Breaking Glass in an Apothecary
Severus glanced down at his watch and frowned. It was only five minutes until Shoshana said she would meet him at the coffee shop café, not far from the hotel he had been staying at for the past two weeks. He stirred his tea and hoped whatever Miss St. James had planned did not involve a walking tour of the city. He had gone through enough trouble to get it, having to talk to the cashier who had know idea of how to brew a tea. The employee had then gone to talk to the assistant manager who had to call the owner, who was on vacation in South Beach, for instructions on how to brew a simple cup of tea, and Severus had every intention of enjoying his prize!
Only standing in the way of that plan was a sickly little boy with a dripping nose sitting at the table directly in front of him. Years ago, Severus found nothing more disgusting than a small child with a cold. Once he became a professor, however, he learned that his students attracted germs like a lit lantern attracted moths. Even now, the sniffing sounds and soggy coughs still made him cringe, but he gotten to the point where he could cope. But this was not natural. Mucus was dripping from the little brat’s nose like a faucet.
To make matters worse, he was staring at Severus as though he were the most interesting person in the world. Yellowed crust was lined like makeup along his eyes, which were red and puffy. His breathing was loud enough that Severus wondered how the entire café could not have been disturbed by it, soggy and gulping, almost like a fish pulled from the water.
And still he kept staring…and staring, and staring, and staring—
“What do you want?” Severus snapped just a little too loudly, for everyone sitting outside the café was now staring at him.
It certainly didn’t help that the snot-nosed little boy suddenly burst into tears. This was what finally caused his mother to abandon her phone call and actually observe her surroundings and discover that her screaming child and the man that the entire coffee shop was now glaring daggers at were somehow connected. Coolly, she snapped her cell phone shut, strolled around the table, picked up her bawling little brat and moved towards the door leading to the inside portion of the café, all the while gracing Severus with an icy stare that could have frozen running water. She didn’t say a word until she got to the door and nearly ran into a young woman cradling her plastic coffee cup.
“MOVE!” she screeched, startling the girl so horribly she nearly toppled over on her high heeled shoes. At first, the younger woman at the door seemed confused, but when she pushed a few strands of blonde hair out of her eyes, understanding finally dawned.
“Nice to see you’re making friends,” she remarked as she took a seat across from Severus.
Shoshana St. James reclined in her chair and sipped casually at her drink, which, in Severus’ opinion, looked more like an ice cream sundae than a cup of coffee. It was topped with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry. In addition, it was also drizzled with chocolate syrup. Ice cold, water drops were condensing and falling on the side of the cup. Severus was trying as hard as he could to focus on Shoshana’s drink because it meant he wouldn’t be focusing on her wardrobe choice: an extremely short sundress that would also lead people to have certain guesses as to her occupation.
“Was that really necessary?” he finally asked, gesturing towards her outfit while keeping his eyes on the surface of the table.
Shoshana smiled a smirking smile of hers, wrinkling her nose as she did so. “Well, Severus, I can’t have the entire world knowing you’re a war criminal—” that last comment was what it finally took for Severus to look her in the eyes. “—and that I’m the sole person responsible for making sure no one finds out. I have to maintain my cover, and there’s always a chance we’ll run into someone who has already seen us together and would find it odd if they saw me in a suit. We have zero wiggle room for any possibility of drawing unwanted attention.”
Severus was not convinced by Shoshana’s reasoning. “You enjoy torturing me like this, don’t you?”
Shoshana didn’t even attempt to cover the snicker in her voice as she spoke. “Does it show?”
Severus tried to remain stone-faced as he indulged Shoshana in her little laughing fit, his fingers twitching as he fought the urge to smack her across the face. But finally, Shoshana was able to become at least somewhat serious and tell Severus the reason behind her request to meet him.
“Anyway, last night I got an owl from the Department of Magic.” She pulled a large yellow envelope out of her shoulder bag. “They finally processed your information into the Witness Relocation Program and sent me most of your official documents. It certainly took them long enough.”
She opened the envelope and handed it to Severus. The wait really hadn’t been as much of a bother to him as it was to the anxious Shoshana. After having his throat ripped out by a demon snake and coming within an inch of his own mortality, he didn’t trust himself to take part in human interaction. But now at least enough time had passed so that Severus felt more or less back to his old self. He could speak freely and without pain now, and his neck was no longer bound in bandages, though he did have a quite visible scar that could be seen from thirty feet away.
“We’re going to have to figure out the rest of your story ourselves, but they have a pretty good start.”
“They have me as being ten years older than I really am,” Severus noted.
“Well, the story they came up with for the scar,” Shoshana ran her hand across her throat to illustrate, “is that you were wounded in Vietnam.”
“Vietnam?” he repeated, his tone heavy with skepticism. “And you’ve already read all this?”
“Read it, but remember, didn’t write it.” Shoshana leaned back in her chair and took a long, leisurely sip of her icy coffee. “Look it over, take it in. You’ll have to know it a hell of a lot better than I do.”
Severus nearly reprimanded Shoshana for her language out of pure habit before he had to remind himself that Shoshana was not his student and he was not her teacher—nor anyone else’s, for that matter.
But Shoshana didn’t seem to notice Severus’ growing irritation. She was staring up at the café canopy, absent-mindedly stirring her coffee with a straw. It was an expression of one who had drifted off into their own little world, and one Severus never would have allowed before.
Since Shoshana didn’t appear to be engaged in the conversation anymore, Severus decided to occupy his time by read the history of his ‘life.’
His father had been a Muggle whose work had taken their family all over the world, also leading to Severus being educated in magic at home (his mother had been a witch). The basic structure of the story led Severus to wonder if the American Ministry had known anything about his family before writing this profile. And just like Shoshana said, he had apparently served a tour in Vietnam, although specific details were absent; it was known throughout the wizarding world though that American wizards had a notorious reputation for being completely unable to stay out of Muggle affairs ever since the Revolutionary War. The information went on to say that he had spent the last twenty years living in England, but again, there were no details other than that.
“We’ll also have to establish a resume for you,” Shoshana rejoined the physical world. “Not identical to the real life you’ve lead until this point, but relevant to your job experience so you’ll have some idea of what you’re doing. What kind of work did you do before?” She went back to stirring with her straw and jiggling her foot. “I was a Potions professor for fifteen years.”
As soon as Severus told her, Shoshana burst into laugher as though it were the funniest thing she had ever heard. When she saw Severus was not joining in, she forced herself to stop.
“Really?” Shoshana seemed shocked at the answer. “You were a teacher? As in working with kids?”
“Yes,” Severus answered. “Why do you find that so impossible to believe?”
“No reason.” Shoshana shrugged off her previous surprise, but still seemed slightly on edge. “Alright, a teaching job might be slightly hard to come by, especially if we can’t mention your previous experience. But I might be able to pull a few of my connections with the Department of Magic to see what I can do.”
And with that, Muggle pen in hand, Shoshana took the file back and began scribbling notations in the margins.
“We could probably say that while in England, you worked as an independent researcher in the Potions field; possibly doing occasional work for the Department of Education...”
Shoshana’s voice trailed off as her eyes slowly shifted up to meet Severus’, a look of deep concern and worry plastered heavily over her expression as she chewed on her bottom lip.
“You’re sure you want to teach?” she asked again, her uncertainty more apparent in her voice this time.
“I’m not trained to do anything else,” Severus told her plainly. “If I take up another job that you write an astonishing resume for and I have no idea what I am doing, it might draw some unwanted attention, don’t you think?”
Shoshana pursed her lips together and cast her eyes down at the table surface. Severus had seen this same expression on his students all too many times, usually when they had been proven wrong and they knew it.
“Teacher it is,” she said, going back to her scribbles.
Once he looked away, Severus was certain he heard Shoshana mutter something under her breath which sounded much like, “I weep for the generation.”
While Shoshana conquered ‘the seventh layer of burocratic hell,’ as she had put it, Severus had been allowed away from his babysitter long enough to browse through the wizarding community’s shopping area. Unlike in London, there was no exact set street hidden away somewhere for the wizarding population to set up shop, but there was a strange sort of shopping district. Shoshana had tried to explain how it worked, but she was doing so while at the same time shuffling through a great deal of new paperwork from the Department of Magic.
“The place you’ll need to start is Bernie’s 24-Hour Waffle Hut,” she said as she led him down the street, supposedly to where he could enter the shopping district. “It’s sort of like a hub for the city’s wizards.”
Severus wrinkled his nose. “A waffle restaurant?”
But Shoshana nodded as though she had heard none of the sarcasm in his voice. “It has the cover of a restaurant, and it even serves Muggles, but all the employees there are really liaisons for the Department of Magic. Once you get there, all you have to do is ask one of the workers for help on how to get to Hieging Place, the wizard market in New York City. “Just make sure to be discreet about it,” she warned him very adamantly. And that was when Shoshana raced off into a crowd of sharp-dressed businessmen, leaving Severus where he stood, exactly where he needed to be.
It didn’t seem different from any other store on the street, with nothing particular to stop the casual passerby from looking over it. There was even a bright neon sign advertising the fact that they were open all day, every day. The windows were dirty and grimy, and exactly three feet from the front door, the sidewalk was completely covered with soggy cigarette ends.
As much as the outside of the restaurant made him cringe, the inside was that much worse. Parents screamed at their whining brats from the booths, and from the kitchen, shouts were heard in every language but English. The floors were sticky and the entire place reeked of syrup.
Once you get there, all you have to do is ask one of the workers for help on how to get to Hieging Place.
The restaurant floor was wild and hectic as a beehive. A few women ran around in uniforms and aprons whom Severus assumed to be employees, but none of them were able to stay in one place long enough for him to get their attention. A few younger teenagers rushed back and forth to customers sitting at a long counter in front of the kitchen window, looking somewhat less busy that the rest of the employees.
One of them would be just as good as anyone else.
“Welcome to Bernie’s,” one of the girls said, handing him a plastic-covered menu. “Is there anything you’re especially hungry for today?”
Severus couldn’t help but glance along the counter at what the other restaurant patrons were having: mushy plates of half-cooked dough and coffee that cream and sugar could not be stirred into. He stifled a bit of a shudder.
“No,” he answered, pushing her hand away. “Thank you.” That was certainly difficult to say.
The girl appeared to be puzzled as she held the rejected menu against her chest, but still seemed to be trying her best to speak in a voice of syrupy politeness. “Okay, then what can I do for you?”
“I…” he began, not sure what exactly he was supposed to do. “I need to go somewhere.”
The girl nodded, but didn’t really seem to see any hidden meaning in Severus’ words. He tried harder.
“I was told by a friend that you could point me in the direction I need to go.”
The girl still remained as sweetly dim as ever. “The subway stairs are three blocks down, sir.”
“No,” Severus answered again, trying his best to keep his annoyance in check so as not to make a scene. “No, I was definitely told I could get where I wanted to go from here. My friend was very sure.”
“It’s a way that is not taken by everyone,” he led further. “It caters to a very select clientele.”
The girl still kept her same smile, but was definitely quite confused, as was Severus. He wished could have just flat out screamed that he was trying to get to Hieging Place, but the surrounding masses of people kept that impulse in check.
“There is nothing that keeps Bernie’s hidden from Muggles,” Shoshana had told him earlier. “No charms, no nothing. Their money is just as green as anyone else’s, after all. So when you are in there, make sure you are discrete.”
Although, now Severus was beginning to have some serious doubts about this system he had been old was in place. If there really were a secret entrance to some hidden market in the city, surely anyone who had worked here for more than a week would have noticed something by now. He now was beginning to doubt that there even was such an entrance in this place. He wouldn’t be shocked to find out Shoshana had left him here to chase his tale so she could do her work in piece. Secret code, his—
“Oh, I see,” the counter girl replied finally. The expression on her face did not appear to be that much different from the one she sported when confused. “You can come with me, please.”
The counter girl rushed to an empty section of the counter, and lifted the planked surface upward and invited him through with a sweeping gesture.
“Here,” she said plainly.
The kitchen was about as un-magical a place as could possibly be. It was crowded, noisy, dirty, and completely filled with Muggle cooking machines. The cooks more or less ignored the two people there who didn’t belong and continued working their ways through the order slips being stacked higher and higher at the kitchen window.
“There you go.”
The girl made a large sweeping motion, fishing with a ‘tah-dah’ sort of gesture to the object she had led him back to: it was an oven. It was a very old oven, even by wizards standards, crusty from years of waffle batter and other kitchen greases. It was nothing short of disgusting, and, like everything else he had seen in this place, hardly magical appearing in the least.
The girl pouted her lips and began to tap her foot. “Well, do you want to go to Hieging Place or don’t you?”
“And how exactly am I supposed to get there?” Severus asked her. Once he finished, he realized he was still speaking in the tone of a schoolteacher, a speech habit he could not seem to shake himself of.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” she apologized once she realized her mistake. “So many different accents in this place, it’s hard to tell who’s from the city and whose not.”
Interesting, Severus mused to himself. Now tell me how the hell this thing is supposed to work.
“Want to know a secret?” she leaned in. “The oven’s not an oven. This is a waffle restaurant. What do we need an oven for?”
“You don’t say,” Severus drawled.
The girl bent down on her knees to open the wide oven door. “To get to Hieging Place, what you need to do is crawl through the oven; there’s like a tunnel, and it leads it to a door in the lobby of the New York City branch of Gringotts Bank.”
This girl may not have been bright, but at least now he knew Shoshsana wasn’t a liar.
“And don’t worry about the grime. It’s not real, just a little extra effect for Muggles who come back here to complain about the food.”
I supposes actually serving something edible is out of the question, Severus though to himself as he kicked at the side of the oven, examining it more closely.
“Don’t worry,” the counter girl insisted. “I’ll keep a lookout, and so will the cooks.”
But finally, against his better judgment, Severus knelt down to the ground and crawled into the oven.
Despite the fact that the interior appeared blackened and grungy, the surface felt completely smooth against his hands and knees. The oven door was soon slammed shut behind him, leaving him completely blind. In this small, cramped space, there was nowhere to go but forward. In the back of his mind, however, he could not block out the fear that this might also be some sort of trick, and he would soon feel the heat turned on and be cooked alive like the witches in certain Muggle fairytales.
Even though there was no one in the cramped, dark space to see him, Severus still felt ridiculous, crawling through the small tunnel like a child. It had always been nothing less than amazement the wizard-kind had such an ability to find the most inconvenient and embarrassing ways of blending into Muggle society. He was nearly convinced that they were doing it on purpose.
In the midst of these thoughts, Severus hit his head rather hard against a wall, with no paths branching off to the left or right. There was no where further to go, and Severus doubted there was enough room for him to turn around, even if he wanted to. Thin streams of light shown through a square-shaped crack along the wall in front of him; it just had to be some kind of door. This was supposedly the way into Gringotts; the bank was wise not to want the stench of the waffle restaurant floating through into the lobby.
The way ahead was blocked, but loosely so. Severus shoved with his shoulder once again; the wall seemed to budge more, be it still remained pitch black. With one last push, with more strength behind it than was probably necessary…
He fell forward into a bright light, falling very hard against a stone surface that did not seem to welcome him. Rolling to his side, he groaned loudly, being past the point of pain that would cause him to care if he was heard or seen.
“Would you mind getting up, sir?” a voice above him asked.
Yes, Severus did indeed mind! He was certain he could feel several ribs currently puncturing holes in his lungs!
“Sir, please, you’re scuffing the wax.”
Finally, though, Severus was able to gather enough motivation to open his eyes and look the speaker directly in the face. It was a goblin, dressed in the same black suit and miniature shoes the bankers in London wore. Around the rest of the lobby, people stared at the show, but then looked away whenever Severus met their gaze. A few small children were laughing at him, and their mothers shushing them angrily.
“Are you going to get up or not?” the little creature asked heatedly once again.
The bank employee tapped his foot impatiently as Severus pushed himself to his feet, as though Severus’ injuries were an inconvenience to his day.
“I hate that God-forsaken Bernie’s!” the goblin grumbled as he turned on his polished black shoes. “People falling through the walls at all hours. This entire city is a cesspool!”
The tiny creature walked away, still grumbling on to himself, and rejoined the rest of the bank that had been going on as work as usual. And now that there was nothing more to see, even the bank’s customers went back to going about their business.
At different stalls, more formally dressed goblins counted gold coins, worked on account books with abacuses, and handled bored-looking lines of witches and wizards. Out of reflex, Severus almost took a place in the back of one of the lines before he could even wonder if it was possible to access his old account. He didn’t imagine the accounts of dead men stayed open for very long. Had getting his life savings been one of the little ‘arrangements’ that Shoshana had taken care of, or had it been something that had slipped her mind completely?
He would have to ask Shoshana once she came to find him, but until then, he would have to live the life of a man of modest means.
With no more use for the building, Severus made his way to the main door of Gringots to see what the rest of this ‘Hieging Place’ had to offer.
Outside, the sun was shining much brighter than it had been when Severus walked into Bernie’s, and he has to shield his eyes as he adapted to the new surrounding.
In many ways, there was nothing particularly exciting about Hieging Place, at least from the perspective of a wizard who had already seen so many places like this before. It was a tightly packed little area, like most small shopping districts tended to be, closed off in a perfect square with no visible way of getting back to Muggle New York City. Tall brick buildings rested wedged beside one another and small paved stones covered the streets in a manner almost never seen in modern cities. Small patches of grass and trees popped up from the street every now and again.
As far as people went, they were closed-packed, mixed in diversity, and above all, very loud with people shouting at one another, not all of them in English.
“The price per ounce is non-negotiable! I—”
“They pushed the new Hailbob model back another week? Those sons of—”
“Lo siento, no lo puedo!”
There seemed to be a fair mix of people in tradition robes, and those who opted for Muggle clothing (though this seemed to be more the younger people). A robe shop stood just off to the side, and for a time, Severus watched the repeated scenes of women pointing out displayed clothing to their children, who would, in turn, wrinkle their noses in disgust. And sometimes the other way around, with a child seeing some new, modern fashion that would put their mothers into a state of shock. Alleyways tucked in the corners of the square seemed to be home to various venders and their carts. Just outside one of these corners stood a newsstand, a small boy shouting the morning’s headlines at the people who passed him by.
Then, the familiar smell of combined ingredients caused Severus to turn and peer inside one of the shops: it was an Apothecary. Through the streaked, grimy windows, he shuddered at the high prices of nearly everything on display.
Why not? Severus then thought to himself as he let himself in. It’s not as though I have any money to pay for it anyway.
The inside was relatively dim, to keep the light from spoiling the relatively sensitive ingredients. Phials and beakers lined the walls of shelves, in a vast number of colors. A fair many patches were stained on the wood floor from neglected spills. It was more or less no different than any other Apothecary he had ever visited in his life.
“Hello,” a sudden and sharp voice snuck up on him from the side.
A small, white-haired man rushed over to him quickly, despite his hunched back. “Welcome to Double Toil Trouble Apothecary. Is there anything specific you’re looking for today, or would you prefer to browse?” He appeared very eager to sell something, anything.
“No,” Severus answered him. “No, I’ll be alright just to look around.”
The little man groaned in disappointment, almost like a puppy, but lucky for Severus, the old shop owner forgot all about him as soon as another group of shoppers made their way through the door.
And so Severus began wandering around the store, occasionally stopping at a barrel or a glass phial. In truth, he was actually quite happy he didn’t have any money. Much of the merchandise was poor quality: herbs wilted and shriveled, animal parts looking as though they had come from the most neglected and malnourished creatures on the face of the Earth. Back at Hogwarts, had Severus come across ingredients in such a state, he would have thrown them out. He was certainly hoping he would not have to resort to such poor quality ingredients now that he had relocated.
A crowd of shoppers made their way across the store floor along with Severus. And best of all, they were all too caught up in their own lives and business to pay him any mind. Even better, the white-haired owner of the shop was now completely occupied with helping a woman asking the difference between Merrow and Siren scales in terms of their properties.
Suddenly, Severus was pushed out of the way by the storefront door swinging open, sending him crashing into one of the display shelves.
“Sorry,” an adolescent voice cracked in apology as he tried to speak over a storm of jabbering voices that accompanied him.
A red-haired boy, old enough to have been an N.E.W.T. student at Hogwarts stood in his line of vision, but he wasn’t the source of all the racket that followed him in. In each hand, a miniature being, a boy and a girl, squirmed and struggled. Each of them appeared no happier to be in the Apothecary than Severus was to see them there.
“One second, ma’am.” The old shop owner held out his hands as he backed away from woman he was helping and moved back towards the door. “I really should take care of this right here.”
Severus nodded; he could understand. Small children anywhere near anything made of glass was a disaster waiting to happen. He didn’t need the fifteen years of teaching experience to know that!
The older gentleman made his way over to the boy, making sure to keep a fair amount of distance between himself and the screaming brats in the middle. “Can I help you, young man?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I need the Potions’ supply list for Hardscrabble Creek C.A.T. classes.”
“The school kits are stored in the back. Give me one moment.”
The old shop owner took off at that surprisingly fast speed to rush behind the curtained-off storeroom. Bored, the two smaller children began to swing on the boy’s arms, while his eyes wander around the shop, though he remained close to the door for a quick exit. Eventually, the boy’s eyes met with Severus. “Hi, how are you?” he said to the former Potions professor.
“Don’t talk to strangers, Carter!” the little girl scolded him, pushing a few strands of black hair out of her eyes. “You’ll get kidnapped and sent to Thailand!”
The older boy groaned and rolled his eyes. It didn’t seem that he cared much for his traveling companions either.
“I want Pop Crackers!” the little boy whined, evidently feeling that the shop was becoming too quiet.
“NO!” the older boy answered a little bit louder than was probably necessary. “You’re just going to feed them to the pigeons so you can watch them explode again!”
“It was funny…” the little boy defended himself in a quiet mutter.
The two little brat remained quiet for a few seonds, but it didn't take very long before the little boy's complaints started up again.
“Can we go yet?”
“Yeah,” the girl pouted. “I gots a schedule to keep!”
“You’re seven!” the red-haired boy snapped back at her. “You can’t even tell time yet!”
Sticking out her lower lip, the little girl turned away, making it clear she had no more answers for this argument.
“Hey, Hardscabble Creek boy!” the store owner yelled from the storage room. “Your school supplies are up too high for me to see. Can you come back and help me?”
The boy clenched his teeth, making it quite clear that he very much did not want to go in back and help, for it would expose his two little monsters to enough breakable materials to put him into a debt he would owe twenty years after he died. On the other hand, he could go into the backroom by himself and leave them out in the store completely unsupervised. Finally, he settled on the lesser of two evils.
“Alright,” the boy answered before yanking the two figures around so they could face him, “you two behave yourselves. I am not even remotely close to kidding.”
The two children nodded in unison. It was obvious that there was no sincerity to the reply, however, evident in the very wide grins that spread over their faces as soon as the older boy disappeared behind the curtain as well.
The little boy reached up and grabbed a small phial of Flobberworm mucus, turning it round and round in his hand.
“You!” Severus took it upon himself to snap at the boy. “Put that down! It’s not a toy.”
The boy responded by throwing the phial up into the air and catching it with exaggerated gestures to show that it could indeed be a toy.
“If you break that, you’ll get into a lot of trouble.”
The little boy look up at him with one brown eye and one blue, each one filled with defiance to prove that he knew exactly what he was doing. But this also caused him to pay less attention to what his hands were doing, and the phial slipped right through his fingers. And when it finally shattered and spilled across the floor, the boy actually had to nerve to look up at Severus and go, “Oops.”
A few of the customers saw this, but no one bothered to call for the shop owner. This was the exact reason behind so many migraines he had had during his years as a teacher. No one did anything to instill any sense of discipline in these children while they were young, so by the time they were finally old enough to start school, it was too late for anything to really be done about their behavior.
“Why, you little—”
Severus didn’t really didn’t have a plan about what he was going to do from there, but that worry was soon taken out of his hands. It was at that moment that he felt a very sharp push against his side, sending him stumbling against on of the wall shelves. Severus cringed, but relaxed when he didn’t hear the sound of anything breaking. Somehow, he had even managed to grab hold off the little boy’s jacket on his way down. It wasn’t a very high fall for the child, though he still lay limp on the floor, pretending to be far more hurt than he actually was.
Still standing straight, with feet planted firmly, was the little girl.
“You just pushed me!” Severus exclaimed, more shocked than anything else.
“You started it,” she argued. Dangling from her fingers was a money bag: dark material, worn and plain. Something that seemed very odd for a small girl to have, but perfectly in place in the coat pocket of a middle-aged school teacher.
“Did you just steal that from my pocket?” Severus snapped at her.
“I dunno,” she answered, swinging the bag from side to side. There was no money in it, but that was hardly the point.
Severus moved himself back up to his feet—the boy still laying limp like a rag doll, his legs dangling as Severus attempted to yank him to his feet—and he made a move to snatch at her wrist as well. The girl looked up at him with an evil-looking little smirk that appeared too old on such a small child. He grabbed hold of the child’s clenched fist only to instantly feel as though his eardrums would burst.
“I NEED AN ADULT! I NEED AN ADULT!”
As soon as Severus touched her, the girl screamed bloody murder for the whole store to hear as though she were being burned with a hot iron. It was more than enough to make Severus the center of attention. And with the older boy watching the two youngsters out of sight, there was no one to stop the display.
She had to stop to take a much-needed gulp of air, giving her enough time to shoot a look over to the boy. The younger boy took a hint from his friend and decided to join in.
“MOMME-EEEEEE!” he screeched. “I WANT MY MOMME-EEEEEE!”
Some of the woman inside began shouting out names and clinging tight to several of the students with their supply lists. It took only a matter of moments for the customers within the Apothecary to form themselves into tight clusters, each group staring at Severus the way a herd of animals might regale a predator. And still, both of the little brats screamed and carried on as though they were about to be led to their deaths. Severus found himself quite surprised with the display of the children beside him and that nobody around him was doing anything to help.
After some time, though, the curtain on the storeroom flew open and the redheaded boy raced out, clutching a case that must have contained his Potions supplies for school.
"Oh, my God!” he exclaimed, setting his Potions kit on the counter. “Nate, Lorelei, what the hell did you two do?”
He stormed over and took both of the brats, who had now become dead silent, from Severus’ grip.
“Those two are yours?” one of the women exclaimed, as she held tight to her own two school-aged children.
“Allegedly,” the older boy replied.
“You left those children alone?” the mother exclaimed, shocked. “Do you know how close they just came to being kidnapped? There are dangerous people in this city!”
Severus couldn’t help but be a bit insulted at being compared to a child abductor.
“No, no, he’s not,” the red-haired boy tried to convince the panicking customers as the old shop keeper followed out after him. “My brother and his friend are just budding criminals.”
The chaos was then interrupted by the shop door swinging open once again, along with the overhead bell clanging loudly.
“Miss, you can’t run in here! You’ll break something!” the little shop owner shouted over the sound of heeled shoes tapping against the wood floor.
Severus groaned and thought to himself, Oh, this can only be one person! Especially given his luck for the day.
Just as Severus had predicted, it was Shoshana. She was still wearing the same outfit she had been wearing that morning, causing men to turn their heads and their wives to slap them straight again.
Shoshana raced towards him, stumbling on her high wedged shoes. “Professor, I have wonderful news!”
“Excellent,” he grumbled. “Why don’t you share with us?”
Shoshana’s eyes moved around the store as though she were finally just noticing all the people that were watching them. “Well,” she answered him slowly, “maybe it would be better if I told you somewhere more private.”
Shoshana tugged at the hem of her dress, as though she were one to actually care about modesty. And there were all those same looks combined of intrigue and disgust he had seen when Shoshana had showed up at the coffee shop in that same outfit. He had had enough of Shoshana using her little ‘disguise’ to torment him.
“Whatever it is, just say it!”
And so, Shoshana shrugged her shoulders and simply came out with it: “Cyrus Dumort is dead.”
And all the previous looks of judgment about what Shoshana’s relationship with him disappeared, replaced with some now very terrified looks that all wondered why it was such great news that this Cyrus Dumort was no longer among the living. Even the two little monsters were struck stiff, both of them fearing what kind of person they had decided to torment today.
“Oh, don’t worry,” she told all the watching customers. “It’s not like I killed him, and he most certainly didn’t hire me to kill him.”
Now, even the red-haired boy who went to this Hardscrabble Creek, who had been the only one to have any form of confidence that Severus was not some sort of child-snatching maniac, was beginning to sidestep away nervously. His eyes were wide and he had gone absolutely pure white.
“Kids, we’re leaving,” the older boy ushered the two children towards the door. “Move! Now!”
The children did not object in the least to being taken out of the Apothecary. In fact, they seemed to be the ones leading the way. Through the window, he could see the three of them still running out across the square-shaped market.
Even after the redheaded boy and his two little monsters were gone, the surrounding customers continued to stare. Shoshana observed the scene with an amused smile, clearly wondering to herself what could have possibly happened for her to walk into this sort of situation.
“So, did you find everything you were looking for?” Shoshana asked him, as though trying to sound pleasant.
Fed up with the entire scenerio, Severus grabbed Shoshana by her arm and dragged her out the shop door. As he did this, he was able to recognize that he was still acting like a teacher, but he had gone beyond the point of caring by now.
Outside of the Apothecary, life had moved on and people were once again too caught up in their own business to care about Severus or the scantily-clad young woman who accompanied him, giving him far more latitude in his response.
“What was that?” he demanded, able to raise his voice now that they were in a place where no one had any idea what they were talking about. “Did you leave me alone just so you could go off and find new ways to embarrass me?”
“I…” she began, though still somewhat shaken, “may have found you a teaching job.”
He did let go of her wrist, waiting to hear what she had managed to do with her afternoon.
“Professor Dumort,” Shoshana elaborated, “was hired last spring to be a Potions teacher at the Salem Witches Institute, but he passed away three nights ago. Luckily for me, I picked up a copy of the Boston Gallows Gazette and read his obituary. If we hurry, we might be able to snatch up the position before everyone else decides the student body has had enough time to grieve.”
She said this in a mocking, sarcastic manner. Shoshana did not appear to be one of those people who carried a special place in their hearts for teachers.
“It’s in Boston,” Shoshana elaborated, sounding somewhat distracted as she spoke. “The Salem Witches Institute, that is. I actually went to school there myself, so I can assure you that it has a wonderful program. At least it did when I graduated. It is an all-girls’ school, though,” she confessed. “I’m not sure if that’s going to be an issue.”
Another woman with three nearly teenage children, two boys and a girl, walk out of the Apothocary. They had clearly been witnesses to the little fiasco inside, judging from the evil eye the mother graced Severus with for as long as she could, pushing her all her children ahead in front of her.
“Or is it just all children that you can’t stand?” Shoshana finished.
Severus could not ignore the very strong urge he was getting to smack Shoshana over the back of her head, but his actions had certainly made enough trouble for himself for one day.
“Sure can’t talk you into an Apothecist career?” she suggested one last time. “Everybody needs Potion ingredients. Very little to do with actual people.”
Severus glared down at the government agent who had been a constant thorn in his side. All he cared about at this moment in time was to get to a point where he could get settled and needed absolutely nothing from Shoshana St. James.
Finally, Shoshana relented. “I’ll send the owl to Salem. With any luck, everyone else will be too afraid to take it. They’ve had a lot of trouble finding a replacement so far.”
“Why?” Severus asked, even though he could feel a growing dread towards hearing the answer.
“No one likes Potions, or Potions professors, as a general rule. And most of the replacements the school has tried to hire so far either didn’t know how to teach the subject, or couldn’t handle the girls, or the other professors thought they were a moron.” Shoshana stopped for a moment to consider what she was saying and who she was talking to.
“On second thought,” she said, “I think this job will be perfect for you.”
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