Disclaimer: Not mine. Won't ever be mine. Will never claim it's mine. Props to JKR's magical world. End of story.

Author's Note: ...Another old drabble, this one from early January. As is far too often, it features a tired, cranky, miserable Severus Snape, an overprotective Poppy Pomfrey, and a sympathetic Minerva McGonagall...enjoy. :)

Severus glanced over his list one more time before stuffing it into the bag under his cloak. The knotgrass he could pick fresh from the greenhouses; the belladonna, as well; but the Bowtruckle eggs...he sighed. Those warranted a trip to the Forbidden Forest, which was sure to be even more unpleasant than usual due to the horrible weather.

It was his own fault, really. He'd known for a while that his stock was running low; being the purist he was, he preferred to gather potions ingredients himself, but he'd rather hoped that the snow would let up sometime before restocking became absolutely necessary. It didn't, of course. His hopes had a nasty habit of ending in disappointment, and he wasn't surprised in the least to find himself preparing to brave a January snowstorm in order to make sure his lessons stayed on schedule.

He was nearly to the doors of the Entrance Hall when a voice hailed him from the direction of the infirmary.

"Where exactly do you think you're going, Severus?" called Poppy.

Severus nearly growled in frustration—did she really have nothing better to do than to interrogate him? "I need some more ingredients," he answered shortly.

Poppy stared. "Have you lost your mind?" she asked bluntly. "This is the worst blizzard we've had in ages. You can't seriously think you can go out there and—"

"I can if you want your Pepperup stores replenished before next week," Severus snapped. "This weather's not clearing up anytime soon, and I really can't wait for it to do so."

Poppy drew herself up to her full height, no longer smiling. "I can wait for the Pepperup for a few days—I'd rather do that than have you stuck in my ward because of sheer stupidity."

"I beg your pardon?"

"You heard me," Poppy said. "Going out in this is just asking to catch cold, or worse...I won't let you do it, and I doubt Albus would, either. So you can just turn around and forget about collecting your ingredients until another day. Surely you can find something else to do—it is your birthday, after all."

"Sod my birthday," Severus muttered, but he turned around and headed back into the depths of the castle nonetheless. Poppy took her role as nurse to an extreme, and fussed about his health entirely too much. To his dismay and annoyance, so did the Headmaster, and while he was touched by Albus's concern, Severus hated that this often meant Poppy got her way.

Not today, he thought, making his way through the corridors to one of the castle's other doors. It meant a longer walk to the forest, but he was willing to take the longer distance. He needed those Bowtruckle eggs, and he would get them regardless of what the meddling Mediwitch said.

He pushed open the small door and was almost tempted to rethink his expedition; it was freezing. The wind bit at his exposed skin and drove snow into his eyes, and the cold made it painful to breathe, but he shook his head and ventured out into it anyway. Oh, for Merlin's sake, it's only a bit of snow, he told himself impatiently.

It was considerably more than a bit of snow, however, and by the time he reached the edge of the forest, his limbs were already numb and he could feel ice forming on his cloak. There was no point in turning back now, though. He set off into the outermost layer of trees, looking for signs of Bowtruckles, but they seemed to be reluctant to show themselves. Those that did were extremely bad-tempered at being disturbed.

"Damn it!" Severus swore for the third time, as one he had not seen took a swipe at his fingers. He couldn't feel anything but the painful, prickling cold, but the Bowtruckle's claws sent more of his blood streaming down his hand. By the time he had gathered enough eggs, both hands were covered in tiny gashes, and he was shivering uncontrollably; the snow had soaked through his robes and formed a thin layer of ice in his hair.

Poppy is going to kill me, he thought miserably, as he realised he had unconsciously walked back to the Entrance Hall doors. He didn't have the energy to go around to another side of the castle, so he pushed them open, bracing himself for her inevitable shouting.

He sighed in relief to find she wasn't waiting for him. Well, of course she wouldn't; she doesn't know you've been out, he reminded himself. At least something was going right today...he had no sooner taken two steps than he heard someone call his name.


He sighed again; it was only Minerva. She still fussed over him more than necessary, but she found Poppy's extreme measures annoying for the most part, as well.

"Good heavens, you must be freezing," she said, coming down the stairs and staring at him over the top of her spectacles. "What on earth were you doing out there?"

"It d-doesn't matter," Severus managed through chattering teeth. "Just d-don't shout ab-bout it." He cast a significant glance towards the hospital wing.

Minerva's lips thinned in disapproval, but she let it go. "I've been looking for you for over an hour...would you care for some tea? Cider? Anything?"

"That s-sounds wonderful...atschoo!" Oh, this was bloody brilliant. Much as he would not admit it to anyone, he had developed a slight head cold over the past few days, and it seemed that being outside and getting completely soaked had aggravated his condition further. Just as long as none of his colleagues noticed...

Minerva stared at him suspiciously all the way up to her quarters, where she wasted no time in casting a drying spell on his clothes and bringing them both some mulled wine. Severus wrapped both hands around his mug gratefully; Minerva gasped.


"What?" he asked, frowning at her. Despite his now dry robes, hot drink, and Minerva's fire, he felt as though the previous cold had settled into his very skin, and was not particularly in the mood to talk.

"Your—your hands," said Minerva faintly, and pointed.

As though her mention had flicked a switch, he felt a sudden rush of stinging pain from his fingers to his wrists; he looked down to stare at his bloodied hands in mild interest.

"What in Merlin's name were you doing?" Minerva asked, still looking alarmed. "No—tell me in a minute—I have a salve somewhere—" She disappeared into what was presumably her bathroom. Severus took advantage of her absence to sneeze again, muffling the sound as much as he could. All he needed was for Minerva to come to the conclusion that he had a cold...then Poppy would know, and Albus, as well...

"Here," said Minerva as she returned with a small bottle. "You made this, I think, actually...now how on earth did you—?"

"Collecting Bowtruckle eggs," Severus answered honestly.

Minerva sniffed. "For someone who relies on his hands so much, you'd think you'd take better care of them..." she admonished, but her heart wasn't in it. Severus smirked at her as she massaged the cream into his skin, but was less pleased when he realised she was staring at him critically. It was the sort of look that almost always meant he was in for something unpleasant.

"Now what do you want?" he asked roughly.

Minerva glanced down at his hands again, then back to his face. He was rather flushed, and looked more run-down than usual.

"Your hands are cold," she said finally, "but—" Without waiting for him to protest, she brushed her fingers across his forehead. What she felt only confirmed her fears. "You're a bit warm."

"I'm fine," Severus growled in annoyance. He had felt better, but this was nothing he couldn't handle—after all, he'd been concealing it from his colleagues for days already. Then again, the thought that Minerva cared enough about him to be concerned was strangely appealing...

He hadn't realised she had left and returned until he felt her slip a thermometer under his tongue. He glared at her, but she had never been particularly intimidated by him, and she merely quirked an eyebrow in amusement before sipping more of her wine.

"Oh, don't look at me like that," she said. "I'm just making sure you're all right." She glanced at the thermometer and snorted as she took it from him. "Well, 102 is good enough for me...just sit there, will you? And stay put."

"I'm not a dog," muttered Severus.

"No, but you are ill," Minerva countered. "Even if you don't go to Poppy, you should at least take something."

"And I suppose you happen to have said remedy with you," said Severus, if only to thin air; Minerva had disappeared into one of her cabinets again. She returned moments later with another bottle for him.

"You know what to do."

Severus sighed. "Funnily enough, I do," he said wearily. He shuddered at the potion's taste, but was distracted by Minerva tossing him a blanket. "What are you doing?"

Minerva raised her eyebrows. "You might as well be comfortable."

"You're—you're not telling Poppy?" he said in astonishment, and suddenly had to suppress a yawn as he realised, too late, that Minerva had added a Sleeping Draught to the healing potion.

"Only if you promise to stay here the rest of the evening," she said. "Happy Birthday."

Severus gave her a tired smirk and settled back into her couch cushions. "If you insist," he sighed, and closed his eyes. He was already starting to feel much better, though it might have been the company. "You know, Minerva, I think this is the best present anyone's ever given me."

And he was asleep before he could see her blush.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. Can you tell I'm in love with these characters...? ;)