A/N: written in response to Rosaleen's HPBabies challenge. With the additional challenge of making it XXF (Extra-Extra Fluffy)
Disclaimer: I don't own anything! Shows her empty hands See? Nothing at all!
Albus Dumbledore walked through the
corridors of Hogwarts humming to himself. He was going to see Severus
Snape, who had just returned to teaching after suffering a bad bout
of wizard's flu.
As he reached the dungeon, he heard a strange noise. It sounded like a whimper and then a small wail. What on earth was Severus putting in his potions these days?
Entering the classroom, Dumbledore could not see anything amiss. He looked around at all the glass jars. Thankfully, nothing looked alive.
Suddenly he heard the noise again. He looked down and to his utter amazement, Professor Snape was sitting on the floor beside his desk. He was hunched up, with his knees to his chest and staring up with wide, frightened eyes.
"Severus?" Dumbledore asked, "What has happened? Are you all right?"
Perhaps it was the shocked tone Dumbledore used or the fact that he looked so tall, standing over Severus, that caused the younger wizard to burst into tears.
Dumbledore was truly amazed now. It was very rare for Severus to show any strong emotion (apart from anger) and extremely rare for him to cry. He regarded him silently for a moment. Something was not right.
"Severus?" this time he crouched down so he was face to face with him, "Do you know who I am?"
"Sowwy," the voice coming from the dark haired man was oddly childlike, "Please, no bad spell? I'll be good. I pwomise!". With that he dissolved into tears again.
Slowly and very gently, Albus gathered him into his arms. He looked around and saw a half-empty cauldron beside Snape's desk. Freeing his wand arm carefully, he conjured a small bottle and dipped it into the purple liquid.
"I'll have to get Horace to look at this," he murmured, "I don't think you'll be teaching potions for a while, my boy. In fact, I shall have to acquire some parenting skills very quickly."
And with that, he pulled the unresisting Severus to his feet and walked him though the quiet halls, all the while speaking to the distraught man in low, soothing tones.
As they reached the Entrance Hall, they ran into Harry and Hermione. They looked at professor Snape, who was staring at the floor, tears still flowing down his face. They were shocked. Dumbledore sighed. Oh well, honesty is the best policy, as Harry had quite loudly conveyed to him at the end of last year.
"Harry, Hermione, professor Snape seems to have had an accident with a potion," he said quietly, "would you please get Horace and ask him to come up to my office?"
The teens nodded and ran off. Dumbledore managed to get his charge to his office without any further trouble. He sat the kiddyfied professor down on the couch and sighed. "Horace better know what to do," he mumbled.
After a while, a knock came on the door and he went to answer it relieved, thinking it would be Horace. It was, however, a very out of breath couple of teens.
"We're sorry, headmaster," Harry panted, "but he is not in the castle."
Hermione caught her breath now too and added "We asked the paintings, and it seems he has left the castle rather quietly during the night."
Dumbledore cursed under his breath, causing the teens to look at him oddly. "Sorry, Harry, my apologies, miss Granger. But we have a major problem here…" he waved to the very still potions master on the couch, "he drank some sort of de aging potion. Only it de aged just his mind, not his body. I've never seen it before."
Hermione frowned. "Could I see that potion, professor?"
Dumbledore hesitated, then handed her the bottle. She and Harry looked at it carefully, then uncorked it and took a wiff.
"Oh dear," Hermione said, face falling. "It IS some kind of de aging potion but I doubt professor Snape brewed it himself."
Dumbledore looked at her questioningly. "Why is that?"
Hermione shuffled. "Because there are at least four ingredients in it that I can discern right away, that would require that this potion is brewed while the brewer is under the influence of a cheering charm. There are a few other potions that use that technique, most have something to do with de aging or childrens potions…But I can't imagine professor Snape brewing ANYTHING that requires a cheering charm…"
Dumbledore nodded. "A very valid point, but that makes this situation all the more serious. It sounds very suspicious, especially with Horace disappearing too…What to do…"
Hermione coughed slightly to get his attention. "Sir, Harry and me…well, we could try to find the antidote. It may take a while though. But as its the christmas holidays the day after tomorrow, we could floo in from the Burrow each day to work on it. We'll need some time to figure out what exactly this stuff is, but I have a few ideas on what might work as an antidote."
Dumbledore looked at them. Finally he nodded. "Very well, Miss Granger, thank you. I wish there was someone that could help you, but with Horace gone and Severus in no shape to brew anything…You are exempt from classes for the next two days to work on this. You can use professor Snape's lab, he won't need it for a while."
He gave them the password and the bottle. They left quickly. "Now, they did give me one good idea. I might want to contact Molly Weasley to help me with this parenting thing…"
He sent a note by owl to the Weasleys to ask if Molly could floo by whenever it was convenient for her. He had just finished that when he noticed Severus was still sitting stifly on the couch, with a pinched, panicked look on his face. "Severus? What is it?"
"Need…need to go potty…" a truly terrified expression.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. "Through that door, Severus."
The potions master nearly ran from the room. When he returned, Dumbledore called him over. The relief on the younger wizards face was replaced by fear again. The headmaster cupped his chin and forced the dark eyes to meet his.
Keeping his voice and expression as kind as possible, he said "Severus, you can use the loo whenever you need to, you don't have to ask. If you want anything, just come to me, I promise I won't get mad, ok?"
A slight nod, but it was clear the potions master didn't really believe him. Before Dumbledore could go into the matter more deeply, there was another knock on the door and Minerva McGonagall entered.
"Is everything alright, Albus? I met Mr Potter and Miss Granger on my way over and they mentioned something about a potions accident." She stared in surprise when the potions master hid behind Albus' chair.
Dumbledore turned slightly and put a hand on the black hair. "Well, yes, Minerva. Horace seems to have disappeared and Severus drank some kind of partial de aging potion. He is basically a toddler in a grown mans body. With Horace gone, Harry and Hermione offered to work on the antidote."
"I feared as much. I'll inform the ministry of Horace's disappearance, but there isn't much hope of finding him. I'll tell them Severus has had a potions accident and is temporarily unavailable while recovering, but it might be best to eh…avoid explaining his exact condition. Meanwhile, we have a kiddyfied potions master to discuss. He will need to be cared for, he can't stay in his dungeons on his own."
The headmaster nodded. Severus meanwhile, peeked around the edge of the chair and was rewarded by a kind smile from the Transfigurations teacher.
"He will stay here, I'll take care of him. Harry and Hermione are using the lab. I know potions isn't your expertise, but I would appreciate any help you can give them. Meanwhile, I will need some things for Sevvy here. You will need things to play with, won't you?" he asked the head beneath his arm.
Two dark eyes looked at him in confusion. "Play?" came the uncertain response. "Yes, child, play. No need for diapers, thank Merlin you're potty trained…"
Minerva bit back a grin.
Severus' eyes darkened even more. "Must go potty. Or sella."
The two adults looked at each other. "I've asked Poppy to come up to examine him." Dumbledore said lightly, so he wouldn't disturb his still skittish charge, "There are a few things I'd like to know."
Poppy Pomfrey walked in half an hour later, having heard the story from Minerva already.
Severus was not excited to be examined and fussed terribly.
Eventually Poppy sighed. "I can't work like this, Albus. Please take him on your lap and hold him tight or we won't get anywhere."
Dumbledore grumbled. "He might never forgive me for this once he's cured, you know," he said, while pulling Severus on his lap and wrapping his arms around his chest.
Severus might not forgive him later, but although he stiffened at the touch at first, he did seem to enjoy it. The nurses wand, however, frightened him and he leaned back into Albus' embrace, seeking protection.
"She won't hurt you, Severus, see, she is only waving it. Remember? She is doing good magic, to make you better," he softly whispered to the young man.
After a while, Poppy looked up with a grim look on her face. "I did a very thorough examination of every curse he has ever been subjected to. Leaving aside the obvious curses of his adult life, I'm also reading that he has regularly been subjected to the Cruciatus curse since he was a little over a year old."
Dumbledore was stunned. "What monster would do that to such a young child?" he said, outraged.
Poppy shrugged. "I've examined the neural pathways in his brains as well. They suggest that he is about three years old. Quite a bright one, though."
Dumbledore smiled. "He always was a very clever boy," he said, as Severus leaned his head against the shoulder of the old wizard.
Poppy packed her things. "There's nothing physically wrong with him," she said, "so he should be fine." Dumbledore sat quietly with Severus on his lap for a long time after the nurse left.