Chapter 18 : Sick Day
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"Ron, it's me, Harry," his friend snickered at Ron's disgruntled expression.
"Huh?" Ron yawned and rubbed his eyes. "Oh, it's you. Why are you waking me up, Harry?" His voice still sounded sort of stuffed up.
"Sorry. Are you still sick?"
"Nah. Not really. That Pepperup potion the professor gave me works really good." He sat up, reaching for a glass of water that rested on his night table. He drank thirstily, then wiped his mouth on his pajama sleeve before saying, "What's so important you had to wake me up instead of waiting till tomorrow, mate?"
Harry looked about the room, even though he knew no one was there besides himself and Ron. He shut the door then returned to Ron's bed, leaning over and whispering, "You'll never believe what I found, Ron. I found a talking magic mirror in this dusty old room and I got to ask it three questions and it told me about the Sorcerer's Stone."
"Crikey!" Ron yelped, his eyes wide. "What did it say?"
Harry told him about Nicolas Flamel. "But when I tried to ask it some more questions, it wouldn't answer me."
"That's how some magic items work. They're designed to only answer certain questions, or a certain number of them and then you're on your own."
"Hey . . . maybe you could ask it three questions!" exclaimed Harry. "Get up, and let's go find the room again."
Ron stuck his feet into his slippers and said, "Let me just use the loo. Be back in a few." He hurried out of the room.
Harry went down to the common room, Ron would figure out where he was. He couldn't wait to see what the mirror had to say when Ron asked it a few questions. Maybe they could solve the mystery before the holidays were over and shock Hermione. She had been sure that they wouldn't be able to figure it out on their own.
Ron met him in the common room, looking more awake, he must have given his face a wash, because it looked freshly scrubbed. "Ready. Where to?"
"This way." Harry led him out of the portrait hole.
Down the corridor they went, keeping their footsteps quick and mostly quiet. "It's right around here," Harry hissed, indicating the wall on the right.
But the wall where the door had been was blank.
Ron frowned. "Harry, are you sure it was here? Maybe you got mixed up?"
Harry shook his head firmly. "No. It was right here," he tapped the wall. "But now it's not. How can a room disappear like that?"
"In this castle, even the rooms appear and disappear," Ron told him. "Sometimes a room can vanish and not come back for years."
"But . . ." Harry looked dismayed. "Why?"
"I don't know. It's part of the magic of the castle, I guess."
Harry sighed, peeved. "That really sucks. I was really hoping you could ask the mirror some other questions and now . . ." He tried smacking and kicking the wall where the door had been, to no avail. "Ow!" he cried, bruising his toes.
Ron chuckled. "Take it easy, mate. If the room's gone, kicking the wall ain't going to bring it back."
"Could the Headmaster bring it back?"
"I don't think so. I think the castle picks and chooses sometimes and not even Dumbledore has much say about it. He told me once he found a room filled with chocolate frogs and when he went back later to find it, it had vanished and he never saw it again."
Harry scowled, it looked like it was hopeless. For whatever reason, the room was gone. "Blast! I was hoping we could solve the mystery of where the Stone was hidden before the end of the holidays."
"Cheer up, Harry," Ron clapped him on the shoulder. "When Hermione comes back, she can help."
"I suppose." The dark-haired wizard huffed. Then he got an idea. "Ron, why don't we go to the library and see what else we can find out about Flamel? I'm sure there's got to be a book about him, he's famous."
"But you already know he found the Stone."
"I know, but I'd still like to do a bit more research as well as confirm what the mirror told me. You should always confirm what someone tells you when you're investigating a case, because sometimes the information someone has could be wrong."
"You think the mirror was mistaken? Or maybe lying?"
"I don't know. I hope not, I don't see why it would be, but better safe than sorry."
"How do you know all this stuff about solving cases, Harry?"
"I read a lot of crime novels. You know, Sherlock Holmes? Agatha Christie? Sydney Sheldon?" His list was met with a blank look. "No? Maybe you wouldn't recognize them 'cause they're Muggle authors and characters?"
"I don't get to read many Muggle books," Ron said.
"Oh. Forgot about that. Anyhow, they're all detective stories and I like trying to solve the mystery before the end of the book, when they reveal who did it or whatever. And in every mystery novel I've ever read, you have to have proof before you can count something as evidence, and that especially includes things people say. So let's see if we can find something about Flamel in the library."
"What time is it?"
Harry pulled out his pocket watch. "It's a little after six. We have a few hours before curfew." He smiled at Lily's picture before shutting the cover and replacing the watch inside his pocket. Severus had cut a small hole in his pocket so he could slide the watch chain through and then clip the end to the chain. That way he couldn't lose it and no one could steal it without tearing Harry's robe, something he would be sure to notice.
"All right. I just hope it doesn't take that long to find the book."
"It won't. Lena's working at the desk tonight, she can help us." Harry said calmly.
"How do you know that?"
"She told me she works at night, because Madam Pince is getting too old to stay up all night and the library closes at eleven."
Ron gave him an odd look, he had never known anyone like Harry, who seemed to be as at home in the library as he was in his room, and knew things like a librarian's schedule. He was . . . almost . . . as bad as Hermione for studying.
Lena was quite happy to assist them, going to the section of wizard biographies and diaries of famous personages. "Here you go, Harry." She handed him a rather thick volume titled Phoenix From the Ashes: the Astonishing Life and Achievements of Nicolas Flamel.
"Thanks, Lena. When is this due back?"
"Oh, not for three weeks. Take your time, I know you'll have lots of homework to do once term resumes. If you need to renew it, just let me know. Flamel is a fascinating man, I hope you'll find the book fun to read."
"Is he a part of the Society?"
Lena nodded. "Yes. He is one of the founding members, loving knowledge for its own sake and one of the few who has not abandoned the old practices."
Harry tucked the book in his pocket and hurried out of the library.
Ron was grinning. "Now you can confirm what the mirror said, right?"
"Uh huh. I'm going to go back to my room in the dungeon and start reading."
"You think you can finish the book before term starts again? It looked like it was a long one." Ron said dubiously.
Harry shrugged. "I read fast. I'll see you tomorrow."
"All right. I'm going back to bed." Ron said, then he sneezed.
Harry hurried down to the dungeons. When he spoke the password to Severus' quarters, something which Snape had told him about just before Christmas, the door unlocked and he went inside. Neither Severus or Skull was there, and Harry slipped into his room and curled up on the bed. He pulled out the book and began to read.
Soon he was engrossed in the life of the famous alchemist and quite forgot about dinner until Severus returned and tapped on his bedroom door.
"Harry? Have you eaten tonight?"
"Huh?" Harry started. "Uh . . . no. I forgot. I've been reading." He quickly set his book down, his stomach was growling loudly.
"Come out here then, and have something. I doubt you'll be able to sleep else."
Harry slid reluctantly from his bed and opened the door to find Snape on the other side. "Where's Skull?" He asked, when he did not see the raven.
"Out and about. Hunting, most likely." Snape replied. "What would you like to eat? The house elves will make you whatever you wish."
Harry thought for a bit. "How about chicken and dumplings with a side of bread with butter?"
"Very good. No sweet?" teased the other.
"Can I have treacle pudding, Uncle Severus?"
"You may. And I shall have some chicken and wild rice soup and a half of a ham with lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich."
"What about your coffee? And some jam shortbreads?"
"Yes." He clapped his hands and summoned a house elf.
Once he had given their order to the kitchen elf, Severus settled down on the couch and beckoned Harry to sit beside him. "What have you been up to all day?"
"Nothing much. I walked about a little and then decided to go to the library with Ron and check out a book. Then I've been in here, reading."
"I see. Is the book an interesting one?"
"Yes. Very interesting." Harry said. "It's a book about alchemists," He said, not sure why he was reluctant to tell Severus that the book was about Flamel.
"Ah. Most of them led colorful lives." Severus nodded.
"How did your brewing go? Maybe I can help sometime?" he asked wistfully.
"I am nearly finished. Most of the drafts I'm brewing for the Hospital Wing are beyond your capability now, but I shall keep it in mind. Thank you for offering."
Soon their dinner arrived and there was no more conversation until both were finished.
Harry pushed his plate away and then tackled the pudding.
"Careful, boy. Eating too fast could make you sick."
"I'm all right," Harry said, spooning up the pudding.
He lay down his spoon, finished.
Severus began making some Black Diamond coffee for himself and Summoning the tin of jam shortbreads he kept on the bottom row of his bookshelf. They had been made by Lena's mother and Lena had shared them with him.
"Can I be excused?"
"Yes. Go back to your reading, but lights go out at ten o'clock."
" I know." Harry quickly returned to his reading, eager to find out how Flamel discovered the Stone and learned how to brew the Elixir of Life.
Over the last few days of the holiday, Harry read and learned all about Nicolas Flamel, but except for three chapters about his discovery of the Stone and experimenting with it to make the Elixir of Life and sharing the resulting potion with his beloved wife, there was very little about how the Stone worked. The alchemist did stress that using the Stone for selfish purposes would taint the way the Stone responded, and that was why the formula for the Elixir of Life was not printed up. He did find Flamel a fascinating man, and also learned that Dumbledore had been partners with him and was taught alchemy by Flamel.
When he took a break from reading, he played in the snow with Ron, or practiced chess with him. Sometimes he went for a walk about the grounds, accompanied by Skull, who amused him by imitating the calls of various birds, all of whom would appear looking for their mate or a similar species and find no one but the mimicking raven.
Hermione arrived back a day early and was impressed with how much the boys had figured out. But soon Flamel was nearly forgotten when term started again and all the teachers gave them tons of homework.
Neville was improving in potions, enough so he didn't explode cauldrons every class. Severus couldn't fail to notice his progress and praised the boy one morning, making Neville very happy.
"You are much improved, Longbottom. Would you still like to continue our sessions on Wednesdays?" inquired the professor.
"Oh, yes, sir. These potions we're doing now are harder than the first ones and sometimes I still get in a muddle."
"Very well. We shall continue where we left off. Wednesday evenings at seven o'clock."
Neville gave him a grateful look before hurrying out the door.
Harry had resumed sleeping in Gryffindor Tower during the week, but could be found in Snape's quarters during the weekend. The first week of term, he bumped into Malfoy on the way to Snape's quarters.
"In a hurry, Potter?" queried the Slytherin.
"Sorry, Malfoy. I am in a bit of a rush. Have a lot of Transfiguration to do before practice today." Harry said.
Draco looked a bit envious, then he said, "Thank you for the Christmas gift, Potter. I enjoyed it very much."
"You're welcome. Thanks for the Snitch." Harry said, feeling rather awkward.
"Maybe you can use it during practice." The Slytherin suggested. "You'll need it if you're going to try and win the Quidditch Cup this year."
Harry knew that Slytherin had won both the Quidditch Cup and the House Cup for the past seven years. "You never know, Malfoy. This year could be the year Gryffindor wins."
"Ha! In your dreams!" The other snorted. Then he turned and walked away, leaving Harry to head into the professor's quarters and make a start on his homework before going to practice that afternoon.
Not long after that, Hermione began studying frantically for her end of term exams, and encouraging the rest of their study group to do the same. Defense was as abysmally boring as ever, Quirrell was now focusing on trolls, but he managed to make even that subject dull. Ron suggested they continue meeting in Snape's quarters every other night and practicing what they had learned over the holiday. Neither Neville or Hermione had learned the Leg Locker Jinx or most of the others Severus had taught them.
Hermione was determined to ace her exams, and so refused to learn anything new. Draco knew that jinx already, but agreed to practice it anyway. The four boys paired up one evening while Severus was marking exams for his fifth years, Draco with Harry and Ron with Neville.
This time, Harry was able to block Malfoy's jinx and catch him with a Sneezing Jinx.
But Ron got a little overenthusiastic with Neville, forgetting the other boy had not had the benefit of Snape's Defense tutoring, and the Body Bind he cast caused Neville to topple over backwards and hit his head upon the table.
The boy lay still, his eyes wide open, and blood trickled from his head.
"Neville! Oh, you're bleeding!" Hermione cried in alarm. "Professor, Neville's hurt!"
Severus rose immediately and came over. "What happened?" He demanded, removing the bind over Neville.
"I . . . we were showing Draco and Neville the new spells you taught us, sir," Ron stammered guiltily. "I didn't mean to hurt him."
Severus gently felt along Neville's head, his fingers coming away stained with blood. "You have a lump the size of a walnut back here, Longbottom. Let's get you to the Hospital Wing. Skull, inform Madam Pomfrey that I have an injured student on his way to her."
"On it, Sev!" the raven called, then waited for the professor to open the door before flying out of it.
Severus conjured a stretcher and floated Neville on it. The boy whimpered. "It hurts, Professor Snape. A lot."
"Yes, I imagine it would." He fixed Ron with a scowl. "Mr. Weasley, come with me. How many times have I told you never to cast a jinx of that magnitude unless you are being supervised by me? Longbottom has enough trouble with his memory, he doesn't need amnesia as well."
Ron hung his head. "But sir, you were in the room."
"Don't split hairs with me, Weasley. You could have seriously injured Longbottom with your carelessness." Severus scolded sternly, levitating the stretcher and floating it before him.
"I'm really sorry, sir."
"Humph! You shall be even sorrier when you get through with my detention tonight. You will accompany me to the Hospital Wing and scrub twelve bedpans without magic. I am sure Madam Pomfrey will appreciate the assistance and perhaps doing so will teach you to remember my instructions."
Ron gaped at him. "But, sir . . . that's not fair! I didn't mean to hurt him!"
"Quit your whining, boy. The fact remains that he did get injured and you disobeyed me, therefore you will now face the consequences."
Unhappily, Ron followed the professor and Neville's stretcher out the door.
"Poor Ron!" Harry muttered.
"Poor Ron? How about poor Neville?" Hermione objected. "He could have brain damage."
"He didn't hit his head that hard, Granger," Draco pointed out.
"It could happen. I knew a boy once who tripped and hit his head on a wooden banister and he gave himself a bad concussion and almost died," the witch argued.
"Madam Pomfrey will heal him, Granger. Weasley was stupid to cast that here, where Longbottom was sure to hit something." Draco said dismissively.
"Hey, it was an accident," Harry defended his friend.
"Enough! I'm trying to study, if you two don't mind?" Hermione said irritably. She buried her nose in her Astronomy text.
After one last glare, Harry too returned to studying his Herbology, and Draco haughtily paged through his Transfiguration chapters.
Snape returned after half an hour, Skull riding his shoulder, and reassured them that Neville was doing fine and would be held for observation overnight before being released tomorrow.
"What about Ron?" Harry asked.
"Mr. Weasley is still serving his detention. He will be dismissed when he has completed it," Severus said crisply. "Carry on with your homework, Mr. Potter."
At a quarter to nine, Ron returned to Snape's quarters to retrieve his books and bag. He looked exhausted and chastened. "I'm finished, sir," he said, handing Snape a note from Madam Pomfrey indicating he had done a satisfactory job.
Severus took the note. "I trust you have learned your lesson?"
"Dismissed, Mr. Weasley. Go to bed," he waved off the redhead, who turned and hurried away after grabbing his things.
Hermione and Draco quickly followed suit, until only Harry was left.
"Harry, time for bed." Severus called softly.
Harry closed his books. "Okay, Uncle Severus." he paused before going into his room. "Are you sure Neville's going to be all right?"
"Yes. Madam Pomfrey would not say so unless she was certain of it."
"I'm glad. Ron didn't mean to hurt him."
"Harry, whether or not he intended to do so, the fact remains that he cast a spell which Longbottom couldn't block and caused him an injury. If he had hit his head a little lower, Longbottom might well be in a coma or dead. Ronald needs to understand that he should have thought before he tried to duel Longbottom, and with a new student, care must be taken to ensure the student's safety always. I did not enjoy issuing such a punishment, however it was necessary. Do you understand?"
"Good. Now this subject is closed and I'll hear no more about it. Good night, Harry."
"Good night, Uncle Severus." Harry said, then came and gave his guardian a hug before heading into his room.
He spent part of the night reading the rest of the Flamel book, until Skullduggery ghosted into the room and perched upon the headboard.
"Sleep, bran-boy. Else you'll be too tired to get up tomorrow and practice."
Harry smiled up at the raven. "Just one more minute, then I'll stop."
The raven ruffled his feathers. "There is such a thing as too much studying."
"This isn't for school, Skull. It's to relax me."
Harry continued reading until his eyes drooped.
Skull clucked at him. "Harry, put the book down and go to sleep."
Harry removed his glasses and dimmed the lamp in his room, leaving just enough light to see where he placed his glasses. But though he was tired, he couldn't fall asleep. "Skull, do you ever miss your family?"
"Occasionally. But I go and visit for awhile every year so it's not so bad," answered the raven. "My place is with Sev now, and I have no regrets." The raven answered. "Would you like to hear how we first met?"
Harry nodded. "Yes."
"I shall tell you another night."
"Why not now?" Harry asked, somewhat petulantly.
"Because you are far too tired to listen properly," the raven soothed. He began to make soft humming noises into Harry's ear.
In spite of himself, Harry began to drift and then all at once he was asleep.
The raven nuzzled him affectionately and whispered, "Sweet dreams, child." He remained until he was certain Harry was sleeping soundly, then he glided from the room to sleep by Severus.
As winter gave way to spring, the weather turned rainy, resulting in many students coming down with colds and viruses. The damp weather also triggered students' allergies and Severus' sinus headaches came back with a vengeance. As a result, he was prickly and tended to snap more at students and colleagues. The only exceptions were Neville and Skullduggery.
On his best day, Severus had no fondness for Quidditch, and when he was under the weather his tolerance level dropped below zero. Harry had Quidditch practice three times a week now, Wood was working them like dogs, and he often came back from practice exhausted and soaking wet. But everyone was speculating about the upcoming match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. If Gryffindor won, it would mean they would be in the lead for the Quidditch Cup, something that had not happened in seven years. And so, everyone was talking about it and raving over the possibility of Gryffindor winning.
That alone was enough to put Snape in a bad mood, since he was very competitive and didn't want his House to be shown up. Add to that his painful sinus headaches and he was as grumpy as a nesting Hungarian Horntail. He forbid any talk about Quidditch in his class and took points if he caught anyone doing so, even from Slytherin.
Harry had grown rather slipshod about his homework since starting practice, and Severus noticed and demanded an explanation. When Harry mentioned Quidditch practice, the professor snapped, "There is more to life than Quidditch, young man! You should be putting your energy into your studies, not flying about trying to catch a winged globe! Maybe you need to go to bed earlier!"
Harry was shocked at his guardian's outburst, not understanding most of it was due to being in pain almost daily, and he retreated to his bedroom, hurt and irritated. He wished Severus would try and understand his love of Quidditch was like Snape's love of Defense and potions. He was sulking about Snape's intransigence when Skullduggery flew into his room and perched on his knee.
"Don't mind Sev, Harry. It's not really you he's angry at. He's having one of his episodes and he has no patience for anyone when he's in pain."
"In pain? What's wrong with him?"
"The weather mostly. It triggers his sinus headaches, and he refuses to rest enough when he's teaching, so it aggravates them and he becomes unbearable."
"Oh. That's terrible. Isn't there something he could take, like a potion?"
"Yes, but the Headache Remedies make his head foggy and he hates that even worse and so doesn't take them unless he's about to pass out." The raven informed him. "I try and help him as best I can, but it's difficult. He doesn't mean to snap at you, bran-boy."
Harry scratched Skull behind the head and the raven purred at him. Now he felt sorry for Severus, he had had one or two really bad headaches as a child, and couldn't imagine dealing with that kind of pain on a daily basis. So he held his tongue about Quidditch and also about the reoccurring nightmares he'd been having of Voldemort killing his parents.
Until one weekend, when he was sleeping over, and woke Severus with his whimpering and yelling.
Severus came rushing into the room, to find Harry all tangled in the bedcovers, trembling and in a cold sweat. "Harry? What's wrong? Were you having a nightmare?"
Harry woke up fully then. "Umm . . . yeah, I was. It's no big deal. Been having the same one for awhile, Uncle Severus."
Severus brushed his hand across Harry's forehead. "You're sweating. Come, get up and get changed into another pair of pajamas. It's not good to be wet down here, it's too damp. I'll need to change your sheets too."
"Oh, but that's not really necessary, sir . . ." Harry began.
"It most certainly is," his guardian said firmly. He waved his wand, stripping off the old sheets and replacing them with fresh ones.
Harry changed quickly into fresh pajamas, feeling guilty for causing Severus to wake up in the middle of the night.
"How long have you been having these nightmares? And why didn't you tell me?"
"About a week or two. I thought . . . they'd go away and I didn't want to make you worry when you were getting such bad headaches."
Severus frowned. "How did you know about my headaches?"
"Skullduggery told me. He thought I should know."
Severus shook his head and muttered something about gossipy ravens needing their tongues hexed quiet. He then Summoned a clear potion and gave Harry a spoonful. "That is Dreamless Sleep and will allow you a full night's rest. Next time you are having nightmares, come to me and tell me. Forgive me for biting your head off, I am not at my best with these bloody headaches." He rubbed his temples. "Even so, that does not mean I will neglect you, Harry. What were the nightmares about? Can you remember?"
"Yes. I dreamed about my parents dying again. About the night he came."
Severus gently urged him to sit on the bed, then sat next to him, an arm about the slender shoulders. "You should have come to me before. There was no need to suffer through that over and over." He silently cursed his temper.
"I didn't want to be a bother."
"Harry, as your guardian, it's my duty to make sure you are well, physically and mentally. Telling me when you are sick or hurt is not being a bother. I cannot help you unless I know something is wrong. There is no need to be afraid of me, child, I will never scold you for coming to me and asking for a potion."
"Oh. All right."
"Good. Now lie down and close your eyes. The Dreamless Sleep should take effect in a minute."
Harry did as he was told, Snape tucked the covers around him, and Harry fell asleep almost immediately.
Even though Harry was getting a proper amount of sleep, he was still stressing over his studies, he wished to improve his marks so Snape would be proud of him and he also wanted to help Gryffindor win the Cup this year. As the day of the match drew nearer, he was practicing even harder with the team and trying to complete all his homework. Even with the Dreamless Sleep, he still woke up feeling tired. But he said nothing to anyone, figuring the pressure would lessen once the match was over.
The morning of the game he woke up feeling achy and tired and his stomach was queasy. He put it down to nerves and went up to eat breakfast with the other Gryffindors. But he found he could barely choke down some toast and a few pieces of bacon and a half a glass of milk.
"You all set, Harry?" Wood asked from down the table.
Harry nodded, not trusting himself to speak, for his stomach suddenly felt as if it were going to turn itself inside out.
"Remember, all you have to do is catch the Snitch in the first quarter, Potter, and we've won the game." Wood said encouragingly.
"You can do it, Harry," Fred said, giving him a smile.
Harry wished he felt more uplifted by his teammates, but all he could concentrate on was the churning in his stomach. It was growing worse. Suddenly he stood up and ran from the hall.
"Harry? Where are you going?" Wood called.
"He looked kind of sick," Hermione said.
Breakfast was nearly over, and as Harry rushed out of the hall, Severus noticed and followed.
He was just in time to see his ward duck into the boys' bathroom. "Harry?" he called, following the boy inside.
The unmistakable sound of retching came from one of the stalls.
Severus sighed and reached into his pocket for a vial of Stomach Soother. It must be nerves.
When Harry emerged from the stall, pale as a sheet, his eyes glassy and clutching his stomach, Severus murmured, "Here, drink this. Then you're coming with me to see Madam Pomfrey."
"Huh?" Harry took the potion and drank it slowly. "I don't need to, it's just nerves and the bacon was too greasy. I'm fine."
An instant later his stomach cramped and gurgled warningly. He doubled over, then turned and rushed back into the stall to relieve himself.
When he reappeared five minutes later, still suffering cramps, Severus took him firmly by the shoulder. "You are going to the Hospital Wing, no arguing."
"No! Why can't you just give me a potion for it?" Harry protested.
"Because that will only treat the symptoms, not the cause of them. You seem to have developed a stomach virus. Now stop fighting me, before I pick you up and carry you there."
He walked rapidly up the stairs and down the corridor until finally they reached the infirmary.
Poppy was at her desk, writing up a few charts when she saw Severus enter. "Severus? What seems to be the problem?"
"I need you take a look at Harry. He's feeling ill this morning."
"Goodness! What seems to be the problem?" she asked Harry, drawing her wand.
"It's my stomach," Harry groaned.
"Oh, dear. Have you vomited today?"
Harry nodded. "Once. Then Severus gave me a Stomach Soother."
"I see. Have you had any loose stools?"
Harry blushed and looked down at his sneakers.
"He has," Snape interjected. "Poppy, I believe he has a stomach virus."
The medi-witch waved her wand and Harry found himself in a pair of comfortable cotton pajamas. She then muttered a diagnostic spell. A moment later she straightened. "You are correct, Severus. His stomach is very unsettled and he has some bloating and gas. He also has an infection in his lower bowel, I can give him a potion for that . . . and another to relieve the cramping . . . until then he ought to rest and eat certain foods to bind him . . . bananas, oatmeal, a little broth, some brown rice with salt, applesauce . . ."
Harry listened with half an ear, wishing she would just give him a potion and be done with it. The match was in two hours. Suddenly a terrible though occurred to him. "Madam Pomfrey, I can still play Quidditch, right? The game's this afternoon."
Poppy shook her head. "I'm afraid not, Mr. Potter. You're quite ill and need to remain in bed."
Harry blanched. "No! I can't do that. I have to play."
"Harry, it's no use arguing. Now do as she told you."
"But . . . you don't understand! I have to play. Gryffindor will forfeit the match else and Hufflepuff will win by default." Harry protested.
"That can't be helped, dear." Poppy said sympathetically. "You're in no condition to play."
"There will be other games," Severus said softly. "Come now, get in bed."
He managed to get Harry to a bed. The boy was wearing a mulish expression. Poppy gave him two potions and then told him to rest.
"Severus . . ."
Severus shook his head. "Lie down and sleep, Harry. I'll be back in a few minutes, I need to speak with Minerva." He gently pushed the boy down on the bed and then left.
Harry lay there, still feeling sick, and wondering how he could have come down with this bloody virus the day he had to play in the big match. It wasn't fair! After all of the time he spent training, all the hours of flying in the rain and the mud, now it was all for nothing. Now Gryffindor would lose, and it was all his fault. Tears prickled his eyes.
Then he gritted his teeth and sat up. He wouldn't let this stop him. He would fly and catch the Snitch. He stood up shakily and began to walk towards the door.
Poppy had returned to her office, believing him to be asleep. He made his way slowly but steadily towards the door.
He had almost reached it when Severus appeared in the doorway, Skull upon his shoulder.
"Harry, what are you doing out of bed? Get back there immediately." Severus ordered.
Harry looked up at him. "No. I can't let them down."
Severus glared at him. "You stubborn child! How can you expect to sit a broom in your condition? You can barely stand, much less fly. And you could also infect your teammates if you went back there now."
"I'll manage," Harry said, one arm wrapped about his middle. "Please, Severus."
He picked the boy up and carried him back to bed.
Harry would have protested, but just then his stomach rebelled.
Severus set him down and grabbed a bedpan just in time. He held Harry's head until it was over, then wiped his face with a damp cloth. "There now. Here, have some water."
Harry drank slowly, ridding himself of the awful taste. "I'm sorry."
"No need to apologize. You're hardly to blame."
"I'm sorry because I ruined my team's chance at the cup." Harry clarified, dashing a hand across his face.
"That wasn't something you could prevent," Severus said. He gently stroked the boy's hair. "Besides, I spoke to the Headmaster and he agreed to postpone the match until next Saturday, so you can still play in it and give Gryffindor its chance."
"He did?" Harry brightened. "That's great!"
"Now, for the love of Merlin, will you quite fretting over it and rest?"
This time Harry didn't argue, he simply lay back down. His last glimpse before falling asleep was of Severus sitting in a chair next to the bed.
When Harry woke again, he felt much better. Severus had gone back to his lab to brew some potions, leaving him to be looked after by Poppy and Skullduggery. Poppy bustled about, giving him more potions and asking him how he felt.
"A little better."
"Good. You slept for about four hours and now it's lunchtime. Do you feel up to having some tea and some toast, maybe a cup of broth and some applesauce also?"
Some two minutes later a tray was floated over to him. "Eat as much as you can, don't worry if you can't finish." She told him.
Harry cautiously ate a piece of toast with a bit of butter and sipped the chamomile tea. There was also a cup of chicken broth and a small dish of applesauce. A large glass of ice water was also upon the tray, with a flexible straw in it.
He made sure he ate some applesauce, and finished one piece of toast and drank some broth before sensing that was about all he could tolerate. "Here, Skull." He held out the other piece of toast, feeding it to the raven in pieces.
"Thank you, Harry." Skull took the bits from Harry's fingers delicately.
Once he was done with lunch, he had nothing to keep himself occupied. He didn't feel sleepy, and so he asked Skull to tell him about the first time Skullduggery had met Severus.
Skull fluffed his feathers and settled down on the bed. "Ah, yes, I did promise you that tale, didn't I? Listen closely. Once upon a time, eight years ago, I lived with my raven family in the Tower of London . . ." **
Harry listened, astounded at the fact that Severus had, in the beginning, refused the raven's company, believing himself not worthy of a raven familiar. He grinned at Skullduggery's attempts to change the snarky professor's mind, and at how clever the bird was about ferreting information out of the other familiars in order to learn about the wizard.
He learned that Severus, even then, had no tolerance for those who bullied others, and had once rescued a Hufflepuff he found crying in the corridor after a detention with Argus Filch.
"I felt sorry for Robyn too, she was a gentle soul, and undeserving of Filch's cruelty." Skullduggery said. "I don't know how Mrs. Norris put up with that. Still, she is his familiar, and often we will tolerate much from our wizards. I do know that Sev put the fear of God into the miserable bugger once he got Robyn sorted out, and he never had detention alone with a child again, at least not when Severus issued them. Even Peeves was disgusted with him for scaring the girl so badly."
"Do you know why he's like that?"
"Hmm. I'd venture to say that Filch is bitter and angry at being a Squib, and takes out his frustration on the only targets available—you students. Some of his attitude is justified, since many students enjoy playing pranks on him, but it doesn't excuse tormenting an innocent child even if she did earn herself detention. You'd be wise to steer clear of him, Harry. He has never physically harmed a student, but his tongue is razor sharp."
"I know. He gives me the creeps. Mrs. Norris too."
"Oh, the cat isn't bad. She's hunted with me a time or two and is actually very clever. But she's loyal to her master, and that means she accompanies him on patrols looking for students wandering around at night. Still, I can't fault her for that. Any familiar worth its fur or feathers is loyal to her wizard, or else she isn't worthy of the name. She told me once that she has spoken to Filch a few times about his dreadful attitude, but he refuses to listen to her advice. And there's not much she can do about that."
"But Severus listens to you sometimes when you tell him things."
"Our relationship is different than most wizard/familiar pairings. Severus respects me as a close friend, as I do him. Ravens are not servants to their wizards, like dogs or other animals. We speak our own minds as we see fit, and keep our own counsel as well. Cats are much the same, probably why Mrs. Norris prefers my company."
By then Harry was feeling sleepy and starting to nod off. Skull began to sing a lullaby.
Harry drifted off to the raven warbling "Rock-a-bye baby."
At dinner, which was brown rice with salt, some more applesauce, toast, and chicken broth, Harry ate with Severus, who had grilled chicken, a baked potato and some mixed vegetables. Severus gave him some reading material and a newspaper, and played Exploding Snap until Harry grew tired.
Afterwards, on the way back to his quarters, he was ambushed by Ron, Hermione, Neville and even Malfoy, wanting to know why Harry was in the Hospital Wing. "He has a contagious stomach virus. He should be better in a few days, then you may visit him."
All four grimaced, and Hermione cried, "Poor Harry! He seems to have the worst luck."
"It does seem that way at times," Severus replied.
"May we study in your quarters, sir?" asked Neville, a bit diffidently.
"You may, as long as you behave," Snape reminded them.
They all agreed, and trooped into the professor's rooms, but without Harry their study session was lacking and they felt his absence keenly.
** for the full story about how Severus and Skullduggery met, please read Raven's Choice, a short prequel to this story, if you haven't already.
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