Beta(s): krissy_cits, Velveteenbunny
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: Hermione and Severus receive word that their Firstie has had a "Longbottom" moment in the Potions classroom (SS/HG).
(Highlight to View) Note: I admit I saw comedy all over the place when I read this prompt, but as I worked on the story, I was strongly driven to move in another direction. I truly hope you liked it, Iuls!
Summary: An minor explosion in the Potions classroom at first seems just like another 'we laugh about this in years to come' moment for the Snape family, but it brings to light some news that will be hard for Hermione and Severus to take.
Deputy Headmaster Snape had just finished scrawling the 'e' of his last name across the bottom of yet another tedious Ministry form when a deep rumble shook the castle. The disturbance caused Severus to drag the nib of his quill across the parchment, sending ink all over block number 146, 'Please indicate why approval for the change in curriculum would be advantageous to the student body, in no less than one hundred words'. Merlin's hairy balls, he muttered, but he had no time to contemplate to which event the epithet applied when the headmistresses' voice drifted out of the Floo.
"Severus, there's been an explosion in the—"
Sighing, he cut her off. "Say no more, Minerva; I am on my way."
Severus quickly left his office. Since he no longer taught Potions—the coveted and now curse-less DADA position was his at long last—explosions from the dungeons were not uncommon in the first few weeks of the school year as the first years learned what not to do, the fifth and sixth years tried to see what they could get away with, and the few seventh years who made it to NEWT level failed yet another experiment. Severus often was called to sort the chaos; nine times out of ten, the instructor was inevitably covered in whatever mess happened to fly through the room. Would they never find a true Master to teach again?
"Severus, wait!" called a familiar and welcome voice. He turned to see his wife, scurrying toward him. "Dungeons?"
"Where else?" Severus rolled his eyes. "Come along, we need to make sure no one is injured. We were lucky that dunderhead Timmons was doing nothing more dangerous than a love potion last week."
Hermione giggled, "Although we did seem to find a few more students than usual in the niches that night."
"Don't remind me," laughed Severus, comically shuddering. The pair quickly made their way to the lower levels of the castle, taking a right off of the Great Hall and down a long set of stone steps to the dungeons. The smell hit them first.
Hermione quickly cast a Bubblehead Charm over them both. "Good gods, what is that?"
"From the whiff I got before you cast the charm, it smelt like a combination of Flobberworm mucous and thistledown."
"You're not supposed to mix those, are you?"
"Ten points to Gryffindor, Miss Granger. It's one of the first lessons of the new term for first years; at least it used to be before Stuckey took over the class."
Hermione stopped short. "Severus, which year is having a lesson right now?"
Severus turned to his wife. "I believe first year Gryffindor/Slytherin."
"Andrew!" They both exclaimed and began to hurry toward the potions classroom. Andrew Snape was the eldest of their three children; Bridget was four and Stephen followed at eight months.
Severus threw open the door to the classroom with his wand out, prepared to meet any circumstance, only this circumstance was not on the list in his mind of typical first year Potions mishaps. It was a reaction that could happen, but the last time was in 1324 when Octavius Sinderbee used a copper cauldron for mixing Flobberworm mucous and thistledown. His wife was not happy with the outcome and went to stay with her mother for six months afterwards.
Hermione pushed her husband aside, entering the room, and her jaw dropped. Every single surface was covered in blue goo. In fact, every single pupil was covered in blue goo. "Severus," she whispered, and then tried to hide a giggle.
He patted her hand and snorted quietly. "It's all right; it's not toxic, but the question remains, who did it?"
Deidre Stuckey, the new Potions professor, glooped up the centre aisle of the class toward her Deputy Headmaster and the school matron. "Professor Snape, Madam Snape. There's been ...an accident."
"You don't say," choked Severus, trying not to laugh as he watched a sea of blue, green, and brown eyes, blinking owlishly at him through a coating of blue.
"Yes. I've discovered who caused it."
"Tell us later, Professor Stuckey," said Hermione. "We need to get the children cleaned up. They'll need to head into the accident wash stations at the back of the classroom."
Hermione had lobbied for the emergency wash stations after Severus had had to regrow skin one too many times after accidents. Had he been able to clean the potions off his body more quickly, the less scarring there would have been. The students, of course, would benefit as well.
Hermione continued, "Girls will go to the wash room in the left, boys on the right. There'll be towels and a dressing gown for each of you when you're done. She waved the students toward the wash stations. "Twinky!" She called for a Hogwarts' hospital elf, and it popped into the room instantly. "Please prepare for one, two, three...fifteen students."
The last student in line was her own Andrew—she recognized the black eyes. "Andrew, you okay?"
"Yeah," he mumbled, head hanging.
"Get along and get cleaned up. You can stop by our quarters later if you'd like." Andrew didn't answer, but scurried away to join his mates.
Severus, in the meantime, wandered through the mess, casting cleaning charms as he went, banishing cauldrons to the sinks and shrapnel to the rubbish bins. He came to a stop near a workstation that seemed to be the epicentre of the explosion. "Professor Stuckey," he called. "Who sits at this work station?
"Your son," she answered.
"And why was he using a copper cauldron? Surely you know that Flobberworm mucous and thistledown are never to be combined in a copper cauldron."
"Yes, I know sir. He was late to class today, and I didn't realise he had the wrong cauldron until the accident."
"Why didn't he use his own cauldron?" asked Severus. "He had one as part of the standard first year kit."
"Look, can I get cleaned up and then speak with you and Madam. Snape? It's important."
Severus was instantly on his guard; he was ridiculously protective of his family. "Very well; meet me in my office in an hour."
Hermione bustled back and forth between the wash stations ensuring each student had adequately rinsed off and no remaining potion was affecting them. When she was satisfied, the fifteen bedraggled students were dismissed to their dorms and told to report to the Great Hall for lunch once they were changed. Their clothing would be washed and returned to them before nightfall. As she left the classroom, Severus pulled her aside to let her know they were meeting Professor Stuckey in his office.
"She wanted to speak to both of us. She said it was important."
"Is something wrong with Andrew?" Hermione began to fret.
"Don't begin to worry yet, pet. Stuckey did not say so, but I can only assume it is. Has he said anything to you?"
Severus shook his head. "No. Does he seem unhappy when you see him?"
"Not really; since he lives in the dorms, we of course see less of him. He is usually chatting with his mates in the Great Hall at meal time, and we hardly see him at the weekend."
Hermione wrung her hands in worry, an old habit that Severus hated. He grabbed her hands and pulled her to him, giving her a hug. "We only need to wait an hour; I've told her to come to my office then. Let's go eat, see how Stephen and Bridget are doing, and then we'll soon know." He kissed her forehead—they never allowed themselves anything more than that while out and about in the school during term time.
Hermione paced her husband's office, murmuring all the while, and patting the bottom of Stephen, nestled against her shoulder. She had to manoeuvre around Bridget who sat on the floor reading a book. "Where is Stuckey? She said she'd meet us in an hour!" she fussed.
Severus leant over and scooped up his daughter, kissing her on the cheek. "I am sure she'll be here any moment. Call Winky to collect the children and relax."
Professor Stuckey knocked on the door just as Winky popped away with her charges.
"Come in," called Severus. "Have a seat, Professor." Severus indicated a chair and Hermione took one as well. "You said you wished to speak to us. Is it about today's incident in the classroom?"
"Yes," she began. Nervously clutching her hands in her lap, Deirdre explained, "As you surmised, the incident was caused by a student using a copper cauldron. This same student has caused several smaller accidents in the class, including three melted cauldrons."
Hermione started to ask a question, but Severus interrupted her, "You said that the cauldron was at Andrew's work station, and there have been other incidents. What are you trying to tell us?" Severus inquired, already suspecting the answer.
Stuckey took a deep breath. "Unfortunately, your son is….mediocre at potions."
"What?" gasped Hermione. "What do you mean? His father…"
"Is an excellent Potions master," Deirdre cut across Hermione. "However, Andrew does not seem to have the knack for it."
"Please explain, Professor," Severus asked.
"I mean no offense to either of you. Your reputations precede you, but Andrew doesn't do well in class, and the other students give him quite a bit of flack about it because he is the son of a Potions master."
"But he seems to do all right at home when he is with his father, and none of the other professors have said anything," offered Hermione.
Professor Stuckey smiled ruefully. "To be honest, how does one tell the Deputy Head and brightest witch of their time their son isn't doing well in school?"
Severus nodded. "I see your difficulty. Although surely the headmistress…? Perhaps we'd better ask her to join us." He quickly Floo'd Minerva, who stepped through, greeted everyone, and took a seat.
"Minerva," Severus said sharply, getting right to the point, "are you aware that Andrew is not doing well in his classes?"
"I am," she said.
"And you said nothing?" cried Hermione.
"There is a period of adjustment for all students," Minerva said. "I try not to hold the academic standing of parents as an indication of how their children will do. Andrew's grades are not what yours were, but time could change that. What seems to be the problem?"
Professor Stuckey answered her. "There was an accident in the Potions classroom today, caused by Andrew. I wanted to discuss my observations and that of a few of his other teachers, with whom I've spoken, with his parents."
"Very well, go ahead," Minerva said.
"Professor Snape," Stuckey looked at Severus, "I don't mean to criticise, but how have you taught him? Have you given him any challenges when brewing?"
Severus tried to think objectively. "We've kept him away from the more dangerous brewing, obviously. I show him what to do, explain the ingredients. He seems to manage all right. Is he not doing so in your class?"
"He is…adequate in the theory, but the actual brewing is less than stellar. After he melted his first cauldron, I paired him up with another student or had him use the school ones, especially after he begged me not to tell you—that is why you didn't realise he needed another one. His homework needs a bit of work; I find most Wizarding children do not do well writing essays since most are taught at home until the age of eleven."
Hermione interjected, "He went to a Muggle primary school, Miss Stuckey; I am Muggleborn if you remember."
"I do remember, and I apologize if you took my meaning wrong." Deirdre stood and paced over to the window to look out. After a moment, she asked, "How did he do at the Muggle school?"
Severus and Hermione looked at each other. They knew Andrew had had some trouble; he read slowly, if at all, and his grades were okay. They had agreed that they would encourage their children, but would not force them to reach the intensity of research and study they thrived in performing. They wanted all of their children to work to the best of their ability, and to be happy with their favourite academic subjects.
Severus answered her question. "He did well enough. Look, Professor Stuckey, if you've something to say, please say it."
"Professor, Madam Snape. I had an opportunity during my years at Wizarding University to take a Muggle class in how to teach and the various ways students learn. It was amazing and really enriched my ability as a teacher. I also learned how to recognise when a student has a learning disability."
"What do you mean?" gasped Hermione. "Andrew does well. He just…"
"Doesn't talk about his subjects with you? Like to read for pleasure? Complains about doing his homework?" Deidre asked.
"Yes," Hermione whispered. "We thought he was just being a typical boy. We know that he does not like school as much as his father and I did. He enjoys being read to, and when we help him with his homework, he seemed to do well."
"But left to his own devices, his work was not as good?"
"Madam Snape; I cannot be sure, but I think Andrew may have dyslexia. Have you ever noticed his handwriting has a lot of letters that are backward?"
"Yes, but we thought that was because he was left handed. He tended to 'mirror write' for the longest time. It took a lot of time for him to learn to write correctly, and still he writes some of the letters backwards."
"Professor Stuckey," Severus began. "How would we go about finding out if he is dyslexic? And if he is, how can we correct it?"
"There is no 'correcting' it," Deirdre said bluntly. "However, there are several good standardised evaluations for dyslexia, and I know a Muggle healer who could help us test him. After that, if the diagnosis is confirmed, there are several techniques that can help him compensate."
Deirdre looked at the Deputy Head and his wife and felt sorry for them. No parent liked to hear their child may not be 'normal', whatever the hell the definition of 'normal' was. She decided to soften the blow a bit for them. "Did you know that several Muggle film stars have dyslexia? It is even been reported that famous Muggle inventors and scientists such as Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were dyslexic. Brilliant men, are they not? You have nothing to fear that Andrew would not have a fulfilling career if he is dyslexic. "
Hermione was a bit tearful, but asked, "When could you set an appointment with your friend to help us test him? How long would it take until we knew for sure?"
"I will contact my friend this evening and set up something that is convenient for you. The testing would take only a day, but it would take several more after that to finalise the diagnosis."
"We would be grateful for you to arrange this, Professor Stuckey. Now if there isn't anything else, my wife and I would like to discuss this alone," Severus stated.
Deirdre stood. "For what it's worth, Professor and Madam Snape, my brother is dyslexic and a squib. Once he was diagnosed, he did excellently in college, graduating with honours. He wound up loving to study once he learned how to compensate for his dyslexia. He is now a teacher at a Muggle primary school. You'll see; Andrew will go on to wonderful things, too."
"Thank you, Deirdre," said Hermione. "Your hope for Andrew is most welcome. Let us know as soon as you hear."
"I will," she promised and left the office.
Minerva stood as well. "I'm sorry that I did not come to you before this. I have made the mistake of assuming Andrew was like any other child when he came to school, just needing the guidance of educated teachers to correct the skills they lacked. We are not equipped to handle learning disabilities. I shall correct that at once."
"Thank you, Minerva," said Severus. "As more Muggleborn children enter the magical world, we are learning more and more of the educational differences between Muggle and Wizarding children. We must strive to adjust our own teaching methods as a result. Perhaps we should set up a staff meeting to find out of any of the other children are encountering difficulties. We may need to set up extra support classes to help the students."
"Agreed," answered Minerva. "I'll leave you two for now. I dare say you need some time alone." With a quick hug for Hermione and a nod of compassion toward Severus, she left the office.
Hermione and Severus looked at each other, unsure of what to do or say at first. Finally, Severus spoke, "Well, looking back, it sort of makes sense, doesn't it?
"I suppose," said Hermione, and then she burst out, "How could we have not noticed, though? I am a Muggleborn for Merlin's sake! We know about these sorts of things much better than the Wizarding world!"
"Love," Severus said, pulling Hermione into his arms and kissing the top of her head. "I think we did notice, but like any parent, didn't quite want to see what was in front of us. We know now; we will get the information we need to help him."
"Severus…could it have been me? I was tortured for so long at the Manor, and the Healer said getting pregnant might not happen."
"Hermione, stop it. Neither you nor I did anything to cause Andrew's learning difficulties. Yes, we had trouble having our first child and then of course, it took a while for the other two, but you had no trouble once you fell pregnant. You've done nothing at all."
"Logically I know that. But the mother in me feels like I failed him."
"You did not fail him, and neither did I. We were just…blind to the facts." The couple stood in silent unity together, determined to move forward now and help their son. "Let's call Andrew to our rooms this evening and have a chat with him, eh?"
"All right," said Hermione. After a moment, she could feel the rumble of Severus chuckling against her cheek. "What's so funny?" she asked, looking up into his face.
"I was just picturing fifteen blue-covered children, staring at me when we were in the Potions classroom."
Hermione giggled. "Oh my; they were just standing there, blinking at us. Oh, and then Professor Stuckey 'glooping' her way up the centre aisle, her feet making that squelching sound."
The couple laughed out loud now and separated. Once they had themselves under control, Severus reminded Hermione that classes were in session, and she should return to the Hospital Wing. With a kiss, the pair settled down to their afternoon duties.
Two weeks later, Andrew underwent a battery of tests, and the results were that he was indeed dyslexic. A week after his diagnosis, he began to attend support sessions on Saturdays at the home of the Muggle healer Professor Stuckey had recommended. As he began to learn techniques to compensate for his learning ability, his grades showed much improvement across the board. He began to show more confidence, and he even admitted to his parents how much pressure he felt he was under to perform as brilliantly as his parents had done, regardless of their encouragement otherwise. Severus and Hermione assured Andrew that all they wanted was for him to do as well as he could and to be happy.
Minerva, true to her word, worked with Professor Stuckey and her friend (who took the required oath of secrecy) to train a team at St. Mungo's to become certified in diagnosing and treating learning disabilities. As a result, seven current students were found to have some form of a learning disorder; they were given extra helped and did quite well. She also instituted an educational reform that all Wizard born children were tested at the age of eight and if help was needed, it was provided.
In later years, Andrew, having done very well in school, decided to go to a Wizarding medical school to become a Healer specialising in paediatric medicine. When he had graduated, he spearheaded the development of a centre for treating learning disorders and other paediatric mental and behavioural health issues.
Hermione and Severus looked back at those months when Andrew struggled with only the regret that they did not recognize his problems earlier. However, they were so proud of him and all that he achieved with his life, that that regret was only momentary.
But for all of Andrew's achievements, he still could not brew a potion without some sort of mishap, small—and occasionally—large.