AN: Thanks to Yen for a wonderful editing job. Without her, Albus would be a little less... Albus.
What do Beetle Eyes and Sherbet Lemons Have in Common?
Severus stopped in the midst of pulling ingredients for the next Infirmary potion off his shelves, his attention riveted on the empty bottle he was holding. 'There is no way I am out. I didn't use that much, I'm sure.'
Setting the bottle on the table, he went back and searched the shelves, cabinets and even on his clean and organized prep table. There were no more beetle eyes anywhere in his private lab.
Spinning about, he headed for his classroom and the storage cupboard there. It took him all of five minutes to go through every ingredient, only to discover there were no beetle eyes there either.
Suppressing his aggravation and disbelief, he headed for the last place there might be some – the back-up store room. When he creaked open the door, Severus was glad the light still cut on. He normally did not enter this room, the elves were the ones who restocked the classroom stores. Peering about, he brightened the light and then started with the nearest shelf, methodically checking the entire room.
Twenty minutes late, he knew that it was all for naught. The barrel, clearly labeled beetle eyes, was sitting there without even a single eye lodged into the cracks. There were none on the floor around it, and no other container holding the elusive ingredient.
"Tessa." Severus waited for the little elf to appear.
"Master Snape called Tessa?"
Severus nodded to the empty barrel. "Can you explain what happened to all the beetle eyes?"
Large floppy ears drooped as the bulbous blue eyes darted to the indicated barrel. "Tessa has been stocking Master Snape's personal lab supply from here. Master Snape has been brewing Infirmary potions and have been using these eyes."
"And I was not informed of the levels of the stock because..."
Small hands were wrung as the elf answered. "Tessa recorded the level on the chart, Master Snape, as always."
The inventory. He had checked it at the end of the school year, but not since. Normally he didn't need to. Sighing, he dismissed Tessa after telling her she wasn't to blame.
Accepting the fact that he would have to go shopping, Severus headed for the Headmaster's office. As he walked through the hall, the heat warmed stones did not echo with a single sound. This was why he stayed back at Hogwarts for most of the summer break; for the peace that radiated all around him. The portraits could typically be counted on for a decent conversation when he wanted one since the ghosts' conversation were always touch and go, and then there were Filch and Albus.
Severus and Filch had slowly reached an understanding through their summer occupation of the castle. It was the reason that Filch had no qualms taking any student that Severus wanted him to watch for detention. More importantly, he knew that the Potions Master's detentions were up to his standards.
Albus, on the other hand, had developed an unlikely friendship with Severus, one the latter had never expected. For that reason alone, he treasured it. That was the reason why he was letting Albus know he was heading out. The Headmaster would worry the moment he noticed Severus had a potion brewing, but was not in the castle. 'Last time, he contacted St. Mungo's and had about half the front staff scurrying about looking to see if I had checked in.'
Shaking his head at the memory, Severus stopped at the gargoyle, ready to say the password, when a sound caught his attention. It was from the empty portrait set outside the Headmaster's office during the summer for any of the previous Headmasters could occupy, its sole purpose to pass messages to anyone hunting for Albus.
The old Headmaster leaned against the frame edge as he whispered, "Dumbledore is in the middle of a touchy meeting with the Minister of Magic at the moment. Your presence could be detrimental to the negotiations."
Severus looked at the gargoyle and then back at the former Headmaster. "When the Minster has left, will you please inform Albus that I have had to procure a few potion ingredients that the school is short on?"
Dippet nodded while making shooing motions with his hands.
Turning about, Severus re-traversed the multitude of stairwells on his way back to the main doors. Taking his time to stroll through the summer heat, he eventually Apparated off to Diagon Alley to go shopping.
Ò.Ô & ʘ.ʘ
It didn't take but a moment to find the beetle eyes. Severus ordered a barrel at Slugs and Jiggers and another at Mulpepper's Apothecary. The school tended to order from both so as not to show favoritism. He also refilled his personal stores bottle, and bought a back-up bottle.
Stepping back into the Alley, Severus decided to have lunch at the Leaky Cauldron to avoid any possibility of running into the Minster on his way out of the school. It was while he was enjoying a hot shepherd's pie and a pint of bitter that a thought invaded his mind and would not leave - Albus needed his sherbet lemons. Staring at the door that lead to Muggle London, he wondered if he could find the shop where Albus bought them from.
'He was almost out last night. He mentioned it in passing at dinner that he needed to go shopping sometime soon to replenish his stock.'
Severus paid Tom for his lunch and without letting himself think too hard, transfigured his robes to a black Muggle shirt and trousers before stepping out onto Charring Cross Road.
It took him entirely too long to find the tiny candy store practically hidden by the large store fronts on either side of it. Marigold's Sweets for Sweets sounded like a place Albus would visit.
Stepping through the door, Severus decided at once that this was a place that Albus would revel in. It was full of neon bright colors that clashed in horrible contrasts as they were advertising so many sweets, many he only knew by name – they were common passwords for the Headmaster's office.
Severus took a few steps inside and knew he stood out, his black clothes making a dark splash in the otherwise colorful place. Children with their sticky fingers shrank away from him while their parents watched him carefully. 'Do they think I am here to buy sweets to tempt little kids from their parents? Why would I want any child around me? I spend enough time with them during the school year, I don't need to interact with them during the summer.'
It took a bit of effort, but he kept his normal scowl off his face. Turning his attention to the sweets, he looked for Albus' sherbet lemons. All along one wall were long tubes filled with bulk candy that dispensed from the bottom. Stepping over to one, he examined the valve mechanism that released the sweets. In the center of the shop were displays of prepackaged confectionaries. A multitude of chocolates were there, some as bars, others as drops called kisses or hugs.
Picking up one pack of kisses and one of hugs, Severus couldn't hide the upward tilt of his lips. 'This will be the closest Albus will get to having a physical display of affection from me.' He was about to summon a basket when he remembered he was in Muggle London. Instead he stalked back to the door, he picked up a hand tote and dropped his selections into it. 'If I am going to treat him, I should do it right. Besides, Albus deserves something for dealing with Fudge.'
With that thought, Severus started on one side of the shop and worked his way to the other, examining every single piece of sweet that was offered. By time he reached the cash register, he was glad that he kept a number of pound notes in his wallet. He left the store with four large plastic bags dangling from his hands, one of them completely filled with Albus' sherbet lemons.
Ò.Ô & ʘ.ʘ
Albus did his best not to glare at Fudge as the man rambled once again over a topic that they had covered two hours ago. 'And we beat it to death then. I have nothing more to say on the Prophet's opinion poll on his performance. It is what it is.'
He suppressed a sigh and dipped his fingers into his candy dish, heart sinking when they touched the bottom of it. Moving them about a bit, he hoped to encounter just one more sherbet – even half a piece would do – to help him through this torture.
Oblivious to his listener's sugar deprived torment, Fudge pulled out the Prophet and pointed to the article, laying it right on top of a stack of parchments that Albus should be working on. The Headmaster barely prevented himself from pressing his lips together.
"See, I have a seventy five percent approval rate! Isn't that something? I doubt you could do any better, Albus."
'Nothing! There is none left, not even half a piece… a chip… or crumb…'
Desolate, Albus pulled his hand back to the center of his desk, barely avoiding his wand. He wanted to do nothing more than hex the Minister out of his office at that moment. He knew the man was there to gloat, to show that he was the man for the job, not Albus. 'Not that I wanted to have the Minister position in the first place, and so I was never competition. But Fudge doesn't see that.'
"That is an amazing approval rate, Cornelius. I'm positive that no other Minister could achieve such a number as easily as you have." Albus refrained from asking who the man had bribed to make it that way. "Now, I'm sure that you have put in many hours to help the people of the Wizarding world. Why don't you go home and show the Missus just how well your hard work has been rewarded?"
Fudge flashed a jubilant smile at Albus before scooping up his paper. "I'll do that. She will be thrilled to know what has kept me away from her, and how much it has meant to the people that I am bound to serve."
"That's a good fellow. Allow me to escort you out, Cornelius." As he stood up, Albus made sure his muggle wallet was in his robe. He had to go get his sherbet lemons or he wouldn't be able to sleep tonight.
It was on the way down the stairs into the entry hall that Albus spotted Severus dodging into a deep shadow. 'Good, he is back. Dippet indicated that he left long before lunch.' Deciding to have a word with Severus before heading out shopping, he just escorted Fudge to the door.
Severus watched as the Minister left, jamming his bowler hat onto his head and trotting out into the bright sunshine. Stepping out of the shadows, he gave Albus an amazed look. "He was here the entire time? Are we losing all our funding, and you had to talk him out of it?"
Albus shook his head and sighed. "No, he wanted to talk about how wonderful his approval ratings were. Dippet let me know that you went ingredient shopping. Nothing too elusive, I hope, dear boy?"
" apothecaries are delivering them later. I brought back enough to finish the potions that I have started."
Severus reached into his ingredients bag, and pulled out his surprise. "I also made a side trip. I hope this will be sufficient to tide you over until the weekend, Headmaster."
Albus' eyes widened at the four bulging bags from his favorite little known Muggle sweets store before shifting to the Potions Master holding them. "Severus, you went into Muggle London to buy me sweets?"
Raising an eyebrow at the astounded look in his friend's face, Severus smirked. "I was there, and Fudge was here. It was the lesser of two evils. I got your sherbet lemons and some other sweets, I wasn't sure what else you like."
Albus gave a hearty laugh, eyes twinkling brightly as he took all four bags. He barely refrained from hugging them to his chest in childish glee.
"All of it, my dear boy, all of it."