Chapter 1: The Feast
My name is Albus Dumbledore. Well not really. I am not going to tell you my real name for then you could probably track my family down and—I don’t know—laugh at them or something. I am a self-insert from a world very much different to the magical Harry Potter universe. Oh we have magic but not like here. Our magic is not something we can manipulate with wands. Our magic works for a very few people, some call them lucky, who’s tired of life. If they wished hard enough or suffered long enough, (our scientists are still unsure as to the exact formula or we would be replicating this, don’t believe otherwise) they can escape into a new world. A bookworld that they have read before. One that will ultimately become their new home where they live to the end of their days, presumably now satisfied.
I am not satisfied! Fine, if I had to insert myself into a HarryPotter-world, why couldn’t I have been one of the kids or McGonagall who I’m probably closer to in age, why did I have to be an old man with hairy balls! I never wanted to be a man, well yes they have it easier but I wasn’t ever jealous to the extent that I wanted to be one past the age of fourteen or so. That’s when I finally realized, after my third painful period when a boy found my tampon in my school jacket and ran around with it, waving it mockingly in the air, that boys had it easier and that I would never be one.
Fucked up thing is I wasn’t so tired of living as much as I was bored. Every day the same thing the same people, the same food and the world going to hell around us. Yes, I wanted to escape, I think it’s safe to say the majority of people around me wanted that, no I didn’t wish for it. If there’s any scientist reading this, I was just bored. Every bone-in-my-body-bored. Sorry I can’t help you more.
I want to say that I am a useless liar but everyone that I have ever asked had said the same about themselves. I’ve heard it too much already to believe it anymore, even in myself. Let’s just say I can lie if I have a moment to think of a good story, otherwise I’ll probably blurt out the truth like an idiot. First thing after having a good cry, was going to have to be thinking up some whoppers for all the things I don’t know if I didn’t want to be found out. Luckily most people don’t ask and just take things at face value.
I came into my new body, standing in front of a sea of pointed hats and childlike faces lit by floating candles, thought for a moment that I had gone nuts, for another more horrible moment that I was stuck in a medieval world where there’s chamber pots under beds. Then realized from the starry dome above their heads where I was. Harry Potter world. When? What year? Who am I? Shit! Voldemort! Yes, I squeaked. Don’t let me be Voldemort! Umbridge! Yes I had a mini freak-out but luckily (this time) I am someone who freeze when surprised and was spared the humiliation of fainting, or worse, running and shouting, but what came out—in a male voice!—sounded like babbling. I sat down. The children clapped and cheered, a deafening noise. Food appeared on the table like magic and beside me a woman turned to frown severely at me and said: “Really Albus? Nitwit Blubber Oddment Tweak? Whatever will you do next.”
“I will try the pumpkin juice.”
Oh fuck, I am Albus Dumbledore. Why couldn’t I have been Snape? He’s—I leaned forward to look down the table. A line of teachers to both sides and not one face recognizable from the movies. For some reason I had immediately thought they would all resemble their actor counterparts, but they didn’t at all. Makes sense though, did it not? Every fan had calculated their ages and Snape for one should be in his early thirties, (sorry Mister Rickman not your fault, we blame casting), but all the teachers were nearly croaking in the films. Turban. Oh hell, then the first book and hello Quirrell. A pale man in his mid twenties, he sat vibrating with what looked like nerves next to another that must be Snape. Greasy hair and hooked nose but yes, definitely in his thirties, he looked closer to Quirrell’s age than what Alan ever did. Okay then.
“What are you looking for, Albus? Your juice is right in front of you.”
“Yes? Oh good.” I am not going to cry. That wobble that you heard was because I am old. An old man. I blinked hard at the golden goblet in front of me and reached for it to shut her up, tried not to freak out yet again when I saw a thin, very much male hand with liver spots, bringing the goblet to my face. Something was tugging at my chin and I looked down. Oh my word I have a beard. The thing was tucked into my belt, the long hair pulling weirdly at my chin when I moved—I need to get out of here! What’s this happy ever after, I am an old man and I have what, six years before I die? I didn’t read past book four!
Pumpkin juice. Think of cold, thick, sweet pumpkin soup, and never bother yourself with it. I nearly choked. I certainly spilled some in my bloody silver beard and spent an embarrassing time mopping myself up, trying not to look at the woman when she tsked. She must be Minerva. She was probably fifty years give or take a few, had black hair, not even a bit of grey, and her face looked pinched and stern. Even when I was still me I would have avoided her like the plague if she was my teacher.
There was nothing for it. I ate. The beard nearly made me cry. It took some time to figure out just how to bite without it getting into my new facial hair. No I did not usually eat with food all over my face but a bite of porkchop would at least touch your top lip yes? Well consider that bloody lip hidden under a bushel of hair and figure it out for yourself. Fuck you. Sorry. Sorry. It’s me, not you. You would probably take to having a beard like a duck to water.
The meal was endless. Minerva kept talking about things I had no clue of, even tried to discuss a schedule conflict between the six and seventh years. If I ignored her I would have to pay attention to the weirdly short man on my other side, who I could only hope was Flitwick. Was that his name or his family name? Fidelius Flitwick? No, that was the charm. The books were nowhere near to look it up and they would surely Loony Bin me if I asked—talking to Minerva felt like the safest bet.
“You’re my Deputy Headmistress, right?”—please don’t say no!—“I am sure you can sort it, I leave it all up to you.” I am honestly just holding it together until I can find my rooms then I will have the mother of all freak outs. “Your capable hands," I added lamely when she glared at me, inwardly cursing myself.
“Of course I will sort it, Albus. I am just informing you.”
“Ah. Well good then. What do you think of the new students.” This seemed safe to ask, and she spent a merry time talking my ear off on that.
It was quite easy to find the eleven year olds in the tables, they were weirdly small between all the rest. I spotted Malfoy right off the bat with his white hair in the middle of the green group. The Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs I had no clue of, for a moment I struggled to remember which was which too, and at the far opposite were the Gryffindors. More than just the Weasley children had red hair—consider a bit where we were, please—but there was a group bunched together, two of the boys looked like twins and the dark head between them and another red must by process of elimination then be Harry Potter and the other Ron Weasley. Harry looked tiny, nearly drowned behind the table stacked with food but then again so did his seatmate. Kids.
Why the ever loving FUCK couldn’t I have self-inserted as a kid instead!
Chapter 2: Oh look...
For any one of you that is ever in this situation, wondering how to get to your room in a magical castle with moving stairs, when you can’t steal the map from the twins? You tell your Deputy Headmistress you need to discuss something in private and let her lead the way. At the extremely ugly gargoyle you fiddle with invisible crumbs in your beard (yes, fine, it was two buttery peas), and she will say the password in exasperation.
I gave her what I hoped was a winning smile. Minerva McGonagall was a wonderful scary woman that I might need to use a lot if I wanted to survive this ordeal. Better stay on her good side. She had already proved helpful having passed me a list of last minute instructions to give the students, or I would never have remembered to do that. The best of those being ‘keep away from the third floor corridor to the right or you’ll die’. This managed to scare the hell out of me—how could I have forgotten the corridor?—I, for one, would certainly not be going near it. No way was I going to do anything that could shorten the six years I had. Somewhere in the hall a lone kid had laughed.
Your office, if you are ever in my situation, is on the seventh floor, third gargoyle (or ugliest if you wish) to the right and your bedroom is through a little alcove behind the desk. Once you are there you ‘forget’ what you wanted to say—“Honestly Minerva, I am sure whatever it was could wait until the morning.”—smile again and let her go off in a huff. When you’ve found the little alcove, you run to the nearest full length mirror.
I was old. Thin. Tall. Not dressed like a showy clown but a dark grey robe fitting with my ideas of what a real wizard would wear. Huh. That must have been the director’s version then. Or fanon? My hair and beard shone silver, smelled like lavender and... the beard sparkled. Everything sparkled. My new blue eyes sparkled behind sparkling half-moon glasses—I tucked it down the crooked nose to see if all this sparkling was a trick from the spectacles and found myself looking instead at a blurry scape. That was nothing new, I used to wear glasses in my previous life. I pushed it back up and stared in awe at myself for nearly a minute before ripping off the robe to see the rest.
Colourful socks in surprisingly sturdy, high heeled boots, hairy knobbly knees and grey boxer shorts appeared. A wand clattered to the floor and rolled away. I threw the beard over my shoulder to see my chest—way thinner than what I had in my previous life, with no boobs!—and flat nipples. Oh my god. I was a man. I could walk around without a shirt if I wanted. I had… I shucked the boxers and let it fall down to pool around my ankles. Hairy. Balls. Wrinkled dick...that shrank under my gaze...oh my god. I am not going to be able to touch that! Oh my blessed g—
“Albus. I need you to reconsider our strategy on Potter—bloody hell!”
My eyes met those of Severus Snape’s in the mirror. The man stood mouth agape in the doorway, his face slowly losing colour. I honestly don’t know which of the two of us were more shocked but I think I can safely say I get the prize for being the most embarrassed self-insert ever. And you wonder why I don’t want to tell you my name.
My throat suddenly tight I felt like crying. Why was life so horrible? This couldn’t be a better option than my other one, somewhere someone had made an awful mistake.
Snape retreated as fast as he appeared with a hurried, “I’ll wait in your office.”
Why wait in my office, go away, go completely away to another country and Obliviate yourself while you are at it!
Pulled up my boxers and struggled back into the robe.
Straightened my beard. Awful thing that itches and pulls, getting caught in everything, no wonder he tucked it into his belt. Did everyone’s beard itch like that the whole time, if so why do they have them then. Perhaps it is just me being new to this? There wasn’t anyone to ask and I suddenly missed google. I didn’t need a crystal ball to know I would miss it more in the days to come. Unlike Snape my face now had a red sheen to it that did not want to go away no matter how hard I flapped my hands at it. I picked the wand up and couldn’t figure out where to put it, it fell out of my sleeve twice before I gave up and set it on the bedside table.
He was still there in the office, I could hear him rustling about, there was no escape. I couldn’t hide forever. How ever was I going to live this down? Dinner was rolling around in my stomach, threatening to come back up, and the last thing I wanted to do was go out and face the spy.
I went out to face the spy.
“I apologise,” Snape said stiffly from where he stood in the middle of the office, his face a blank mask, body rigid. “I should have knocked.”
“I’m sure if you've seen one pair of hairy balls you’ve seen them all.” Good save. And yes, your face can get hotter. “Why are you here, Sn”—He called you Albus!—“Severus.”
My knees were not going to hold me up much longer. It would feel stupid to be behind the desk so I sank down heavily in the nearest floral armchair, refrained from putting my head in my hands, and swallowed bile down.
“Are you feeling well?”
“No.” Oh for fuck’s sake. This is what I talked about. Note to self, have a lie ready if people ask if you’re feeling well, if you’re feeling yourself, if you act odd—
“Should I call Poppy?”
“It is not something that she can help with.” I snapped, and immediately wanted to kick myself again when his eyebrows rose but couldn’t hold my tongue. I blame stress and forced myself to speak calmly next. “I am well able to call her myself if need be, Severus. As you’ve seen I am twi-thrice your age—did you only come to talk about my health?” I damn well was older than him for real and should be able to manage this. Him.
“No.” Something like irritation flashed over his sallow face. Thankfully he gave up and fell with a long, drawn out sigh in the chair opposite, rubbing his forehead before speaking. “Albus, I’ve come to beg you again to change your mind. I’m not happy with this plan of yours. The Dark Lord is dead, we all know that, and we will benefit nothing from this farce, it will only end in tears.”
Plan? What plan? “Are you so sure he is dead?” I desperately played for time. Now’s when I should tell him about Quirrell’s passenger, shouldn’t I? Fix it before it start and kill him proper. “Did we see his body?” But he would want me to take care of it and I did not have any idea how...I can’t—I don’t even know if I can do magic.
“We haven’t felt him in ten years, surely that is enough proof. You’re the only one that thinks he is coming back!”
“We? You asked others?”
“No! It is obvious, Albus. If people thought he would return they would be doing something about it.”
I couldn’t help a snort, thinking of Fudge and everyone vilifying Harry for saying he returned. Book four or five, wasn’t it. Inspiration struck. “Say his name.”
“Say his name in front of a group of wizards and witches and see how they run, why be scared if he’s dead.”
“Because he is the boggart in our cupboards now.”
Quirrell Quirrell Quirrell. No. “What’s my plan?”
Shit. Backtrack. “What part of my plan does not agree with you.”
He stared at me. “Are you sure you are all right?”
“Did I say I was?” I’m going to have to bluster my way out of this then. “Please get to the point of your visit. What part of the—”
“The damn part where I should be bullying an eleven year old child! You know this! What do you want me to say, we’ve been over this the whole summer—tomorrow classes start and still you want me to continue with this asinine plan!” He jumped up to walk agitatedly to and fro. “I have enough trouble teaching the idiots not to blow up the school without involving myself in their silly little lives! Voldemort isn’t coming back!” he shouted, nearly frothing at the mouth, and it took everything in me not to cringe away from the volume. “I don’t need to make an enemy of a child—of half the school—just to be a spy again because he is not coming back!”
Oh have I got news for you.
I don’t remember this being in the book. Experts did say there's more between the lines than what we know. According to them a good author was one that managed to get sixty percent right. Had the Dumbledore bashers the right of it? The whole Harry hate thing was a ruse made up by him? “Fine. Scrap the plan.” Fuck you old Dumbledore. Your plan got you killed.
“What?” He stopped and swung about to face me. “Be serious.”
“The whole thing, scrap it. I did not know it was going to be so hard for you or I wouldn’t have asked.”
“If you want me to do it I will.”
Oh for the love of…! I want you to not give me a headache. “I don’t want you to do it.”
“Oh for god’s sake!” It was my turn to jump up, two can shout. Huh. It was actually nice to have my voice go deeper instead of high. “Scrap the plan, I will think up something else! How many times do you want to hear it!”
He reeled back. “Albus, are you sure you’re—”
“If you ask me one more time if I am fine I not be responsible for my actions.” Which was probably going to be crying or screaming but I managed to frown viciously at him, hoping to make it a worthwhile threat.
He blinked. “Then I will not," he said and raised his chin, curling his top lip at me, a veritable picture of disdain.
But he worried. I could see it in his eyes. It was all starting to be too much though. That worry wasn’t for me, it was for the real Albus Dumbledore. Hell, it might even be for Harry Potter or maybe he stubbed his toe when he was prancing about, raving—I wouldn’t know because face it, I didn’t know the man in front of me... I wanted to be alone. I needed to be alone. I raised myself up to my full height, feeling my back creak. “Was there anything else?”
“No.” He seemed to straighten up also, and sadly I now had to look up at him. “I do think you should see Poppy though, you are clearly not yourself.”
No. Really. Somehow I got him out. I closed the door behind his back and searched uselessly for a lock before I remembered the gargoyle was it. Could I ask it not to let anyone up? Would it understand? What if I went down and found Snape still hanging about—oh this is too much. I don’t want to be here at all! I pushed the heaviest chair to the door, stuck it under the handle, and for extra surety sat on it.
Then I had a good cry.
You would have too.
Chapter 3: Help
You can only cry so much. Albus Dumbledore did not carry a handkerchief so I blew my nose inside the bottom of the robe to spite him. Don’t tell me it was not his fault. We don’t just jump into any which character, we have to have an affinity with them according to the scientists, and they in turn had to have something lacking that our presence would improve. So yea, I blame him for the lack more than myself for the affinity and you can’t make me feel otherwise.
Morning was going to come with fresh horrors and I needed to prepare.
There was no sleeping while I had so many things to learn. I laughed somewhat hysterically when I realized I could just as well have been Harry Potter for all I knew about magic and the magical world. Having read the books helped nothing. It’s not as if I read it yesterday either, it was years ago for god’s sake. Why couldn’t I fall into the most recent book I’ve read, who decides these things! I wasted some time trying to think of anything I had read recently that wasn’t fanfiction but couldn’t. Damn.
Not having the courage yet to return to the bedroom, I set off exploring the office. The walls were filled to the ceiling with bookcases, stacked with books having the most obscure titles. (Magical Hieroglyphs and Logograms? What the fuck is a Logogram.) Not one beginner’s guide to magic to be found, if there even was such a thing, and I looked in vain for any that might be school textbooks. Oh noo, Albus Dumbledore seemed above mere textbooks—damn the man to hell and back—every last one of them looked advanced. Some shocked my fingers when I reached for them, one tried to bite and another wound a chain around my wrist that I struggled to get off, nearly hyperventilating in my panic. After that I left them alone and didn’t dare touch any of the steampunk gizmos that were ticking and whirling about, most serving innocuously as bookends. Fool me once...
The desktop and drawers held schedules and correspondence between ‘me’ and McGonagall, between ‘me’ as Supreme Mugwump and what looked like several departments of the Ministry, and nothing at all personal. A big stack was addressed to the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. For a while I kept myself busy reading whatever I could find to ‘catch up’ and that might work with the school stuff which seemed easy enough but not the rest. At the very least they taught me my full name, at worst they referred to people and cases I had no clue about and after a while the letters swam before my eyes. At first I thought it was from being tired, it must be way past midnight already, but no, I was crying again.
I changed the plan. Forget trying to catch up. I will go to sleep and hide up here, maybe the elves can send up food once I’ve figured out how to call them. After all, I need only hide out for seven years. Harry will have defeated Voldemort and I will then step out and congratulate him most sincerely. Sobbing a bit more—you have to understand me here, I never was the adventurous one, I didn’t even like going to the mall—SOBBING A BIT MORE I stepped into the wrong alcove and came face to face with a bubbling cauldron.
It was huge. Set on the ground it came well up to my middle even though I am tall and in heels. It was filled to the brim with golden fluid that bubbled at a low simmer. I leaned over and got a whiff of citrus and my beard chose that moment to pull loose, a huge hunk of it dipping into the golden fluid before I could catch it and it just… melted away. Frightening visions of boils à la Neville’s cauldron assaulted me and I retreated the heck out of there, holding what’s left of what’s now become the bane of my life well away from my robe, to go find the mirror. I might have shouted some. Well fine, imagine me going ‘HAaaAaaaaa!’ all the way to the bedroom and nearly wetting myself and you should have the picture.
Ever done that thing with the scissors where you cut half your hair off as a kid? Do you remember that stomach plunging dread when you saw you did a hack job of it and needed to go tell your mom? Albus Dumbledore could tuck his beard in his belt no more. Well he could tuck one tip on the right if he wanted to walk bent over but the left side came down—up to his chest. My chest. Fuckkk. My head pounded—I can fix this! I turned a wild, breathless circle—I just need scissors!
The bedroom held a huge canopied bed, a closet and a mirror. No, there were bedside tables, each with a drawer and a tiny shelved compartment below. Dusty scrolls on the bottom and a large paper bag filled with candy in the drawer, my wand lonely on the top. No scissors. I banged it shut and rushed to the other side of the bed, only to find that one empty except for a cobweb. Did the house-elves leave it for castle aesthetics or did they just clean like their asses—I desperately needed to pee.
I haven’t seen a toilet yet. Dread unimaginable assailed me and I looked at the bed. If there was a chamber pot it was going to be on the candy side but I knelt to look anyway, hoping for a clear view through. Dust and emptiness. Too black to see to the end and no flashlight is there? Lumos! That’s the spell! Back to the other side of the bed. I bent down first, heart in my mouth but if there was going to be a pot I was by now well willing to use it. Nothing. Where the fuck was the toilet?
It was in the closet. No wait, it really was. I did a whole bloody round though the place again, office, cauldron room, bedroom—even pressed all the walls in case it was, you know, hidden—and finally I ripped open the closet doors, having lost all patience I ever had. I was ready to pee in it. Or out of the window if I could open it. I didn’t have to. Albus Dumbledore had a big ass walk-in closet filled with robes and at the very end... a bathroom. If angels sang hallelujah with me I wouldn’t know for I rushed to the room, nearly skidded on the tiles turning a sharp left to the toilet that stood ready and waiting, seat up.
Robe up, shorts down I banged the seat down and sat in record time before I remembered guys stood and jumped back up. To stand. At the toilet.
If you’ve paid attention earlier you would know I am older than Snape. I am also not a virgin, have been in enough relationships and one five year long marriage to know how guys stood at the toilet. I knew penisses big and small, growers and showers, but this was my first old one. I didn’t want to touch it. It’s like you—I just met this body a few hours ago, all right? I was in no way attracted to it and already I have to touch its most private area? No. I don’t think it wanted me to touch it anyway, it definitely shrank with the thought.
I stood in front of the toilet, holding my robe up with both hands, seriously considering throwing the hem over my shoulder, (Robes are very uncomfortable, don’t be that society.) and refused to look down. If I was going to be that guy that peed all over the toilet then so be it.
After a moment I leaned down and raised the seat.
Fuck my life.
Maybe this needed getting used to. All my life I was conditioned that standing and peeing will mean I’ve wet myself—girl here—so perhaps I really needed to sit. I sat. Swore. Jumped up, lowered the bloody seat and sat again. Rested the robe on my lap, covering ‘it’ and tried to relax. Considered Albus Dumbledore’s penis and balls that were now resting partly squished between and up on my legs, and had a vision of the pee dribbling across my thighs. Fuck no. This will not work.
Up again, robe off, sat down, spread legs, LOOK DOWN and try to gauge where it was aimed at, it needed a tuck—quick two fingered job to point thing down—and hunch over with elbows on knees.
My bladder did not even feel full.
I refuse to get up. I had reached prime position, I was not crying—much—and I was going to do this.
Back home I would more often than not take a phone or ipad to the toilet. I grew up reading books on it. We even had a magazine rack with comics next to it and half my friends the same. Beyond having a massive bookcase in his study, Dumbledore seemed not to read. No softcopy next to his bed, no newspapers lying about on the furniture. No magazine rack next to the toilet. Shampoo bottles or toothpaste tubes were a second choice but wouldn’t you know, the claw foot tub had beautiful cut crystal decanters with not a label in sight, the sink held a bar of soap and washcloth. Not even a toothbrush. Okay, old man, maybe dentures. I stuck my tongue against my teeth to see if it will come out. No. To my right was a toilet paper stand. Well well well, we are all the same down there at least. Needs must. I broke a few squares off and started folding them into mini fans and little triangle boat-hats, getting the creases just so with my nails. And peed.
No it’s not feel different than with a girl, I dunno, maybe if ‘it’ was longer and I stood or held ‘it’ or whatever. Peeing felt the same way but wiping did not. Pee down your balls is why you guys don’t sit, right? I am already done with being a boy.
There’s no coming back from being a self-insert. Once you’re gone you’re gone. How did they realize people disappeared into books, you ask? How did we not just think people ran off or met a serial killer and got buried in a ditch. Well easy. Back in time books were scarce and you kept them well maintained, had only a few and blessed was the family member that got your prized collection in the will. Some smart reader noticed small changes in an extra copy. The rest is history.
Very much history. We are taught it in school. Cults developed, making their followers read only one book that will hopefully be their Nirvana. People became hoarders, houses stacked to the brim with books on books, good luck finding them in one of those. Some people only read horrors or stuck to adventures, whatever floats their boat and others didn’t pay it much attention. I certainly didn’t keep any book hoping my family would find me in it. For even though we self-inserted it was rare enough that the chance it could happen to you were—I dunno, I never kept up with the statistics—let’s just say you’re more likely to be found in a ditch.
My pee adventure had tired me out mentally and physically. I felt like I had just scaled a mountain, but I didn’t want to go lie in some stranger’s bed that probably smelled like lavender. I still had the beard to fix too before someone saw. I trudged out of the closet and was going to look for scissors in the office when the wand caught my eye and I remembered the Lumos.
Two minutes later had me shouting ‘Lumos!’ like a mad man, waving the stick about my head, hoping to catch the right motion by simply trying them all. Swish flick flick swish lu-MOS LUH-mos! Levi-O-sa! All I got were sparkles. Which looked quite pretty, and if you ran around and waved it just fast enough you can make multiple trails before they disappeared and have the whole room sparkle all the colours of the rainbow for five seconds. Creaking knees stopped the game in the end but it was fun while it lasted.
I have magic!
Chapter 4: Shenanigans
You must think by now that I am nothing but a crybaby. Well bully for you. I don’t know if you’re going to be able to read all my thoughts or everything that I do, sometimes a book is too strong and only the most extreme actions of a self-insert will show in their copy. Or the person doesn’t do much, play out the book's events to hide themselves and then continue as they want. We even think the character might absorb some of us over time so I have no idea what my future really holds and it is scary, thank you very much. Anyway, back to crying, in my world (maybe you’re from another, who the fuck knows) we have Tumblr that taught us it is okay to cry. So I am not going to worry about what you think. Much.
The whole castle would be asleep by now, and dinner felt a very long way off. Dumbledore wouldn’t need his candy anymore so once I stopped waving the wand around, and gathered some of my breath back, I appropriated it for myself. With it in hand, and wand tucked under my arm, I went back to the office in search of the elusive thing called scissors. For all I know wizards use a spell and wouldn’t know a scissor from their ass. Then I will be truly fucked.
I pushed a fistful of jelly babies into my mouth—the whole bag disappointingly filled with normal candy, I was kind of hoping for a frog—and started opening the desk drawers one by one for a thorough search.
“What on earth are you doing, Albus.”
“Looking for scisso—” My heart stopped. I swear. It gave one hard thump and then nothing. I froze.
“Have you finally lost it?” the man's voice asked from across the room. Damn that gargoyle! Is it Quirrell? That short guy had a squeaky voice so it couldn’t be—
“He has," another voice answered for me, this time from above my head. Was it the ghosts? They were amazing to see at the feast but I definitely wouldn’t want them near my rooms! “First the crying then the shouting—”
“He cried?” This one was a woman! “He’s not moving now, do you think a Petrificus Totalus? Is there someone else here?” She sounded worried, her voice rising to a near squeak at the end.
“There’s no one here,” someone else soothed. What the hell did he mean there’s no one here, he was! They were! “Relax, Edessa. That’s when I woke, yes, he sat crying for over an hour, right there at the door and look, the chair hadn’t moved so no one came in after.” This voice came from the wall to my left.
I started breathing again. How could I forget about them, what else had they seen? When I came in they had been immobile I had not even spent them a thought. All the Headmasters hung on the walls, how could I forget that, and every last one had seen me run around like a headless chicken. For fucks sake, why didn’t they speak up earlier to save me all this embarrassment. Face it, nothing has been going my way ever since I appeared here, was this now going to be my life?
One of them spoke up, his voice the pure gravel of a smoker. “Running about making sparks, don’t forget that,” he scoffed. “I can see into his room.”
“Well he’s certainly not moving now.”
Because you scared the bloody shite out of me, that’s why. I stood crouched over a drawer, hand frozen half way in, and honestly I didn’t want to look up. I was praying to become invisible. Magic don’t fail me now.
“Well he is one hundred and ten years old, that’s long in the tooth for anyone. Senility can be expected.”
“Possession more likely, senility creeps up on you and I am sure we would have noticed,” another said.
“I say it is time we call someone,” yet another voice spoke up, or was it the first? By now they sounded indistinguishable. “McGonagall will do.”
I jerked up. “No!”
“Oh look,”—peering at me over spectacles was a large florid faced man dressed in drab brown robes, his voice acerbic—“the possessed Wizard doesn't want us to call someone. How curious.”
“I am voting we sit back and watch,” a Witch at his side said with a cackle. Next to his portrait was an empty one reminding me they can move about also. What sounded good in the books turned out to be really creepy. I shuddered at the thought of them following me. Watching all I do. “What do we care if he is someone else, I haven’t had this much fun in years.”
“I am not possessed!”
“We wouldn’t expect you to say anything else,” someone said to my left and I twisted around but it could have been any of the three portraits hanging on that wall, all of them looking down their noses at me.
Round and round they went, quibbling over what action to take, and short of burning them—I didn’t see any matches or I swear I would’ve—I wouldn’t be able to stop them whatever they decided. Unable to stand the loud squabbling a moment more, I grabbed my candy bag and wand, giving up on the search, and rushed to the alcove that I was sure led to my bedroom only to find myself in the cauldron room again. Aaargh!
Not for any money in the world was I going to go out there again. I circled the cauldron to the far wall and crouched down with my back against the stone. I couldn’t see any of them from here so I am sure peek-a-boo rules applied. Let them call someone and I will just deny whatever they say. See who calls who senile!
I went through all the jelly babies, the liquorice strips and was well into the thin mints before I got bored. To the side was a long wooden table with assorted jars, next to cutting board and knife. I went to have a closer look. The bookcase had left me very much concerned that something would bite so once I've pushed my spectacles up, I kept my hands well out of the way, firmly clasped behind me.
Herbs. That one was lavender. A bowl of lemons. No eyeballs or bat wings or slugs. One jar had honey. Another was more interesting, thick silvery liquid that swirled in the jar. I stared at it for a long time, waiting for it to stop, nearly putting myself into a trance with it. It looked like something you would gather from unicorns and I spun for myself a little fantasy around it that I am not going to tell you about.
I turned perplexed to the cauldron. Why would he want such a big one? What do you need all that fluid for? I stepped closer for another whiff. Definitely lemon. Was this just where the lemon drops came from? Was that canon or fanon? But how could a lemon drop mixture do this to my beard… I turned back to the table. Lavender. Was Dumbledore making his own hygiene products?
The bubbling fluid when I held my hand over it like you would to test a hot pan, was cold. Feeling braver, I touched the cauldron, fully expecting the tip of my finger to burn, after all there was flames under the pot, but was pleasantly surprised to find it cold too. Huh. Interesting. I finished the thin mints, ignoring the urge to chuck one in. Nothing else to do, I ate. I crunched some boiled caramels. There were four lollipops and I had to put the bag and the wand down to unwrap one, it’s been years since I had them and honestly it was nice to concentrate on something that was familiar. That’s when the brainwave struck.
This might be a lemon drop mixture but I would never know how to finish it and frankly it could be anything since it melted hair. I could just dip the beard in, letting it melt off until I had an even cut, couldn’t I. Who needed scissors now! I tucked the lollipop into my cheek—for this needed concentration—and set to it, internally praising myself for being so smart.
I am an idiot. I melted or vanished, however you want to call it, the beard right left right left right until it reached my chin. By now I was sniffling again, tearfully praying that I would do the Harry Potter thing and grow it back overnight, for there was no other hope for it. The problem I hadn’t figured into the equation was my hair. As long as my beard I could have tucked it into the belt too, but that was before I had mistakenly dipped some into the cauldron. I ended up parting it at the back and gathering both sides to the front, leaning way over the cauldron to give them one last equal dip. Such was my concentration on doing just this one thing right, that I forgot the lollipop in my cheek. The next thing I knew it dropped into the golden liquid with an underwhelming ‘plop’.
Of course I dove after it. I have no brain. My hand reached into the potion that up to now had MELTED everything I put into it, my arm up to the elbow and then the shoulder before I felt something hard and round. I made a grab for it. It slipped through my fingers twice, and by now I was leaning far over the bubbling fluid, but finally I caught it! All I needed to complete the worst day of my life was a push. An unearthly shriek split the air behind me, rendering me nearly deaf, but that was not a concern right then, far worse was yet to come. Talons ripped into my back, wings flapped at my head, a lone feather falling into the potion sizzled to nothing, and the MONSTROUS THING behind me PUSHED. I tumbled into the cauldron head first, the rest of me following seconds after, swallowing as I went. Every time I surfaced I was attacked again, forcing me to duck back into the cauldron, again and again, screaming for help, choking, potion splashing everywhere. (Ever after I would hurl at the mere sight of lemon curd.) Finally, blessedly the cauldron tipped over, catching me under it, and it became both my jail and my shield as talons clanged against the iron.
The night had been too long. All the stress that came with the insert, having spent most of the night awake in Dumbledore’s old body, tiring him out with running about and mini heart attacks where he should have been tucked into bed directly after dinner. It was all too much. I blacked out.
Chapter 5: Life can get stranger yet.
I could have died. If it wasn’t for the handle, set a bit higher than the rim, the cauldron would have suffocated me while I lay unconscious under it. The handle allowed the rest of the potion to escape and left a thin line between the cauldron and the tiles for fresh air to reach me. Or so I was told by Minerva McGonagall.
She sat next to my bed, holding my hand in both of hers, her face a mixture of awe and exasperation. “Albus. What were you thinking.”
I kept my mouth shut. Bit my tongue and zipped my lips. Someone had done me a favour and put my glasses on, though they kept sliding down. To her left stood Poppy Pomfrey, the Mediwitch, waving her wand about. Spell after spell washed over me, her whole face contorted into a frown. Her magic tickled up my spine and buzzed through my head, it felt like poking your finger at a live wire.
To her right stood Severus Snape. I dared not look at him. Once was enough. Where Minerva was shocked, and Poppy concerned, he seemed to be having a hard time keeping a straight face. I could understand the first two being here but why on earth did they call him? What would I benefit? I had medical support in Poppy and emotional in Minerva who seemed glued to my hand. All I could think was we must be fast friends. He calls me by my name and does not hesitate to enter my rooms—
“Poppy, he is turning red,” Minerva said, clutching my hand tighter. “Should we be concerned?”
Tired, I closed my eyes. I was just waiting for them to leave so I could have the mother of all freakouts but I might be too exhausted even for that. I could probably have slept through to the morning after my blackout, had the tingling magic not woken me up and I struggled against a yawn.
“Poppy!” Minerva called.
Snape’s cough sounded suspiciously like an aborted laugh as Poppy assured my Deputy that I was not croaking. For the second time that night I prayed for invisibility. I tell you, it is starting to be an unhappy trend.
The damn portraits had called them. Both the women were in dressing gowns, Minerva still had her nightcap on and Poppy in turn seemed to think her nurses cap was required, never mind that the red and white cap seriously clashed with the voluminous pink nightgown. Snape, on the other hand, was dressed all in black, his robe still buttoned up to the throat, and he looked as if he had never gone to bed.
From what I was told when I woke to find myself already tucked into my own bed, the portraits had informed them that Fawkes had gone mad and attacked me, that they heard me calling for help. None of the portraits are able to see into that alcove so it was all conjecture on their part and my word against theirs. I only needed a moment of peace to figure out a plan! The three had looked to me to confirm the story and that was when I decided silence was best.
I was going to burn all the portraits. Every last one. If I looked through my lashes, I could see six of them gathered in one painting, squashed into an awkward crush, straining to see around the doorway. They had said nothing about senility, though Dilys Derwent—according to Poppy who paused to give me a telling look, and honestly she need not have bothered for I had not yet a clue who that was—had mentioned possible possession. Half of the spells she was currently throwing at me were testing for that. I am now waiting for the moment she tells them I am an insert. What would they do to me if they knew? What could I do to save myself, especially in my new form?
I’ve been avoiding it but I suppose you’re going to find out anyway. Somehow I have… de-aged. Are you laughing yet? This has been the weirdest day. An hour ago I was a hundred plus year old Wizard with hai—creaky knees, and right this minute Poppy was testing to see if I was three or four. Their money on three.
I currently lay firmly tucked under the lavender smelling covers, dressed in a too big undershirt that one of them had pulled from my closet. Though the robes had not shrunk with me, they had been a wet mess, and apparently dear Poppy had decreed them gone. I don’t know who had done the dressing and frankly I don’t want to know. Every time I thought about it I felt my cheeks heat up yet again and Minerva would breathe a bit faster, calling, “Poppy!”
“I cannot find anything wrong,” Poppy declared at last.
“What do you mean you cannot find anything, Poppy, he is a child! Look at him!” Minerva called agitated. “Everything is wrong with him!”
“No dear. He is a fine and healthy four year old.”
“What about possession,” Snape asked.
“You see before you Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. No one in this room is possessed, we have some excitable portraits, that is all.”
I sagged in relief.
“Then why doesn’t he want to talk?” Minerva kept on.
“I have no idea. He is certainly able to,” Poppy replied.
There was silence. I kept my eyes firmly closed when Minerva called my name. Perhaps if I ignore them, they might go away.
“Look at him,” Snape scoffed. “He is clearly faking it, Minerva, what do you expect, he is a child.”
At this my eyes flew open and I positively GLARED at the man. It is one thing when Minerva said it, for she despaired. He, on the other hand… “I am not a child!”
“You are certainly acting like one,” he countered.
He did not say ‘Are too.’ He raised an eyebrow at me and I shrank away from the sharp look that accompanied it, remembering Legilimency with a stomach clench. I felt very much exposed and desperately wanted to pull the blankets over my head and hide away until everything was magically fixed but that would just prove him right.
“When will I turn back,” I turned to Poppy instead. “How will you fix this?”
She looked at me as helpless as I felt. “I’m sorry Albus, I am sure Severus here can make an antidote once you’ve told him more about your potion. Congratulations by the way, this is monumental, the first ever permanent de-aging potion? Why you’ll surely get the order of Merlin.”
“Oh god,” Minerva groaned. “Poppy, can you imagine every last adult suddenly running around as four year olds? What have you done, Albus?”
“I for one have no wish to repeat my childhood,” Severus said. Poppy added a ‘Neither do I’ and Minerva nodded her agreement. They all stared at me.
“If you think I wanted to be four years old you are out of your minds.” Oh my voice! The high tone of a toddler sounded awful, just awful. I fought against crying, my eyes burning hot with the threatening tears, and I pinched my lips together. I certainly wasn’t going to do it in front of them.
“Then what happened, Albus?” Minerva asked. “Phineas said Fawkes attacked you? We can’t find him anywhere,” she said. “Why on earth would he do that?”
Who the fuck was Phineas? As to Fawkes, my best guess was the bird knew. Were feathers the same as hair? If he got splashed he might be hopping around somewhere, naked as the day he was born—serves him right. I didn’t have a story yet and if I opened my mouth right now I would cry.
They waited until it became clear I wasn’t going to talk and explain anything and Minerva turned yet again to the Mediwitch, “Poppy!”
“Minerva, Poppy, could I have a word alone with Albus.”
My internal ‘why!’ was echoed by my Deputy.
“I think we can clear this up with a small private chat,” Severus said.
“Really, Severus?” Minerva asked her voice cool. “Albus has no need to hide anything from us.”
“I think it is a good idea,” Poppy spoke up, and shooed her hands at the other woman. “Severus is right, let’s go wait outside, Minerva.”
“Fine.” She dropped my hand and stood up. “We cannot waste time on this nonsense, Albus, we have to plan!” she tried a last time, and when I refused to respond she stormed out, chin raised to high heaven.
Snape shucked his wand out of his sleeve—remembering mine falling out I would love to know how he did that—and waved it at the doorway, muttering something under his breath. “There. No one can hear us now.” He turned to me with a strange smile. “Do you want to go have a look at yourself in the mirror?”
Oh he didn’t. Furious, feeling my blood boiling, I sat up and couldn’t rein in my tongue. “Do you think this is a joke?”
“Not at all. Who are you.”
“What—” My stomach lurched.
“The Albus I know, and Minerva will realize it once she comes to her senses, would never make such a potion.” His gaze sharpened. “Look me in the eyes!”
The wimp in me automatically deferred to the authority in his voice and I looked up into his dark eyes.
The room swayed, everything tilted and I blacked out a second time that night. It was quite pleasant.
I came to with Minerva fervently taking Snape to task for being the worst sort of idiot, using Legilimency on a toddler. Her words. Did he know? Was he going to expose me? I peeked through my lashes. They were standing at the foot of my bed, and both turned to look at me.
“It needed to be done," he defended himself, not looking sorry at all. "He’s been acting odd since dinner."
“Poppy already confirmed that he is Albus! He has the body of a four year old child, Severus, you could have done his mind irreparable harm!”
“I know my craft, Minerva, he only fainted.”
“He only...oh well that’s fine then.”
“Explain Fawkes attacking him,” he countered, sounding unimpressed with her sarcasm.
“We have just word of the portraits to go on, Severus. I very much doubt it happened like that,” said my staunch supporter.
“Minerva. The Albus we know would have been up, flouncing about in his nightshirt, ordering us to bed, and promising he would sort it all in the morning. This one keeps pinching his lips together, looking like he wants to cry! He refuses to tell us anything of value and has spent the last two minutes pretending to be asleep!”
“Because he is also a four year old child!”
“No. I beg to differ. He only looks like a four year old child, he had strong Occlumency shields up which no child would be able to manage,” he said.
I had? Does this mean he hadn’t found me out? What will I do? I dare not admit being an insert, but how else would I explain a supposedly intelligent member of their society dipping himself accidentally into a potion that had just moments before MELTED my beard, diving after a lollipop. By the way, it was nice not to have an itchy chin anymore.
“Albus, we can see you are awake,” Minerva sighed. “Stop fooling around and tell us what happened. Do you remember?”
Amnesia! Oh my word, she is a lovely woman. My eyes flew open of their own accord and I rose up. The trope that solved all troubles—thank you, Minerva, goddess of—
“No.” Snape spat. “Don’t you dare.”
Are you reading my mind? I thought at him.
“No, I am not reading your mind, it is clear as day on your baby face that inspiration has struck, you forget we deal with children every day here, Albus. Don’t you dare claim memory loss!”
I turned to Minerva. “I am sorry,” I told her in my newly minted child’s voice and pushed my spectacles higher up my nose to squint at her, ignoring the greasy bat who was turning out to be no friend of mine. “I don’t remember anything. Who are you?”
Their faces were a treat to behold.
Swaying forward, Snape went nearly apoplectic with rage, his eyes bulging at me. “Nonsense!”
Minerva in contrast turned pale. “Albus?”
She swung to Snape, suddenly a vicious Harpy, and shouted: “Irreparable harm, Severus! See what you’ve done!”
Don’t retaliate, is what my mom had tried in vain to teach me since I was knee high. Which I suppose I am again. If someone smacked me I would soon smack them twice. If my sisters tickled me for a minute I would tickle them for ten. Well, I’m sorry but it was fun to see Snape have a fit and I could imagine him now much more clearly in the Sirius Black debacle. Anyway he started it with the mind whammy, so there. If not for Minerva looking like she was about to cry—Ha! Join me!—I would have let it go on a while longer.
“I’m sorry Minerva, I was just having a bit of fun with…” I flapped my hand at Severus who had stormed out to interrogate the portraits. “I meant I don’t remember anything about Fawkes, I cannot imagine he would ever attack me, are you sure you can’t find him? All I remember is feeling dizzy and then the next thing I woke here in bed with you holding my hand.”
There was a moment where I feared she would bite my head off whole but then she deflated. “This really will not do.” She sank down on the edge of my bed instead, touching pale fingers to her brow. “Now is not the time for fooling around, Albus. We have to plan, you cannot be seen like this.”
“Why not? It’s just magic after all, I am smaller but I am still me. Filius”—I remembered!—“manages just fine.”
“There will be a debate on that. Filius might be short but he still looks like an adult, Albus. Severus would not be the last one to disagree and what if they do decide you are not who you declare yourself to be, the Wizengamot will be up in arms!”
“Not to talk about the old Death Eaters who would love to get their hands on such a potion, or better yet the potion maker. You cannot defend yourself in this state,” Snape said from the door. He turned to Minerva. “See? This is why I say impostor, Minerva. Albus would have already thought of this.”
Honestly this was getting tiring. Did he have Albus on a pedestal or what? Albus this Albus that, it’s enough to make me sick.
“Well what do you propose we do, Severus?” Minerva asked.
“If Poppy is right and this is not going to wear off then we have to hide him until I can make an antidote. I say we send him to Aberforth and cover for him here. It’s not too difficult to say he is out when someone looks for him.”
“Aberforth! No!” I won’t be pushed off on any strange man that supposedly hated me!
“I will not send a child to live in a pub,” Minerva said. I fell a bit more in love with her.
Severus Snape threw his hands in the air. “I thought we decided he was an adult in a child’s body!”
“Be that as it may, for others he will look like a child. Besides, they have a very strained relationship and how well would he be protected there? Hogwarts is the safest place if we fear abduction.”
“I don’t know what the big deal is. I can just stay in my rooms.”
“For the weeks it might take for me to make an antidote? All right, problem solved. Let’s go Minerva. We have an hour until we need to wake up and face the horrors of a new school year.”
“Severus…” she said in a tone, and he visibly sagged.
“Fine. Then he goes with you… a grandchild that you’re looking after. You’re already managing most of the school, we can direct the ministry owls to your apartments and he can continue his responsibilities from there. It’s not as if the owls will let us have his mail anyway, impostor or not.”
“I have too much on my plate to look after a child. Besides, I would need to have had my own children to be able to have a grandchild, where do you propose I get them from.”
“I’m not a child.”
“A nephew then,” Snape said, ignoring me.
“My family is well known, it will not be believed for a moment. No. I think he should live with you.”
“Over my dead body!”
“I am not going to live with him!” I shouted. My new voice made it sound pathetic. Like a child throwing a tantrum. Oh where was that deep voice of… hours ago. All it needed was for me to kick my legs.
“Yes, a secret affair,” Minerva mused. I could have spared my breath for the two of them were engaged in battle and at that moment I did not exist. “Your son has moved in after an unfortunate accident where his mother—”
“No!” It was Severus’s turn to sound like he was throwing a tantrum.
“Yes.” She stood up and spoke with such finality that I for one was immediately convinced my future was with Snape. There was going to be no way to refuse her. “Do not forget, Severus, I am still the Deputy Headmistress and as such I am making this an order.”
“People are not idiots, Minerva. Albus disappear at the same time that a younger Albus pops up? Even if we call him something else they are going to put two and two together.”
“Then Albus will be at breakfast this morning with the two of you,” she said and marched to my bathroom—really these people were very comfortable in my rooms. She came back with a hairbrush. “I am sure you keep some Polyjuice around.”
“I do not have extra room for him, I only have the couch.” Was his last weak kick against the tide.
“He is small. I am sure he will fit.”
While the whole school was gawking at Severus Snape’s new son, while Minerva/Albus was happily munching toast next to us, I fell asleep in my porridge.
Chapter 6: The Intrepid Explorer
The thing is, I might not survive the six or so years Dumbledore had left before the ring got him. Supposedly wizarding children don’t die off so easily, the bouncing Neville being a good example, but I was in a completely new world where I had no idea even what’s safe to touch. Not that it stopped me. Which is why the dying part came to play. More of that later.
Snape woke me up with a sandwich. “What’s your name,” he barked while I was still groggy, struggling to open my eyes, scrabbling blindly for my glasses.
“Albus.” I had just had a dream where every portrait in the castle hissed Albusss as I passed. The answer came without hesitation. I found my glasses on the low coffee table next to the couch and put them on only to wish I hadn’t. The man stood towering over me, face severe, looking extremely put out at my answer. He clattered a plate and glass down on the table with more noise than was necessary.
“Eat and wake up,” he said. “You can’t sleep the whole day or you will never be able to sleep tonight.”
“I’m sure I will,” I answered just to be stubborn.
“Poppy’s instructions. You’ll be interested to know she gave me a whole list on childcare. According to her you will be grumpy if you do not sleep in a proper schedule and I am not going to put up with a moody child. Eat, and when you are done you can write down your potion, there’s everything you need.” He pointed to a heap of parchment, topped with inkpot and quills. If it wasn’t for the potion part I would have been delighted to have a go at calligraphy with quills. I might not have been a true Potterhead but the books had started a fashion. “Or are you going to pretend you don’t remember?” he broke through my thoughts, curling his top lip.
I should say something to him about his attitude. Real Dumbledore would probably want some respect but my stomach grumbled. I can’t remember how much porridge I had eaten, and besides, he couldn’t prove it before and I doubt anything has changed now so I ignored Snape in favour of inspecting the food he had brought me. Cheese and tomato sandwich. Gah dammit. I picked the tomato slices out and was not about to lick my fingers clean, ew. My hand never reached my clothes though, Snape caught it midway and wiped my fingers with fast, efficient movements into his handkerchief.
“So you did your homework, it still doesn’t mean I believe that you are Albus,” he snapped.
“More than one person knows Albus doesn’t eat tomatoes, you will need to try harder than that!”
The fuck? Asshole. Hunger made me bite and chew before I snapped back. “No? You’re the one that needs to try harder, if so many people know about the tomatoes then it was a poor test,”—I swallowed—“Severus.” I took another bite and the food powered my brain. I had the perfect thing to say. I pulled out my most disappointed tone, squeaky voice be damned, “My dear boy, is all this really necessary? I am and will always be me, why won’t you accept it and save us all this fuss.”
Snape reared back, his face a picture that spoke a thousand words and none of them kind. “I will be in class for the rest of the afternoon,” he snarled and swung about with a flare of his robes to storm away, slamming the door behind him.
It was a relief to be alone. My shoulders sagged and I slumped over the plate, taking my time with the rest of the sandwich. The bread was thick grainy slices, it tasted homemade and whoever prepared it had not skimped on the cheese. House-elves I supposed. If I wasn’t enjoying my own company so much I would have tried to call them to ask for more. The drink was a glass of milk which I rolled my eyes at but internally I sang hallelujah that they hadn’t thought pumpkin juice to be healthier, and besides, a cold glass of milk not only staved off left over hunger, but was delicious as well. I did not mind at all.
I took a good look at my dimly lit surroundings. The room was tiny, just big enough for a threadbare sofa, coffee table and a single armchair, all done up in dark greens and browns. The wall behind me was crowded with books very much similar to my new office, but looking musty in this light. The facing wall had an enormous fireplace, big enough for Snape to stand upright in and orange flames crackled, filling the room with a nice and toasty heat. Two doors finished the setup, one into which Snape had disappeared. I went exploring through the other, doing a good job ignoring how strange it felt to have the doorknob eye-height and having to use two hands to turn it.
The first room was an office that must double as brewing station, the cauldron on the table was as big as a cooking pot and currently empty which was just as well. A stack of parchment piqued my curiosity. Summer homework for the fifth years, a Comparative Analysis of Confusing and Befuddlement Draughts. Incomprehensible penmanship that hurt my eyes and half of it didn’t make sense, their thoughts meandering in every direction, did they have to drink the draught before they did the homework? More books against all the walls, the place was turning into a veritable library. A book growled when I tried a closer look and after that I carefully kept my distance. A cabinet full of writing materials. Racks and racks full of jars, a good few that looked like pickled baby animals, others with lidded eyes that turned to watch my doings, and blink at me. I pushed on with a little bit more speed to the only other door at the far end, hairs on my neck rising as I passed. I felt a momentary giddy happiness that I hadn’t inserted into something like The Jewel of the Nile, for I would have made a terrible explorer.
The door led to a bedroom. Doom and gloom yet again, this time in silvers and greens. The lighting everywhere was shite sconces and the dim glow probably hid a truckload of dust. Well not so shite maybe, on closer inspection I saw they were floating unaided above my head and magic couldn’t be called shite.
Possible dust aside, Snape’s bedroom was extremely tidy. I wisely ignored the cabinets and closet—I really didn’t want to know what he would do to me if he found me going through his personal stuff—to pass through yet another door at the far end. Well, all right, I did stop to take in the prerequisite trunk at the foot of the bed in a hands-off sort of way. It looked old, the wood well worn, it had the initials S.S. stamped in brass on the lid, and the brassy handles turned out to be curling snakes. It was everything I thought a Slytherin’s school trunk would look like. Glee bubbled up inside me as it finally hit me. I was in Harry Potter world! The trunk, more than anything else for me, was such a symbol of going to Hogwarts that I spent some time gaping at and examining it as close as I dared without actually opening it, before passing to the next room. (Fine, it was locked, I tried. Kill me.)
Snape’s rooms seemed to be one long row of boxes, each attached to the next. It seemed a stupid way to organise lodgings and I’ve yet to find a kitchen. There were no windows anywhere and I did not need to wonder why the man was so pale. Honestly, if I had a kid in Slytherin dungeons I would complain. We were definitely breaking some fire-safety rules for one.
Finally a bathroom and nothing more. It was as large as the bedroom, with a rusty clawfoot tub where I would have expected a shower. A sink and a bench that doubled for seating and towel rack—ah there you are. A lone mirror in the corner. I made a beeline for it.
The fuck... They were not joking, I looked like a fucking three year old toddler. A dark haired, blue eyed, chubby cheeked toddler with spectacles. At least Poppy had fixed my frames to fit my new size and lowered my prescription until I could see clearly again. They had dressed me in a dark blue robe taken from my own closet and shrunk, this time Minerva’s work. It hung to my ankles and I was still wearing the boots that she had transfigured also, seems Snape didn’t mind shoes on his couch or just didn’t want to touch the impostor, uncaring of my comfort.
This time I did not remove any clothes. There was nothing in this child’s body that I wanted to see. They had shrunk my shorts too and hadn’t that been an embarrassment. I tightened the robe around me and tried to control my breathing. I know—I know, I am getting tired of it too. At some point I expect I will stop crying. You can at least give me a day or two until then. Or does it feel like ages already for you too.
A four year old bladder has much the same urgency as a hundred and ten year old one it seemed, and that’s all you need to know about the next bit. Any ablutions now and in the future while I still inhabited this tiny frame is going to be my business and mine alone.
The best thing about Snape’s rooms was no portraits. Not even a still life. Just to be sure I rounded them once more. None.
Back in the sitting room and feeling bold without supervision I kneeled down next to the coffee table to take up the smallest of the ivory coloured quills. The nib was a sharply cut point that pricked a hole in my palm when I tested it and I sucked the blood away. The parchment felt like normal paper, looked a bit yellowish and smelled dry, a bit like dusty cabinets and nothing like what it was really made of…surely Wizards don’t use animal skin anymore? There is so much to learn I was going to have to make a list. You would think Snape being a teacher would consider my smaller hands and give me an easier ink pot to open for it was just by the grace of god that the whole thing did not spill when I finally managed to twist it hard enough, jerking it wildly. It was a boring black and not the colour changing one Harry had found on his first shopping trip and I felt strangely let down.
I dipped the quill in the ink and watched the black liquid dripping down back into the small pot. That’s another thing Potterheads were in contention about. The use of archaic quills and ink when surely a fountain pen would do as well if ballpoint was out of the question or why not a pencil? Some say magical or whatnot particles in the ink will erode any other metals and clog the nibs where others contend that Wizards were stuck in time and their old fashioned ways. I wish I had someone to ask. Can you imagine what would happen if I asked Snape? The man would have the mother of all fits and his very last dying words would be ‘Aha!’
I put the quill to parchment. The idea that I would be able to write down the potion was laughable but fear not, I did have a plan there. For now, in my best calligraphy, I penned:
I am Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
The quill felt too large and unwieldy in my small fingers and left the tips of three black but on the writing itself I don’t think I did a bad job. I let the parchment roll back up and sighed. It’s probably a very bad idea to start a list of things I wanted to learn. The internet age has taught us very well don’t write down anything you wouldn’t want read. Thing is I was going to need to know a lot of things and very fast if I wanted to pass as Albus, but how? Best I could do was a little mental list.
Things to learn.
What is parchment made of. Please don’t let it be animal skin.
Why quills and not pencils or pens or fountain pens or any damn thing that didn’t turn the tips of pudgy baby fingers black.
Why was there no kitchen and how do I get a snack...
It was boring being alone. I gathered up some courage and peeked through the door Snape had left through to find an office. Why would the man need more than one? This room had two doors, one with frosted glass set into the upper half and I crept closer to hear his voice drone behind it. Class then. There was a keyhole to peek through and I was just the right height for it. I caught a glimpse of students sitting behind cauldrons before a black shape obscured everything and I hurried nervously back to the sitting room not bothering with the second door. Heart beating, breathless, I couldn’t keep myself from giggling. This was so awful! I swallowed a half hysterical laugh, gathering my nerves. This time I could quite proudly say I did not cry. Buck up buttercup, I might yet.
Boring boring boring, I wish they had a television. I missed my laptop. Youtube. If I had youtube I could watch a video on how parchment was made and need not bother asking anyone. Molly had a wireless didn’t she? Perhaps Snape had one in his other office, it would do no harm to check.
Five minutes later had me balancing on his chair, standing on tiptoe on the armrests to reach a jar full of hundreds of tiny lidless eyeballs that rolled as one in the direction of movement.
"Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. Ha! Contrary to what you might think by now, I am not stupid, I read. Eye of newt was probably mustard seed, in fact most of the ingredients in witches brews were just names for herbs, most likely to sound scary to deter other people from practicing their witchcraft. Not in Harry Potter world. In here when they say eyes they mean eyes, it was awful, gory and fascinating! It needed exploring!
I grazed the jar with the tips of my fingers. Nearly there, just a stretch more… maybe step up on the shelf there…
The crash was phenomenal. The whole rack tipped, six shelves filled to the brim with jars came tumbling down—the little eyeballs flying over my head, I swear I saw the tiny pupils dilating, turning en masse to give me a perplexed look as I fell—flew!—in the opposite direction, before they shattered against the far wall. The ringing of exploding glass echoed through the small room long after the last shard fell.
I found myself under the desk with a banged up elbow and fast blistering hand, all around me carnage. He was going to kill me. I'm going to be one dead little Insert before the day was done. Holy mother of… The smell!
Face the music or run?
Chapter 7: Fanboy.
Shards crunched into the thick soles of my boots. Through the only untested door, into the hallway and in a vague direction of ‘up’. That’s where my feet took me.
Did you know a four year old can speed? I had forgotten that. My fingers felt clumsy on doors and quills and perhaps now to be included jars—or should I count the whole rack?—and I needed to give myself a little boost up on couches and chairs, but there was something great about my legs. I could take flight with this speed. They pumped up and down with endless energy and three hallways over, up two flights of stairs and down another long passage and I wasn’t even short of breath! Even before I had inserted I had started to creak and come-on who can jog up flights of stairs like they were nothing. This was amazing and for a while there I forgot why I ran, skidding down hallways and sliding around corners like I was an Olympic toddler. I would have been great in The Powerpuff Girls only I don’t think it was ever a book. A shame. Anyway. I’m never going to walk anywhere again!
“Where are you going, little Albus!” a portrait called and remembering my dream I picked up a bit of speed.
All good things must come to an end though. (Which needn’t be so sad, most good things can just be repeated, go again on that roller coaster, eat another slice of that cake.) My hand started to ache like crazy and I slowed down to examine it. Shite. Bubbling green blisters on purple skin, the world tilted a bit and I did the one thing I excel at. I hid my hand in my pocket. Oh, an awful thought sprung to mind, oh holy hell what if it’s the same thing that killed Real Dumbledore…? Look, I know it was a cursed ring but what was the curse, could it have come out of a jar? Am I going to die now too? Oh the irony if I die before Snape gets to kill me!
“What are you doing here, little Albus?”
“Oh fuck off,” I told the portrait and swung around to give him a good piece of my mind for following me like a creep!
“Excuse me?” The affronted voice came not from the wall but a real human being a few feet away. At first I thought him a Professor, but no, it was just the toddler perspective that messed it up a moment.
“Sorry, I thought you were a portrait!”
Percy Weasley. I wouldn’t have recognized him if he hadn’t introduced himself. Still the actors were the first faces I pictured with the names. He was tall, which doesn’t say much because even the first years were tall for me now, slim, had carroty coloured hair and wore spectacles similar to mine. Little golden frames that he pushed up on his long nose to see me better.
“I’m a prefect, you know,” he informed me at the end of his introduction, sounding a bit snotty, looking down his nose at me.
“I know.” I gazed up at him and smiled, he had always been my favourite MC in fanfics and don’t ask me why, so I didn’t care one whit how he sounded. Remembering all the teasing he got when he became a prefect, I tried a kindly, “I can see the shiny badge, is it nice?”
“Being a prefect?”
I nodded. My neck was going to fall right off if I had to look up at everybody.
There was a moment in which I thought he would raise his chin and say something he might have thought profound, but he didn’t. Instead he grinned wide and happy. “It is lovely, I get to boss everybody around. Well, everyone except my brothers. Why are you in the halls?”
“I don’t have class. Why are you in the halls.”
“Funny. I am doing a round for stray little firsties, they always seem to get lost in the first few days so we try to help them. Do you need help back to your dad?” He crouched down, which was a relief, but now I could see his spotty chin.
Things to learn.
Where to get a snack.
Do Wizards not have anything for spots or are their standards of facial care much more relaxed. Oh and teeth! And why are we wearing glasses!
“Albus?” he repeated, worried, waving his hand in front of my face. “You with me? Do you need help getting back to your dad?”
“Oh definitely not. If you want to help you can direct me to a secret passage so I can hide better.”
“I would rather take you back to your dad.”
“I would really rather you didn’t,” I said, matching his serious tone. “Besides, I don’t think I fall under your jurisdiction.” Gah. My baby tongue struggled with all the syllables making me sound like a true tot. I should probably tone it down, how do four year olds even speak?
“Good one, smarty pants,” Percy said with a smile and I relaxed again. “Jurisdiction or not, the halls are not always safe, especially for the young and wandless, so you might as well give up because I am not going to leave you alone. Want to tell me then why you are hiding?”
“No,” I said, and just in case he didn’t take me seriously I shook my head also. “Nope,” I said again, popping the p in classic fanfic way. That’s a terrible thing to read but surprisingly fun thing to do. I don’t think JKR did it in any of her books and it nearly made me laugh out loud thinking that it might...pop up...in my book now. “Nooo.”
I must have looked tragic, trying to keep a straight face, for his voice suddenly sounded very sympathetic. “Trouble then?” he asked.
“Do you have a time-turner?”
“Ah no. But I do know some useful spells and it sometimes helps to just talk about things that bother.”
It was worth a try. I removed my left hand from my pocket and stuck it under his nose, the skin itching again near immediately. “Can you fix this?”
We both looked at my purple hand, fresh green blisters bubbling up. I was going to barf.
To Percy’s credit he did not turn a hair. “Oh good job sticking that in your pocket,” he praised me in the universal let’s-mollify-the-toddler tone. “That was very smart. Put it back—”
“Why?” Hiding your injury was smart? Truly this world was weird. “Why is it smart.” This was really frustrating not knowing anything. “Why should I put it back.”
“Because pockets have Keep-safe charms, right?”
He explained, carefully reaching out to put my hand back for me as he did so. It turns out that Wizarding robes were amazing. Pockets made by a good tailor could hold nearly ten times their volume, and had stasis charms so no parent would ever have to find anything yucky in the wash—his words—making my hand hurt less when I had hid it. The cloth of my robes and leather of my boots were made impermeable to all kinds of hexes and potions and that’s the reason it was literally still spotless. A thing I hadn’t even noticed.
“We’ll go to Madam Pomfrey, she’s the Mediwitch here, she’ll fix you up—she can just about fix anything,” Percy said. “Are you good to walk? It’s a bit far.”
Yeah, no. "I don’t want to go to her, thank you. I thought you knew spells?”
“I do. I can fix nosebleeds and cuts quite good, and I have some Bruise balm for bumps, my roomie gets loads of those in Quidditch. I also know how to reverse most hexes and pranks. I am quite proficient in those, if I may say so myself." He preened and puffed his chest up. "Why don’t you want to go to her?”
“She’s going to”—worry/fuss/laugh at me, pick one for I don’t know her yet—“tell my dad.”
“Probably not. She is quite good at not asking things.”
“Why. She should ask things and tell parents.” This was something that really bothered me when I read the books, no one ever called the parents when the kids were petrified or at any other time that I know of. “If it was my kid I would want to know.”
Percy Weasley just looked at me, understandably perturbed with my double standards.
“I still don’t want to go to her,” I said, not caring.
“I will show you one secret passage after you’ve seen Madam Pomfrey, how’s that.”
“Show it to me before.” For I have fast legs, Mister Weasley, and I did not say it’s a deal.
He eyed me speculatively but stood up anyway, dusting his knees. “All right. Let’s go.”
Two steps down the hall he held out his hand and I nearly broke my neck right off to glare up at him, love or no love there was limits! “I’m not going to hold your hand!”
“Stop shouting and have some chocolate, you little snot nosed twat. I don’t want to hold your hand either.”
I stopped dead in my tracks. Percy Weasley had just called me a tw—well you heard him! Tears clogged my nose and misery tightened my throat, I struggled to think.
He stopped also, his hand still stretched out towards me, in it a small golden box with a little plastic window through which I could see a chocolate frog.
I didn’t want anything from him if he was going to break my heart and call me names but oh I really truly wanted my first chocolate frog to be from him, he was my very first book crush and it would just be perfect if he hadn’t just called me a… “I’m not a twat, you are!” I snapped at him and grabbed the box before he could change his mind.
“I apologize,” he said while I struggled to put it in my other pocket, hampered in doing it with one hand. “I have six siblings and we are always calling each other names, I did not think you might not be used to it.”
“We’ve only met two minutes”—There, finally in. I stuck my hand in my pocket and held it tight. Safe.—“ago, and it is too short a time to be so familiar. For instance, I wanted to ask you if there’s spells for spots or not when I saw your chin, but I didn’t, did I? These things should wait until we know each other longer than a minute, even a day would have been better. Good manners!”
“My apologies, Master Snape,” Percy said with a small bow, nearly giving me a heart attack thinking Snape behind me, making me twist about. I couldn’t figure out if he was laughing at me or not for his face was carefully blank when I turned back, hot faced myself, and the twinkle in his blue eyes could be from the glasses. “You are right, I acted much too familiar," he said. "Shall we go, then?” He swept his hand out, motioning down the hall like a butler.
I balked. “You said secret passage.”
“So I did, it’s around the corner. Come along then, I still have to return to class.”
The earlier levity was gone and I trudged by his side, unsure if it was my fault or his. Had I overreacted? We rounded the corner and he stopped at the side of an armour, reached out and shook its hand. It swung aside with a harsh creaking noise that could wake the dead. How was that secret! A black hole appeared in the castle wall, one in which I would fit easily but Percy would have to crouch.
“In you go, I’ll be right behind you.”
I was four years old, a veritable tiny tot that just took candy from a stranger and was about to follow him through a dark passage that led to who knows where. I saw the movie. I took a step back. A quick glance showed no portraits and an empty hall, no one to hear me if I scream…
Percy shook the armour’s hand a second time and the whole thing screeched shut again, with a nails-on-a-blackboard level of pain. “In case you were curious it leads straight to the infirmary." Oh well played, sir. "That’s probably why no one has oiled it, I doubt it’s used much. We can walk there, all right?” he said, and turned back to the passage, ever so casually not looking if I will follow. I followed. What else could I do?
We traversed one long hall in silence.
“Thank you for the chocolate.”
“I’m sorry I shouted at you.” I scuffed my boots, kicking the stone floor.
“You needn’t be," he answered kindly. "I was wrong to call you names, in fun or not. I’ve given it some thought and would probably not have done so had you not told me to fuck off—”
“I thought you were a portrait.”
“Yes, I know. Like I said, it gave me a false sense of what would be an acceptable way to converse with you and I need to apologise also.”
I sighed, if I wanted to fix this—and I do, oh I do—then maybe a bit of honesty was needed. “I may have exaggerated," I admitted shame faced, with some syllable trouble again. "I thought you were serious that’s all, I’ll be okay if you call me a twat now. ”
“Yea?” He slowed his walk. “What if I called you a booger face.”
I would hate that. I kept my hands firmly in my pockets in order not to swipe at my nose, thinking fast. “As long as everybody else don’t start to call me that. Do you think they will? You being a prefect and all it might set a trend…”
“You’re right. I’ll just call you Albus, unless you prefer Master Snape?” The last a clear tease.
“No! Albus is fine, Albus is great, thank you.” I nearly tripped over myself in happiness that all was good again between me and my favourite Weasly, smiling from ear to ear. Oh gah I am just embarrassing myself now. To cover my idiocy I said the first thing to come into my mind. “What is parchment made of?”
By the time we reached the infirmary he had explained in fair detail why we use quills. It was indeed a long way and we hadn’t even touched on my next question. Our Percy was quite pedantic, that was no lie, but I did not complain. I had just realised I could ask him anything I wanted and he would just think me a curious four year old, not shout ‘Impostor!’. He was in his element and internally I stuck my tongue out at his family for not supporting him better, something I will rectify! After Quirrell.
“Mister Weasley,” Poppy greeted Percy when he stepped into her office. “What can I do for you.”
“I brought you a little patient, Madame.” He stepped aside to show me.
“P—Hiii.” I gave her a mini wave.
“Is everything all right?” she asked concerned, rising from behind her desk.
I prepared to run. “Yea, yes. We were just visiting...”
“Be brave.” Percy Weasley whispered from the side of his mouth and winked at me.
How could I not be now? My stomach gave a delicious twist. Hating him a little bit for having this influence over me, I pulled out my left hand for her scrutiny.
“Oh dear. Whatever were you doing, Albus. Come along then. You may return to class, Mister Weasley, we will manage from here.”
“I will wait outside to walk him back, Madame.”
She eyed me speculatively. “Perhaps that’s a good idea,” Poppy agreed and shooed him out. Once the door closed behind him she turned to me, hands in her sides. “Right then. What have you done, dear.”
Ah yeah. Time to be adult again. “Mister Weasley has assured me that our Mediwitch asked no questions. Don’t fail him now, Poppy. Can you fix it?”
She could. She still made me say what caused it, under the pretext that she needed to know what ointment to put, and only afterwards had I realized she had already started smoothing on the pink salve while I spilled all.
“Really, Albus,” she laughed as the blisters disappeared under her ministrations. “Are you going to need saving from Severus?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Poppy. The day I cannot handle Severus is yet to arrive.”
Not ten minutes later she handed me over to Percy and we were back in the halls.
“Serious business now, Albus. I don’t mind missing history but next up is Transfiguration, and Professor McGonagall will annihilate me if I am not on time. I’m going to run you down to your dad, okay?”
“You can go to class, I will be fine by myself.”
“How about I’ll answer more of your questions on the way, would you like that?”
He was good. I nearly went for it but… Snape. “I can walk you to the class while you answer,” I countered.
At this Percy kneeled down next to me again giving me a second look at his spots. “Why don’t you want to go back to your dad.”
Fine. Let’s see if you want to go back to him. “I accidentally broke all his specimen jars and would rather not be confronted about it.”
“Goodness.” Horror flashed over his face but he did a good job containing it to give me a sympathetic shoulder pat. “And you’re scared of punishment. Do you think he will hurt you?”
That hadn’t occurred to me. Dare I say yes so Percy Weasley won’t insist I go back? Bigger question was would Snape hurt Albus Dumbledore? Definitely not. Does he think I am Albus Dumbledore? Definitely not. “You probably know him better than I do. You tell me.”
“I don’t think so. He might look a bit grumpy sometimes but I think you’re safe.”
“That’s heartening to know, Mister Weasley,” Snape said behind me, sounding dry as dust.
“Sir!” Percy jumped up.
As for me, I took off down the hall at maximum speed. I was about to do a zig zag in case he threw a Leg-locker curse or worse at me, when I ran into an invisible wall, bounced off, and hit the floor. Which felt as soft as a pillow. Snape stopped next to me, wand out.
“Going somewhere, Albus?”
“What were you doing with Poppy.”
“I burned my hand and she fixed it,” I said, going for honesty. What use to hide it if he could just ask Poppy.
He frowned something fierce. “Can I trust you to walk back or do I need to carry you.”
“You will really carry me?”
He bent down to examine both my hands a second, gripping and turning my pudgy digits with his long slim ones, before he scooped me up as easy as pie and dumped me over his shoulder, ignoring my surprised yell. Behind him Percy Weasley stood gaping at us.
Snape swung about and now I had only the empty hallway as view. “Continue on, Mister Weasley.”
“Yes, Professor.” He hesitated, though, I heard a scuffle of feet. “Sir, if I may—”
“No you may not.” We passed him at a steady clip. Under me, Snape sighed, “Go back to your class, Mister Weasley, I assure you young Albus will survive unharmed.”
Once the kid was out of sight I felt it safe to complain, and kicked my feet. “I didn’t actually mean you should carry me, your shoulder is very bony, you know?”
“So will you let me down?”
“No, this way is faster and I don’t have to run after you if you try to escape.”
“Poppy called you, right?”
“Poppy never calls, you would know that.”
Gah. “We’ve never had a four year old here.”
He sped up. I sulked over his shoulder. I didn’t want it to be faster. I wanted it to be slow and if I was walking I could drag my feet… We were in the dungeons before I knew it, and back into the rooms he dropped me unceremoniously onto the couch to loom over me with his hands firmly on his hips.
“Are you ready to tell me who you are?” Severus asked.
“I am myself.”
“But Weasley knows me better than you do.”
“Oh? Did you want me to admit to him I am his Headmaster? That I've known you since you were eleven? Such a little snot nose you were. Quite the tw-scamp.”
A tiny tick started in his left eye but he ignored my little bit of fun to hiss: “What I wanted was for you to stay in these rooms.”
“Bully for you, you should have said.”
“You don’t even talk like Albus!”
Fuck fuck fuck. Fake it. “Yes. I am well aware of that. If I am going to pretend to be a child until we have solved this unfortunate issue, I cannot pontificate like a centenarian, Severus. It would sound odd enough to raise suspicion. Though Weasley seemed to think it was precocious."
“I am starting to think you can turn the school on its head without raising suspicion. You’ve certainly got Minerva and Poppy on board! Shall we discuss the mess you’ve left here before you ran away? That seems to be a very childish thing also, were you pretending all on your lonesome here?”
“I happen to think it was quite sensible.” If he wanted me to be wordy I could oblige, and I had enough time over his damn bony shoulder to have thought something up. I pursed my lips. “My apologies, dear boy. Your collection was too interesting for little old me, I forgot my new size and… things fell.” I shrugged and settled deeper into the couch, affecting an air of calm. “Since I know very well that you would not appreciate being bothered in class, I went for a walk in order not to wait in the fumes, making a little detour at Poppy's.” See? If I have time to think I can make a good story, these hallways are long!
“And that is why you ran away from me in the halls,” he scoffed.
“All an act for young Weasley.” I shrugged, feeling very proud of myself. Do you remember the Christmas hats and Real Dumbledore acting the silly goose whenever he could? Don’t tell me he would not grab at the chance to play the child if opportunity presented and Severus Snape should know it! “I must say I find being a child quite invigorating, do you know how easy this body can run?” I swear I FELT MY EYES TWINKLE. “It’s a shame to let such energy go to waste.” There he went again with that face. I pulled my own at him. “Do you not have class, Severus?”
“Do you not have a potion to write down, Albus?”
“Why do double work? It’s in my rooms. I will fetch it tomorrow.” Let us bow our heads a moment in silent prayer that Dumbledore was a record keeper. He certainly had enough paperwork stacked on his desk. Ah well, things could always be mysteriously ‘lost’, hey I can blame it on Quirrell!
“We will fetch it after dinner.”
“Which is still very far off, kindly organise me a snack before you go.” I flapped my hand at him and watched his eyes do their best to pop out. He should hire me, no need to dissect any newts, I can just flap my hand at them and snip... I told him so.
“You are impossible!”
“Food!” I called after his disappearing back, not really expecting him to listen. Nevermind, I had a frog!
The pockets kept the contents unsquashable—Percy’s words—and the little box had not been dealt any damage with my rough treatment. I set my treat on the coffee table and knelt next to it, examining the frog. It seemed lifeless. Did JKR have it wrong? That’s going to be bloody fucking dissapointing, I tell you. Fuck my life. With a sigh I pried open the flap. A chocolate frog bounced against my face, tiny fingers and feet scrabbling for purchase before it LEAPT.
It hit the wall and I scrambled after.
I learned I would probably never be a seeker. I learned that tired running legs can easily have a little bit more energy to climb furniture if for a good cause. The frog bounced all over the room and gave me a merry chase.
“Nooo!” I shouted when the door opened and the frog saw its escape, aiming at it with a magnificent jump.
Right onto Severus’s hook nose. He dropped a tray to slap a hand over the confection, plucking me mid-air out of my own leap with his other.
Below my swinging legs the tray floated sedately above the ground, not a drop of my tea spilled, but I had no time for Severus Snape and his wonderful feats.
“Don’t let him go!”
Chapter 8: Sweet tooth.
We didn’t go to my office that night. I fell asleep in my soup while still eyeing the custard tart, and woke up on the couch, Snape shaking my shoulder.
Breakfast was in the Great Hall and only half of the school was staring at me today. Snape hoisted me into a chair next to what looked like a mountain of brown leather topped with a bush, and I would have fallen right off again if Severus hadn’t reached out and steadied me. Fuck me. A giant. He was huge! Nothing had prepared me for such a huge human being!
“What?” Snape frowned settling next to me. “What did you say?”
“Nothing.” Note to self, some people have sharp ears. “I’m hungry.”
The mountain turned to look down on me. “Will yeh be introducing me to yer little one, Professor Snape?”
“Hagrid, Albus, Albus, Hagrid,” Snape said, scooping scrambled eggs into my plate following it with buttered toast. He paused, “That will be Mister Hagrid to you,” he corrected with a funny smile before pushing a glass of what was clearly milk—thank god—over to me.
“Aww everyone calls me Hagrid, t’would feel odd if ye didn’t. How’d ye like the school, little Albus?”
It seems I was going to have to accept the diminutive in front of my name. “It’s nice.” Snape hadn’t given me any bacon and the tray was well out of reach by his side. To his open disgust I stood up on the chair to reach over him. He tsked at me. To get him back I grabbed his neck in a bear hug, nearly sticking the bacon in his eye, and told Hagrid how much I loved being here with my daddy. On his other side Minerva choked in her tea. Oh this was going to be fun!
Teasing Snape turned into a delicious little game that whiled away breakfast. By the last bite I had Hagrid believing I adored the man and thought him the best father ever. I also had a standing invitation to visit the giant and his menagerie any time I wanted, which I was quite looking forward to. This was the year of the dragon, wasn’t it? The only thing that marred my fun was the sight of Quirrell talking to some students. I really needed to start a To Do list.
My wrist firmly in his grasp Snape dragged me back to his class where a row of students had already gathered. He ordered them into the room and pulled me ahead through to his study.
“I am glad you had your fun, Albus, now it is my turn. You are to stay in the rooms and don’t touch anything.”
With that he gave me a final push and closed the door between us with a sharp snap. Asshole.
His mistake was not locking the outer door and thinking I am a dog that will listen to ‘stay’ when there was a whole castle to explore. Have I said asshole yet? Asshole. Still, I waited patiently until I could hear his voice drone through the classroom door before I slipped out the other.
“Not running today then, little Albus?” The wall asked and I turned to find a large portrait of a witch and wizard peering down at me.
“Why are you following me?”
“We expect some fun,” the witch said, smiling not unkindly. “Are you off anywhere special?”
“No.” And I cannot stay here and chitchat, Snape could miss me at any time. I couldn’t very well tell the gossipy portraits where I was off to, for Real Albus would know which direction to take, so I told them loftily to mind their own business and sped up.
From the dungeons to the great hall I went uncontested, everyone seemed to be in class. From there I retraced my steps with Minerva our first night, and soon came to the ugly gargoyle.
In Dumbledore’s office every portrait crowded forward to see me. I ignored them and their calls and made a beeline for the potions room. There was something I needed to see. I remember grabbing it when I nearly drowned and it kept nagging at my mind. Keeping a wary eye out for angry phoenixes I entered the room.
The huge cauldron was upright but empty. The stone floor felt sticky under my boots, but other than that you would never think anything strange had happened here. At the far wall I found the paper bag full of candy undamaged. Not what I was looking for, but my sweet tooth made me quickly pocket the leftover candy before searching further.
I found it under the bookcase, right next to the lollipop that started it all, and a hand closed around my ankle at the exact same time as I grabbed for it. Excuse me if I screamed.
“Dear god, Albus since when do you swear like that,” Severus Snape asked once he had me out, kneeling in front of me, keeping tight hold of my arms.
“Since you decided to frighten the life out of me! Why on God's earth did you do that!”
“I thought you had a mishap.” For the first time he looked abashed.
“I thought you fell and were stuck, Albus. Excuse me if recent events had me consider that an option.”
“Then you call out and ask, you don’t just grab a person…!” It was safe in my pocket and I needn’t bluster anymore. Still, I wish I had more time, there were other things I needed from Real Albus’s rooms.
“What were you doing down there.”
I held the lollipop aloft and watched any last feelings of guilt at my rough treatment disperse.
“You made me leave my class to come find a child who was just after a lollipop?” he asked, enunciating every word with utmost care.
“No one told you to follow me, Severus.” I pulled myself up to my full three feet something. “You forget yourself. I am not a child.”
“How can you say that when everything you do is so childish, Albus!” He grabbed my hand that still clutched the dusty sweet and held it aloft in front of my face. Exhibit A, I suppose. “I told you to stay in the rooms!”
Instinct wanted me to cower from his loud voice but my brave declaration to Poppy was still fresh enough to make me stand fast. “My dear boy, since when am I to be ordered about?”
“Since you became so small that anyone can pick you up and carry you off! Have some sense, Albus, it just needs one portrait to spread the word and we’ll have no way to keep you safe.”
“The portraits are loyal, you exaggerate.”
“And you underestimate their stupidity.” He stood up. “I cannot keep you safe if you don’t listen to me. Fine. Where’s your formula so I can get started on the antidote.”
Fuck if I knew. “You’re the one that wants it. You find it.” The lollipop might be beyond eating, it had been in the potion right? But I already drank the potion so that might not matter, more worrying was all the fluff stuck to it. I ignored him to pull what looked like a feather from Fawkes off it.
Above me Snape swore, then, without even a by your leave he grabbed the candy out of my chubby little hands and vanished it before stalking off to search the rooms. “I can wring your little neck,” he hissed over his shoulder.
“What a silly thing to say. Soon I will be my rightful age again and you’ll remember all these threats against your headmaster with shame.”
I followed him like a little tail, decidedly not helping. True I would also not like to be a four year old but it might be better than being a hundred. I was willing to not worry about it. I did pay careful attention to the places he searched though, for I wanted something else, something that might help this Insert in the troublesome times ahead. This was Harry Potter world, after all. Trouble was a given.
He even searched the bathroom. I idled after and grabbed up the toothbrush no one had thought to bring me. I did a good job in convincing myself that this body was the same one that had used the toothbrush before so I should be fine. Maybe I can run it under hot water first. There didn’t seem to be toothpaste, though, and I hadn’t seen anything down at Snape’s either, but his teeth were fine. In fact, I’ve been paying attention and everyone’s teeth seemed fine, all nice and straight and pearly white. It seemed the weird teeth that the wizards had in the movies was a JKR addition to the world, do you remember Flint’s? I could never understand that. Magical people with wonky overbites—where’s Percy when you needed to ask a question!
What? “You did?”
He held it aloft, satisfaction oozing from his pores. Damn. Seems it was rolled up, fallen behind the sink. Hidden? Of all the places—what the hell, Dumbledore.
“Let’s go, Albus,” Snape interrupted impatiently from the door. “I still have a class to teach.”
Think, think! Ah! “You go ahead, my boy. I have some correspondence I still have to finish.” Brilliant, if I have to say so myself!
“Have you not listened to anything, I said?” Severus snapped and stormed to my office where he furiously waved his wand about. Every last scroll and paper whirled up from my desk and flew with military precision into a leather satchel. I thought it would never fit but I had forgotten again. Magic. “You can do this in our rooms,” Snape argued, “it will keep you out of trouble, and tonight you will see Poppy again, mark my words! There’s something seriously wrong with you, if you are Albus—since when am I your boy!”
Shit. Fanon! Seems something that was once a pleasure will be getting me into frequent trouble now.
I did not move quick enough for Master Snape and for the second time in so many days he picked me up and carried me to the dungeons.
I protested of course. “Let me down or I will shout.”
“Shout away. They’ll just think my son is throwing a tantrum. I might even get some sympathy in this place.”
He carried me past his class, every last kid’s head bent over their cauldron, not even an eye peeking at us, and I was dumped in his office, the satchel thrown down next to me. “Will you stay where I put you?”
“I might. If I had a snack.”
He growled at me.
“And not just one sandwich either, I am a growing boy!” I shouted after his retreating back. His growling had reminded me of Sirius, yet another thing in the long list that I had to sort. I needed a list.
Snape stormed out to his classroom to return moments later with one ham and cheese sandwich and the ever present glass of milk. I might have to reconsider my love for milk soon. Anyway, I really want to know where he got it from but damned if I will ask. Did he have a pantry there?
The plate refilled as soon as I picked up the second slice, nearly making me tumble from the chair in shock. Once I ate my fill I had a right good time stacking the desk end to end full of sandwiches before I accepted, yes, it was an Endless Sandwich plate. Amazing. I stashed a few in my pocket and left the rest for whoever was going to clean up, feeling a bit guilty about the waste, but what was done was done. It was already slipping from my mind, as I turned away.
I didn’t promise to stay after the snack, did I? Snape should have had some forethought to lock the outer door, really he had only himself to blame.
I had no clear goal in mind. I still hadn’t finished my business in the office but that was probably the first place Snape would look so it could wait. I decided to explore and took off in a little more purposeful jog than the day before, watching where I went.
A bell rang and I dodged students, no one thinking to stop me but I had no problem stopping them. I wanted to see the library and the Grand Staircase, not having seen either the day before, and soon got directions to both.
The stairs filled me with honest to goodness awe. Multiple staircases moving from platform to platform some creaking slowly while the very next would swing with speed that made robes flap. All the while students rushed up and down, the majority looking like they knew exactly where they were going, taking it in stride when a stairway would suddenly turn about and let them off in the opposite direction they were aiming at. It was a madhouse and I loved it. I spent a good amount of time running up and down, aiming for the fastest ones until it must have tired of me for it finally dropped me off in a hallway and refused to pick me up again.
For a minute there I had a scare, remembering Harry and co. being dropped off on the third floor corridor, but it soon became apparent that I was on the Library’s level. A student carrying a stack of books higher than himself the clue. I couldn’t see his tie behind the books but I took a fair guess he would be a Ravenclaw.
Madam Pince stood firmly in my way. Behind her was the library, huge vaulted ceilings, an incredible cathedral filled with books and for once JKR had got it right, there must be hundreds on hundreds of rows, so much knowledge! “No, you may not enter. The Library is for students only, not for little children with sticky paws.”
I stuck my hands behind my back. “It’s not!” I only had a few toffees, you needed energy in this place where everything was so damn far from everything else and so far I haven't seen any bathroom signs or I would probably have gone to wash my hands. Maybe. Come-on there's more important things, right? Being so close to heaven, just to be denied entry, I lost my cool a bit and stamped a foot. “I demand you let me in! Do you know who I am?!”
I was thinking Dumbledore, forgetting myself for a moment there, but she pinched her whole face into one big sour wrinkle and told me otherwise. “You are little Albus Snape, a dirty little motherless snake that’s not welcome here,” she hissed. “You will take not a step further.”
My ears rang, my vision became unexpectedly hazy, and I struggled to breathe—was she hexing me? Was this how I was going to die? Only two days?!
“I’ll take him, Madame,” someone said, their voice sounding far off and I did not struggle against the hand that steered me by my head, out and away from the woman who had just called me a motherless snake.
It was Percy. Unlike me he could differentiate between tears and dying, which was just as well because I couldn’t manage anything at that moment. He took me to a secluded alcove and seemed well versed in supervising a crying fit, and I must say, being hugged and cuddled on someone’s lap was much nicer than doing it alone behind closed doors.
“I just wanted to see the books!” I wailed against his school robes, smearing snot on his tie.
“I know.” He hugged me tighter. “Books are amazing.”
“I’m not a m-m…”
“Of course not. That was a very mean thing to say. Shh.” He patted my back. “Don’t worry about it, I have two little brothers that will prank her for you, shh.” He patted and soothed and told me all about Fred and George who were just to be pointed in a direction and they will make sure justice was served. By the time I cried myself out I was too tired to be embarrassed that a fifteen year old was making me blow my nose and wipe my face, cleaning my splotchy glasses for me. (But believe me later that night I would cringe. Two o’ clock to be exact.) I also did not capitulate when he suggested taking me back to my dad, I was ready for a nap, though I did put my foot down against being carried there.
Right. Emotions. I am not going to talk about them. I have them and I’ll repeat, Tumblr said it was okay. It was perhaps too soon to tell but things felt much more intense since I came, and more so since I shrunk. They also did not seem to last long. Would that change? I don’t know. What I do know is I was happy enough to ask Percy some important questions once we were on the way. More so when he tucked a soft candy into my hand, explaining that it is an Ice Mouse. It did indeed look like a small white rodent, whiskers and all, was fluffy like a marshmallow and tasted exactly like you just had a glass of cold water after eating mints.
“Why do we have toothbrushes like Muggles.” I asked the serious questions while my teeth chattered and squeaked.
“Because we invented it. Then the Muggleborn took it to their relatives, I think they got quite wealthy too, and it had the benefit that loads of Muggles started looking after their teeth also.”
“I can’t find any toothpaste though.” I had figured it out. If anyone was safe to ask it was Percy or any other kid—once I knew more of them. They would just chalk it down to natural four year old curiosity and I could learn everything Snape and the others thought I should already know.
“So your mum was a Muggleborn? I thought so.” He reached down and ruffled my hair, prodding me to turn down a dark hallway. “If you stick your toothbrush under the tap it will foam up—it lasts a good while. You should really ask your dad these things, he is very smart.”
I pulled a face at the advice and told him: “Muggles have mouthwash. And floss and Dentists.”
“What are those.”
“Is self explanatory.” He pulled my ear until I slapped his hand away. “Tell me about floss and Dentists.”
I did. In turn he told me about a special tea that wizarding children drank when their first tooth fell out. A key ingredient was fairy dust that they found under their pillow, which, get this, the Tooth Fairy had left in exchange for the tooth. According to Percy Weasley, fountain of knowledge, this magical concoction assured them straight white adult teeth.
“You’re fucking with me.” I stopped to gape at him, giving my teeth the opportunity to squeak anew. “The Tooth Fairy is real?”
“Out of curiosity, do you swear like that in front of your dad?”
“Maybe.” I desperately wanted to tell him it is none of his business but I have learned my lesson. Percy is sensitive. Truth be told I have semi-watched my language in front of Snape, but only because I don’t know what Real Albus’s favourite expletives were. The man didn’t need more ammunition to expose me. “What if you swallow your first tooth,” I asked, bringing him back on track.
“Then you wait until the second.”
“What if you swallow ALL your teeth. Maybe it fell out while you were eating or you swallowed it in your sleep like a spider. Can you borrow a tooth from someone else or is the dust going to be for them only.”
I told him about reading in an article, (Sue me, it was WTF fun facts, it ranked high up there with dogs being able to see their own farts.) that a person swallowed around eight spiders in their sleep every night. He looked dubious. Okay maybe it was every year or something.
“You know, you are very smart to be able to read already but maybe you should not believe everything you find, okay?”
“Well it could have been eight spiders in your lifetime,” I admitted, but shrugged it off. I’m an Insert, I am willing to believe most anything by now. Heck my teeth were chattering! “What about the teeth, Percy, what happens if I swallow them all?”
He grinned, his eyes crinkling up behind his lenses. “I’ve not heard of anyone swallowing ALL their teeth but if you want you can try it and let me know what happened.”
“You’re not funny.”
“I’ve heard them say that.”
“What if I never brush my magic teeth, will it stay white?”
“No. All the food will get stuck and you’ll look like you swallowed old black and yellow piano keys. Madam Pomfrey has a particularly nasty potion for firsties who don’t remember to brush their teeth without their mum to nag. Your dad makes it and I promise you it’s horrid.”
“How do you know, did you have to drink it?”
“Yes.” The tips of his ears turned pink and he found the ceiling very fascinating all of a sudden. I decided not to tease.
All the hours spent under the dentist’s drill and I could have had that? “And it fixes your teeth like new?” I asked, stopping to gape at him again, tugging his sleeve for attention. We were walking in fits and starts and the going was slow but Percy did not seem to mind.
“Yes of course.”
“How come we cannot give these potions to Muggles.”
“Well good luck trying to get a Muggle to drink a potion with cockroach toes but if he does he will just get sick, right? He needs to have magic inside him to intera—work with the magic of the potion or spell.”
“Spells don’t work on Muggles?” What nonsense is this, Death Eaters tortured them!
“Only the very strong ones, blasting spells and things that really hurt. Things like a tickle spell does nothing much, though they do make some pranks specially for Muggles. My dad actually has a job catching those,” he said proudly.
“Huh. Is there somewhere like a list of spells that work on them?” In the Library that I wasn’t allowed to go into? “Maybe your dad has one?”
“Sure. You’ll learn all about it when you go to school.” He stopped to look at me with a worried expression and gave me an impromptu lecture on how Muggles were not to be harmed for they were in the end just like us and deserved to be left in peace. For all that I loved Percy it was a relief to see Snape marching towards us.
I made a mental note to ask him how he knew about pianos before I took off like a shot in the opposite direction.
“I could get seriously hurt like this, how will you explain that to Poppy,” I told Snape from where I lay on the floor, having bounced spectacularly against his barrier. Fine, he had made it soft with I suppose the Cushioning Charm, but what if he had been too slow?
He leaned over me, wand out, the whole scenario too familiar. “I will not be the one explaining.”
I bared my chattering teeth at him.
Snape frowned. “Have you been crying?”
Chapter 9: Antidotes for all
Back in the rooms he threatened to put a sticking charm on my ass but did not follow through with it.
“If you need books I will bring it to you, Albus. Look in a mirror, Irma wouldn’t have let you gone into the restricted area anyway.”
“I have all the books I need in my office.” I was systematically going through the material he had gathered from my desk, this time taking it very seriously, and half ignored Snape who stood arms crossed, watching me with a mixture of concern and irritation. I have only told him Irma Pince didn’t let me in, nothing more.
“Then why were you there.”
“Not all my business is your business, Severus Snape,” I said.
Lunch had been leftover sandwiches in the rooms, his idea of a joke—or punishment, who knows—but I was fine with it, my legs were starting to feel sore from all the exercise and not having to walk to the dining hall was great. I munched away on the third one, while searching for the correct forms but it all seemed to be correspondence. Would they have a staff manual? This is definitely something Dumbledore would know. Dare I ask? A peek at Snapes stormy face told me, no.
Feeling frustrated, I sat back and tried to visualize my office and everything I had seen in it, but all it did was make me sleepy. I suppose I can just let Minerva do it, but then I would have to explain why I wanted to fire that cow and I’d rather not at the moment. Maybe after a nap. That is something no one would ever have to force me to do. Naps are beautiful. If I am going to be the only four year old in this world that likes naps, so be it. I am not bothered by going against the flow.
“Where are you going?” Snape asked when I slid off the chair.
“I’m going to have a nap, Severus. If you want to watch me sleep you can come stand there, I don’t care.”
He did follow me into the sitting room and he did stand cross armed while I snuggled down under the comforter, having settled on the couch boots and all, not saying a word. He might be nagging but he was nagging about the right things. Minerva would probably get a heart attack if someone put their feet on the furniture, even without shoes.
“Wake me if there’s a fire.”
Time was truly nothing in the dungeons. When I woke, the light was the same quality as when I had gone to sleep, it could have been a minute had passed or one year, morning or night, for there was no windows in this awful place.
I stumbled to the bathroom and back, and filled with that musty, grumpy, wrong footed post nap wrath, I bemoaned the absence of a fridge. I miss my house. I miss being able to go into a kitchen whenever I wanted a drink. Or a snack.
Luckily I came prepared. My options were between a ham sandwich—of which I still had a few in my beautiful magical pockets—or I could see what candy I had left. Candy it will be, it should be near dinner time already, I am sure, let’s not spoil our appetite. I settled back onto the couch, made a vertical cocoon with the comforter, and delved into my beautiful magical pockets.
One of the things in my hands was not like the others.
What I pulled from my pocket was very far from a gobstopper. Ruby red, more so than blood, the stone glowed on my palm, how could I have forgotten it? It had rolled under the bookcase and I had just enough time to hide it from Snape’s gaze this morning. Now what should I do? How the heck do I put it in the mirror. Presuming I actually found the mirror, it should be in a room waiting for Harry to discover it, right? There’s no way I was going to be able to pass the Cerberus either, and that’s without talking about carrying a huge ass mirror under my baby arms. Dogs were scary as shit, and if they didn’t want to eat you they tried to lick your face, for fucks sake. Sorry not sorry but I am a cat person.
“Albus, if you are awake, I need your help,” Snape spoke from the doorway and I hurriedly pushed the stone into the couch.
“I’m not awake.”
“Stop fooling around,”—my cocoon was rudely plucked away and tossed on the floor—“and come help me fix your potion, it doesn’t make sense.” He paused. “Are you eating again?”
“I’m hungry, did I sleep past dinner?”
“It’s four o’ clock,” he scoffed, and dragged me through his empty classroom to the back, where a whole world full of horrors was waiting to be explored. “Don’t touch anything!”
We passed transparent urns, bigger than me, brimming with enormous skittering bugs that looked ready to eat us. One whole wall filled with square wooden drawers of every imaginable size. Rows and rows of crystal decanters, ranging from iridescent silver through all the colours of the rainbow and more, to a dull black that hurt to look at, all with alphabetized tags written in clear block letters. Shelves of specimen jars, housing eyes of every shape and colour, and was that ears? Oh God, why were they moving… toes? Gossamer butterflies that flitted about in teardrop shaped terrariums filled with miniature jungles, trays of moss in every green hue that exists, snake skin hanging in bunches next to twigs with fangs. He pulled me past all of this to the very back where he had a cauldron as big as the one in my office suspended over a green flame. A lemony smell assaulted my nose and I gagged.
Snape pushed a familiar parchment into my hands. “What is this.”
I took a gander. Oh. OH.
Dumbledore’s Lemon Curd.
(A crowd pleaser.)
6 T unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice and zest lemons.
Separate yolks, and place whole eggs and yolks into a bowl.
Using a mixer of your choice, beat sugar and butter until fluffy (2-3 minutes).
Add eggs (slowly) and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes.
Mix in lemon juice until combined.
Pour into a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook over low heat until mixture is smooth.
At this point increase heat to medium and cook until thickened (about 15 minutes).
DO NOT boil, and stir constantly while cooking.
Once you can leave a path along the back of the spoon, the mixture is done.
Remove from heat and stir in zest.
Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Be sure the wrap is touching the surface of the curd to avoid "skinning" while cooling.
When cool, place in a sealed container until ready to use.
It will keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.
You can also freeze for later use.
Oh. I peeked into the cauldron. It was filled to the brim with a pale yellow broth and looked like it might be a twin of the potion I had fallen into, but something was off… I couldn’t put my finger on it. How did he manage to make a whole cauldron full with this amount of ingredients, did he double it? No, that’s stupid, more than mere doubling had happened here... it must have taken a truckload of eggs, where did he get all the ingredients? Was there a magical spell to increase size? And why was he making the potion when he should be concerned with the antidote. Holding my nose, I moved closer and the steam scalded my face before he jerked me back by the collar of my robe.
“Well?” Severus asked impatient.
“It looks like you’ve found my Lemon curd recipe. Look, it says so here right at the top.” I cannot believe he actually made it. “Dumbledore’s Lemon Cu—”
“I CAN READ!”
“THEN WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME!” It was extremely disorientating trying not to sick up from the horrible smell while being shouted at. I threw the scroll at him. “It looks done! You should place it in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap!”
He caught the parchment to shake it in my face. “Where’s the real formula, Albus! I tried all your passwords, nothing!”
Oh. Ohhhh. He thinks it is like the map. Okay that makes sense even though it doesn’t tell me why he went to the trouble to make the damn thing. “It’s just my curd recipe, Severus, I’ll thank you to give it back, it’s an heirloom.”
“We’re going to see Poppy.”
He walked me to Poppy's with a firm grip on my hand, of all things—as if I was really a child!—making me trot to keep up. I was seething by the time we reached the doors, for the halls were filled with students doing nothing but dawdling and gaping, and I couldn’t make the fuss I so desperately wanted to.
Bedlam met us.
Severus smoothly tucked me in behind him when the noise struck, and had his wand at the ready, bodyguard extraordinaire. People were shouting, somewhere a bird was screeching loud enough to burst eardrums, and I could clearly hear Minerva McGonagall crying, “Five points from Gryffindor!”
I twisted out of his grip and side-by-side we stood in the doorway, boggling at the human sized bright yellow chicken running loose in the middle of the large room. Overturned furniture were scattered everywhere, and Minerva, Poppy, Percy, and what looked like the twins, were surrounding it with their arms outstretched. For a dumb moment I thought this was where Severus had gotten the eggs from, and it took me way too long to realize it was not just human sized but an actual human... My chin dropped to the floor. A person had turned into a chicken—fucking hell—magic was amazing! The Canary Creams!
“Where’s the antidote, Mister Weasley!” Poppy called.
“It’s experimental,” one of the twin boys shouted back over the din the bird was making. “We haven’t managed to make it stop on time yet but it will wear off, Madam Pomfrey, we swear!”
“Five points from Gryffindor!” Minerva hissed, and opposite her Percy blanched as if physically pained.
“We don’t know how she got it, Professor,” he protested. “We found her like this…” he jumped back when the chicken tried to peck at him, and squealed loudly.
“Lies!” Minerva shouted back. “Ten points from Gryffindor! Irma, please, if you can calm down a moment, Poppy here will sort you,” she tried, but the bird only screeched, hopping and flapping her wings like a dervish, causing everyone to jump back yet again.
“Madam Pince?” I asked astonished, a light going up. Karma in the form of the twins—Percy had been serious! I couldn’t help myself and laughed.
The chicken’s head swiveled, her beady eyes picking me out. Well, canary, I suppose, but perhaps the twins weren’t studying to be Ornithologists. Chicken Pince cackled and rushed at me.
Adding my own yells to the noise, I skirted a circle around Severus to get away, someone swore—it might have been me—and Severus shouted, “Petrificus Totalus!”
My life was such that I expected to fall flat on my back in a full body bind, but a big crash sounded behind me, accompanied by a myriad of yellow feathers filling the air around us. Severus plucked me up, out of the way, and her head fell where I had stood.
Minerva picked a yellow feather from her tongue.
One of the twins snickered.
“Five points from Gryffindor,” Minerva snapped, effectively killing his mirth. Stepping irately over the prone librarian she held out a small card to Snape. “I think you might be interested in this.”
‘A small gift of thanks to a fellow hater of little snakes.’ I read together with Snape, still firmly in his grip.
“It’s not us.” A twin straightened up to protest. “Why if it was us we would give her a proper box of chocolate, not a prank, it doesn’t make sense, sir.” He bit his lip nervously. “Not that we have anything against snakes, unless of course it’s Quidditch, then we hate them but not more than we hate the Ravenclaws or the Puffs, I promise…”
“Perhaps someone stole our creams thinking it was normal ones, then we cannot be blamed, right?” said the other and they squashed their shoulders together.
Behind them Percy stood white faced, eyes nearly popping out of his skull. Minerva started remonstrating with the brothers, Poppy pushed Snape aside so that she can levitate the librarian over to a bed, and his arm tightened around me as he moved away. I dared not look at him, but out of the corner of my eyes I could see his head swivel from her to Percy and myself and I could HEAR the cogs moving, I kid you not.
“Mister Weasley, a moment of your time, please,” Snape said, and motioned him to Poppy’s office. Once inside, he closed the door with a decisive snap and dropped me to my feet. I naturally made haste to the known safety of the eldest Weasley, and seeing Snape’s face, prepared for the worst.
“Let me get this straight,” Snape said down to me. “You took umbrage at being refused the library and this was the result.”
“No I didn’t.”
“Excuse me if I do not believe in coincidences, Albus. So she refused to let you in, so what. It is not the end of the world, it doesn’t mean you have to blow it all up out of proportion!”
Enough. Seriously. Hot tears pricked my eyes and I was tired of all these emotions. “I don’t care what you believe! I’m not talking to you anymore, you only shout at me and I am tired of it! I didn’t make her a chicken! It has nothing to do with me and I will never talk to you again if you’re going to keep shouting—see if I do!”
“A canary,” Percy corrected under his breath, and Snape turned his wrath on the older boy.
“Explain this mess!”
“Sir,” his voice wobbled and he swallowed loudly, throat clicking with nerves. “I do not know how she got the creams or who wrote the note but it might be because she called Albus—”
“A little snake!” I interrupted, forgetting my vow. There was no way I was going to let him tell Snape the rest. “She didn’t let me in and called me a little snake, fine, I did it! She got what she deserved!”
Snape took a moment to assimilate all of this and his expression turned from irritated to something much much worse. “I’d thought better of you, Albus,” he said, his voice arctic. “Since when is it a bad thing to be called a snake? One quarter of the students in this school are Slytherins and there is no difference between them and the other houses.”
“Sir, if I may—” Percy tried and we both snapped at him.
“No you may not!”
“What is it, Mister Weasley!”
I twisted to stop him, and for some reason he had his wand out and was talking, but his words made no sense. It sounded like the static drone your mobile phone used to get when driving through a tunnel. Snape said something in turn, his deep voice reverberating like a buzzsaw, making me automatically clasp my hands over my ears. I turned back to him only to take a fearful step away from his livid expression, but he ignored me to slam out of the office. My ears popped.
“Sorry,” Percy said, sounding like himself again, but looking like death warmed over, tucking his wand back into his sleeve. “You don’t need your dad angry at you for something that was not your fault.”
“What was that! You cast a spell!”
“Sorry,” he repeated lamely. “I figured you only lied because you didn’t want to hear what she said again so I did a Muffliato—ow!”
“Albus!” Snape barked from the door. “We don’t kick students!”
“Stop shouting at me!”
“Weasley, you may go wait outside.”
Percy ran and I didn’t blame him one whit. Snape closed the door behind him, gentler than before. That was so much worse than a noisy, furious man, that I shivered involuntarily and took a step back.
“You are also shouting, Albus,” he said. “It’s not just me.”
“Only because you are, and you’re louder.”
“You’re right.” He paused and considered me. “You are running about so much, I forget that this must be stressful to you also… What if we both try to tone it down.”
“Whatever.” What does he mean ‘also’. What stress could he possibly have. Was he an Insert? Did he fucking de-age?
He sent me a flat look.
“Fine!” I agreed. “Fine. Can we go now?”
“We are going to wait until they leave then Poppy will examine you.”
I nearly swore at him, in fact I took a deep breath to do just that, but blew it out again when he raised his eyebrows at me. Fine. I am tired anyway. She won’t find anything, nothing was going to change in one day.
“I’m sorry she said those things to you, if it helps it is not because of anything you did, Irma and I have some history…” He pulled a sour face and blew out a harsh breath. “Anyway, it might be interesting to know that Poppy finds herself ‘unable’ to turn her back,” Severus said, “and Minerva agreed we should let the prank wear off on its own. The Weasley terrors say that can take anything from twenty-four-hours to a week.”
“You told them?” Oh God, I was going to cry again.
“Yes. Come along, let's get this done.”
Outside it was just Percy and the twins, Minerva nowhere in sight, and Poppy busy behind the curtains. Snape corralled the brothers.
“You two will present yourselves at Hagrid’s every afternoon for the rest of this week at class end, you will serve your detention under him,” he told the twins.
They looked quite happy with this, Hagrid would probably give them tea. A token punishment. Huh, who’d have thought Snape was a softy.
“And ten points each from Gryffindor.”
“That’s so unfair!” I shouted, forgetting our deal.
“Albus. I will not now, and have never condoned pranks. No matter what the reason. The line between that and bullying is this thin,” he held his thumb and forefinger a millimeter apart, “and in the history of all schools ever, students have never known how not to cross it.” He turned to the twins. “Dismissed!”
They scurried off and Snape stopped Percy. “Not so fast. I have no doubt that you have a big part in all this, Mister Weasley, and you a prefect.”
“You will keep yourself available for babysitting duties whenever I require…
I would have shouted but I was too busy swallowing my tongue. Snape went on to berate Percy for casting a spell on me without my consent, detailing his dark future should such a thing dare to repeat itself, while internally I had the mother of all rants. Babysitting! I was not a child!
My mind must have glitched for I found myself on a bed with Poppy bending over me, a familiar tingle running up and down my spine.
“I’m fine, Poppy,” I told her.
“You blanked out there, Albus, let me just do a few tests.”
“Severus organised a babysitter for me, excuse me if I didn’t handle it with my usual aplomb.”
“Managing him well then, are you?” she teased with a small smile.
“It’s difficult with this size,” I admitted with a sigh. “Things aren’t working the same and if he doesn’t drag me around, he insists on carrying me. Who listens to someone they can carry?”
“It will be fine dear, you’ll both get used to it.” She stopped casting and told me I was still a four year old and not to tire myself out too much.
They had a meeting about me in her office and I wasn’t invited. For sure I wasn’t going to ignore it, I hid outside the door, my back against the wall, straining to hear.
“Poppy he is acting more and more like a child!”
“It is to be expected, Severus. He has the physical body of one, hormones, development, the lot. Imagine an adult’s knowledge combined with a child’s impulses. Didn’t you listen to me when I gave you the list? He will be affected in ways we don’t know, after all, he is the first of his kind.”
“He’d better be the last.” Severus muttered and moved deeper into the room, pacing, I presumed. I had to strain to hear him now. I moved closer to the door and wished for the Extendable Ears, mentally adding that to my list. In what book did they use it? Have they invented it yet? “…the potion now, before it is too late.” What? What did I miss! I squashed my ear against the door.
“His handwriting is the same, but look here, you can see it turning childish already.” Paper rustled and I peeked through the keyhole to see my ‘I am Albus’ note waved at Poppy.
“That could just be because he has not the muscle dexterity yet to hold a quill. It doesn’t indicate anything, Severus. We should start him on writing exercises at some point like you would do any young preschooler.
What! That will be the day!
“I would rather finish the antidote,” Snape returned sour.
“Well you still have time.”
“I would if he gave the bloody formula to me! How can I even begin to figure it out with nothing to go on! How does he expect me to help him!”
“He did not give it? Hmm. Albus usually has something up his sleeve, perhaps you should wait for him to give it out of his own accord.”
“The only thing he has up his sleeve is candy.” He yanked the door open causing me to tumble in against his legs. “Is that not so, Albus.”
“No.” I pushed myself off him. “I also have my arms.”