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Chapter 15 : Sickness
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July 18th, 1993:
I had just finished marking the last potion in my Advanced Solutions class when Mr. Abernathy, the Headmaster of the Academy, entered my lab. "Severus, I'm glad I caught you before you left. I have some bad news."
I froze, the quill poised above my grade log. "What do you mean, Hal?"
Hal Abernathy sighed. "Well, there was an announcement over the Wizarding Wireless about half-an-hour ago warning of an outbreak of acromalia virula in this area."
"The spider flu? But we haven't had an outbreak of that in years. Since before my son was born." I cried, aghast. Spider flu, as it was called, was so named because of the spider-shaped hives it left upon those who caught it. It was a quick-acting strain of wizard flu, which struck down the elderly and young alike. It could cause permanent damage to one's magical core if not treated soon enough, made one very ill, and was highly contagious. At its deadliest, it killed within forty-eight hours, draining away a victim's magic too quickly to be replenished.
"Well, there have been twenty cases so far in London alone, eight fatalities. The Ministry Board of Health is recommending all the academies and small shops be closed down as a precaution, it is hoped that might lessen the spread of the disease," Hal told me gravely.
"Are you closing the Academy, then?' I asked bluntly.
"I don't want to, but neither do I wish for a flu carrier to infect everyone with the virus." The Headmaster said heavily. "So I suppose I shall have to comply with the Ministry Health suggestion."
"How long will we be closed for?"
"I don't know. Until the epidemic is over, I guess. You'll still be paid, Severus."
"That wasn't what I was worried about, Hal. Lily is pregnant, I don't want to bring any kind of sickness home to her."
"Oh, I see. Well, you didn't notice any of your students sneezing or having runny eyes, did you?"
I thought hard. Sometimes potion fumes could cause sneezing and watery eyes, depending on what was being brewed, it was why I insisted upon cloth masks and goggles when making acrid or strong solutions. But this day they had been brewing some Sore Throat Elixir. "I don't believe so," I said.
"Then don't worry about it," Hal said. "Until we hear otherwise from any student who falls sick. Finish what you are grading and then go home, Severus. Tell your wife I said hello and I hope she has twins."
"Twins?" I cried. "Great Merlin, Hal!"
Hal laughed. "What? You need some more kids, Snape." He clapped me on the shoulder. "I'll see you around."
I went home. Lily immediately sensed something was wrong. "Sev, you're home early. Something happen at the Academy?"
I told her about the outbreak. "So far, we haven't had a case here in North Yorkshire that I know of. But the Academy's in London and so is Mum's shop in Diagon Alley. I need to Floo her and see if she's taking precautions."
After I had done so, and found that Mum, like Hal, was taking no chances, I settled down to study the list of names for the baby that Harry and Lily had come up with while I was in school. As I was perusing them, I recalled something. "Lily," I called. "What if you're having twins?"
She came to sit next to me on the couch. "Twins? What makes you say that?"
"Well, it's not unheard of. I mean, my mother was a twin, though her twin brother died at birth, had the cord wrapped about his neck."
"I never knew that."
"It's not something she really talks about. But I thought there might be a chance you could be carrying twins."
"But Eileen only heard one heartbeat."
"Sometimes twins hide one behind the other and their hearts beat in sync with each other."
Lily rubbed a hand over her belly wonderingly. "That would certainly be a surprise."
"Yes. Well, we'll find out, won't we?" I kissed her cheek lightly. "Look at this, Lil. Harry chose Gabriel for a boy's name." I indicated the name written in Harry's spiky writing.
"Gabriel. How very . . .appropriate."
It was, oddly enough. I had always liked that name, one reason I had named my collie it. Harry had also written Erik and for a girl he had chosen Emmalyn and Gwenivere, Bethany. Interesting choices. Lily had picked the traditional Eileen and Hallie, which were the names of my mother and hers. She had put down Severus for a boy and also Coriolanus, Augustus, and Jareth. Geraldine, Melanie, and Rhea. I added to this Micah, Valerius, Gavin, and Nicholas. For a girl I liked Diana, Kaylee, Isabeau, and Alyra.
Harry came in from his Quidditch practice, calling, "Hey, Mum, I'm home!"
"How was your practice today?" Lily asked from inside the kitchen.
"Okay. I got to play Seeker, and Coach Alexander said I was really good at it."
"I'm glad to hear it, son. Now go and wash up, you're all sweaty." Lily ordered, coming out into the hall to hug her son and muss his hair playfully.
He tried to duck, saying that he was too big to be hugged.
"You are never too big for a hug from your mother, young man," Lily said. "Now watch it, or else I'll hug and kiss you in public."
"Mum! You wouldn't!"
"Don't test me, Harry James. Now scoot!" She sent him on his way with a gentle swat.
He bounded up the stairs, sounding like a herd of erumphants.
July 20th, 1993:
Today I received a letter from Headmaster Abernathy. It was brief, only two lines.
Dear Professor Snape,
I regret to inform you that two of your students have contracted the spider flu.
If I were you, I would get to a Healer and let them check you over, you know how contagious this is.
Hal Abernathy, Headmaster
Academy of Potioneers
I went into immediate panic mode. If some of my students had contracted this terrible plague, there was a better than even chance I could be infected too. I had to leave my home, before I spread the contagion to Lily and Harry, or Merlin forbid, my unborn child. The spider flu could kill the fetus in the womb, much like the Muggle disease Rubella (German measles).
I quickly cast every disinfectant and cleansing spell I knew over both me and the house. Then I wrote a note and left it for Lily on the kitchen table. She was over at my mother's having her weekly exam. Harry was over at Hermione's, they had been going to see a movie. I hated leaving this way, without a proper goodbye, but I could not bear it if I put my family in danger.
Gathering my resolve, I threw down a handful of Floo Powder and popped over to St. Mungos.
I informed the greeting witch at the desk that I suspected I had been exposed to carriers of the spider flu and she immediately ushered me into a quarantine room on the second floor of the hospital. "Please wait here, Mr. Snape, and fill out this form." She handed me a clipboard with a form and a Refilling Quill. "A doctor will be here to see you shortly."
It took me maybe five minutes to fill out the simple form and questionnaire regarding my exposure to this bloody disease. Then I waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally, I drifted off, recalling yet another time when I had nursed both Lily and Harry through a similar type of illness. Harry had been just a toddler, around two . . .
June 5th, 1983:
"Daddy, my tummy hurts," Harry told me right before he vomited all over the bathroom floor. That was the first warning sign I had. He had just gotten a bath and I was putting feet pajamas on him. Lily and I had recently tied the knot around two months ago, after a whole year of getting to know each other all over again, and Mum had given us Spinner's End and gone to live above the shop in the flat we used to use as a storage unit.
I stepped back quickly enough to avoid getting the mess on my slippers. Harry started to cry. "I sorry! Sorry, Daddy!"
"Hush, don't cry. It's okay." I soothed, picking him up. I carried him over to the toilet. "If you need to throw up again, do it in the toilet." I wet a cloth and wrung it out, wiping his face, which was flushed and his eyes were glassy.
He spat into the toilet. "Yucky."
Figuring he was referring to the nasty taste in his mouth, I got him a cup of water and made him rinse his mouth out. "Stay put," I told him, then Scourgified the mess away with a quick wave of my wand. That was the easy part.
I took a child-strength Stomach Soother from the medicine cabinet, after unlocking it with a quick spellword. All of our medicinal potions were locked up ever since Harry had drunk a Pain Reliever one day and we ended up rushing him to St. Mungos for treatment. Luckily, it wasn't that dangerous, and all they did was give him a Vomit Inducer and some green tea solution to flush it from his system. However, Harry remembered the potion making him sick, and now he gave us a hard time whenever we needed to dose him.
"Your tummy still hurt, little mite?" I asked. That was my pet name for him, because he was small for his age.
He shook his head. Then he looked up and saw me coming toward him with the vial and the spoon. "No! No yucky potions!"
"Now, Harry . . ." I began my usual litany. "This isn't a yucky potion, it'll make your tummy feel better."
He shook his head. "No! I isn't takin' it!"
I waved my wand and locked the door before he could try and dart out of it. Then I set the potion and the spoon on the counter and went to corral my scamp of a stepchild. He howled and kicked when I lifted him into my arms. "Harry, stop it!" I ordered. "You need this, now quit giving me a hard time."
It took me a few minutes before he calmed down enough to sit on my lap. But then he refused to open his mouth. I could feel him burning from a fever as well, clearly he had contracted some kind of bug. But he stubbornly refused all my entreaties, including the bribe of a sweet. I could have forced the potion down him, but had no desire to handle him so roughly. Finally I said, "Fine, will you take the potion for Mummy?"
He thought about it. "'Kay."
I took him and the potion to my bedroom, where Lily had been reading in bed. She wasn't there. "Lil? Harry's sick and won't take medicine from me, he wants you."
"I can't," I heard her moan from the bathroom. "I'm sick too."
"Great! Just great!" I groaned. "Do you need potions, Lily?"
"No. I have them." Then I heard her retching.
Looks like she had caught whatever Harry had.
Harry looked at me, his green eyes wide. "Mummy sick?"
"Yes. Come on, mite. Let's go and have some applesauce." I figured if I couldn't get him to take the potions directly, I could disguise them in the applesauce.
I had learned that little trick from my mother, who was used to dealing with reluctant patients. It worked on Harry, and then I put him to bed, placing a monitoring charm over him just in case he woke up and needed me.
Gabriel lay sleeping in the hallway, but when he heard my footstep, he woke and came to his feet, his tail wagging eagerly. I patted him. "No, Gabe. No playing now, I have to take care of Lily. Lily's sick and so is Harry."
I knew the dog didn't understand all the words I'd spoken, but he did understand my tone of voice—hushed, worried, and grave—and his ears drooped and he lost his playful air. Now he looked worried too, his brown eyes fixed on me, panting slightly. He followed as I went into my bedroom, where Lily, pale as a sheet, was now lying in bed. He went to her and thrust his cold nose into her arm.
"Hey, silly collie," she greeted him, and Gabe's tail began to wag. She fondled his ears, scratching them.
He put his broad head upon her lap and his eyes glazed over in pure bliss. I could understand that perfectly. Lily's hands had the same effect upon me.
"How are you?"
"Not too good, Sev. I think I picked up some kind of flu bug, I'm running a temperature, vomiting and feel absolutely awful." Lily told me. "If I were you, I wouldn't sleep here tonight."
I touched her forehead with the back of my hand. It was very hot. "Did you take a Fever Reducer?"
"Yes. And the Stomach Soother and a Pain Reliever."
I conjured a glass of ice water with a straw and helped her as she sipped it slowly. Then she lay back on the pillows and closed her eyes. Within moments, she too was sleeping.
Gaby whined and licked her hand. I had no doubt he knew she was ill, animals always seem to sense that. They must smell it on us or something.
"Come, boy. I'll let you out for the night, and then you and I get to play Healer." I patted my leg and he reluctantly came with me.
Once he had returned from the yard, he stuck to me like a burr. I actually made up a sort of camp bed in the hallway, inbetween both rooms, so I could hear either Lily or Harry if they needed me during the night. Gabe stayed with me for awhile, but soon he went into Harry's room and lay on the floor by his bed like a furry sentinel.
I was woken twice by Harry during the night, he needed to go potty and he was hot, his fever had returned. I gave him more potion-laced applesauce and wiped him down with a cool cloth before putting him back to bed. He fell asleep with Gaby licking his hand. "Stay with Harry, Gaby," I ordered, though I didn't need to. Nothing would have dragged him away, except maybe me.
By the next morning, both Lily and Harry began to display small reddish marks on their throats, which itched, and then wept a yellowish fluid. Their eyes swelled too and turned the same awful yellow color. It was then that I knew what they had. Scrofungulus, a contagious wizarding ailment. I had had it when I was a child, and so was immune to it.
It would be four days before either of them got better.
Scrofungulus attacked the skin and lungs as well, and soon I was busy brewing Breath Ease Elixir and some special herbal paste that my mother recommended, to be spread upon their chests. I made sure they drank plenty of liquids, even when hey complained their throats hurt. Harry I held on my lap and spooned broth into him. Sometimes he kept it down. Other times I ended up wearing it.
My poor bewildered collie traveled back and forth from Lily to Harry, trying as best he could to comfort them with his tongue and his presence. I was surprised there was not a trail of pawprints in the carpet by now.
On the third day, Lily took a turn for the worse, and her fever spiked so badly I feared I'd have to bring her to the hospital. None of my potions were having an effect and I called my mother, panicky and frightened. She came over and together we placed my delirious wife into an icy bath.
She opened her eyes then and called my name. "Sev! Sev!"
"I'm here, Lil. I'm right here." I told her over and over. Sometimes she called for Harry too, and my mother told me I should put them in the same room, it would be easier to nurse them that way.
Stupid! I should have thought of that.
So I put Harry next to Lily and they seemed to draw comfort from the other's presence. And Gaby now took up sentinel on the foot of the bed.
By day four, they were both sporting yellow and blue spots, but that meant the disease was nearly done, and the fever retreated and so did the sore throat and nausea. The few things that remained were a cough, the itchy spots, and low magical reserves. But that I could fix with potions and salves, and in a week Harry was better. Lily took a bit longer to recover, because she had her magical core damaged by the illness and it took a few more days and several vials of Magic Replenisher to get her back on her feet.
When both were finally okay again, I celebrated by making a chicken and mashed potato dinner with gravy and green beans. Gaby celebrated by racing about like a demon through the yard and barking his head off. But I didn't tell him to be quiet. I knew that he was simply happy that two of his people were no longer ill.
It made me laugh, the way he bounded about like he was on springs, his small paws propelling him across the yard and back again. He would gallop up to the back door then spin around and run across the lawn, his brown eyes gleaming with delight. His joy was infectious.
Harry ran outside to romp with him, and ended up getting knocked down and licked all over. Good thing he didn't mind dog slobber, and he just pulled himself up by grabbing Gabe's ruff. "Good dog!" he giggled. Gaby whuffed happily.
July 20, 1993:
"Mr. Snape, the Healer will see you now," a mediwitch's voice broke into my musing. She beckoned me through a door and I entered a sterile exam room.
The Healer, named Coates, ran a diagnostic on me, and then said, "You are showing early stages of the spider flu, Mr. Snape. I see you're a Professor at the Academy, probably picked it up from one of your students."
"Yes. Two of them came down with it earlier," I told him. He sniffed superciliously. I immediately bristled at his condescending manner. A Healer with an attitude. Just what I needed.
"You are aware, of course, that you must be quarantined until the flu has run its course? Otherwise you could spread it to your family and indeed anyone you come into contact with." He said, speaking to me as if I were an idiot or a small child.
"I know what a quarantine is, Healer. I'm not stupid. I used to be an apothecary before I was a professor," I informed him crisply.
"How nice," he drawled in the same arrogant tone, making me want to shake him. "Well then, let us get you a room and get a preliminary round of potions into you. Symptoms should start showing in a few hours."
He clapped his hands and house elf appeared. "Prim, show Mr. Snape to one of the quarantined rooms on the east wing."
The elf, who was wearing a sort of toga on her skinny frame, bowed and called to me to follow her.
I did, and then I undressed into one of those utterly idiotic hospital gowns, which I immediately lengthened. I put my wand next to me and crawled into bed, my head was spinning dizzily all of a sudden. I took the three potions upon the tray and then I fell into a deep sleep.
July 24th, 1993:
When I woke again, I discovered it was four days later. I was terribly weak and disorientated. My voice was hoarse, from my screaming in my delirium, I was later told by the friendly intern who came in to give me some juice and broth. "You kept moaning and thrashing about so, we almost had t' put restraints on you. You kept callin' for Lily and Harry, Eileen and Gabriel. Are those your wife and kids?"
I explained the relationships to her.
"Oh, so that's who sent you all these lovely gifts," she said, gesturing to the table where I saw fruit baskets, boxes of crackers and cheese, several handmade cards from my son, and a tureen of soup.
"That one's from my mother," I said knowingly.
She tugged the card off it. "Yes, you're right. It says it's her herbal infused chicken soup. And it smells delicious." She sniffed appreciatively. "Would you like some?"
I felt rather hungry. "Yes, but a little bit at a time."
She got me a small cup and ladled some of my mother's soup into it. "Here you go. You've been delirious with fever and spots since the day you came in here. We had to spell potions into you and Healer Coates claimed you're lucky to still be among us, you had one of the worst cases he's ever seen."
I still felt drugged and exhausted. It was an effort for me to eat, but I was hungry. I ate two cups of soup and some crackers, and drank two glasses of water with a fresh lemon before falling asleep again. As I was drifting off, I wished Gaby were here, I had been dreaming of him, I think.
The next time I woke it was twilight and I could hear Coates' familiar arrogant tone just outside my door and also my mother's. My lips twitched into a smile. Mum wouldn't put up with that one's condescending manner.
"Well, Healer Coates, for your information, I have already had the spider flu, and am therefore immune to it. So I shall not be spreading it to anyone. I am a certified Apothecary Mistress and have been for over twenty-five years. Now step aside and let me see my son."
"Madam, there are regulations—"sputtered Coates.
"Take it up with the Head of your Department. And wipe that sneer off your face, young man! I may not be a Healer, but I'll wager I know more about treating people than you do."
"You're only an apothecary—"
"And you're an arrogant jackanapes! Now move out of the way, or must I tie your fingers in knots and toss you across the corridor?" Mum demanded icily.
Coates backed off and the door opened and my mother came in.
"Bloody little idiot! Put their name on a fancy diploma and they think they know everything. Ha!" she snorted. She came over and expertly felt my forehead and noted the faint spots left on my arms and chest. "Hmm . . .you look better than you did a few days ago. I snuck in after hours and saw you. How are you feeling, Sev?"
"Ah, well you will be for awhile yet. The spider flu is a nasty disease, you were lucky you had strong magical reserves to call on. Those who don't . . .tend to not make it."
"How are Lily and Harry?" I asked then.
"Fine, but Lily was terribly worried about you. She came here every day and night and watched you through the observation screen." She indicated the large wall opposite me, which contained a one-way viewing panel. "And Harry too. He was the one who sent you the fruit and wrote all those cards. Some of those presents though are from your students. They were all very concerned over you, Sev."
Abruptly she broke off and hugged me. "Sev, I was . . .I thought I might . . .lose you and that arsehole Healer refused to let me stay with you, even after I had the Healers test me to show him I had already survived the bloody spider flu! He kept quoting regulations at me like a bloody recorder and didn't give damn that you were all alone, fighting for your life." She started to cry, very softly.
"Hey. I'm all right, Mum," I whispered, holding her. I patted her back.
"I know. Don't mind me. These are happy tears." She sniffled and wiped them away. "Did you eat the soup I sent you?"
"Of course," I said lightly.
"And how was it?" she inquired, drawing away from me to sit in a chair.
"Delicious as always," I answered.
"Good. You seem like you're recovering," she said, waving her wand over me. "As I thought. You'll probably be released tomorrow morning and after about four weeks of rest you'll be your old self again."
I gaped at her. "Four weeks of rest?"
"Yes. You don't think you can bounce right back after going through an ordeal like that, do you?"
"I . . .no . . .but . . .four weeks!"
"Don't look so horrified, Sev! You can finally catch up on your reading and spend some more time with Harry and Lily." Mum laughed, patting me on the cheek. "Remember, your magic needs time to readjust."
She sat with me for several hours, telling me about my family and filling me in on how the epidemic was still raging and the hospital was swamped with patients. Lily and Harry were practically housebound now, at Eileen's insistence.
"I'm sure Harry is driving Lily crazy," I remarked. "He's never done well with confinement."
Mum chuckled. "No, he hasn't. I think Lily threatened to Stick him to the floor. But maybe he'll settle down once you come home. He misses you very much."
Those words warmed me better than a cup of hot tea. I had always had a special bond with my stepson, but it felt good to know that Harry didn't always regard me as a strict pain-in-the-arse and actually missed me when I was gone. "I miss them too." I admitted softly.
The next morning, I was pronounced free of contagion by Healer Coates, and gathered up all of my get well gifts and Flooed back to my home.
There I was greeted by an ecstatic Lily, who hugged and kissed me and wept quietly for a moment against my shoulder. Harry hugged me too, and said it was good to have me home. I pretended not to see the tears shimmering in his eyes. Apparently I truly had been close to death if this was the reaction I got upon coming home. I recalled very little of my illness, except burning like a bonfire and then freezing and strange shadowy shapes marching through my dreams.
"It's good to be home. I love both of you," I told them.
I was told that I was to remain on bed rest for another few days and then to take it easy for the next few weeks. I was also on a Magic Replenisher regimen for a month. I was still not back to normal, being weak and tired almost all the time.
I managed to last through a welcome home lunch, eating some soup and bread and tea before my eyes started closing. I made my way to my room, Harry hovering in case I needed his shoulder to lean on. Then I undressed and fell asleep, thinking as I drifted off that there was only one thing missing at my welcome home party.
My faithful collie, who would have been licking and jumping all over me if he were still alive.
But he came to meet me in my dreams, and I was content.
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