Chapter 5 : Too Smart
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That day set the tone for the next week or so. Mel soon joined Kit and Drake in their Severus-minding duties, while Trish, Arista, and Hermione tried to make headway with their respective potions. It was difficult to try and recreate a potion someone else had made, and Neville wasn’t much help, for the accident had driven most of his memory of making the potion out of his head. Still, he gave Hermione as much as he could recall, then went off to watch Snape, as he’d promised.
While Hermione tried to figure out where Neville went wrong, the two sisters continued to read through the long list of ingredients and the intense magical theory behind creating an Aging Potion. Most of their reading dealt with the way time ran and how it was calculated and specific formulas that had to be taken into account when creating a specific Aging Potion. For that was another drawback to this potion. It couldn’t just be made for any age, the age had to be specified, and that meant precise calculations. Then you had to find specific ingredients depending on the age you were making the draft for, and most of them were rare and costly.
Meanwhile, the other SR’s and Neville were discovering that minding a four-year-old Snape was not as easy as it had first seemed. Severus, though not a noisy child by nature, did like to run around on occasion, especially with Scout, who delighted in playing tag and hide and go seek with the child. The dog was extremely careful with his small master, and hardly ever knocked him down. But if he did, the child never cried, but simply got to his feet and continued playing.
Once, Severus tripped over a rock while running after the big dog and cut open his knee. But the first Mel knew of it was when he came over to her with Scout and said, “I fell down.”
She gasped when she caught sight of his knee, which was a mess. “Oh my God! Sev, why didn’t you tell me you were hurt?” She picked him up and raced inside, bringing him to Arista to heal.
Arista healed the nasty cut in a second.
“I can’t believe he didn’t cry or anything.” Mel reported. “Any other kid his age would’ve bawled his head off.”
Severus looked at her then with his large dark eyes. “Daddy said not to.”
“Not to what?” Mel frowned.
“Not to cry. Only cowards cry. I’m no coward.”
Mel gasped. “But that’s-that’s stupid! Telling a little kid he can’t cry when he’s hurt or-or sad. What kind of father tells a kid that?”
“Mine,” answered Severus.
Arista hugged him. “It’s okay, Sev. You can cry if you want to. Here only cowards don’t cry.”
But he didn’t then. For the habits of a lifetime were hard to break.
His caretakers soon discovered that he was frightfully smart for his age. Not only could he read, he had a prodigious memory. He needed only to be shown something once and he never forgot it. He watched Drake casting a leviate spell one day and that afternoon he found a small stick and pretended to cast it, imitating the wand motion and saying the words exactly.
The SR’s gaped at him. “Did you see that?” Mel cried. “He did it perfectly. If he was able to use magic, the spell would’ve worked.”
“Bloody hell, you’re right!” exclaimed Kit.
Drake just laughed. “I don’t know why you’re so surprised, Kit. I mean this is the professor we’re talking about here. Why shouldn’t he be an ace with a wand?”
“Yeah, but still . . .he’s four!”
“Four going on forty, you mean,” chuckled Drake, proud of the child’s accomplishments.
Severus’s favorite word was “Why?” and he asked it almost every five minutes. “Why is Hagrid so big? Why is Dumbledore’s beard so long? Why can’t cats drink pumpkin juice? Why do phoenixs fly?”
Half of those questions the students didn’t know the answers to, though they did their best to answer them. Except sometimes they wearied of the endless litany of questions and answered, “Because it just is.”
That wasn’t good enough for Severus though. “Because why?”
And then he’d pester them until they gave him a proper answer.
Finally Kit lost his patience one day and shouted, “Bloody hell, kid, don’t you ever get sick of asking questions?”
“Why not?” the exasperated teenager demanded.
And Severus looked at him and smirked. “Because.”
Kit smacked himself in the head. Then he laughed.
The girls were laughing too when he related that particular incident to them later that night, when they were all gathered in the professor’s quarters. Hermione had almost isolated the ingredient Neville had added incorrectly, and Arista and Trish had begun to gather the necessary ingredients for the Aging Potion. Right then they were all taking a well deserved break, eating pumpkin pasties and drinking butterbeer, sprawled all over Snape’s living room.
Severus was petting Scout, who was lying on the floor with his tongue hanging out. The little boy was scratching the dog’s belly with a hand and the hound was groaning in bliss. Severus really liked dogs. He’d never had one at home because their fur made his mummy sick. But here he could play with Scout as much as he wanted, and sometimes the big dog slept in his room as well.
Severus put his head on the magehound’s side. Scout made a great pillow. Until the big dog decided to suddenly sit up and Severus’s head banged onto the floor.
Scowling, the little boy sat up and rubbed it. It didn’t hurt bad enough for tears, but he was annoyed at having it slammed against the floor. He shook a finger at the dog.
“Bloody hell, Scout!”
All conversation between the teenagers ceased. They stared at one another.
Finally Arista found her voice. “Severus Tobias Snape! We don’t use words like that ever!”
“Because they’re bad and-and little boys shouldn’t swear. Do you know what happens to little boys who use words like that?” she asked sternly, coming over to look him in the eyes.
“No.” he said, looking at the ground.
“They get their mouths washed out with soap,” she answered. “You want that to happen to you?”
He shook his head vigorously.
“Then never ever say those words again, young man. Am I understood?” she demanded. Inwardly she cringed. I can’t believe I just said that. I just yelled at my father and threatened to punish him. I’m so grounded if he ever remembers this later on. But another part of her whispered, He’d have said the same thing to a kid that swore and you know it. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Good. Where did you hear them anyhow?”
Severus pointed at Kit. “He said it first.”
All four girls gave him disapproving glares.
“Nice one, Kit. He already repeats everything he hears,” Trish said angrily. “Soon we’ll have the only four-year-old at Hogwarts that can recite the school motto in Latin and swear like a dockhand too.”
“Aw, come on, give me a break. I forgot he was there and it just . . .well . . .popped out.”
“You know better than to swear around a little kid like that, Kit,” scolded Hermione. “You and Ron have got the filthiest mouths I’ve ever heard.”
Severus eyed the older boy thoughtfully. Then he looked at Arista and asked, “You gonna wash his mouth out with soap too?”
Drake was convulsed with laughter.
“Maybe we should!” Trish said to Mel and the others. She waved her wand threateningly.
“Like hell you will!” Kit cried, moving away from her. “I’m fifteen, not four, Greenbough. That stuff’s for little kids like him.” He pointed at Severus.
“Tell that to my mum,” Drake said, still snickering.
Five pairs of eyes stared at him.
“You’re putting me on, Lockwood!” said Kit, gaping. “Your mum wouldn’t really do that to you?”
“Yes, she would. She hates kids who swear, Kit. And if she hears you, out comes a bar of soap. She caught my sixteen-year-old cousin Evan one day when he was visiting and she made him eat soap for three minutes. No joke. All us Lockwoods know to watch our mouths around her.”
“Remind me to never stay over your house,” Kit muttered.
They all chuckled. Then Arista said, “You know, my dad threatened to do the same thing to me once, Kit. So better watch your mouth, Ambrosius.”
Kit blanched. Then he recalled that his friend’s stern patriarch was only a child still and he glared at Arista. Still, he would make sure he watched his language from then on. Because the last thing he wanted Snape to do when he finally returned to his normal age was to go fetch a bar of soap.
* * * * * *
“Eureka!” Hermione exclaimed loudly. “I did it!”
An excited Arista rushed over to see what Hermione’s solution now looked like. The Gryffindor girl had been working nonstop for over a week trying to backtrack and discover Neville’s mistake. Finally, after countless hours, she had done it. “See?” she waved her wand over the bright yellow patch of solution. “He added too many snake scales and that’s what caused his potion to explode. The snake scales agitate the mixture too much, mixing with the phoenix tears to create—”
“—a volatile gas that expands rapidly when heated,” Arista finished. She hugged the other girl. “Well done, Hermione! My dad would be very proud of your work.”
Hermione smiled shyly. “Think so? Or would he just say I’m a know-it-all?”
Arista chuckled. “Mione, don’t you know that’s high praise from him? He always calls me that. Me and my know-it-all daughter, who’s too smart for her own good.” The smile slid from her face. “Or at least he used to, before . . .” she didn’t finish that sentence, but they both knew how it ended. Before he was de-aged to a four-year-old who doesn’t remember his own daughter at all and who now has to be a mother to her own father.
This time Hermione hugged Arista. “Hey, we’re doing real good, don’t you think? I’ve isolated the variable and now all we have to do is figure out how to the brew the potion and we’re home free.”
“Sure, Mione. Only.” Arista joked feebly.
Hermione put her hands on her hips, trying her best to imitate her Potions Master’s fierce glower. “What’s this attitude, young lady? I never figured you for a quitter, Arista Eileen Snape. Not my daughter. A Snape never quits.”
Arista gaped at her, her dark eyes wide. Then, very slowly, her mouth quirked up in a small smile. “Not bad, Hermione. Only you’ve got to get your scowl more like this,” she demonstrated and Hermione pretended to shiver.
Then the Gryffindor girl laughed. “Guess that’s something only a Snape can master. Along with master level potions.”
“Yeah, but a Granger helped me more than I could ever ask,” she returned. “We make a good team.” Then she held out her hand for a high five.
Hermione’s hand slapped her own. “The best. We’ll have the professor back to his old self before Christmas, wait and see.”
“Then you want him back? I’d have thought . . .you being friends with Ron and Harry . . .you’d be glad that he was . . .gone.”
Hermione shook her head firmly. “Just because I’m their friend doesn’t mean I go along with what they think. And I happen to think they’re both being dumb gits. We need Professor Snape, Arista. He’s the best wizard with potions we’ve got and we need somebody of his caliber desperately. I learned ten times as much from him as I ever did on my own, just reading. He might be a snarky pain in the butt sometimes, but he’s the best at what he does. I . . .admire him a lot, you know. He’s brilliant, not just book smart, but creative too. You’re like him, you know. Both of you are perfectionists and you’re hardest on yourselves. Ron would laugh himself sick to hear me say that, but you and I both know it’s true.”
“Yes. He believes that the harder the practice, the better the student. Same as my old teachers back in America. It’s how the Dark Hunters teach, by being strict as hell, but also thorough. They push you to your fullest potential and if you survive, you’re all the better for it.”
“And he’s right,” said Hermione.
“I just wish more people realized that.”
“They will, someday. When they need to make some obscure potion to save somebody’s life or something. Then they’ll say, thank you Professor Snape, for pushing me so much in class, because now I have the knowledge I need to do what I have to. And the discipline to keep trying until I succeed.” Hermione predicted softly.
“You really believe that?”
“Yeah. Because that’s what I realized when I was trying to analyze this mess Neville left behind. How much he’d taught me. Oh, not just about methods and theory, but logic and how to be a stubborn son of a bitch that doesn’t quit until you get the results you want. Nobody else could’ve taught me that, Arista. Only your dad.”
The Ravenclaw Healer grinned. “You really ought to tell him that one day, you know. He’d be happy to hear it.”
“Oh God, no! I wouldn’t have the guts.”
“Come on, Mione. What’s the big deal? All you have to do is go up to him and say four little words. Thank you, Professor Snape.”
“And then he’ll look at me and ask “For what, Miss Granger?”
“And then you just say “For everything you’ve taught me, sir.” That’s all.”
“No!” Hermione hid her face in her hands. “I couldn’t. He’d-he’d laugh at me.”
“Hermione Granger! He would not. Trust me. I know him better than anyone, ‘cept maybe my mom. And he’d never laugh at a student who thanked him for teaching her. Because it happens so rarely. He likes to be appreciated as much as the next guy, even if he’ll never say so. Do it, Mione. You won’t regret it.”
“Okay. I will. When he’s himself again.”
“Good. Now let’s go tell Trish the good news.”
Arista was so happy over Hermione’s breakthrough that she decided to take the rest of the evening off and stay at home with her dad. She told Neville, who was minding Severus that day, he could go back to Gryffindor Tower early.
“You sure, Arista? You must be tired after all that research you’ve been doing plus your schoolwork. I can stay, I don’t mind. He’s been in a bit of a mood today.”
“Yeah. Kind of cranky. I don’t know why.” Neville shrugged. “It happens to all of us.”
“Don’t worry, Neville. I can deal with it. You go on home. Thanks for everything.”
He blushed beet red. “Aw, it was no big deal, Arista. I like kids and he’s smart and funny, most of the time. He lets me read my Herbology notes aloud to him when I study and then he names the plants with me. We have . . .fun together.” Then the boy laughed nervously. “I can’t believe I said that. I wonder if he’ll remember any of this when he’s older?”
“I don’t know. Some of it I hope he does. Other things, I’m hoping he forgets. Only time will tell.”
Neville bid her goodbye and Arista went back inside the Potion Master’s suite of rooms to see what the house elves had brought up for their dinner.
Severus was coloring on the floor on a piece of parchment, he liked to draw pictures much like Marietta. He was quite a good artist as four-year-olds go, his animals had the right number of legs or wings and were colored approximately the right color and he liked to draw Hogwarts. He said to her one night he wished he could stay here forever, and knowing what she did of his home life, she couldn’t blame him.
“What are you drawing, Sev?”
“A picture of Scout and Comfrey for Mummy,” he answered, coloring the cat with a gray crayon industriously.
She knelt to see it, but to her surprise, he snatched the drawing away and covered it. “No! You can’t see it. It’s only for Mummy.”
Astonished, she could only say, “All right. You can surprise her then.”
“Yes.” He switched the gray crayon for a green one. “When’s she coming back here?”
She winced every time he asked this. “Soon. In another week.”
Usually this satisfied him. Not that evening. “It’s too long,” he scowled. “I want her to come back now.”
“I know, but she’s busy,” Arista lied, thanking her lucky stars he wasn’t an empath.
“She’ll be back before you know it.” She bent to touch his forehead, trying to determine if he was sick.
He squirmed away from her. “Severus, stay still.” She laid her hand on his head again.
“Why? Don’ wanna,” he whined.
“Because I said so,” she snapped.
He pouted, then did as she wanted, though it was plain he didn’t want to.
She breathed a sigh of relief. He was not sick, just cranky, as Neville had said. “Did you have fun with Neville today?”
“No. It was boring.”
“Well, you’re in a grouchy mood today,” she sighed. Then she rose to her feet. “Finish your picture, then I’ll call you for dinner, okay?”
A nod was all she got in response.
She left him alone then, perhaps he would be out of his sulky mood by the time she had set the table and gotten his dinner cut up.
Tonight the house elves had served up chicken with barbecue sauce and mashed potatoes with a side of peas. For dessert there was chocolate cake and milk, one of their favorites. She set the little table in the kitchen area for two, since Trish said she would not be home for another half an hour yet and not to wait dinner on her.
Then she cut her father’s plate of chicken into bite-sized pieces and poured him a glass of pumpkin juice, which she spelled with a charm so he wouldn’t spill it. That done, she served herself some food as well, then she went back into the den to call the child in for dinner.
“Severus! Time to eat.”
He ignored her, continuing to color.
“Sev! Hey, buddy. Put that away. It’s time for dinner.”
He gave her an annoyed look. “I’m not done yet.”
“You can finish it later. Now come on, before it gets cold.”
“NO!” he yelled.
“Severus, put it away. This minute!” she snapped, feeling her patience evaporate.
He glared at her, openly defying her for the first time ever.
She glared right back, giving him one of his own do-it-or-else stares, if he’d only known.
“Severus, if you don’t come and eat dinner by the time I count to three, you’ll be in serious trouble,” she threatened.
He picked up another crayon.
She wanted to shake him. “One.”
He thumped a foot against the carpet. “Two.”
He shot her a wary glance. She opened her mouth. He got up from the floor, his lower lip sticking out in a rather adorable pout. “Fine! I’m coming.”
“Thank you for listening,” she praised, relief shooting through her. He’d never tested her like that before and she was grateful she didn’t have to carry out her unnamed threat.
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