Poppy Pomfrey rarely left Hogwarts but when she did, one or two students always fell ill. When that happened, the ill were brought to professor Snape though he never approved or encouraged this decision. The truth was, though, that he was good at healing even though the lacked the bedside manner to do so. In Harry Potter's last year at Hogwarts, he brought Ginny Weasley down to Snape's office in the middle of the night.
When Snape opened the door, Harry was there with Ginny in his arms looking panicked.
"Can you help her?" he asked. "She won't wake up and I think she has a fever."
"Where is Madame Pomfrey?" he asked, ushering the boy inside.
"Away for three days. There was a notice posted on the infirmary door," he said and Snape sighed. That's why the boy had come to him.
"How did she get this way?" he said, waving his wand and clearing his desk so Harry could set the only Weasley daughter down.
"She'd been out of it all day. Didn't feel well. I came in to the common room and she was passed out on the floor near the fire," he said. "She's really sweaty but her hands are cold," Harry fretted.
"It's the fever. It looks like the flu or… pneumonia," he said. "She's probably been sick for awhile but hasn't told anyone and now it's infected her lungs. Listen to her breathe," he ordered and Harry could hear the ragged, shallow breath Ginny was struggling with.
"What should I do?" he asked.
"Go get McGonagall," Snape ordered. "Tell Dumbledore as well. I'll help the best I can." The boy nodded and left the dungeons at a run. Snape stared at Ginny sprawled across his desk. Her red hair was everywhere and plastered to her heated face in places. Her skin looked a pallid, unhealthy color and she was shivering, her robe missing and school uniform askew. "This will never do," he sighed, knowing the closest bed was his own and she was in no position to be moved. He carefully slid one arm under her neck and another under her knees and lifted. She was as light as air and he imagined under the bulky school uniform she was all skin and bones.
He kicked open the door that led to his chambers and stopped at the portrait of Slytherin himself and said "Forked Tongue" which was his password. The portrait opened to reveal his inner chambers and his four-poster bed. He set her on top of the silk green comforter and pulled off her shoes and undid her tie. She started to stir when he was leaning over her, trying to loosen the knot in her Gryffindor tie that was charmed to stay together.
"Professor…" she said, opening her eyes. "Where am I?" She sounded confused and her voice was all but gone.
"Shh, you're very ill, Miss Weasley. Go back to sleep," he said. She nodded and closed her eyes. He watched her fall back under with real worry. He did not loathe Ginny like he had her twin brothers or Ron. His hatred for Harry had dulled over the years as well and he was proud of the boy for bringing her to him. He would have Minerva change the girl and put her under the linens when she arrived but until then he sat on the edge of the bed and watched her toss and turn restlessly and in pain.
"Severus? I could hardly understand Mr. Potter…" Minerva McGonagall said, walking hesitantly into his bedroom. "Oh." She saw Ginny. "Poppy's gone?"
"You are her head of house. She needs to be changed and put under the blankets. Move her as little as possible and watch her while I go make something to ease her breathing," he barked. "My clothes are in that closet, I'm sure something more suitable for sleeping can be found." With that, he went into his classroom.
He started to prepare a few potions; one for a dreamless sleep, one to heal her lungs, and one to bring down the fever. As for her malnourished state, only good nutrition could help that. Harry reappeared.
"I told Dumbledore and he owled both the Weasley's and Madame Pomfrey," he said.
"Good. Now go to bed. You can tell her brother in the morning but for now it is after hours and you've done all that you can," he said. Harry looked crestfallen but obeyed. "You were correct in bringing her here, if that helps," Snape said. Harry nodded and left for Gryffindor tower.
When the potions were finished, he brought the three vials back into his bedroom where McGonagall had been watching her.
"How did she get this ill without anyone noticing?" she asked.
"If I were the youngest of seven, I would probably be adept at not being noticed," Snape said. McGonagall shook her head sadly. She had put Ginny in a white t-shirt, one of his undershirts, and tucked her in. He couldn't help but notice her hair against the green of his blanket. He sat at the edge of the bed again and leaned over her.
"Miss Weasley," he said, softly. She didn't respond. "Ginevra, open your eyes," he said, more sternly. Her eyes fluttered open.
"I can't breathe.," she said.
"I know. You need to swallow these potions," she nodded and struggled to sit up. She pulled on his arm and McGonagall made sure there were plenty of pillows behind her.
"It smells like you in here. Where am I?" she said, rolling her head to try to look around.
"You're in my chambers, you are very sick," he said, with the same soothing tone of voice that had McGonagall staring at him as if he'd grown a second head. "Drink up now." She drank the breath easing one first and had a huge fit of coughing before she could down the fever ease. She was exhausted and spilled half the dreamless sleep down her front but Snape wasn't sure she needed it any how and charmed the stain off his shirt that she wore.
"I never knew you were so good with the children when they are sick," McGonagall said, cautiously.
"I'm always good with the children," he snapped and she rolled her eyes.
"I'm simply saying that I'm impressed," she said. "When can we move her to the infirmary?"
"In the morning, perhaps. In the future, I hope a better eye will be kept on Miss Weasley here," Snape said. "She must have been sick for a long time to be this bad. She didn't tell anyone."
"I'll leave that up to you then," McGonagall said. "Since you're already so involved."
"Go to bed. She'll sleep through the night," he ordered, ready to be rid of her.
"Just leave her here with you in your bed? This doesn't make a very promising picture without knowing the circumstances," she said dubiously.
"Are you planning on broadcasting it to the school? Only you, I, Potter, and Dumbledore know she's here and I don't see why it can't stay that way," he sighed, losing patience. "She'll only get worse if she's moved."
"Fine, fine," McGonagall said, sounding unconvinced. "Come get me if she wakes."
"She won't," Snape said. McGonagall left and Snape pulled up a chair, ready to watch her through the remainder of the night.
Ginny stirred when the sun came up and cast a beam across her face. She felt as if a herd of Hippogriffs had run across her chest. The bed she was in felt much more soft and comfortable than her dormitory bed and when she opened her eyes, nothing looked familiar. There was a large, arched window and the room and bed she was in was made of dark, dark wood. She looked at the green covering and then saw a black-haired head sleeping next to her arm. There was a body sitting in a chair that had fallen asleep on the edge of the bed. She reached out slowly and pushed the hair out of the face and saw the sleeping, relaxed face of Severus Snape.
Oh yeah. She was in Snape's room, in his very bed. He had told her that she was sick and from the way she was feeling, she wasn't inclined to disagree. Truthfully, she hadn't been feeling well for weeks now. It started as a scratch in her throat and some wheezing but then, as time wore on, her breathing got harder and harder and she'd been feverish all the time. She was in her sixth year, though, and didn't have time to be sick, stop studying, or miss any classes. She hoped she wasn't missing any classes right now. She kept running her hand over the soft black hair while she thought, even too tired to get up and find the bathroom.
"You're awake," Snape said, removing her hand from his head carefully, and sitting up.
"So are you," she said.
"How are you feeling?" he asked, reaching up and pressing the palm of his hand to her forehead. "Not quite as warm though you could stand another dose."
"I feel… awful, actually," she said. "What happened?"
"Potter found you in the common room. You'd passed out. You have, I think, Pneumonia. You have an infection in your lungs," he said.
"Is that why I can't breathe?" She asked. He nodded.
"We'll get you moved to the infirmary later today after a good meal. Madame Pomfrey has been notified and should return soon," he said. "Is there anything you need in the mean time?" She blushed and looked away.
"I could stand a trip to the loo," she said, quietly. Snape felt for the girl. He felt her embarrassment as exquisitely as if it were his own.
"I'll help you," he said. "And we'll never speak of it again."
"Fair enough," she said with a grateful smile. She pushed back the blankets and he tried not to look at the shapely white legs that were revealed. His shirt was long on her, though, and stopped mid-thigh. She shivered when her bare feet hit the threadbare rug that was on top of the stone floor. Immediately, she started to fall and clung to him for balance. Her legs were weak, and her vision went black as her head swam. She thought she might vomit. "Oh," she breathed, but it was a moan of pain, a pleading for relief.
"Just take your time," he said, and she finally could see again. He lead her slowly to the bathroom. There was a sink, a mirror, a toilet, and a bathtub with a white shower curtain pushed to the side. She saw the tub and longed for a bath, something to warm her up and relax her muscles that had turned to knots in the night. The steam would surely loosen the phlegm in her lungs as well. "I'll run you a bath as well, would you like that?" he asked.
"If it isn't too much of a bother. I feel as if I've been sick forever," she admitted, leaning against the sink for support.
"You need to tell Madame Pomfrey when you are sick and you need to eat," he said sternly, but he was sitting on the edge of his tub, plugging the drain and turning on the faucet to hot. There were no scented perfumes or colored bubbles like in the prefect's bathroom. Just one tap of clear water on claw feet and it seemed the best there was at the moment to her. He was being so kind and she half thought she was dreaming it, still in the strong grip of a fever. He was handing her a white towel with his initials stitched into the hem when one of the school's owls flew in. Snape looking annoyed yanked the note from it's leg and read it aloud.
Harry is ill, as is Minerva. Ginny Weasley is contagious. Poppy will return tonight but in the mean time it will do her and you some good if you could start working on a cure. For now, you both are quarantined to your chambers. The house elves will provide meals and your classes will be covered should this last longer than I anticipate. Owl if you need anything,
They stared at each other.
"How long does he anticipate in the first place?" she asked.
"I – take your bath," he said and left the bathroom, closing the door behind him. She peed, with great relief, and slowly took off his t-shirt. Her movements were slow and with purpose. The last thing she needed was to upset herself and slip and knock her head on something. Snape finding her naked on the floor would not make the situation any more pleasant. She slipped into the hot water and felt better immediately. Not that this situation had been unpleasant so far, aside from the physical pain. Snape had been kind and very obliging. He'd slept in a chair and given her his bed, brewed her potions that had might have saved her life, and had run her a bath. In the tub, she looked at his bar of white soap, his bottle of shampoo and conditioner in one, a razor, and a washcloth that matched the towel he'd loaned her. She could see long black hairs stuck to the side of the tub, but this didn't disturb her.
She slipped under the water to wet her hair and carefully squirted his shampoo in her hand and rubbed it in to the long, heavy mop. It was down to her waist now and she really ought to cut it. By the time she smelled thoroughly like him she was exhausted and found she couldn't even stand by herself.
"Oh, piss it," she moaned. She knew she would need his help if she were ever going to get out of the now tepid water. When had she gotten this weak? "Professor?" she called. She heard him move to the closed door.
"I'm not…" She didn't know how to ask. "I'm not quite strong enough to…" she sighed. "I think you're going to have to help me," she murmured but he heard her as clearly as if she were still yelling.
"Bloody hell, Weasley, there is no decent way to do that," he said.
"I'm aware," she wanted to be sarcastic but she was tired and her chest hurt. He could hear the defeat in her voice. The door opened and he came in with his eyes cast downward. He picked up the towel and threw it at her.
"Just… get it wet for all I care," he said.
"Okay," she said. The white towel covered her but was rather revealing wet. He leaned over the tub and lifted her out of the tub soaking his bathroom and himself in the process.
"I was going to shower anyhow," he said, trying to console her. He carried her to the bed and laid her down on top of it, charming her and the bed dry. He pulled his black bathrobe off the hook of the door and handed it to her. "You can wear this," he said and disappeared into the bathroom to take a shower. When he came out, clean and properly dressed for potions making, she was sleeping. There was food sitting on the nightstand; a house elf had come. "Ginny," he said, softly.
"What?" she asked, opening her eyes.
"Food," he said. There were eggs, bacon, and toast for him and a bowl of what looked to be mostly chicken broth for her.
"Well, that hardly seems fair," she said, sipping at her bowl of broth.
"You're malnourished, my breakfast would make you more ill," he said. In the end, she could only eat about half the bowl anyway. "I'll be in the classroom, working on something to make you feel better," he said and left her to sleep. She was awake, now, though, so she tiptoed out of the bed and back into the bathroom where she found his hairbrush and brushed the snarls out of her long hair. She braided it into two braids and it shone bright. There were red hairs in his brush now but she left them. The robe was much too long for her but it kept her hands and feet warm. She climbed back into his bed and snuggled down, trying not to think about how bizarre this all was. She missed her friends and wished she could see Ron but this felt like just the break she needed and she thought that next time she didn't feel well that she would come to Snape, not Pomfrey.
By the afternoon, Snape didn't feel very well, but the labored breathing and dizzying headache only made him work harder for the cure. He didn't know how long she'd been standing there before he noticed her, bundled in his robe with her braids like thick rope down her back.
"You look awful," she said, sounding stuffy but far more alert than he was.
"Go to bed," he said.
"I've been in bed all day. Is there anything I can do to help?" she asked.
"Are you just saying that?" she asked, hopping up on a stool next to him, her bare feet dangling. He thought her toes were cute and that just made him more irritable.
"It's nearly complete," he said, through clenched teeth. "I've made enough for you, Potter, McGonagall, and myself, plus one extra dose."
"If it's Pneumonia, how is that contagious?" she asked.
"It's a virus," he said. "The symptoms are the same."
"Thank you," she said. "For letting me invade your space, your bed, your tub."
"You were very ill," he said, finally looking up at her face. Her eyes still had dark circles underneath them and she was looking pale even for a Weasley. "You look how I feel," he admitted. "This needs to sit for an hour or so and then will be complete."
"I'll tell one of the portraits to tell someone," she said, stepping out into the hall. No one was allowed on their floor. When she came back in, he was sitting with his forehead against the cool wood of his desk. "Come on, Professor," she said. She pulled his arm and led him to his bed.
"No, for you," he said, losing coherence.
"Just get in," she said, pulling back the blanket on the opposite side of where she'd been sleeping. "Kick off your shoes, there you go." She pulled the blanket up to her chin and climbed over him to the other side of the bed and climbed in as well. Proper or not, they were both chilled with fever and quarantine meant you made do with what you had. She could feel the heat radiating off him and finally, she fell asleep.
It was dark when she woke up. She could hear people moving outside the chamber. It took her a moment to realize where she was. She'd never slept with some one who wasn't a Weasley and she could never remember her brothers holding her like this. There were strong arms around her and she could feel a heart beat under her ear. She was sleeping on Professor Snape's chest and his breathing was very rhythmic and peaceful. He was asleep as well and probably unaware he was holding Ginny this way. The door to his bedroom opened and she could see the outline of Madame Pomfrey and Dumbledore before the sconces came to life with soft candle light. She closed her eyes quickly and pretended to be sleeping.
"Here they are," Dumbledore said. "The fever has returned."
"He did a good job on this potion," Pomfrey commented. "It should work almost instantly." She felt Pomfrey trying to roll her onto her back so she could administer the potion but Snape sighed in his sleep and pulled her tighter against him.
"Well, we'll be leaving this detail out of this history books," Dumbledore said, sounding amused. "I always suspected a student would be the downfall of Severus Snape, I just didn't think it would be this one."
"Headmaster?" Pomfrey said, a little confused.
"Just do the best you can," he said, and Ginny felt the liquid being dribbled into her mouth. She swallowed dutifully and she did feel better almost instantly. She opened her eyes to see the potion being given to Snape. He opened his eyes too. He looked at her, looked at the two people staring down at them, looked at her again, and sprung out of bed.
"I was… I didn't mean… I'm so…" he stuttered and it was the first time Ginny had ever seen him completely flabbergasted, embarrassed, and out of control.
"It's all right, Severus," Dumbledore said. "The potion worked just as it should have. We need to go help Minerva and Harry now. Miss Weasley, I hope you're well enough to return to your dormitory now?"
"Of course, Headmaster," she said, and got out of the bed. Her uniform and robes were on the chair near the bathroom and she went inside to change. When she came out, it was just Snape sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at his toes. "Thanks again," Ginny said. He didn't say anything, just looked at her with sad eyes. She had nothing else to say, so she left the dungeons and headed for Gryffindor tower.
She'd only missed her Monday classes and didn't have potions on Tuesday. Snape hadn't come to any meals and so Wednesday, she was almost anxious to go to Potions. She was sure that he'd treat her same as usual, or worse. He didn't look at her when she came in and when she accidentally knocked an empty vial off her desk with her elbow, he didn't take any house points, just tensed his shoulders slightly and continued his rounds. She fixed the vial with her wand and felt almost sad. Snape treating her like she didn't exist was worse then hating her, somehow.
After a week of this, she decided to go see Dumbledore about it. No one else knew exactly what had transpired between them, she wasn't sure herself, even. The Gargoyle lifted her without a password, which surprised her.
"I thought you might come," Dumbledore said merrily, pointing her to the chair in front of his desk.
"It's Professor Snape," she said, deciding not to beat around the bush. "He's been acting really strange. I think… I think he feels as if he did something wrong."
"Don't feel bad, Miss Weasley. Severus is a very isolated person. He's not used to much contact with other people. I think he's just surprised that he felt comfortable with you."
"But nothing happened!" she exclaimed. "I was sick and he helped me. He was sick too, we were trapped there."
"You don't have to convince me," Dumbledore said. "I think he likes you, though, and is pushing you away because you are not of his house and you are a student."
"Likes me?" she asked.
"As a person, I mean. You are an excellent student, one of the few who passed your O.W.L.s with that high of marks in Potions. You are respectful of him and all people. I think you and he might be friends, in an unorthodox sort of way, don't you agree?" he asked.
"I've always been scared of him but he was really quite kind," she said. "What should I do?"
"Just give him some time," Dumbledore said. "I'll see what I can do."
A few more days passed in much the same way.
"I don't understand you, Ginny. I'm amazed he didn't kill you instead of saving your life. I think you should count your blessings that he's not giving you detentions," Ron said, shoving food into his mouth at an alarming rate. This dinner was the first time Snape had come to a meal since the incident. She glanced up at him and was surprised to see him looking at her. He looked away quickly and she saw Dumbledore lean in and whisper something to him. He coughed, and took a sip of wine.
"She won't be a student forever," Dumbledore whispered to Snape. "But I do ask you to be careful while she is." He winked. Later, he stormed up to Dumbledore's office.
"I think your comment at dinner was entirely inappropriate," he roared at the Headmaster.
"Why is that?" Dumbledore asked, sitting in his chair with his fingers pointed.
"You suggested that I have a relationship with a student!" he said.
"I did not such thing. I merely suggested that there will be a time when Ginevra Weasley is not a student but until that time, perhaps you should acknowledge her existence."
"Why?" he yelled.
"Because you like her and you could use a friend!" the headmaster yelled back for the first time. "I will terminate your employment before I let you rot down there in that dungeon." It took a lot to get Dumbledore mad and Snape had seen it rarely but the old wizard was seriously ticked off at him and Snape gulped. "I'm not asking you, Severus, to break the law but sit next to her at a Quidditch game or play a game of chess with her, or for Merlin's sake, give her house 5 points when she does well on an essay, just look at her, you're hurting her," he said. Snape never meant to hurt her and he felt like scum.
"You're right," he said. "Of course. I never meant for her to… when you found us I didn't touch her on purpose."
"I know. I also know you won't do it again while she is a student here," Dumbledore said. "Anything else?" Snape shook his head and left the tower office.
Ginny was reading by the fire in the common room. She was out of her school clothes; in jeans and one of her mother's sweaters. Her hair was in braids again, wet from her bath. Colin Creevey, who was in her year, bolted into the common room.
"Ginny!" he said. "Snape is outside."
"What?" she asked, closing her book.
"He's outside, and he's asking for you," Colin said, looking at her with eyes full of fear. "I don't know what you did but he's never come to a common room before, has he?" She shrugged, curious. She went to the portrait which swung open for her and she stepped out. He was pacing and stopped her he saw her. There was a chessboard in his hand.
"Professor?" she asked.
"Weasley…I mean, Ginny. Hello," he said.
"Professor, did you need something?" she asked.
"Chess," he said, showing her the board. She felt like laughing, almost, he looked so nervous.
"What about chess?" she asked, slowly, as if speaking to a child.
"I mean to say, would you like to play a game of chess with me?" he said. "For fun?"
"Of course," she said, feeling relieved. "That sounds good though I should warn you that I always win."
"Doubtful," he said, walking with her towards the great hall. The arrogant tone was back in his voice. They chattered all the way to the hall and through their game like true friends. And in the end, Ginny won. Then, every Thursday they played chess in the great hall and Ginny always won. At first, students stood and stared at them, horrified at the small smile on his face whenever he was around her; whenever her knight bashed in the skull of his queen. But then, slowly, it became common and boring and the sound of them laughing together was no longer as thrilling as it once had been.
When it was announced at the final feast of the year of Ginny's graduation that Professor Snape would not be returning to teach at Hogwarts, no one was surprised, really, in the end.