With a last flick of her wand, the last of the many white linen bed covers slid back into its place. One last critical glance up and down the long corridor made sure everything was the way it was supposed to be.
Nodding happily, Madame Pomfrey tucked her wand away and walked over to the very end of the long hallway where the door to her office was. She smiled quietly when she passed the beds, some with the curtains drawn around them, wherever an injured or ill student had found rest, and thought of the many faces she had taken care of in here since she had first started as Hogwarts’ very own healer.
She had never regretted having taken the job, and she was sure there would never be a reason for her to think that way either. The healer uniform had become as much a part of her identity as her 12 ½ inch ash wand she carried in a front pocket of her white apron. The late afternoon sun shone through the high windows and made the Hospital wing look even cleaner than it usually did.
Madame Pomfrey clicked her tongue at that thought and added another point to her mental to-do list: Clean up more often. Of course, sometimes the cleaning had to be postponed, when especially gruesome or bad injuries had happened. Her smile faded when she thought of the time young Remus Lupin had been brought here for the first time after a full moon.
He barely made it, she remembered as she turned her head to bed 52 where he had been lying unconscious for days, pale as a sheet. It was a shame how everything had ended, they had been such nice boys at one point. Not even their constant pranking had been able to destroy their youthful charm that had seduced every single teacher into benevolently turning their heads at their more courageous rule breaks.
Although, when it had come to purposely injuring a fellow student, Pomfrey could not bring up any sympathy for them anymore. No wonder he was so bitter, Severus Snape.
Closing the door to her office, she sighed and took off her long white healer’s cap before she sat down on her old leather chair and poured some tea into her favourite cup. It was white china with soft pink flowers on them. Poppies, they were and Professor Dumbledore had given it to her in an outburst of thankfulness after she had mended his burnt beard in his first year as a teacher.
Sipping her tea, she filled out the medical record for one of her patients, who had broken his arm after being hit by a bludger that had gotten lost in the audience ranks during the Quidditch match yesterday. She shook her head as she thought of that sport. She couldn’t understand what fascinated the people so much about a sport that caused more injuries than trying to wrestle the Whomping Willow.
Something caught her attention, and she looked up at the door that was always open a slit so she could hear when one of her patients was having trouble. None of the maladies were very serious, but it had become a habit of hers, just in case. And her hearing was very good, no matter how old she was, and so she was sure she heard someone stumble over something. She frowned and got up, walking towards the door while putting her cap back on.
She hurried down the corridor to find it empty besides an empty trolley that had been knocked over. Sighing, she flicked her wand at it to make it stand up again. She looked over at the broken arm who stared back with big eyes, certainly thinking she’d come to give him some more of that dreadful potion to make his bone grow back together.
Shaking her head, she finally turned around to pick up her work again. She was starting to get jumpy. Maybe it was not good to take care of the whole school by herself. She stopped and knocked her fist against her temple three times. What was she thinking? Nobody else would be able to coordinate this chaos.
It had probably only been the wind, she thought. Sometimes it blew strong enough to do such things. But she had been sure she had closed all the windows while cleaning up. Shaking her head once more she started walking again when something caught her attention. On one of her perfectly white sheets was a spot of blood.
She frowned and came closer to find it was not blood but a flower. A poppy. It was of the deepest red she had ever seen and slowly, she picked it up, touching the long stem carefully. She eyed it suspiciously for a while, but when it didn’t burst into flames or start doing anything else that could have disturbed her patients she shrugged and went to find something to put the flower in.
She resided to a long glass she filled with clear water and put it onto her desk with the flower in it. Some colour could be good every once in a while.
This was getting ridiculous. Sighing loudly, she flicked her forefinger against yet another poppy from the exact same bed, this time a yellow one. Maybe she should just not pay attention to them anymore. Maybe they would vanish then. Over a dozen were already crowding the glass she had put onto her desk two weeks ago, a new one being added every day.
She shook her head impatiently at the flower she had stuck between the others. They were of all kinds of colours, some changing it every five minutes, whereas others were bobbing their heads merrily.
In the beginning, she had felt curiously flattered. But by now, she was wondering if it was ever going to end again. She had nothing against flowers. Not as long as they weren’t lying on her freshly washed white sheets. Some of her patients could be allergic to poppies. Shaking her head absently she put her signature under a new patient’s medical record before putting it back with the others. Then she walked outside again to clean up the mess the flower had left.
“Oh, bloody…” she murmured when she reached the bed and almost dropped her wand.
Had the flowers been strange, this was simply mad. Where there used to be one flower waiting for her patiently, there seemed to have grown a whole patch of poppies and had spread over the whole bed to the bedside table and onto the window sill next to it.
At least this time, some of them had been put into vases beforehand and weren’t simply lying around. Madame Pomfrey rubbed her eyes and then blinked at them again incredulously. Clenching her teeth she began gathering those on the bed into thick bundles in her arms and carried them into her office. She cursed herself and her own inability not to just let anything vegetate away. She had to take care of everything within her reach. And even if it was five dozen poppies, she couldn’t just not take them. She just couldn’t let them die.
When she came back to pick up the last bundle of flowers –she had kept the ones in vases standing there to the end- she reached under the wide flower heads for the vase and had to pull up her chin to not be suffocated by all the flowers. She carried them back blindly, congratulating herself silently for not having changed anything around here in over 25 years. She knew her way around this place in her sleep.
She sighed deeply when she had found a little spot for the flowers on her record shelf and crossed her arms at the flood of colours crowding her small office now. By reflex, she reached out for the last bouquet she had brought in to rearrange the flowers a little. She frowned when her fingers touched something solid in between all the softness of poppy blossoms.
Standing on tiptoes she glanced over the top of the bouquet and found a white piece of paper sitting there between the flowers. Careful not destroy any of the blossoms, she pulled the paper out and found it to be a little note.
She stared at it for a while, wondering if she should dare to open it, but then curiosity overcame her. Maybe she would finally find out who was doing this to her.
“The beauty of these flowers is shadowed by yours a thousand times.”
Silently Madame Pomfrey stared at the note before the words started to make sense. Then she started laughing. She laughed so hard tears were welling up her eyes and her healer’s cap slid halfway off her head.
Holding her stomach, she slowly calmed down and read the note once more. She had not laughed this hard in many years and so she put the card into one of the many pockets of her apron, so it would be handy, should she need a good laugh again.
After a couple of days had passed Madam Pomfrey was slowly starting to think she had the worst behind herself and calmed down a little. The flowers seemed to have been magically enhanced, though, because they had been standing in her office for over two weeks now, looking as freshly cut as on the first day.
She only realized that the “worst” might only have begun when one day she walked past bed 15 and stopped dead, turning her head towards it. Something was different. It took her a while to realize the white curtain around bed 15 was even whiter than before. Frowning she touched it and found it to be a brand new curtain in the place of an old one she had meant to remove for over two months now.
She turned her head to both sides, looking for anyone that might be skulking around in her Hospital Wing, but except for her nobody was here. It was her favourite brand of hospital curtains too. With one last appreciative look at it, she shrugged and walked away. At least he knew what he was doing.
After many nights of thinking she had come to the conclusion that all this must be the work of a man. First, because she could not think why any woman would do something as complicated as sending dozens of flowers and trying to come up with some romantic things to write on cards, because they would surely be smart enough to just come to her and tell her, and secondly because the thought of a having a female secret admirer seemed even more ridiculous than having one at all.
For a moment, she had thought that the curtain had been replaced by some overly enthusiastic house elf before she remembered she had strictly forbidden any house elf to enter her realm. Pulling up her eyebrows, she shrugged and proceeded to wake up her patients for breakfast. At least the curtain was now fixed.
Unfortunately, the curtain seemed to only have been the beginning. Two weeks later she was the more or less proud owner of a brand-new sterling silver bed pan, two three-feet-long peacock feather quills, two new sets of freshly starched cap and apron, and a rather suspicious looking copy of “Muggle Medicine of the Middle Ages – From Willow Bark to Letting Blood”. The thick, leather bound book had been lying on that one certain bed in the morning, staring at her with a cover depicting a man sitting on a small stool, bleeding fiercely from his elbow into a pot, held by someone wearing a wide hat with a big feather on top.
She had wrinkled her nose and pushed it into a free space on her book shelf, planning to get rid of it as soon as possible, but in a free half hour she had had last night she had pulled it back out and thumbed through the old pages. There were many pictures, unmoving but detailed, and though she knew it had no worth at all for her work it was a nice collector’s piece. So she had decided to keep it.
Slowly, Poppy pulled back the curtain around the dreaded bed number 15, peering at it with one eye to see if there had been any other presents been left. Fortunately, she found nothing but clean whiteness. She sighed loudly, pulling her cap straight on her head. Maybe he had finally given up. She slid her hand over the white linen sheets, making sure he had not left anything invisible, and was just about to leave when she heard a peculiar sound form under the bed.
Frowning suspiciously, she pulled her wand and knelt down, picking up one end of the sheets so she could peer under the bed. Down there she found a paperback box that was vibrating and –meowing?
“Oh, no.” she murmured as she pulled the box towards her and opened it reluctantly.
In there sat the most ugly kitten she had ever seen. It had green eyes, huge triangle-shaped ears, scruffy fur and was lanky. It meowed at her as it jumped out of the box and onto her lap. Madame Pomfrey shrieked and pushed it off. She stood up and started patting her apron fiercely. That darned thing might leave cat hairs on her, and some of the patients might be allergic to those.
Only then she realized she was hopping up and down, squealing hysterically, and stopped, looked over her shoulder to see if she had attracted any attention. She cleared her throat and once again pulled her cap straight when she found the cat sitting on her perfectly white sheets, staring at her blankly.
“You little…” she began and walked towards the kitten that meowed at her in a way that made the healer think the cat must surely be even less intelligent than that horrible Mrs. Norris.
She was about to throw the cat out of the bed when she realized the little red collar it was wearing. Frowning she reached out and found a little poppy shaped, golden pendant. Was that cat another present? Sighing, Madame Pomfrey put the wand back into her apron pocket and picked up the little thing. It sat in her arms and meowed once more before starting to purr.
Against her will, Madame Pomfrey smiled at it. Actually, it was quite cute. She would give it to Mr. Filch later today. He would surely be happy to have a little companion for Mrs. Norris. And now that she thought of it, the two would really fit together nicely.
That night, the cat had claimed bed 15 as its new home, and was now sleeping on it peacefully, still purring loudly. He had turned out to be quite helpful when she needed to calm down little injured first years. Today, one had burned her cheek and hands on a potion and had been terrified of having to sit here and wait for the healer to do something potentially even more painful to her. Frankie had jumped onto her lap, turned around a couple of times, and then nestled in the folds of her skirt happily. The little girl had been so surprised she had swallowed her tears and stared at the kitten for a while, before a wide smile had appeared on her face. She had then been calm enough to be treated for her injuries.
The door to Madame Pomfrey’s office squeaked and Frankie’s slim, little body came sneaking in, seeking a new bed on her desk. She frowned at him in her best “displeased healer” fashion, but let him be. He also had a calming effect on her, and she rather liked the deep rumbling sounds he made when purring. His little tail was wagging back and forth merrily and the office was filled with the smell of poppies. Maybe she’d keep the little bugger for another week or so.
The hair had come out of her neat bun and she was huffing heavily, when she stormed into Professor Dumbledore’s office a few days later.
“A shame… little prats… should be… throw them out…” she murmured grumpily before shouting the password at the Gargoyle, who jumped aside hurriedly. Not even stone statues wanted to stand in Madame Pomfrey’s way when she was angry.
She all but flew up the stairs and threw open the door, startling the Headmaster and Mr. Filch, who jumped out of his chair, grabbed his filthy hat and started fingering it nervously when she came to a halt next to him.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows and rose from his chair, conjuring up a high-backed, red velvet chair for her and bid her to sit down.
“Headmaster,” she began, crossing her arms, and remaining in a standing position. “I will not tolerate this anymore.”
“Poppy,” Dumbledore said as he pointed at the chair that slid closer to her causing her knees to bend so she sat down involuntarily. “Now, calm down, have a lemon drop, and then tell me what happened.”
The little glass bowl filled with round yellow candy scooted closer but Madame Pomfrey lifted her hand and shook her head.
“Those two… those Weasley twins,” she began as she took a deep breath. “…are disturbing the rest of my patients.”
“Oh, they are?” the Headmaster asked, his eyes glimmering playfully. “Whatever have they done this time?”
Madame Pomfrey let out a breath loudly through her nose and sat up straight on her chair. She would not let the Headmaster make everything look less bad as it was. Not this time.
“I have learned to cope with their snow ball attacks to the Hospital Wing windows in July, I can even cope with the one or other dung bomb every now and then, but THIS is too much, really,” she said and Dumbledore nodded. “They scared one of my patients half to death!”
“Really?” Dumbledore asked smiling sweetly, popping a lemon drop into his mouth. “Now, Poppy, what have they done?”
He looked a little too amused for her taste.
“They pretended to be ghosts,” she reported, huffing again. “and they even got Peeves to come with them and scare the little boy.”
“Shame on them, really.” Dumbledore said calmly, chewing his lemon drop slowly.
“The poor guy has a shock! He refuses to go back to his dormitory because the ghosts told him they would come haunt him if he did.” She concluded, raising an eyebrow at the headmaster. “Well? What are you going to do?”
“Well, we have no proof they did it, have we?” he asked innocently and blinked two times.
“Oh, yes I have!” Madame Pomfrey pulled out what she had been wanting to show him since she had come here. “Here! Look at this!”
The headmaster reached over and took the piece of linen from her hands. It was slightly green and with the residue of some strange glibber on it.
“In how far is this a piece of evidence, Poppy?” he asked, smelling the glibber curiously.
“Frankie bit one of them in the leg, and they ran away, but he managed to rip out this piece of fabric form their costumes.” She told him proudly. “I know this kind of glibber. The twins used it on a Slytherin two weeks ago. He slipped on it and broke his leg; was still covered in it when his friends brought him to the Hospital Wing.”
Dumbledore looked at the fabric for a little longer, then put it back into her hands and nodded.
“I will take care of them, Poppy,” he told her as he stood up. “Thank you for telling me.”
Squinting at him, she got up as well and shook his hand. When she turned around to leave, she almost ran into Mr. Filch who was still standing next to her, fidgeting nervously.
“What?” she snapped at him, “You want anything?”
“N-no, Ma’am,” he said, shaking his head fiercely. “Nothing at all…”
“Good for you,” she said as she turned, sweeping out of the door quickly, stuffing her hair back into her bun.
Later that day, she sat in her office, stroking Frankie’s back fiercely, still steaming inside, knowing all too well the old man wouldn’t do a thing. She had known him long enough to realize he was much too soft-hearted to do anything serious about those boys. It had been the exact same thing with James Potter and his friends. If she could just do something against them on her own, they would never even think about pranking someone again.
She went to bed, still fuming, and didn’t even notice that Frankie had curled up at her side and was purring her to a restless sleep.
The next morning she got up and started cleaning up the Hospital Wing. Three times she knocked over the water bucket and was only about quarter of an inch from starting to breathe fire on that one patient that would simply not stop whining into her ears about how much his belly hurt, when she realized the curtains around bed 15 were closed. Frowning, she went over there, knowing the worst had happened. Another present.
When she found what was lying on the sheets at first she didn’t know what it was. It looked so peculiar she didn’t even care about the oily smears it left on the fabric. There were two flat pieces of black iron, with a row of small spikes pointing towards each other, and connected through a spiralled iron stick on each end. On top of both sticks was a knob. The lower of the two iron pieces was fixed on a piece of wood that seemed to be the foot of it, where it could stand on a table. Curiously, she turned both knobs a couple of times, watching the top piece sink down towards the other piece, the spikes filling out each other’s cavity perfectly.
She had seen a picture of those a long time ago… in History of Magic… she frowned, trying to remember, and when it suddenly came to her she let go of the handles hastily. Thumbscrews!
Staring at the iron torture instrument, she backed off, wiping her hands on her apron, to get off the oil off as well as the feeling of moral dirt. Who in the world would give her something like that? She closed the curtain around the bed and left quickly, shutting and locking the door to her office, and placing her face in her hands worriedly. What kind of man - no monster – would give a woman a pair of thumbscrews? Why would anyone think it to be an appropriate gift for someone you find attractive? Was he, maybe, a maniac? A Dark Wizard?
It couldn’t be Hagrid, he had a faille for dangerous things, but he wasn’t one to torture others. She slid down along the wall she had been leaning on and sat down on the floor, shaking. Was he maybe a pervert? All the gifts had been a little strange, but this one…
A book, fixing broken things, giving her a cat, all these things was corky, but not dangerous. Well, it was an ugly cat, and whoever needed a sterling silver bedpan? But he had fixed many things. Two windows that weren’t closing properly anymore, one of the beds that were threatening to break off a leg... he had given her a cat… a cat that looked like…
She stopped shaking and stared at Frankie who was watching her calmly, his thin tail wagging back and forth.
“Oh my Goodness…” she muttered into her hands, blinking a few times, before suddenly relaxing her arms and legs, shaking her head slowly. “That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.”
She decided to wait for him, at bed 15, that night, and so she sat down, Frankie on her lap. The clock on the wall was ticking steadily, making her crazy. She was about ready to jump into someone’s face, when she heard the door open. She was surprised how quietly that man could move, seeing as he was normally rather fine-physically challenged. The curtains ruffled slightly and they were pulled back.
“Good evening, Argus,” Madame Pomfrey said, looking straight in a pair of bug sized, watery blue ones, staring at her blankly.
“P- Poppy…” he said as he started to rock back and forth slightly, making her frown.
“So it was you all along, was it?” she asked, standing up, waking Frankie who had been sleeping on her lap. “The flowers, the presents, the THUMBSCREWS?”
The last word she emphasised as she pointed at said device, coming closer to the caretaker. He swallowed. His Adam’s apple wobbling visibly as he attempted to say something. When the words got stuck in his throat, he closed his mouth again and simply nodded.
“Whatever did you think the thumbscrews would be for?” she asked, putting her hands to her hips in best Healer manner.
“I thought, maybe…” he started and stopped, taking a very deep breath. “Maybe they would be helpful if those Twins came back one day to make trouble.”
“That might be your method, but I prefer less painful ways of punishment,” she explained to him, turning around to pick up the heavy thing.
She put it into his hands and patted his arm softly, seeing him nod and look down at the thumbscrews, seeming rather crushed.
“I feel flattered that you were too attentive, but this goes too far, Argus,” she told him. “And please, no more presents.”
He nodded and turned around silently, slipping through the folds of the curtain, leaving as quietly as he had come. Madame Pomfrey sighed loudly as she pulled her cap straight, before yawning widely and deciding to make another round to see if all of her patients were still fast asleep.
The weeks passed and soon most students were on their way to Hogsmeade station, to visit their parents for Easter Holidays. Poppy Pomfrey stood at one of the high gothic windows and watched the last of them hurry towards the carriages, without even one of them looking up at the Hospital Wing. Not many of the children were grateful for the work she was doing.
Once again she found herself thinking of poor Remus Lupin. He had always been so kind and polite. Frankie was curling his slender body around her legs, purring loudly. She picked him up and smiled at the way his scruffy fur had started to become shiny and thick. With more hair, his ears didn’t look as big as they used to either.
The sun went down and soon Madame Pomfrey had finished her work for the whole weekend, so she decided to clean up the Wing a day early. She passed bed 15 three times while sweeping and mopping the floor. There had been no more presents since she had met up with him.
“And a good thing that is, too,” she told herself and kept on cleaning.
She had to open the curtain one more time, though, when she had to change the sheets, and so she ripped open the curtain hastily and sighed with relief when the white linen was empty. She walked over to shake up the pillow when something caught her eye. On the bedside table, in a small crystal vase, stood a Poppy.
Madame Pomfrey dropped the pillow and walked over to the flower. The blossom hadn’t quite opened yet and around the long stem was a pink ribbon. She frowned because the colours were biting each other, but she noticed there was something else. Behind the vase, stood a little card. She opened it and read it quietly.
Then she closed it, stared at the Poppy, and opened it again. She smiled involuntarily and picked up the vase to carry it into her office, the card still open in her hand. The sun was shining through the windows and everything was clean and white. She closed the door to her office and sat down at a desk. She would go down and visit the old man in the afternoon. He could use some company.
Once again she looked down at the card and smiled at the Poppy standing merrily on her desk.
(A/N: Huge thanks to justloveron for beta-ing this my longest story. wonderful banner by UMBlueMusic
Madame Snape, I had a blast writing your story and I hope you will enjoy the finished product as much as I did and I also hope this is what you had in mind when you posted your prompt. See, you didn't need to worry about it after all. Have fun!)