This fic is quite different from my other stories (at least to start). Please be nice as I'm super nervous about posting it. It's nothing but a bunch of self-indulgent fluff but it's my first time writing an OC into a fanfic and the thought of showing her off terrifies me.
Disclaimer: I own nothing and am seriously considering cutting JK Rowling a check just playing with her characters.
"You can start making packs for burn kits. The Blast-Ended Skrewts are back and I daresay we'll have half a dozen students before the end of the week," as she spoke, Madam Pomfrey stumbled and an enormous pile of bandages fell to the ground. Her red face tightened and I foresaw the week's stress overwhelming her any moment now.
"Let me get those," I said, quickly kneeling to collect the pieces. "I'll have these into kits by lunchtime. You don't need to worry about it."
I saw her brow wrinkle a moment, as though unsure I could be trusted with the task. In Madam Pomfrey's defense I had only been there a few weeks. She knew nothing of my personality or education except that I had schooled at a tiny institution called Newt Manor deep in the plains of Wyoming. Honestly, I gave her major points for my reception thus far. It certainly was a credit to Dumbledore, the deference his staff gave to his decisions. I had only the occasional questioning of my methods and when people sized me up, they usually made sure I wasn't looking. Or so they thought.
No, it wasn't easy being a 26 year old American girl in such a world renowned school as Hogwarts, but I was more than eager to prove myself. In the meantime, I could be patient.
I guess she decided I could be trusted because Madam Pomfrey eventually disappeared into her office, leaving me alone in the hospital corridor. I went through the first few kits by hand, ensuring each contained sufficient gauze and bandaging, as well as a small vial of Mending Potion and a Cooling Tonic for pain. I started humming to myself as I put the first batch of kits away and started on the next, this time directing the flow of supplies at the tip of my wand.
"Good afternoon Miss Pendergraft," a voice came suddenly behind me.
I jumped and spun quickly around, sending a package of gauze flying directly into the face of one Albus Dumbledore, aka my new boss.
"Oh," I gasped. "I'm so sorry, Headmaster. Please forgive…"
Dumbledore cut me off with a raised hand and a chuckle. "No harm done, Miss Pendergraft. I assure you, I've had worse things thrown at me than cotton balls. But I do apologize for startling you."
"It's fine," I said quickly. "That is, it's not your fault. I'm really easily startled. I guess I just get so focused on things I kind of forget where I am. You know?"
This time I cut myself off. Babbling was another bad habit of mine. I took a slow breath. "Is there anything I can do for you, Headmaster?"
At this moment Madam Pomfrey reappeared. She looked disdainfully at the many unfinished packs before me.
"Are those all you've finished?" she asked.
"No ma'am," I replied. "There are already two dozen in the closet."
She said nothing but I tried to tell myself she was impressed with my efficiency. When Dumbledore turned back to address the medi-witch I resumed making the packs, eager to appear diligent.
"I'm afraid I've been distracting her," Dumbledore said easily. "Forgive me."
"It's no matter," Madam Pomfrey shrugged. "What can we do for you, sir?"
"I was just checking in to see how Miss Pendergraft was settling in," he replied. "I hope I didn't start her too late in the summer. Now she's only a few weeks to get accustomed before the students arrive."
Without a smile Madam Pomfrey replied. "She's actually doing very well, sir. Possibly the most proficient assistant I've had."
I turned my face wholly towards my work then, struggling to hide my smile.
"Very good," said Dumbledore, turning to leave. "Miss Pendergraft I would be pleased if you would join me for tea tomorrow afternoon."
"Of course, sir," I said, turning my face forward and managing to suppress my idiotic grin.
"Excellent," he smiled and left.
I paused and turned towards Madam Pomfrey who continued to not smile.
"Well go on then," she said curtly. "We'll need at least another dozen."
I almost laughed out loud as she left.
The next afternoon I had only just finished my day's tasks as I was supposed to be starting tea. On the one hand, I told myself as I tried to re-suspend the powdered dragon scales in my flask; I should finish my job before having tea. On the other, I should appease my boss first and foremost.
On the third hand, of course, I still wasn't quite sure I fully understood the point of tea time.
So now at five past the hour I was flying down the hall towards Dumbledore's office. I ran up the never ending spiral staircase and rapped on the door. After I heard a greeting I pushed it open, breathless and panting, only to find that Dumbledore was not alone.
"Miss Pendergraft, have you met Professor Severus Snape?" Dumbledore asked serenely as I tried to fan the heat from my cheeks without being noticed.
I held out a hand, hoping it wasn't too sweaty.
"Xaria Pendergraft," I said, trying to slow my breathing.
He nodded and stared at my hand a moment before taking it. His large, dark eyes met mine only for a moment before turning back to the headmaster.
"I'm sorry Miss Pendergraft, time seems to have gotten away from me. We'll only be a moment longer."
"Oh, it's cool," I assured him. "I'll just wait outside then?"
"If you don't mind," he said kindly.
Lost in thought and face burning with embarrassment I left them alone again. In the hall I tried to smooth my hair while pondering. In truth, this wasn't my first time meeting Severus Snape.
In my first few days at Hogwarts, Madam Pomfrey was instructing me on her preferred solutions for PepperUp, Bone Re-Grow, Acne Remover Potion, and a handful of others. She had sent me, alone, to seek out a handful of ingredients and I had ventured out into the vast, empty castle. After following a half dozen wrong turns and being harassed by a nasty poltergeist, I had finally found the dungeons where the Potions class was.
Besides the clearly marked closet for "Student Supplies" there was a room full of tall cabinets each with shelf after shelf of flasks and vials. I was briefly overwhelmed before setting forth to the task of selecting what I needed.
"What are you doing in here?" A sharp voice cracked out behind me and I jumped, splashing a drop of moonseed onto my palm. I winced at the pain before turning to see a tall, dark man approaching me with a look of intense ferocity.
"Students aren't supposed to be in here," he continued with a growl.
"I'm not a student," I answered, trying not to be indignant at being mistaken for a 17 year old. My hand started to burn.
"Well who are you then?" he asked impatiently.
"I'm working as an assistant in the Hospital Wing," I answered hurriedly. "I'm training to be a medi-witch. Madam Pomfrey said I could get supplies down here."
His eyes flashed but his tone dropped a shade as he began to rant. "You tell her if she wants supplies for her potions she can ask me. I don't need incompetent children fumbling about, ruining valuable material…"
He continued but I was starting to lose track of his words. The pain in my hand had rapidly swelled to an excruciating level. I would almost swear flames were licking at my skin. In my mind I begged him to finish so I could go tend to my wound.
"Are you crying?" he asked suddenly, looking both shocked and disgusted.
"I'm sorry Professor." I was desperate not to show him my hand but the pain was increasing every moment and, at this point, I feared he would never let me go. I brought my palm forward to inspect the damage. If I thought the pain was bad, the sight of the injury was far worse. It seemed the outer layers of skin had been burned, leaving only a shiny red welt. Spots of blood were starting to pool and I squeezed my fist to try and staunch the flow.
He swore quietly under his breath and looked behind me to see which potion had caused the damage. Briskly he headed off to the other side of the storage room. I wondered if I was allowed to leave now. Black spots were beginning to form at the edges of my vision and I started to fear I would pass out soon.
Before I could weigh the option of trying to walk all the way back to the Hospital Wing or staying for another bout of yelling, he was back. He pulled a handkerchief from his robes and poured an electric blue liquid over it. Then, with more care than seemed possible a moment earlier, he began to dab at my hand.
Instantly the burning was cooled. The sense of relief was sweet and I sighed quietly. He said nothing while he worked.
"How is the pain?" he asked after a few minutes.
"Better thanks," I answered quietly.
"Madam Pomfrey can finish healing you," he said. He turned abruptly and strode from the room. "And I expect that moonseed to be replaced."
When I had gone back to Madam Pomfrey, she had an earful to say about Professor Snape.
"As if they're his potions to share in the first place," she growled while healing my hand. "They belong to Hogwarts. And I dare say our need for them is greater than his."
I saw Snape several times in the halls and during meals after that. He never made the slightest attempt at conversation, not even to continue his lecture on stealing supplies. It was almost as if he didn't remember meeting me at all.
And just now, he shook my hand with such coldness it was as though he hadn't held the same hand a few weeks prior with incomparable tenderness.
As I mulled over these thoughts, not for the first time, the door flung open and he was standing before me. I smiled weakly at him but was received with only a curt nod before he swept his cloak around himself and headed downstairs. I sighed and headed into the headmaster's office.
"I'm sorry for interrupting before," I said as Dumbledore gestured for me to take a seat.
"Not at all," he smiled. "I was the one who was wrong. When hosting a colleague for tea, one really ought to strive for punctuality."
"Naw," I grinned back. "If you'd been on time you would have seen that I was running late myself."
"How fortuitous," he mused, pouring a cup of tea. I took a sip and tried not to grimace at the taste.
Dumbledore seemed to pick up on what I strove not to show.
"Not a tea drinker?" he asked.
"Not yet," I answered. "It's definitely not a staple where I come from."
Before I knew what was happening, Dumbledore had whisked out his wand and brandished it over my drink. Immediately the cup was filled with a dark, slow roasted coffee.
"God bless you," I said heartily, taking a deep drink. "I swear, I'll get used to tea one of these days. I really like what a cultural thing it is here. There's really nothing like it in America. It's quite fascinating."
"I can't say I wholly disagree," Dumbledore said, taking a sip of his own cup.
I hesitated a moment before speaking again. "Didn't Professor Snape want to stay for tea? I really wasn't trying to push him out like that."
"I don't imagine Severus was interested in staying much longer."
"Oh," I felt my stomach drop.
"That is to say," Dumbledore continued, looking grave, "He was only here to discuss a serious issue. Not to socialize."
"Is he all right?" I asked. Immediately I feared I was overstepping, but Dumbledore only smiled sadly.
"I'm afraid he's been having a bit of a tough time with recent… alterations in his lifestyle," Dumbledore said carefully.
I put down my cup and looked at him. "Sir, in addition to not fully comprehending tea, I've also not yet learned the English trick of subtlety. Please forgive my bluntness, but are you talking about You-Know-Who?"
It may have been my imagination but Dumbledore seemed almost amused at my speech. "Voldemort, yes. Severus has been integral in attaining information for those combating him."
At first I was shocked at the frankness of the statement. I couldn't believe Dumbledore was so willing to trust me. But then, as I absorbed his statement I nodded slowly.
"That must be very dangerous," I thought aloud.
"Severus is not afraid of danger," Dumbledore said. "I do feel, though, that he may be lonely."
"Lonely?" I asked. It seemed a ridiculous thing to be concerned about, with everything else going on.
But then I thought some more. If he was gathering information he was surely some sort of spy. I imagined Snape surrounded by Death Eaters, monitoring his every action so to be seen as one of them. He could never let his guard down. Even when amongst friends, he had to be careful. You-Know-Who's followers were everywhere and I imagined any of them would be eager to catch him cavorting with Dumbledore. Lonely indeed.
My train of thought was interrupted when the headmaster held out a plate. "Biscuit?" he asked. "Or would you prefer I turn it into biscotti?"
I chuckled and took a butter cookie, nibbling on its edge while our conversation steered toward a lighter direction. Still, I kept Snape at the back of my mind until such time as I was alone and better able to consider things.