Chapter 4 : I Can Read It Myself!
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The two girls opened the door to the Potion Master’s quarters quietly, expecting to find their father sound asleep and the babysitters up talking about the evening or whatever. Instead they found Kit snoozing on the couch with Comfrey atop him, purring softly.
“Figures,” Trish rolled her eyes. Then she bent down to shake Kit awake. “Some babysitter you are, Ambrosius.”
“Huh?” Kit sat up, startled. “Whatsamatter?”
“You’re sleeping, dork,” Arista scolded. “Where’s Drake and my dad? Did you give him a bath and let him read the story to you?”
“Drake?” Kit cried, still half asleep. “Hell, no!”
“Earth to Kit!” Arista cried, shaking her friend sharply. “Not Drake. Severus! You know, the four-year-old professor you were supposed to be watching? Hello?”
“Oh. Right. Uh . . .yeah, Drake and I gave him a bath. We even washed his hair.”
Trish looked at Arista. “So? You’re supposed to wash your hair when you take a bath.”
“I don’t always need to,” Kit said defensively. “Anyway, Drake said we’d better, ‘cause his mum always insisted he wash his little sister’s hair when he gave her a bath. So we did. Then we put those crazy pajamas on him. Who the bloody hell picked them out anyway?”
“I did,” Trish said. “Why?”
“Why? Trish, they’ve got teddy bears on them, for Godsake!”
“So? I thought they were cute.”
“Oh great. I’m sure Severus will be delighted to find out that you’ve been dressing him in teddy bear pajamas once he’s back to himself again.”
“Kit! He’s four, not fourteen.” Trish objected. “They’re appropriate for a four-year-old. What do you want him to wear, a T-shirt and boxers?”
“They’re teddy bears, by Merlin’s starry robe! The professor wouldn’t be caught dead in them, Trish.”
“He picked them out, Ambrosius,” Trish informed him.
That floored him. “He did?” Then he shook his head. “Aw, he’s only four, he doesn’t know any better. But I’m not gonna be the one to tell him he was wearing teddy bears.”
“What’s the big deal, Kit? They’re just pajamas,” Arista sighed.
Kit choked. “Forget it. You’re not a guy, you don’t understand.”
“Uh, taking a shower, I think. I told him he could, since the professor’s sleeping.”
“Did you read him the book we bought?” Arista asked.
“We tried. But he kept insisting he could read it himself. I told him I’d read it for him three times and he got mad and screamed “No! I can read it MYSELF!” He’s got some temper. Then he threw the book on the floor and ran into his room.”
“Oh, Kit. Why didn’t you just let him read it to you?” Arista sighed. “Humor him a little, he’s only a kid.”
“He’s four, for crying out loud! And he thinks he can read!” Kit snorted. “No kid can read at that age. I couldn’t read till I was six.”
“I could read when I was three,” Arista put in.
“Well, you’re a bloody genius, Snape.” Kit rolled his eyes heavenward.
“Where do you think she got it from?” Trish put in. “What happened then?”
“Drake went in there and found him curled on his bed, crying. Said we were mean to him, ‘cause we thought he was a little baby, and he wasn’t. He said he wanted his mum too.” Kit admitted uncomfortably. “Drake was really nice to him, though. Told him we’d read the story tomorrow and gave him milk and played with him till he fell asleep. God, I never knew watching kids was so . . .exhausting!”
“Better get used to it, Ambrosius,” Arista said with a wicked grin. “’Cause you’re going to be doing a lot more of it.”
Kit groaned. “Why me? Isn’t that supposed to be a woman’s job?”
“Not any more, you Neanderthal.” Arista scowled. “Welcome to the twentieth century, Kit.”
Just then there came a loud crash from the small kitchen. All of them jumped to their feet.
“What was that?”
They raced into the kitchen are, which only contained a small sink and a table and two chairs and a tiny pantry to find a teddy-bear festooned Severus standing in a puddle of water holding Scout’s dog dish. The magehound was lapping up the spilled water eagerly.
“Severus Snape, what are you doing out of bed?” Arista cried, those being the first words to come into her head. Merlin, but I sound like somebody’s mom. I’m too young to be a mom! The child shrank away at the harsh tone. “I’m sorry. Scout was thirsty. He needed water. I got it but then I dropped it. I’m sorry!”
Instantly Arista regretted her sharp tone. “It’s okay. It was an accident. I can fix it.” She clapped her hands and the water was cleaned up and replaced in Scout’s bowl, which she took from Severus’s arms and set on the floor.
The child looked up at her uncertainly. “Are you mad? Am I in trouble?”
“No, I’m not mad at you for spilling the water. It was an accident,” Arista said softly. “Next time, though, ask for help if you can’t do something, okay?”
“But I wanted to do it myself,” he declared, with a proud lift to his head. “I’m a big boy.”
Arista hid a smile. He was an independent little cuss, even at four. “I know, but even big boys need help sometimes, Severus. Next time ask me or Trish or even Kit there. Okay?”
The little boy considered. “Okay.”
“However, you should be sleeping, young man,” she continued in a bit sterner tone. “Why aren’t you?”
“Wasn’t tired no more,” he said, peering up at her through his black locks.
“Severus, it’s time for all little boys to be in bed,” Arista began.
“Why? I wanna read my book. You promised, Arista! You promised I could read to you.” He shot an accusing glance at Kit. “He wouldn’t let me. He said I didn’t know how. But I do!”
“All right,” Arista agreed, trying to compromise. That had always worked well when her dad had done it with Marietta. “How about we go sit on the couch and you can show me how well you read three pages of your new book? But after that you go to bed, no arguments. Deal? Or else you go to bed right now and no story.”
Severus thought for a long moment. Was it worth it, a partial story and then bed? Or should he hold out for maybe the whole thing? No, then he might make her mad and then he’d go to bed with no story at all. Not a good thing. He loved stories. And some story was better than no story.
“I’ll read some of the story,” he said, then scurried past her to get the book, which was lying on the coffee table next to Kit’s forgotten Astronomy homework. “Here it is. Merlin and the Magic Potion.” He scrambled up onto the couch and held the book, waiting for the rest of the teenagers to come and sit beside him. Arista sat on his right and Trish on his left and Kit sat next to her.
“I don’t believe this,” Kit muttered. “I’m listening to a four-year-old pretend to read.”
Trish elbowed him in the ribs.
“Okay, Sev. Let’s hear the story.”
Little Severus cleared his throat. “Merlin and the Magic Potion. By Martin Good,” he read in a clear even tone. “Once upon a time there was a great wizard named Merlin. He wanted to brew a magic potion. So he went to his lab and found his gold cauldron. . .”
Kit’s mouth fell open. Holy God! He really can read. That’s bloody amazing!
He listened in growing amazement as Severus continued, telling the story of how Merlin needed a special ingredient for the potion and now he had to go and find it. “It was a golden feather from a pretty bird called a—” he halted suddenly and turned to look at Arista. “Arista, what’s this word here?”
“Fee-nix,” he repeated carefully. “Why is it an F and not a P? That’s a P.”
“That’s just how it’s spelled. It comes from a Greek word, not English and the Greeks didn’t have an F in their alphabet, only P’s.” Arista explained.
“Like he’s going to get all that,” Kit said.
The dark little head swiveled to face him. “I get it, Kit. I’m not dumb. They used P’s cause they didn’t have F’s, those Greek people. Arista, where did the Greeks live? Here?”
“No, Sev. They lived in Greece, a country far away. I’ll tell you more about them tomorrow. Now let’s finish this other page.”
Severus nodded, then resumed reading. “It was a golden feather from a pretty bird called a phoenix and it was deep in a dark forest far far away.” The picture above the words showed Merlin in deep purple robes and a starry hat going into a dark scary forest. “I wouldn’t like to go in there,” Severus said, and felt a shiver of delicious fear run down his backbone.
“Me neither. But I guess Merlin has to, if he wants to make that magic potion,” Trish said, yawning.
“Why don’t we stop here and save the rest of the story for tomorrow?” Arista suggested. “It’s way past your bedtime, Severus.”
“One more page? Please? Please?”
Her heart melted. But then she recalled her father saying once that you should always keep your word when dealing with children. Say what you mean and then do it. All the time. “No, that was three pages already. And you promised you’d go to bed after three pages, right?”
He nodded reluctantly.
“Then it’s off to bed with you, kiddo. Say good night to Trish and Kit, Sev.”
“Good night, Trish. Night, Kit.” He reached out for Arista’s hand and followed her into the bedroom.
Just as he was about to get into bed with Blinky, Arista remembered something else.
“Wait, Sev. Go potty first.”
“Don’t have to.”
“Try anyway,” she instructed.
He sighed, then agreed, because he recalled the one time he’d wet the bed at home, his dad had walloped him for it. He didn’t want that to happen again, even though he hadn’t seen a belt in sight. Maybe they hid it and only took it out when you were bad.
After he was done, Arista washed his hands and then she tucked him into bed. By then he was sleepy, and he hugged Blinky tightly. It had been a long day. “Arista? Can you sing to me? My mum does, sometimes.”
“Sure, kid.” Then she stroked his hair and began to sing the familiar lullaby. By the time she reached the second verse the little boy was fast asleep. Arista bent down and kissed him on the forehead. “Night, Dad. I love you.”
A/N: So what did you think of babysitting Sev? Would you want to? Also, the part about him reading at four is based upon me--I was one of those children who read at age three, honest to God!
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