Of Blood, Boils, Pustules, Potions, and All Manner of Other Unsavoury Things

Prologue

Albus Dumbledore stood at the head of the staff room's conference table and smiled serenely at his colleagues, who fidgeted in their seats, waiting for the announcement they sensed was to come. Savouring the moment, Dumbledore surveyed the assembled: to his immediate right was Minerva McGonagall, sitting with her back painfully straight as peered over the rim of her spectacles at Pomona Sprout, who emitted a faint odour of compost and decaying leaves while she chattered merrily about her latest crop of Chomping Cabbages. Celeste Sinistra gazed blearily through Professor Binns in the general direction of the Herbology Professor and silently battled the sweet pull of gravity on her eyelids. Hagrid took up the next three spaces, and opposite him Violet Vector sat beside a precariously perched Filius Flitwick, who wobbled dangerously on a teetering pile of velvet cushions. Beside him, Madam Hooch was restlessly turning to look out the window where the crisp autumn wind made for exhilarating flying conditions. Sibyll Trelawney had decided to inflict them with her presence and was currently wrestling a sullen looking Head of Slytherin for his tea cup. Severus Snape sat to Dumbledore's left and secretly relished his place: it was like being sat at the left hand of God.

Taking pity on his Potions Master, Dumbledore cleared his throat softly, prompting Sybil to loosen her grip on the piece of china with a wistful glance and further muttered prophecies of doom.

"Sadly, I must inform you," the old Headmaster began, "that Poppy's sister has been taken ill. As a consequence we will be without our resident Mediwitch for the next few days. To take charge of the Hospital Wing in her absence, Poppy and I have decided responsibility should fall on the only three among us who have sufficient medical knowledge and expertise," Dumbledore paused for dramatic effect, "namely Minerva, Severus and Pomona."

All eyes turned to the three aforementioned professors.

"And what of our classes, Albus?" Minerva asked.

"Poppy will only be absent over the weekend, Minerva, so it follows that these unfortunate circumstances will have no impact on the students education." His Deputy nodded briskly in reply and Albus waited for the growls of protest from Severus or the unenthused sighs from Pomona, and was surprised when none came.

'Goodness, no excuses, no quibbles? It's that old wandless magic called charm, Albus,' thought Dumbledore, 'you've still got it!'

-x-

Later that same evening, Poppy Pomphrey was snatching up her hat and cloak whilst instructing the two witches and surly-looking wizard, who sat with long-suffering airs on one of the Hospital Wing's beds, of their duties: "…and remember, Susan Bones and Lavender Brown will be up to collect their monthly Bubortuber puss for their acne treatment, but do make sure it's diluted well. And for Merlin's sake Severus, don't make any insensitive comments!" Severus huffed indignantly and was thrown knowing looks from the other two witches.

"I've written you all a list of the regulars and the address of where I'm staying if there should be an emergency and you need to floo me, and if you lose that, Albus has a copy. I think there's enough Skele-Gro, let me go and check-"

"Poppy, if there isn't, Severus will make some more," Minerva interjected, taking her flappable friend and colleague by the arm and steering her towards the doors, ignoring Severus' mutterings of "Oh yes, of course Severus will do it. Severus doesn't even need to be asked politely, he'll do whatever he's told…"

"Now be off with you! Go and take care of that sister of yours, we'll be fine holding the fort here."

"Yes, yes, I really should be getting off, look at the time…." Minerva nodded, guiding the other witch through the doors and out into the corridor. She was just turning back to rejoin the others with a roll of her eyes when-

"Did I remind you to make sure-"

"-Filius takes his Chamomile Capsules so he won't get hyperactive?" three voices finished for her.

"Yes-"

"Now get you gone!" cried Minerva, pushing the flustered witch out through the doors and shutting them firmly behind her. "Honestly! Two days, the Quidditch Season has yet to begin and no lessons- what does she think could possibly happen that three fully trained healers couldn't cope with?"