Chapter 8 : Couch Jumping and Star Catching
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“I-I swatted his bottom.” Trish admitted, ducking her head. “Twice. He’s gonna kill me.”
“What did he do?”
Trish told her. “He’s still gonna kill me.”
“It was deserved.”
“He never raised a hand to us.”
“Neither of us ever kicked him in the stomach,” Arista pointed out. “Or threw a tantrum over getting our hair combed.”
“I know, but still . . .I can’t believe I did that. I’ve never lost my temper like that before.”
“There’s a first time for everything. Besides, he told me once that he could provoke a saint. I’d say he was right. Wouldn’t you?’
Trish nodded. “I guess so. But I still think I’m gonna be grounded for life when he finds out.”
Arista laughed. “Join the club, why don’t you?”
The day after the hair-combing incident, Hermione dropped by the Potion Master’s rooms to deliver a packet of assignments from the other professors, so Trish and Arista could keep up with their classwork. “Amelia,” she whispered, deactivating the ward. That was the name of Sev's late wife, who'd been an American witch, a member of the Dark Hunters, which were Amerca's Auror's. She put her hand on the doorknob. “Merlin! What’s all that racket?”
“Five little Nifflers jumping on the bed!” Severus’s shrill voice rang out.
“One fell off and bumped his head!” Kit echoed.
“Mum called the doctor and the doctor said,” Drake sang.
“No more Nifflers jumping on the bed!” They chorused.
Hermione threw open the door. “What in Merlin’s name is going on in here?”
The couch in the sitting room had been transfigured into three times its size, and huge cushions were all over the floor. Kit, Drake, and Severus were all bouncing up and down on the couch, singing at the top of their lungs. The two older boys had the four-year-old by the arms and were swinging him in time to their song.
Severus was laughing his little head off. “Four little Nifflers jumping on the bed!”
The two boys jumped hard on the couch and were catapulted into the air along with Severus, who was shrieking in delight. Hermione gasped when she saw how close they came to cracking their heads on the ceiling.
They landed back on the couch with a thump that shook the entire shelf of books and objects behind them.
“One fell off and bumped his head,” yolded Kit.
Hermione winced. Kit’s singing voice was worse than a cat in heat.
“What do you three think you’re doing?” she yelled.
“Hi, Mione!” called Severus.
“Are you all insane? You nearly hit Severus’s head on the ceiling, Christopher Ambrosius!”
“Not hardly,” he argued. “We miss the ceiling by three inches. We measured it.”
“Oh great. Three whole inches. And what about the shelf behind you? It almost fell over, Mr. Lockwood. The professor won’t be too happy if he comes back and finds all his things broken.” Hermione scolded.
“The professor was the one who thought of this,” Drake said defensively. “He started jumping up and down on the couch first.”
“Oh and you two just decided to go along with it?”
“Why not? It’s fun,” Kit said. “My brother and I used to do it all the time when my parents went out.”
“Figures. And I suppose if Sev decides to fly a broom off the Astronomy Tower you’ll do it too?” Hermione shook her head. “Boys! Some role models you are. You can’t be left alone for a minute.”
“Uh oh,” Severus looked from Drake and Kit to the scowling witch standing in the doorway. “Hermione’s mad. Now we’re in for it.”
“Relax, Sev,” Kit snorted, unconcerned. “What’s she gonna do? Put us in time out?”
The four-year-old nodded.
“The both of you are a disgrace to babysitters everywhere,” stormed Hermione.
“Aw, lighten up, Mione. We were only having a bit of fun,” said Kit, giving her his best charming smile.
“Some fun. Teaching a kid it’s okay to jump on the furniture. What would your mother say?”
“Uh . . .” Kit began.
“I’m very disappointed in you, young man. Now go stand in the corner!” supplied Severus.
Hermione bit her lip to keep from laughing. The kid had answered her question seriously, but it made him sound witty.
Kit exchanged glances with Drake. “She would say that.”
“So would mine,” the Slytherin wizard agreed.
“Mine too,” admitted the Potions Master.
“Sorry, Mione,” they all said.
She shook a finger at them. “Now clean up this mess.”
They obeyed, transfiguring the couch and the cushions back to normal.
Hermione shook her head. “Men! They never grow up!”
After the girls learned of the couch jumping, they decided neither of the boys was a fit role model for Severus, who didn’t need any encouragement getting into mischief. Arista and Trish were busy trying to cram all of their make-up work into two weeks and keep an eye on the potion, so they really needed someone to help them mind Severus. So they enlisted Mel to help, figuring the Ravenclaw girl would be a calming influence on their young charge.
Severus soon learned that Mel enjoyed being outside on the grounds, walking and helping her aunt Professor Sprout in the garden. Together they taught the pint-sized prodigy all the names and uses of the herbs they grew in the garden. Severus was a quick study, after all he had learned this before, though he couldn’t remember it consciously.
He found he enjoyed digging in the dirt and planting. Mel and Pomona didn’t care if he got muddy or whatever, and they always made sure he went back to the castle reasonably free of dirt, so Arista wouldn’t scold.
Mel was impressed with the little boy’s ability to remember and said as much to her aunt, who merely smiled and said, “Why Mel, don’t you know that Professor Snape was once my special apprentice when he was a student?”
“He was? How come, Aunt Mona?”
“Because a Potions Master also needs to know Herbology if he’s going to brew all kinds of elixirs and such, since over half of the potions we use are based on some kind of plant. So he came to study with me when he was a sixth and seventh year. He was one of my very best students, a willing worker who never complained about how many nights I made him water the garden or weed,” she slanted a wry glance at her niece. “Unlike certain other people I could name.”
Mel blushed. “Aw, Aunt Mona, it’s just that weeding’s so boring.”
“But a necessary chore for any gardener,” her aunt reminded. “Right, Severus?”
Mel shot him a dirty look. “Sure, agree with the teacher. Figures. Once a professor always a professor.”
Pomona laughed. Then she bent down to inspect the tomato seedlings the former Potions Master had planted. “Very good, Severus. You’ve covered them with a nice wet layer of soil. Soon they’ll sprout shoots in a few weeks.”
He smiled up at her, pleased. “When do we get to eat them?”
“Oh, not for quite awhile yet, child. They take time to mature, like little boys.”
“Humph.” Mel snorted. “Some boys never mature. Take Kit, for example. He’s a four-year-old trapped in a fifteen-year-old body.”
Pomona’s eyes twinkled. “Sometimes it takes time for a child to grow up into a man. But you know, Mel, some of the late blooming plants are often better than those sprouts that spring up early and then fade away.”
Mel looked puzzled. “What? I don’t get it. What do plants have to do with Kit being an immature jackass?”
“I mean, dear, that maybe you’re judging him too soon. I think Kit has a lot of potential, as both as a wizard and a man. Underneath that carefree exterior is a very steadfast and good heart. One that you can rely on.”
“How do you know that, Aunt Mona?”
“Let’s just say that I’ve got an instinct about these things,” answered the Herbology teacher. “Appearance is not everything. Look at young Mr. Snape there.” She indicated the dark-haired child, who was planting another row of seeds. “When he was at school he was shy and awkward and very much a loner. But when I took time to talk with him, I found he was an extremely intuitive and bright individual. He also felt things very deeply, though he tried to hide it behind a façade of temper and sarcasm. Much as he does still. Yet if you know how, you can see past the mask to the man beneath. But first you have to be willing to open your eyes, my dear.”
“You’re saying I ought to give Kit a chance then?”
“Yes, Mel. I think you will find a treasure inside Mr. Ambrosius. Much the way another young woman did inside of our Potions Master.”
Mel considered. “Okay, Aunt Mona. I’ll give it a try. Did you know her, Sev’s wife?”
Pomona shook her head. “No, dear. She died before any of the staff at Hogwarts could meet her. But she must have been a lovely person, to produce a daughter like Arista. He never spoke much about her to anybody, I think it hurt him too much. Except once . . .it was May 6th, I think and I found him sitting down by the lake, just staring into the water. I realized I was intruding on his solitude and started to leave, but he put out a hand, and I stayed. We were quiet for several minutes. Then he said, very softly, “Have you ever caught a falling star, Pomona? And held it in your hand and had it light up your life? That’s what Amelia was to me. I had her for so brief a time, but while I did she glowed bright enough to chase away the shadows. Past and present. When I was with her, there was no darkness, only light. She gave that light to me and showed me how to glow too. And for an instant I had everything I could ever wish for. But then I lost her.” I looked down at him then and saw he was crying, silently. And I touched him on the shoulder and I said the only thing I could think of. “Severus, she’s not lost forever. Not so long as you remember her. Look up at the stars, and there you will find her, shining down on you.”
Mel blinked back tears. “And what did he say?”
“That night? Nothing. I let him be, for he wanted to be alone to mourn her in private. But the next morning, I came down to the greenhouse, and found him there, watering my seedlings. And I said good morning to him and he smiled at me and said, “Good morning, Mona. And thank you for last night.” Then I said, For what, Sev? And he answered, “For reminding me what I had forgotten. That even the darkest night has stars.”
“Wow.” Mel whispered. “Who would have thought he was such a romantic?”
“I did.” The elderly witch smiled at her former student. “Severus Snape was and always has been a man of great passion. What he loves, he loves forever. That’s a rare thing, Mel. One trait that I think your Kit has as well.”
“Yes. Now he simply has to find a star to guide him.”
Mel grinned. “I think he already has.” Then she bent and kissed her aunt on the cheek.
Pomona hugged her. “Burn brightly, sweetheart.”
“I will,” Mel promised. Then she went over and scooped up Severus.
“Hey!” he yelled. “I’m planting, Mel.”
“C’mon, Sev. You can plant later. Let’s go star catching.”
“But it’s not night. How can we catch stars in the daytime? And just how do you catch a star any way?”
“By holding out your hand, silly.”
Then she waved her wand and caused a sparkly jet of light to shoot out of it and hover on his palm.
He gasped in delight, his dark eyes bright with wonder. “I caught one, Mel!”
“You sure did,” Mel grinned. Then she made the star shoot off his palm and into the air.
He glanced up at her. “Well? What are you waiting for? Go and get it.”
He raced after the flickering ball of light and she followed. She made several more balls of light come out her wand and together they chased them all over the lawn until they were exhausted.
Panting, Severus flopped down in the grass. His dark hair hung in his face. “I-I can’t run no more, Mel. Too tired.”
She stretched out beside him, cuddling him to her shoulder. “Me either. But you know the funny thing about stars, Sev?”
“They fly away, but eventually they return to you. See?” She pointed her wand.
He looked up and found a little glowing ball on the tip of his nose.
“My star! It came back.”
“That’s what happens when you love someone,” Mel told him. “They never leave you.”
She knew the boy was too young to understand what she meant now, but she hoped he would remember this moment later on, and realize what she was hinting at. For though he had lost his beloved Amelia, he still had a piece of her, in Arista, who loved him just as much.
His little hand closed over the glowing light for an instant. Then he opened it and let it go.
“Why’d you do that, Sev?”
“Because. If you hold a star too long it’ll die. You have to let it go free, so it can shine.”
“Kid, you’re so smart you scare me sometimes,” Mel said.
Severus just laughed.
“And I hope I’m as lucky to find a love like yours,” she murmured to herself, yawning.
Severus nestled close to her and fell asleep with his head on her shoulder. That was how Scout and Kit found them a few hours later.
And woke them up with a kiss.
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