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Chapter 9 : Missing
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Then she carefully set it on the shelf above the desk and cleaned up her apparatus. She could hardly wait to tell Dumbledore and the rest of her friends the good news. Hermione too, she deserved to know that all her hard work had paid off finally.
With a flick of her fingers, she doused the lights and left the lab, noting with a delighted grin that the Aging Potion glowed faintly in the dark, like a star shining.
She shared her wonderful news with them over lunch in the Great Hall. She had told Severus that he could sit with them if he behaved himself and ate nicely like a big boy. He had agreed and now was sitting next to Drake, babbling about some kind of dragon that he’d seen in a book Drake had read him yesterday.
“That’s great, Arista! When can we give it to him?” asked Mel.
“Not until three days. It needs time for the elixir to settle, for some reason. So until then it’s in the lab on a shelf behind Dad’s desk.”
Her friends and Trish all congratulated her on finishing the potion. “Thanks, but you know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my dad.” Snape’s memory of the potion procedure had been invaluable.
“True,” Trish agreed. “But now it’s finished and all we have to do is wait.”
Little did they know that a pair of unfriendly ears had overheard their discussion, and the owner of them was not at all pleased to learn that the Potions Master was going to be back to his old self soon.
“Gone?” Trish repeated. “What do you mean, it’s gone?”
It was the second day and Arista had gone to check on the Aging Potion, only to find that the crystal vial with the glowing potion had disappeared. “I went to go check and see if it looked any different and it’s gone, Trish!” cried Arista, a note of utter panic in her voice. “As in disappeared, vanished, missing off the bloody shelf!”
“But how??” Trish gasped, her eyes bugging out. “It was right there last night.”
“Well, it’s not now.” Arista ran her hands through her hair agitatedly, mirroring her father without realizing it. “See for yourself.”
They went into the lab. Trish stared in dismay at the empty spot on the shelf behind the desk where the sparkly peach vessel used to be. “Oh God! What are we gonna do? We’ve got to find it, Arista. Without it, Dad will never be back to normal.”
“And it didn’t walk out of here on its own,” her sister declared angrily. “Somebody bloody stole it.” She swore loudly.
“Arista Eileen!” Trish reproved, then she shook her head. “It’s a good thing Severus’s not here to listen to that. He ‘s already got an impressive enough vocabulary for a four-year-old.” She scratched her head. “Wait a minute! Maybe we should ask him where the potion went. Maybe he, uh, took it to play with. Kids are always touching things they shouldn’t. And he knows about the connecting door into the lab from his rooms.”
Arista nodded, hope suddenly blooming in her face. “You’re right. And if he did take it—Merlin, I’m going to throttle him!”
But when they asked the little boy if he knew where the Aging Potion was, he shook his head solemnly and said he didn’t know.
“Are you sure, Sev?” Trish asked, kneeling down and looking into his eyes. “It’s very important. We really need that potion. You didn’t take it down to look at it or play with it, did you?”
“No. You aren’t supposed to touch it for three days,” he recited. Then he added, “And potions aren’t to play with. What do you think I am, a baby?”
The indignant tone coupled with the look he gave her made her chuckle softly. She bent and kissed him on the forehead. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you. Go back to playing with Blinky.”
She looked at Arista, who’d been monitoring the conversation with her empathy. “He was telling the truth,” she answered her sister’s unspoken question.
“Now we search the whole bloody school for it.” Arista sighed. “It’s got to be here somewhere. Let’s call up Mel and see if she’s got any ideas on who might be behind this. And Kit, Drake, Neville, and Hermione. We’re going to need all the help we can get.”
Trish was shaking her head. “Whoever took it has to really hate him, Arista. Unless it was just a stupid prank.”
“A prank that could cost us our father!” Arista snapped. “Real funny.”
“Some people in this school have a sick sense of humor.” Then Trish left to go up to Gryffindor Tower and tell Kit, Hermione, and Neville the bad news.
They all met in an emergency meeting in the living room. It was decided that they would split up, trying to search as many places as they could before they had class. They made a list of possible suspects from each House and one of them volunteered to question those members.
Hermione offered to talk to those in Gryffindor. “They’ll be more likely to talk to me. Especially Ron and Harry.”
“Mione, you don’t think one of them would ever . . .?” Kit trailed off awkwardly.
“No! I know Ron can be a prat sometimes and Harry too, but . . .no. They’d never do something like this. They wouldn’t even know what an Aging Potion looked like, and they avoid the dungeons like the plague.”
Kit sighed. “I didn’t really think so . . .but . . .Guess we better get started.”
All of them rose to their feet.
“Wait a minute!” Trish exclaimed, and everyone looked at her. “If we all go hunting, who’s going to stay here and watch Sev?”
All of them looked at each other. Then Arista said, “You’re right, how could we be so stupid? I’m not thinking straight. Um . . .we’ll have to take it in shifts. I’ll be first, since I don’t have class, but I did promise Madam Pomfrey that I’d help her in the infirmary for an hour or so at nine. The rest of you go on and keep to your schedules. Who has a break after their first period class?”
“I do,” said Neville. “I’ll watch him then.”
“Okay. Then Trish can come and cover for you after that.”
“Fine with me.”
They all split up, leaving Arista alone with her father. The little Healer sat down on the couch and put her head in her hands. How could this have happened? They’d been so careful, and now all of their hard work and effort had been for nothing. Sabotaged by some idiot! Arista felt like kicking herself. They should have put the potion in a cabinet or locked it in the office. Then she remembered that the potion needed light for some reason and the office was spelled and they didn’t know the countercharm since the new Potions teacher had changed it.
She felt a small hand touch her on the arm. “Arista? Are you sad?”
She looked up and met her father’s worried eyes. “A little, Sev. But I’ll be okay.”
“Why? Is it ‘cause that magic potion’s missing?”
She nodded. “Yeah, but we’ll find it. We have to.”
“Can I help? I’m real good at finding things. I found Mummy’s earrings once. She dropped them and they rolled all the way under the bed, and I crawled under there and I found them.”
“I’m sure you are, Sev. But the school’s really big and you might get lost, so I think you’d better stay here. But thanks anyway.”
He looked disappointed. “I really wanted to help.”
“I know. But you can help me the best by just being here, and playing with your toys and stuff. That way I know where you are and don’t worry. Okay?”
He considered for a minute. Why was it that he never got to do anything interesting? “All right,” he agreed. He didn’t want Arista to worry, she was already sad. He didn’t like it when she was sad, it made his chest feel funny, kind of sick but not really. Like when his mum cried sometimes, after she’d had a fight with his daddy. “D’you want a hug, Arista?” he asked softly. “Sometimes I hug my mum and she says it always makes her feel better.”
Arista smiled up at him. “I would love a hug from you, Sev.” She opened her arms.
Severus crawled into her lap and hugged her tight, wrapping his little arms and legs about her as far as they would go. She held him close for a long time, burying her face in his silky black hair, which smelled of mango and lime shampoo. I love you, Dad. And I’m really sorry. I’ll find the potion, I swear it. I’m not a Hunter’s daughter for nothing, she vowed.
“Do you feel better?”
“Much better.” She kissed his the top of his head. “Thanks. Now how about some breakfast?”
Severus waited patiently until Arista had left for the infirmary. She had told him Neville would be arriving to play with him in two minutes, so he could sit and read or play with his potions kit until then. Normally Severus didn’t mind reading and he liked playing with Neville, who could make all his stuffed animals move and chase each other. But today he wanted to do something else. Something important. He wanted to help Arista find the magic potion. If he found the potion she would be happy again and she had said she really needed it.
He slid down from the couch. She had also told him to stay here and wait for Neville, he recalled. But if he did that he wouldn’t be able to search for the potion. He walked over to the door of the apartment. He usually never went beyond this door without a grown-up. Standing on tiptoe, he could just reach the doorknob.
He halted for a moment, thinking hard. If he left the room to search for the potion, Arista might be angry at him. He would be disobeying her and he had said he would be good. Then he recalled how sad she was before, when he’d hugged her. She really needed that potion, and he, Severus Snape, was very good at finding things. He knew he could find the magic potion just like he’d found his mother’s earrings. Was it worth getting in trouble? Yes, he decided. He’d get a time out for sure. Maybe even a spanking. He sighed. Then again, maybe Arista would be so happy he found the potion that she wouldn’t punish him, he thought hopefully. Because the potion was Really Important.
Then he grasped the doorknob in both hands and turned it.
Scout awoke from his nap before the fire at the sound of the door opening.
The magehound was on his feet immediately, looking to see who had come into Snape’s quarters. Arista had told him to guard Severus just before she left, and the dog took his duty seriously. He trotted over to the door and saw his little master preparing to walk out of it.
Severus turned and petted the magehound. Scout licked his face and he giggled. “Stay, Scout!” he ordered in his best grown-up voice. “You can’t come with me, boy. I’m on a quest. Like Merlin in my book.”
The dog whined.
“Stay here and play with Neville,” he told the golden dog, then he tried to close the door.
Now Scout would have normally obeyed the Potions Master, since Severus was his Pack Leader according to dog pack law. But this Severus was different. He smelled similar to the old Snape, but at the same time he was a child. And Scout didn’t take orders from children. He played with them and watched over them, like a good beta should. And he knew instinctively that the little boy shouldn’t be wandering around alone. It was too dangerous.
So he shoved his shoulder against the door Severus was trying to shut and pushed it open. Then he trotted into the corridor and sat down, giving Severus a long look.
Severus grabbed the dog by the collar. “No, Scout! Bad dog!” He tried to pull the dog back inside the apartment. “Go back home.”
But Scout was immovable. He simply sat there, ignoring the child’s attempts to send him back inside.
Severus huffed and glared at the dog through a stray lock of hair which had fallen into his eyes. “Why don’t you listen? Go inside.” He pointed a finger.
Scout barked once, then shook his floppy ears and rose to his feet. But then he trotted away down the corridor.
Severus groaned. Clearly the dog wanted to come with him. “Fine! But don’t blame me if you get in trouble too,” he told the stubborn magehound. He tugged the door shut, because you were supposed to shut doors when you went out.
Then he ran after the magehound as quickly as he dared, for he knew that if Neville came and found him, his quest for the potion would be over before it had begun. Scout walked easily beside the four-year-old, who hurried down the short corridor past the potions lab and made a right, heading towards the Slytherin portrait hole and the stairs beside it that led out of the dungeons.
“If I were a magic potion, Scout, where would I be?” he wondered aloud.
He looked up at the portrait of the python stretched out on a branch. The python uncurled and hissed, “Password?”
Severus paused. Maybe he should search inside the Slytherin common room? He’d been in there before, with Drake. Yes, that seemed like a good place to start searching.
“Well? Are you going to give me the password or not, kid?” the python demanded, annoyed.
“Oh, keep your scales on, you bloody snake!” Severus growled. “Hang on, I’m thinking.” Drake had told him the password that day, when he’d brought the former professor to his room to get a book he’d forgotten. “Asphodel.”
“Took you long enough,” sneered the portrait.
“Who asked you?”
The portrait swung open and Severus stepped inside, followed immediately by Scout.
“Hey! He can’t go in there! No dogs allowed. Slytherin House rules,” the python cried. “What do you think this is, a zoo?”
“He’s with me. Now shut up, Raj!” Somehow he knew that was the portrait’s name. Raj, prince of pythons.
“Fine, but don’t come whining to me when Professor Snape finds out and puts your sorry butt in detention, kid.”
“I won’t,” Severus assured Raj cooly, wondering who this other Professor Snape was. Maybe it was another cousin. He seemed to have an awful lot of them around here.
He beckoned Scout onward and stepped out of the short tunnel into the common room. The portrait hole swung shut behind him. Just in time too, because he heard footsteps going past. “Come on, Scout. We’ll look in here first.”
Severus began to search the common room, standing on the couch to look on the bookshelves and the tables. He knew the potion would be a glowing peach color, but all he found on the table were the remains of somebody’s breakfast and a bunch of old quills and crumpled parchments.
He decided to search the boys’ dormitory next, and headed left through the archway.
Meanwhile, Neville had arrived at the Potion Master’s quarters five minutes after Severus had left. He was a bit late. He’d gotten there as quickly as he could, running all the way from Herbolbogy. He leaned against the door, panting and trying to catch his breath. Then he opened it and went inside. “Severus? It’s me, Neville.”
That was odd. Arista had assured him the professor was awake and playing with his child’s potion kit. “Severus?” Neville didn’t see him anywhere. He went into the all the bedrooms. They were empty. The potion kit was on the floor of Sev’s room, still half full of some kind of purple liquid that was bubbling.
Neville started to panic. Where was the child? “Severus? Where are you?” He checked the bathroom. “Is this some kind of game you’re playing?” He remembered one day last week when the little boy had decided to hide from him and Drake and they searched for over twenty minutes before they found him, curled up under some blankets in the back of a closet. Drake had been furious and had scolded Snape and put him in time out for ten minutes, Neville recalled with a smile. “Severus? Come out wherever you are!” he called, hoping to make the child reveal himself.
Minutes passed and Neville felt the cold feeling in his stomach increase. “This isn’t funny anymore, Sev!” he said loudly. “If you don’t come out this minute, I’ll-I’ll put you in time out.” Oh sure you will, Neville. That’ll be the day, you punishing the professor, mocked a small voice in the back of his head. Frantic now, he ran through the quartet of rooms again, looking behind the couch, inside the closet, and under the bed.
The Potions Master was nowhere to be found.
“Oh my good God!” he whispered, looking about the deserted apartment in utter despair. “I’ve lost the professor. Arista’s going to kill me!”
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