A/N: Written for the livejournal rarepair wishlist. Squibstress came up with the great prompt Ten degrees above normal and this pairing. With many thanks to my marvellous beta, Kelly Chambliss, who expertly nursed this story to health.
In that ideal world inhabited by young people who consider a career as a Healer, patients do exactly what they're told, are properly grateful for the treatment they receive, and express that gratitude with a few well-chosen words.
In real life such patients are rare. Real life consists of patients who complain about everything from the taste of their potions to the colour of the walls in the Sick Ward. There are patients who refuse to acknowledge that they are ill; there are patients who pretend illness where none exists – especially on the days Professor Snape sets a Potions test. And there are patients who drive you plain barmy.
In her long career Poppy Pomfrey has come across and has whinged about each and every type of real-life patient.
And currently she's well on her way to driving Minerva McGonagall plain barmy.
"But you tell me you feel awful; you're sniffing; you're sneezing. Surely you'd be better off in bed?" Minerva says in as reasonable a voice as possible.
"It's just a cold. There's no need for bed-rest with a cold. I should know; I'm a Healer."
"So you are, my dear," Minerva answers, drawing on the last tiny particles of what remains of her patience. She could have used that patience for tonight's marking session. Speaking of which, she could have used this time for her marking session.
Instead, she listens to a woman who sits by the fire with a box of Kleenex in her lap, who clutches her mug of tea to warm her hands, and who complains that her muscles feel tense, and her throat is playing up, but she's not ill and she doesn't need her temperature taken, thank you very much. And she doesn't need Pepper-Up Potion – she feels bad enough without that vile concoction. Nor does she need a rug – that's fussing, and Poppy Pomfrey doesn't make a fuss when she's ill. Which she isn't. But she does feel awful. And it's no good saying 'you poor dear', that doesn't cure a cold, now, does it? It's only a cold, and Minerva should ignore it. It's what Poppy herself does – for Poppy isn't the complaining kind. Not at all. And did she mention the pain in her back?
At this point, Minerva could say a thing or two about pains in backsides and the causes thereof. But Poppy clearly does feel uncomfortable. And Minerva loves her dearly for a great many reasons that she'll be able to remember someday soon, when the Plucky Patient has Transfigured back into the woman she, Minerva, wants to grow old with. So she'll not give in to the temptation to Petrify the Sainted Sufferer and Levitate her to the bedroom. Instead, she'll make her another cup of tea, and she will not say a wordabout the need to remain properly hydrated – everyone knows it, and she herself always finds it most annoying when Poppy points it out to her.
When pain and anguish rack the brow, a Ministering Angel thou, Minerva thinks as she makes the tea. There is much consolation to be found in quotes. She prepares the mug the Muggle way, so that she can make sure the teabag remains mere seconds in the boiling water. Poppy wants her tea weak at the best of times, and Minerva will indulge her tonight. A Ministering Angel. Does she feel little pinpricks of irritation on her back, or is she sprouting wings already?
"That tea is much too strong, I'm afraid, my stomach is a bit queasy, too," Poppy says. It is only when she adds, "But I won't complain," that Minerva seeks help from that other favourite quote: The best way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it."
"Petrificus Totalus. Mobilicorpus."
Poppy's body floats up the stairs, quiet and unresisting. All she can do is look, and one could read a book by the glare from those red-rimmed, watery eyes. Or one could mark essays. It's a thought, but Minerva knows she's that stressed and annoyed she'll give all her students a T. She owes it to them to get rid of this tension first. And she knows just how to do that.
She does hesitate briefly, for Poppy is, after all, unwell. But then again, Poppy's own, expert assessment is that colds are best ignored. And Minerva strongly feels that it will do Poppy good to learn what it's like to be on the receiving end of nursing. Learning to be a good patient will be an interesting experience for her. And Minerva, ever the teacher, plans to make it a hands-on experience.
So she carefully settles Poppy's body on the bed. Clearly, the first thing to do is to reassure the patient. Then she'll make a full examination. Then she'll administer the treatment.
"I'm not a Healer, of course," Minerva says briskly – and that is a very professional, nurse-like briskness, if she may say so. "But I'll do my best. After all, I've seen you in action for years – no aspiring nurse could have a better example."
"Now, my dear, don't look like that. It's for your own good. We'll have you well again in no time. Now, let's get you comfortable, shall we?"
Poppy glares. A tiny speck of spittle appears in the corner of her mouth.
"Did you want to say something, my dear? Very well." Minerva releases Poppy's head from the restraints of the Petrificus. Highly advanced magic, but Minerva is, after all, one of the most powerful witches of her age. It will reassure Poppy to know that she is in such very capable hands.
"I. Don't. Sound. Like. That." Poppy croaks. "And let me go! What do you think …"
"There, there. No need to get all upset. We don't want to be Petrified again, do we?" Minerva says soothingly.
Poppy glares. This time, however, she remains silent.
"That's much better." Minerva feels she's been quite successful in the reassuring department. Now for an examination. One by one, she Vanishes Poppy's clothes.
"Why don't you Vanish them all at once and be done with it?" Poppy asks, sounding surly.
"Because it's more fun … I mean, because it wouldn't be much fun for you if the movement of all those clothes would hurt your poor, poor muscles, would it?" Minerva says with what she feels is just the right degree of compassion. "Sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind, isn't that so?"
Poppy glares. "Do you think a professional Healer should take advantage of a patient – a patient who is incapacitated – who cannot defend herself?"
"My dear, there's no need to defend yourself," Minerva hastens to reassure. "I'm here to take care of you. And I wouldn't dream of taking advantage – not that I am a professional Healer, of course … I never took any oath. Teachers don't have to. It goes without saying that you don't ravish a student – but you're not my student. You're not even, technically speaking, my patient …"
With two slow, lingering wand movements she Vanishes Poppy's bra and panties. "Now, let me see …"
She feels Poppy's pulse. Minerva has no idea of how fast or slow it should be, or how one counts it, so she decides that the fact that there is, indeed, a pulse is A Good Thing. And now? Poppy is shivering, which may or may not be cold-induced, but clearly Minerva should take her temperature. So that's next. Brow – cheeks – neck – breasts – now, that's interesting. Minerva could swear that Poppy's heartbeat is faster now than when she checked her pulse mere seconds ago.
She looks at her patient. Poppy glares back – but there is a hint of a smile around her lips.
"Your heartbeat seems a little faster," Minerva says. "Would that be normal, when a patient has a cold?"
"Can be," Poppy grumbles. "It can be caused by a great many things. Stress. Being attacked with a Petrificus. Being undressed against your will by a so-called nurse who's about to have her wicked way with you."
Minerva is not a wicked nurse. On the contrary, she's an extremely gentle and conscientious one. Carefully she moves one finger over Poppy's breast, circling her nipple, only just, justtouching the skin with her nail…
"… aaahhh … yes … that … can cause it, too," Poppy moans. Her cheeks have a much healthier blush, Minerva notices. Poppy smiles and looks much better already. Minerva can suddenly see the point of nursing: such a very satisfying glow one feels when a patient responds so well to treatment.
"Now let's see," she says, smiling benevolently at her charge. "How precisely does one check a temperature? By feeling the body, one presumes?" Her hands caress – no, that's not the correct term.
"What's the proper term for this?" she asks, slowly trailing patterns over Poppy's belly and hips.
"Foreplay," Poppy answers.
This time it is Minerva who glares. "I mean the proper term for using your hands for a diagnosis. It's on the tip of my tongue. Auscul … something?" She now traces patterns along the outside of Poppy's thighs.
"No," Poppy grins, "Auscultation is making a diagnosis by listening to the organs. Well, not quite like that," she adds, as Minerva leans over, listens to Poppy's heartbeat, and softly blows cool air over her hardening nipples. "A bit more … yes … yes, that's …"
"Fascinating," Minerva says. "Absolutely fascinating – but clearly not the word I was looking for. Osculation, perhaps?"
"Osculate means 'to kiss', and you knew that," Poppy says as Minerva, with the dedication of an Acting Head Nurse, gives osculation her all.
"No, I didn't know that," Minerva whispers somewhat later. "I only know that osculation means contact between curves – it's a term often used in Transfiguration."
"Contact between curves?" Poppy asks. "And how, precisely …"
Minerva decides that her patient is now well enough to end the Petrificus spell. Immediately, Poppy arches into her touch "You see?" Minerva whispers. "An hour ago you were a snivelling heap of misery, and now you feel so much better... All because you have the best nursing available …"
Poppy knows this is nonsense. She wasn't ill to begin with; it was just a cold. And if there's any improvement it's because she is a model patient – the kind of patient every nurse would love to have. Non-complaining, appreciative, properly grateful for small kindnesses.
Besides, she isn't better at all. Her temperature, at this precise moment, is at least ten degrees above normal, and it's her nurse's fault. But it would be unkind to point this out, especially since Minerva tries so hard … oh, yes … to make her feel better…
"Teach me all about osculation," she says.