Title: Bitter Reward

By: Corbin

Summary: Harry is injured by a fellow classmate.

Rating: PG

A/N: This is a story I wrote to help my muse wake up. It's a bit short, but I like it.

Thanks go once again to Molly for beta reading for me!!

For the first time in weeks Harry Potter was in an amiable mood as he hurried towards his potions class. Most of the time he dreaded the class as well as the Professor that taught it, but today felt different. Today Harry would have the chance to prove to Snape that he was not just another brainless dunderhead. He would prove that not only was he capable of following instructions, but he was in fact learning.

Harry had finished his homework assignment two days early, not because the assignment was easy, but because he had spent nearly every free moment working on it. A week earlier when Snape had given the class the assignment it had sounded easy enough. Find all the necessary ingredients to brew a calming potion using what herbs are available on the school grounds. It had taken more effort than he would have liked, but he had done it. All of the ingredients for his potion were nestled safely in a small pouch in his robe.

Once Harry had made it down into the dudgeons he took his seat and took the small pouch out of his pocket. Carefully he emptied the contents of the pouch onto his desk and began to organize the roots, herbs and flowers for easy access when he needed to brew them later. He smiled as he recalled how difficult it had been to gather wild rose root, and how long he had had to search the grounds for the correct breed of chamomile, and once he had found it he had to search for a plant that was actually blooming. By the looks on the rest of his classmates faces they had not been as successful as he had.

Not even the chill in Professor Snape's voice could touch him today. His potion had been perfectly brewed and all seemed right with the wizarding world. Snape had stopped to briefly scrutinize him as he worked, but surprisingly the pale man made no comment, just a soft grunt. To Harry it sounded almost like a noise of approval. Triumphantly Harry ladled a bit of his work into a small vial and carefully capped it. After a moment of thought Harry capped off several other vials just to be sure that Snape actually graded at least one of his potions.

Neville shivered in nervous anticipation. He was certain that this time he had actually done something right. Professor Snape would not be able to make a fool out of him today. He winced as he carefully ladled a bit of his potion into a vial. He felt about for his stopper. He had just had it. Where could it have gone to in such a short period of time? It was nowhere in sight. He swallowed a bit of fear and hoped that Professor Snape would have an extra one at his desk. Gathering what little courage he possessed, he began the journey toward Snape's desk.

Harry was amazed at how much potion was left over in his cauldron after he had ladled what seemed like a fair amount into vials for Professor Snape. Harry stood, gathering his potions in his hands to carry them to Snape's desk to be sneered at and marked. Harry heard Neville cry out in surprise just as something hit him from behind . . . hard. He watched with surprise as his glasses flew off of his face and onto his desk with a clatter. There was a dangerous hiss from his caldron and an endless moment before it exploded in his face. He shut his eyes and waited for the fates to end what had been a pleasant day.

Neville had taken care to avoid the various obstacles that tried to prevent him from making it to Snape's desk with his potion intact. Neville sidestepped as Harry Potter stood suddenly from his seat. Something rolled under his shoe and he pitched forward slamming into Potter with a startled yelp. He had just enough time to recognize that his stopper had somehow gotten underfoot. His carefully brewed potion spilled into the air and fell into Harry's cauldron. Neville watched in horror as the brew boiled over and splattered onto Harry coating his face and hands.

Harry howled in pain as his hands and face began to burn. Immediately Harry dropped his vials to the floor and brought his hands to his protectively to his face only to jerk them away as his skin boiled in protest. He could not even reach up to wipe the stuff away from his eyes without rubbing more of the mixture onto his face. The young man fell to the floor with his eyes clenched shut and his mouth open in a twist of fiery pain. Harry screamed louder as the scent of chemically burned hair and flesh assaulted his own nostrils.

"Oh no! I'm sorry, Harry! I didn't mean to . . . " Neville choked as he watched Harry writhe in pain on the floor. He glanced about for something or someone that could help his friend, but he couldn't think clearly with the sound of Harry's screams. He gagged at the stench that was coming from Harry now, but he could not force himself to turn away.

Professor Snape froze as he heard the treacherous sound of pain and glass clattering to the floor. He looked toward the source of the ruckus and narrowed his eyes at Neville. Of course it was him. Couldn't even brew a calming potion correctly. The boy was an absolute menace to wizard safety. With a growl of irritation he stormed over to the victim of Neville's ineptitude.

"Move!" Severus barked as he callously pushed Neville out of the way to get at Potter. Snape quickly surveyed the boy's condition and reached into his robes for something to neutralize the chemicals burning Potter's skin. He slathered a good amount of a slimy black goo onto his pale fingers and knelt down to Potter.

Harry, in spite of his skin's violent protesting, was clutching his burning face with his equally painful hands. He resisted as something tried to pull his hands away from his face. Snape restrained the panicked boy as best he could and coated his hands with the goop. Potter screamed as Snape tried to smear the stuff onto his burned cheeks and chin. Harry tried to protect his face from being touched at all and found that his wrists were being held carefully against his chest. Gently Snape covered Harry's eyelids with the salve and made sure that he hadn't missed any parts that had been burned.

Harry's gut-wrenching screams had ceased, and he lay moaning in pain on the dungeon floor. Still keeping Potter from touching his face, Snape glared up at Neville. "Are you injured?"

Neville shook his head as he felt tears streaking down his face.

"Be grateful that you are not. Your stupidity almost cost Potter his face," Snape spat angrily. He glanced down at Potter, "Potter, I am going to get you to the hospital wing; keep your eyes closed, and don't move your hands."

Harry felt a chill pass through his body suddenly. His face and hands still hurt him, as if he'd been sanded down and boiled in rubbing alcohol. He barely recognized that Snape was speaking to him, but he felt it when Snape attempted to lift him from the floor and he cried out in desperate protest. Every hurried step that Snape took caused his body to jerk in pain.

As Snape set Harry on one of the hospital beds the boy screamed as one of his hands accidentally grazed Snape's robes. He didn't want anyone to touch him or to look at him. He wanted them to leave his raw skin alone. Even his lips were raw and that meant that he didn't want to drink anything.

Poppy scurried into the room with a tray of supplies and a worried look on her face. He screamed and screamed as both Poppy and Snape attempted to apply another salve to soothe his wounds. Snape had to hold Harry's hands as Poppy smeared a purple jelly onto his fingers and palms. When she attempted to cover his injured flesh with bandages she was met with screams of torment. The blistered skin was clearly open to infection if left unprotected, so Potter was bandaged in spite of his protests.

When at last they left him alone both his hands and face had been covered in wrappings. Poppy had cast a charm to help him sleep and speed his healing, and she would look in on the boy in about an hour. She hoped that he did not scar easily.

Snape grimaced as he washed the salves and blood from his hands. He changed into fresh robes and went to his quarters to have something to drink.

Harry had never had such a bad time in the hospital wing. He knew that when Poppy removed his bandages on his face to help him eat that it meant that she was going to put more of that putrid salve on his skin before blinding him again so that she could peel the wrappings off of his fingers. It was torture, and he hated it. No amount of cards from friends or visits from Dumbledore could make this feel any better.

Poppy had explained to him that his face was healing much faster than his hands, and that the bandages would soon come off so that he would be able to speak instead of just make muffled noises. His hands, he was told, would require more patience.

Harry sighed with relief as Poppy removed the thin layers of white cloth from his face for the final time. Finally he would be able to speak instead of just listening. He was not allowed to wear his glasses on his still very tender flesh, but he didn't mind that so much. Harry squinted as a figure approached him in the distance. Even without his glasses he knew who it was. Snape.

"Feeling better I trust?" Snape said softly as he took a seat near Harry's bedside.

"Yes, sir," Harry briefly recalled how quickly Snape had come to his aide, and how unfamiliar the sounds of his own screams were. Harry glanced down as his fingers twitched with a flicker of pain. Luckily for him his hands had taken the majority of the mixture and his face had been burned, but not as severely.

"I did manage to rescue one of your vials that did not break when you dropped it. The potion inside was in tact."

Harry almost wanted to know what his grade was, but a twinge in his left hand made him wince.

"The only other person to get the potion right was Hermione Granger, but then you knew that, didn't you, Potter?"

Harry smiled as he watched Snape stalk off into the distance. He could hear Hermione and Ron encouraging a guilt-ridden Neville to come forward and visit him. Harry sighed grateful that at least something had worked out for him that day.