon catching sight of her four-year-old guardian.
“Shh, Trish,” Arista hissed, hurrying into the sitting room. “Not so loud. You’ll wake him up. He’s had a very stressful morning.”
“Sorry,” Trish apologized, her brown eyes about to pop out of her head. “It’s just . . .this is too weird, Arista. I mean, I just got used to the idea that he’s my guardian, somebody that I can look up to, and now he’s four and I have to take care of him! Merlin’s socks!”
“Tell me about it.” Arista sympathized. She gently pulled Trish into the bedroom. “We can share the bed, God knows it’s big enough for four people,” she indicated Snape’s four poster bed. “But I decided to give Sev his own room. What do you think?”
Trish gaped at the small room, which was decorated in blue and green and had a jungle painted on one wall with animals that moved when you touched them and a small bed and a nightstand and a toy box and a bookshelf.
“We’re gonna have to take him shopping to get clothes, Trish. I can’t keep transfiguring his professor’s robes into different outfits, it’ll wear them out, and then he’ll have a fit when he’s back to normal.”
“When’s that going to be?”
“Three weeks if all goes well. I’ll have to start looking at the notes for that Aging solution tonight. Hermione’s going to meet us at the lab later on after dinner to see if she can analyze Neville’s potion. And Drake and Kit are gonna babysit Dad while we do that. Mel had to help her aunt with something in the greenhouse, so she couldn’t make it.”
“You trust Kit to watch a four-year-old?” Trish’s eyes goggled.
“Not by himself, no,” Arista giggled. “That’s why Drake is there too. Drake knows how to mind kids, he’s got a little sister, remember?”
“Right. What’s Severus like now?”
“Like a curious little kid, at least what I’ve seen so far.” Arista said honestly. “I’ve told him I’m his cousin and his mom’s gone away and he’s staying with us for awhile. He doesn’t remember anything from his adult life, near as I can determine. But he remembers plenty from his childhood, God help him.” She quickly told Trish about the scene in the classroom and how Severus had sobbed all over her.
“God! That’s so—so awful!” Trish sniffled. “I never knew he had such a horrid childhood. Poor Dad!”
Arista nodded grimly. “Yeah, but don’t mention it to anybody else, okay? He’d be so embarrassed, you know how he is about his personal life.”
“I’m not dumb, I know when to keep my mouth shut,” Trish retorted, stung. “Who do you think I am, Brittany the Gossip Queen?”
Arista flushed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it that way.”
Trish hugged her. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have snapped at you. It’s just such a shock.”
“I know. And Tobias Snape’s lucky he’s dead, otherwise I’d go after him and turn him into a rug so I could beat him every day the way he did our dad!” Arista said, her hands clenched into fists, her dark eyes glowing with fury. “That miserable bastard, what kind of man treats his own kid that way, beating him for something that’s not even his fault? I mean, none of us ever asked to be born wizards, it just happened. And instead of being proud of it, the scumbag hated him for it. He was so scared of his father finding out he was here Trish, that he was shaking! Like a whipped puppy. Severus Snape, the man who faced down Voldemort and Nightshade! Scared to pieces of his own father.” Angry tears stood in her eyes. “Damn you to everlasting hell, Tobias Snape!”
“Amen!” Trish declared angrily, her normally serene features lit with an uncharacteristic sheen of rage. “People like him ought to be cursed into oblivion.” Then she shook her head. “I hate to think about that happening to him . . .but it was done and we can’t do anything about it now. So let’s just try and make his time here as pleasant as possible. Right?”
Arista drew a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down. Her anger would serve no purpose. Best to channel it into something constructive. “Right. How about we go shopping once he wakes up?”
“Good idea. You know where he keeps his emergency stash of Galleons, right?” Trish’s eyes were glowing with the prospect of shopping.
“Top right drawer of his rolltop, sister,” Arista smirked. “And just think, now he can’t tell us not to go shoe shopping!”
“Or do our homework.”
“Or go to bed at ten-thirty.”
“Or pick our clothes up off the floor,” Trish laughed. “It’s like we’re adults now. Sort of.”
“It feels weird,” Arista confessed. “I’m not sure I like it.”
“Me either.” Trish agreed. Then she laughed. “Are we nuts, or what? Anybody else would be celebrating—a whole three weeks or maybe more without their dad watching them like a hawk. I wonder what the other students think of it?”
Arista shrugged. “Neville was really sorry. He said if it hadn’t been for Dad pulling him out of the way, it would’ve been him hit with the Youth Potion, and maybe it would’ve better then. At least Dad would know how to brew the antidote.”
“We’ll manage somehow,” Trish said optimistically. “We’re the Potion Master’s daughters, after all.”
They returned to the den, where they found a sleepy Severus sitting up on the sofa. “Arista?”
“Hey, sleepyhead,” Arista greeted him. “Did you have a nice nap?”
“Uh huh.” He rubbed his eyes with his fists. “But I’m hungry. And I need to go potty.”
“C’mere. The bathroom’s this way, Sev,” Arista said, and beckoned him off the couch. “When you’re done, you can say hi to Trish and Drake. Trish is my sister and Drake’s my friend.”
Trish smiled at the tousle-haired little moppet as he went by. “Merlin, but he’s so darn cute!” Then she put a hand over her mouth. “Oh, God! I can’t believe I just called my dad cute! I hope he doesn’t remember that when he’s older. He’d scold me into next week!” Then she began to giggle uncontrollably.
Drake came out of the tiny kitchen area and peered at her. “What’s so funny?”
“Umm . . .it’s nothing.” Trish stammered, blushing.
Drake eyed her sternly. “Give, Greenbough. I haven’t heard you laugh like that in a month.”
“Okay. My dad, I mean Severus, just woke up from his nap and I called him cute.”
Drake’s eyebrow went up into his hair. “You called Severus Snape cute?”
Trish nodded. “It’s true.”
The Slytherin boy nodded slowly. “Yeah, I guess he is. Cute as a button, as my mum would say. And we’re so lucky he can’t hear us, Trish.”
“I know. We’d be given detention for life.”
Then they looked at each other and cracked up.
* * * * * *
The reaction of the rest of the student body to the de-aging of their Potions Master was varied and ranged from absolute glee “No more bloody potions, yes!” to shock “Who’s going to be the new Head of Slytherin House? I hope it’s not Umbridge!” to indifference “Who cares?”
Neville found Harry and Ron discussing it at dinner in the Great Hall along with Hermione, who was horrified and had already made arrangements with Arista to help her with the potion analyzing that evening.
“I think it must be absolutely terrifying for the poor professor,” Hermione was saying as Neville sat down. “I mean, think about it, one minute you’re saving a student from an explosion and the next thing you know you’re four years old again.”
“And sucking your thumb and crying for mummy!” Ron howled. “I think it’s bloody awesome!”
“Ronald Weasley!” Hermione shouted. “How can you be so-so insensitive? It’s not funny!”
“Is so! Right, Harry? Now the greasy git can’t give us homework or detention any more. I think we ought to declare a holiday.” He was grinning from ear to ear.
Harry was smirking too. “I can’t say I’m all that sorry, not after the way Snape’s treated me sometimes.” He glanced at Neville. “Right, Neville?”
To his surprise, Neville looked almost as annoyed as Hermione. “Harry, it really isn’t funny. Not at all.”
Harry gaped at him. “What’s wrong with you, Neville? After all the times Snape’s gotten on your back in class, I’d think you’d be glad to be rid of him for awhile. After all, it was partly his fault this happened. If he wasn’t such a bloody lousy teacher and always on you for everything . . .”
“You’re wrong, Harry,” Neville snapped, his face flushing with indignation. “It wasn’t Snape’s fault, it was mine! I didn’t pay attention like he told me and that’s why I messed up the potion. And when it started to explode, he-he shoved me behind him so it didn’t hit me. He saved me.”
“Oh big fat deal,” Ron sneered. “He does one nice thing for you in the whole five years you’ve had him in class, Neville, and you think he’s wonderful? Come on, mate! Wake up and smell the pumpkin juice! You’ve just done the whole school a favor.” Then he began to chant, “No more potions, no more books, no more of Snape’s nasty looks!”
“Stop it, Ron!” Hermione yelled.
Neville picked up his goblet of pumpkin juice and tossed it at the smirking red-head. It missed, but it landed all over Ron’s turkey leg. “Hey! What the bloody hell was that for?”
Neville glared at him. “You think it’s so funny, Ron? Why don’t you go and find Arista and ask how funny she thinks it is? Or Trish? D’you think they’re throwing a party right now?”
“If it were me, I would.”
Hermione elbowed him hard in the ribs. “Ronald! You wouldn’t and you know it.”
“Okay, maybe not.”
“Neville, it’s Snape,” Harry began. “Why should you feel sorry for the man who’s humiliated you for years? He’s a bloody perfectionist git.”
“It doesn’t matter!” Neville shouted. “Don’t you see? He was trying to help me and I hurt him. And now Arista’s without a dad. You of all people ought to know what that feels like, Harry. That should’ve been me, not him. I screwed up again and he paid for it. I know what it’s like to have no parents, and I would never wish that on anybody. And neither should either of you!”
Ron held up his hands. “Take it easy, Longbottom. It’s not like you killed him or something.”
“I might as well have. What kind of dad can Arista have now?”
“Uh, a sniveling one?” Ron quipped.
“Shut up, Ron!” Neville growled. Then he rose to his feet and stalked off.
“Nice one, Ronald!” Hermione snapped. “You think everything’s a big joke. Why don’t you grow up?” She rose to her feet also.
“Where are you going, Hermione?” Harry asked. “I need your help with my Transfiguration homework.”
She spun about and glared at him. “Why don’t you just read the book, Mr. Potter? Like everybody else? I’m going to do some research.” She picked up her bookbag.
“Research? For who? On what?” Harry asked.
“None of your business, Harry.” She sniffed and turned away.
“It’s for Snape, isn’t it?” Harry called after her. She ignored him and kept walking. “I don’t believe them. Have they gone off their rockers?”
Ron shook his head. “Search me, Harry. Aw, who cares? Let’s go find Fred and George and have a party. Like the rest of the Gryffindors.”
Harry nodded and finished his dinner, though he couldn’t help but recall Neville’s comment. Now Arista’s without a dad. You of all people should know what that feels like, Harry. He would never admit it, especially not to Ron, but Neville’s comment had stung like hell. And maybe he’d been right to chastise them. Maybe. Then he shook his head and followed Ron from the hall. What happened to Snape now was Snape’s problem, not his.
* * * * * *
Hermione arrived at the potions lab just as Arista, Trish, and Severus returned from their shopping trip. Severus had shiny a new picture book tucked in one arm and a small stuffed owl in the other. The Gryffindor’s eyes popped open at the sight of her former professor holding onto Trish’s hand, his hair tied neatly back in a tail, grinning like a jack-o-lantern, though the front of his shirt was splattered with what looked like ice cream.
Aw, he’s adorable! Hermione thought, then blushed. Good thing Ron’s not here to hear me say that, I’d never hear the end of it. “Now, when we get home, Sev, Kit and Drake are going to give you a bath and then you can let them read your new book to you, okay?” Trish instructed.
Arista raised an eyebrow. “Both of them? Trish, it only takes one person to give a kid a bath. I used to do it all the time back when I lived with the Dowds.”
“Not if one of them’s Kit.” Trish laughed. “Drake needs to supervise. Otherwise we might come home to a swimming pool.”
“Okay. I’ll take a bath,” Severus agreed. “But I can read my book myself. I know how. Mummy taught me. I’m a big boy.”
“Sure you are, kid,” Arista said, chuckling. Then she spotted Hermione waiting for them. “Hi, Hermione! We’ll be there in a sec, I just have to, um, put this stuff away and drop off my-um-Sev.”
“Who’s that?” Severus pointed at Hermione.
“Don’t point, Severus. It’s not nice,” Arista corrected, then bit her lip. Oh Merlin! Did I just say that? I sound like Mrs. Dowd. Mrs. Dowd, the kindly woman who ran the orphanage Arista used to live at, was always saying that pointing was bad manners. “Can you say hi to Hermione, Severus? She’s a student here too.”
Severus looked uneasy at first. He had met several new people today and wasn’t sure if he wanted to meet another one. He moved a little behind Arista’s leg and peeked out at the brown-haired girl with the red prefect’s badge on her robes. “Hi.”
Hermione knelt down so she was looking directly into the little boy’s eyes. “Hello, Professor. Oops, I mean Severus. My name’s Hermione. But you can just call me Mione if that’s too hard for you.”
Severus considered. Hermione was a mouthful. Still, he could say big words. He was a very bright child, his mummy said so. “No. I can say Her-my-nee,” he repeated, pronouncing her name carefully. “But I can call you Mione if you want. And you can call me Sev, like Arista does.”
“I’d like that, Sev,” Hermione said, and held out her hand. “Pleased to meet you.” Again, her mind remarked irreverently.
He placed his small one in hers. Hermione shook it. “Are you a witch too? Like my mummy and Arista and Trish?”
“I am. I’m here to help Trish and Arista today with potions.”
“Oh. Can you show me?”
“Uh, maybe some other time. What did you do today, Sev?”
“We went shopping. For clothes.” He rolled his eyes. Hermione giggled. Some things never changed. All boys detested clothes shopping, no matter what age they were. “But Arista let me pick out my own shirt. It has a dragon on it. I like dragons. And snakes. And dogs. But I was good so Trish bought me a new book.” He proudly displayed the colorful picture book called Merlin and the Magic Potion. “Do you like to read, Mione? I do.”
“I love to read, Sev,” Hermione said, laughing. “Too much, as Ron would say. What else did you do? I like your little owl.”
“His name’s Blinky,” Severus confided in her. “’Cause his eyes blink like a real owl’s do.” He showed Hermione the spotted owl, whose eyes were charmed to open and shut, and hoot softly when you stroked his wings. “Arista says he can sleep with me so’s I won’t be scared in my new room.” He hugged the owl tightly. “Then we went to lunch and ate grilled cheese and had ice cream. I got to eat a whole chocolate cone myself!” he declared proudly. “And I got presents even though it’s not my birthday. My birthday’s January 9th. This was the bestest day ever.”
Something about the way he said that last made Hermione suspect that such days were a rare occurrence for the child, and that was why the dark eyes were glowing with such joy. She had to admit that she’d never seen adult Severus smile like that. Perhaps that was why. His smile was irresistible and she found herself grinning back. “That’s wonderful, Severus. You deserve it.” What’s more, she found she meant those words. No matter how critical he was of her during class, she felt that everyone deserved to be happy, at least for once in their lives. Even grouchy sarcastic potions professors.
“C’mon, Sev. You can talk to Mione tomorrow,” Arista said. “We need to put all your new clothes away and then you need a bath.”
“Do I have to?”
“Uh huh,” Trish added. “Don’t you want to read your new book?”
“Yes!” he shouted. “I can read it to Drake and Kit, right? Right?”
“After you have a bath, mister,” Arista put in, then scooped the eager child up in her arms. Severus threw his arm about her neck and leaned his head on her shoulder. “Say bye to Hermione now.”
“Bye, Mione,” murmured Severus, then he waved at her till she was out of sight.
Hermione waved back. Who would have thought her professor was such an inquisitive and sweet child? And what on earth had happened to him to make him into such a sharp sarcastic man? she wondered.
Five minutes later, Arista and Trish were back and together they entered the potions lab. The mess from Neville’s exploded potion was still all over, the girls had asked the house elves not to clean it up until they’d gathered a sample to examine. All three wrinkled their noses at the acrid stench.
“Yuck! Smells like rancid butter,” said Trish with a grimace.
Hermione sneezed. “Ugh! Let’s collect our sample quick as we can and then call Dobby to clean this place. Otherwise we’ll never be able to have class in here.” She stepped carefully over the sticky yellow patches on the floor and opened the supply cabinet in the back of the lab where all the beakers, jars, and plates were kept. “I’d better put on gloves. I don’t want to touch this stuff with my bare hands.” She located a pair of dragon hide gloves and pulled them on.
Then she moved over to where the potion had splattered nearest the cauldron and began to scrape it up with a sharp little knife and put it in the small jar she’d gotten from the cabinet. “I don’t know how long it’ll take me to analyze this potion, Arista. But I’ll do my best. I’m really sorry about what happened, even though he’s a really cute four-year-old.”
Arista laughed. “Funny, that’s what Trish said. I agree, but I really want my dad back, know what I mean?”
Hermione nodded. “I would too. And we’ll get him back. Between the three of us, we should be able to do this. We’re the best potion makers in the school save for Professor Snape.”
The other two girls nodded eagerly.
“Let’s get started then,” Hermione said in a business-like tone, rolling up her sleeves.
Then she summoned Dobby to clean up the classroom while Arista and Trish went inside Snape’s office to look at his texts and notes on the Aging Potion.
A/N: Next up, Kit and Drake trying to babysit little Sev!
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