Summary: When Professor McGonagall is taken ill on Christmas Eve, Gryffindor House bands together to help her feel better.

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: (censored)

Author's notes: Happy Christmas! … nearly. And happy … whatever (I haven't done Religious Ed since 2003) … for those of you who don't celebrate Christmas.

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Scarlet Fever

by Alexannah

Chapter One: I'm Fine

"Remus, please, stop fussing. I'm fine. You're worse than Albus."

The young man looked at his old Professor in concern. She was paler than usual with dark circles under her eyes and she kept coughing.

"It's just a little tickle," Minerva insisted. "If it hasn't cleared up by Boxing Day then I'll go to Poppy, but I'm not going to spend Christmas with steam gushing out of my ears, or worse."

"Minerva …"

"Two days, Remus! Please."

He sighed. Minerva McGonagall was one of the most stubborn women he had ever met. Perhaps he should casually mention to Albus that she looked a bit under the weather – he'd have her shut in the Hospital Wing wrapped in ten jumpers and three hot water bottles being force-fed Poppy's Pepper-Up Potion within minutes. But no-one else stood a chance of making her change her mind.

She coughed again, and Remus frowned.

"Minerva, you're not well. I really don't like the sound of that cough."

"I'm fine," she ground out. "If you want to help me, do so by taking these up to my office."

Remus sighed and took the essays from her. "Your hands are shaking," he noted.

"No they're not. It's … just the draught from the window."

"It's not open."

"From the door then! Honestly Remus, quit nagging!"

"And you're shivering."

"I'm cold."

Remus put a hand to Minerva's forehead and she swatted him away angrily, but not before he felt the warmth.

"Minerva! You're burning up! You need to go to Poppy, now. I'll take you."

"No."

"Yes I am. Look, it's Christmas Eve, it's not even term time. Give yourself a break, woman!" Remus dropped the essays onto a table and grabbed Minerva by the wrist. "Don't make me set my third-years' Boggart on you."

Minerva glared at him, but gave in. Remus wondered what her Boggart would be. Probably herself taking things easy for once. He'd never met anyone who worked themselves as hard as she did. She reluctantly rose to her feet, but swayed and grabbed him round the neck to steady herself.

"Are you all right?" Remus asked worriedly.

"I'm fine … just a dizzy spell. I got up too fast."

Remus didn't really believe her, but led her out of the staff room without questioning it. As he turned towards the Hospital Wing, Minerva grabbed his arm again.

"Not yet. I want to check on my lions first."

"Minerva …"

"Remus! It won't take long. I always look in on them before I go to bed, and if Poppy wants to keep me overnight then I have to do it now."

He groaned. "Fine."

There was no use arguing that there were only three Gryffindors staying over the holiday and that they probably wouldn't even be in the Tower yet, so he just let Minerva walk to the portrait of the Fat Lady, keeping a grip on her arm no matter how many times she protested she could walk perfectly well by herself. She gave the password and Remus waited outside. She was lucky: he spotted the Golden Trio poring over a pile of books together as the portrait closed behind Minerva.

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"… That one's no good, then." Harry flung the hundredth book down on the table and reached for another. "Come on, one of these has got to help Buckbeak's case!"

Ron just grunted, immersed in trying to read tiny, faded print, and Hermione seemed to have gone to sleep, using another book as a pillow. It was only seven in the evening, but Harry's eyes were itching with tiredness.

"What are you three up to?"

His head shot up. Professor McGonagall had appeared in front of them. Ron nearly jumped out of his skin and Hermione jerked awake, bleary-eyed.

"Er," was Harry's response. His mind panicked: was what they were doing somehow against the rules? Then he realised Professor McGonagall didn't look stern, just tired and curious.

"Looking up stuff to help Hagrid." Harry rubbed his eyes. "You know, his defence for Buckbeak."

Professor McGonagall's eyebrows raised. "If only you put as much time and effort into your homework. Have you found anything useful?"

"We're not sure," Hermione spoke up, shuffling through the notes. "We keep thinking we've found something, and then it turns out to be useless … Professor, are you all right?"

"I'm fine." Professor McGonagall didn't look fine, Harry observed. Glancing sideways, he saw the other two watching her worriedly. Professor McGonagall had a hand to her head as if it hurt and was leaning heavily against an armchair. "Perhaps you could try -"

They didn't get to find out what she thought they could try, though, as Professor McGonagall let out a gasp and her knees buckled. Harry bashed his own hard against the table as the three of them scrambled over. "Professor?"

"I – ow -" Professor McGonagall gasped. Hermione put a hand on her shoulder.

"Ron, go and get someone."

Ro nodded and sped towards the portrait hole. Harry joined Hermione on the floor. "Professor?"

"No – need – I'm – fine -"

"No you are not," a male voice said sternly before Harry could correct her. Looking up, he saw Lupin following Ron into the common room. That was quick. "You're going to the Hospital Wing now, Minerva, whether you like it or not." Making eye contact with Harry, he addressed them, "Can you three help me with her?"

It took a long time before the five of them managed to reach the Hospital Wing. Lupin and Harry supported a faintly (and fruitlessly) resisting Professor McGonagall, while Hermione held her hand ("for moral support") and Ron ran ahead to warn Madam Pomfrey they were coming. By the time they reached the Hospital Wing doors, Professor McGonagall had ceased digging her heels in (figuratively speaking) and subjected to the journey, but was far from happy.

"It's Christmas," she said miserably as Madam Pomfrey sat her down on a bed and hurried to fetch things from her store cupboard.

"And you're not well," Lupin said gently. "You need a potion and a good night's sleep and I'm sure by tomorrow you'll feel fine. And even if you don't, we'll make sure you have the best Christmas you've ever had." Professor McGonagall looked sceptical. "And," Lupin added in a sly voice that surprised the Trio, "I'm sure Albus will make sure you don't miss out on the mistletoe."

Professor McGonagall hit him with the pillow on the bed. But it wasn't very hard.

TBC …