Author's Note: I'm going through and fixing the typos and deleted scene breaks, also deleting any outdated author's notes. Hopefully it will be more polished now. :)
Disclaimer: Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, Harry Potter is not mine.
Chapter One: Stuck
Harry sat at the table in Snape's office, trying to concentrate on the papers he was organizing through the pounding in his temples.
"Potter!" Snape's voice cut through his throbbing head like a knife. "Aren't you done yet?"
"No, sir," muttered Harry, rubbing his bleary eyes with his knuckles.
"Why not, Potter?" demanded Snape silkily.
That's a stupid thing to ask, thought Harry irritably. What am I supposed to say?
When Harry didn't answer, Snape said, "I'll tell you why, Potter, because you are lazy."
Harry wanted to contradict him, but his head hurt too much for him too think properly and he simply didn't have the energy.
"Yes, sir," he muttered resentfully.
Severus raised his eyebrows. "Yes, sir"? That didn't sound like Potter.
"Is something the matter Potter?"
"No, sir," growled Harry, clenching his clammy fists. "I'm working on it, Professor."
"Well then, get to it," said Severus, turning back to his desk.
Fighting dizziness, Harry returned to the papers in front of him. They swam before his eyes and he grabbed the desk to steady himself.
A minute later, Severus heard Potter's quill clatter to the floor.
"Potter," he growled without turning around, "come here."
Harry shakily pushed himself up from the chair. The room lurched and he grabbed the desk again, forcing himself to walk toward his professor.
Severus turned in his chair to look at Potter. What the—? Potter was as white as a ghost and shaking so violently it was a wonder he hadn't fallen down.
"Potter, come here," said Severus again, standing up as he beckoned the boy over. "You're shaking," he stated, eying the pale boy.
"It's cold in here," Potter whispered unconvincingly.
Snape lifted his hand to put his fingers to Harry's forehead, but Harry staggered back. He couldn't let Snape feel that he had a temperature. He couldn't.
"I'm fine," sad Harry with as much force as he cold muster. His voice sounded weak and pathetic even in his own ears. Snape raised an eyebrow.
"Sit down, Potter," he said, conjuring a chair with his wand and pushing Harry into it.
Harry staggered back into the chair, glaring resentfully at his professor.
"Just let me finish my work, Professor," whispered Harry through gritted teeth. "Then I'll go away and leave you alone."
Severus couldn't deny that the offer was tempting, but Potter was being ridiculous. Severus snorted. "You are in no shape to do any work, Potter. Surely even an imbecile such as yourself can see that."
"So?" Harry challenged, though his ears were ringing painfully and brightly colored dots were beginning to dance before his eyes. "What's it to you? Why do you care?"
That brought Severus up short. Care? He didn't care. Not about this pathetic child who sat in front of him, too proud and stubborn to even admit that he was ill. It was Lily he had cared for. Always Lily. But he wasn't about to tell that to Potter.
"I care, Potter," Severus spat finally, "that you are wasting my time by being here when you cannot do the work you came here for."
"Then send me away," said Harry, clenching his clammy fists and digging his nails into his palms to will himself not to pass out.
Severus barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes.
"Potter," he said in exasperation, "you would not get even as far as the door."
He took a step toward the shivering boy, but Harry jerked back, panicked. Snape could not know how sick he was. It was too humiliating, and it would make him too vulnerable. Besides, no one was supposed to know when he was sick. That was one of the rules.
"Do not fight me," growled Severus, catching the boy's arm in one hand and pressing the fingers of the other to Potter's forehead.
Severus nearly yelped. Potter was running a raging fever. Severus was surprised that Potter was still conscious, never mind coherent.
"Potter," said Severus, speaking more quietly. "Potter, can you stand?"
Snape's hand on his forehead was icy. Harry shivered even more violently and tried to focus on what his professor was saying; the words kept slipping in and out, like a badly tuned radio. Snape had asked him a question...asked him if he could stand...Harry nodded and tried to pull himself to his feet. His muscles didn't seem to want to obey him, however, and he stumbled. Snape caught him and lowered him back into the chair.
"Obviously not," said Severus dryly, moving his hand from Potter's forehead to his sweat-drenched shoulder. "Potter, are you cold?"
Harry managed to nod. His head felt as though it were made of lead, his body like it was encased in ice.
Swearing inwardly, Severus grabbed a blanket off the nearby couch and wrapped it firmly around Potter's shoulders. Then, gritting his teeth in disgust, he picked the sickly boy up in his arms and laid him down on the sofa.
Harry protested feebly, but Snape's arms were oddly comforting and the blanket was soft and warm. As Snape lowered him onto the sofa, Harry finally let go of consciousness and slipped into black oblivion.
Severus felt the struggling preteen in his arms go limp and this time he swore out loud. "Damnit, Potter! You exist solely to make my life Hell, don't you?"
Severus conjured a wet cloth and pressed it to the boy's burning forehead. "Hold on, Potter," he muttered. "Just—hold on."
Madam Pomfrey was filing medical records in her office when Severus suddenly clambered out of her fireplace. She screamed.
"It's Potter, Poppy. He's passed out in my office. He's running a dangerously high temperature."
Poppy was out of her chair before Severus had finished speaking.
"Potter," she said, gathering her bag and supplies and striding toward the fireplace, floo powder in hand. "It's always Potter, isn't it?"
"Yes," said Severus sardonically, "it's always Potter."
Severus and Poppy stepped through the fireplace and hurried to Potter's side. Severus sucked in his breath. In the few minutes he had been gone Potter had become even paler and had begun shaking violently again. As Poppy leaned over him, Potter began to whimper and moan.
"Why didn't you send him to me right away, Severus?" demanded Poppy as she took Potter's pulse. "As soon as you saw the state he was in?"
Shame burned Severus's cheeks. The truth was, he hadn't noticed that the boy was ill until he had nearly collapsed in front of him. He hadn't been paying attention. Fool, he berated himself, how are you supposed to keep him safe if you don't pay any attention to him?
"How bad is he?" Severus asked Poppy, keeping his voice calm and detached.
Poppy looked up and met Severus's eyes. "Not good, Severus," she said frankly. "Not good at all."
Severus wiped a hand over his tired eyes. "Will he—?" He let the question hang in the air between them.
"Let's hope so," said Poppy.
"What's wrong with him?" said Severus, kneeling down beside Potter's prone figure.
"I'd say he's been ill for a while," said Poppy, pursing her lips. "It probably started as a common cold or flu, but it wasn't treated and the combination of stress and magic has morphed it into something much more serious. Severus," she turned to face him again, "he can't be moved."
It took a moment for the meaning of Poppy's words to sink in. Then he groaned. Potter, here, in his office.
"I have to teach, Poppy," he growled. "I can't babysit!"
"I'll make sure that someone is here at all times when you are not, Severus," said Poppy. "Meanwhile, I'm going to need your help in more than looking after him." She gestured toward his potions ingredients.
Severus grimaced. He was giving up his time, and his privacy, for Potter's preteen brat. He's Lily's son, too said a voice in his head.
I know, Severus told the voice silently.
"Tell me what I need to do, Poppy."
Poppy had left and the headmaster had come and gone. Severus had pulled a chair up beside the couch where Potter still lay and was, of all things, trying to spoon-feed him porridge mixed with potion.
"Hold still," Severus growled as Potter whimpered and tried to pull away. "Good-for-nothing brat."
When Severus had finally finished feeding Potter he got up from the chair to take the potion back to its cupboard. As he stood he felt something grab the edge of his robes. Looking down, he saw that Potter's sweaty hand was fastened to the black fabric. Disgusted, Severus slapped the hand away, but Potter's grip did not loosen.
"Let go!" Severus snapped, prying the small fingers from his robes.
On his way into his storeroom, Severus glanced back at the boy. He was curled into a tight ball on the sofa, looking small and forlorn and innocent. Severus snorted. Innocent, he thought. Yeah, right.
AN: I always appreciate reviews, even months after I finished the story :)