The rest of the morning sped by swiftly, and Severus elected to bypass lunch in anticipation of tea later on. He was bustling around the potions bench and storeroom, working on filling out the school’s supply of unmentionable potions. He was competent at brewing contraceptives, both for men and women (although the latter seemed to go out of stock much faster), and there were a few other potions for witches’ maladies that he had already addressed yesterday, thanks to that lovely full moon. He practised his diction, but was having little luck at coaxing his mouth to cooperate just yet. Merlin’s tears, was his tongue sore!
Madam Pomfrey ducked her head in to check on Severus. It registered with her that he had been working for over three hours. While she was thankful that he hadn’t noticed the third occupant of the infirmary, she didn’t want Severus to neglect himself. Clucking, she forced the boy to pause what he was doing to peek into his mouth. With an empathetic wince, she shook her head. “No, that won’t do, Severus. I don’t think you should speak for the rest of the afternoon.”
Severus appeared to be disappointed, although honestly, while he had been building himself up to read to the ward tonight, he had already forgotten about the visitor.
Patting the side of his face, which was covered in soft fuzz, she exclaimed, “You haven’t even dressed or shaved yet!”
Severus’ eyes widened in realisation before he shrugged this off. He was still in his black pyjamas and hadn’t yet changed from last night. It wasn’t likely that whoever came to visit him would give two sickles about the state of Severus Snape’s facial hair. Feeling Madam Pomfrey’s disapproving glare, he heaved an exaggerated sigh, indicating in clear teen body language, complete with optional eye-rolling, that he would get to it. Fortunately, this was a good point to take a break in the potion’s progression. Severus waved his wand, wordlessly setting all three cauldrons into stasis to await his returned attentions.
Stepping out of the potions lab, he blinked at the change in light level. After a moment, he found Deirdre’s bed, positioned in a sunbeam coming in from the eastern side. Noticing the Mediwitch standing nearby with her arms crossed and an entirely mulish expression, Severus stalked over to his bed to gather his things before marching off to the lavatory.
Thirty minutes later he emerged in a gust of sandalwood scented steam. He was dressed in new pyjamas, black piped with green, which he pulled into position self-consciously. He hadn’t got used to the short hair on his head, and had taken to idly passing his palm over it as it felt tickly. It was now long enough to start to lay down properly at least. He had reflected two days ago that he rather resembled a newborn raven or vulture. All pale and prickles.
It was this moment that none other than one Lily Evans walked into the infirmary. She hadn’t noticed Severus yet. He did rather look like a shadow, didn’t he? With the grace of a queen, she drew his eye as ever she did. His heart clenched painfully in his chest. Detachedly, a voice commented internally, “Don’t panic. If she’s the visitor, it is likely only to hand off assignments.” His heart fluttered in hope. Could she have unbent an iota, having not seen him for a week in class? Could his absence perhaps have melted that hardened heart? Time seemed to slow down for one excruciating moment of uncertainty.
Then, there was Madam Pomfrey meeting Lily halfway to her office. The low tones carried across the stone infirmary too well. “I need to see Remus, Madam Pomfrey. We have this team project to discuss for charms, and I have brought transfiguration notes that he will want to review before the test tomorrow.” Frowning in Severus’ direction, the Mediwitch answered, “Well, I’ll see what state he’s in, Miss Evans. This is quite irregular, dear. He needs his rest.” With that, she left Lily standing, unoccupied, to wait.
Severus’ chest felt like it had been packed in cold concrete, bitter loss weighing down every breath. He hadn’t been able to tear his eyes away, so he could clearly see the moment his presence registered on Lily’s face. It took a moment for her to even recognise him. He’d lost weight compared to last year, grown a few inches, but it was the hair and state of dress that had her momentarily disarmed. Just like that, her gaze frosted over with calculated indifference. “Oh. It’s you.” Her facial expression suggested that she had smelled something particularly foul.
Severus flinched, before reflexively offering her a courteous nod in greeting. His heart was stuck in his throat, and he dry-swallowed, trying to gain control. With an imperious swing of her bag, Lily marched away without further comment, impatient to see Lupin and not waiting for Madam Pomfrey to confirm his readiness to accept visitors.
The spell over Severus was broken; a subtle and indignant rage bubbled up just enough to give him the strength to turn away. Posture rigid, he walked back to his bed to sit in the chair set by it, feet propped up on the bed oh so casually. Snapping open a copy of the Prophet he had taken to borrowing from Madam Pomfrey in the absence of anything more stimulating, he pulled it up to cut off his view until he was able to get his neutral mask back into place.
A sound drew his attention; Lily was standing over him, hands on her hips and a frown on her lips. He quirked an eyebrow in askance. He was certainly not going to say anything.
“I need that chair, Snape. Give it over.”
Severus answered her with an unimpressed look. She must be joking. Feigning indifference, he continued to sit there, unmoved. He even had the gall to return his attention to the enthralling article about the exchange rates for galleons vs Sterling and how the economy has evolved over the past month.
Lily huffed in annoyance, stamping her foot to get his attention again. “I mean it.”
Blindly fumbling for his wand, Severus appeared to continue to be disinterested before he separated the sports page out from the paper. He shook it before folding it. Lily was about to say something, possibly appeal to Madam Pomfrey, when Severus dropped the paper on the floor, and with his wand he transfigured the paper into a wooden chair, complete with back. No cushion, but it was non-verbal magic – Severus was actually rather impressed with himself. Having completed his work, he crossed his arms as he fixed Lily with that stare that he always reserved for her when she had said or done something particularly Muggle-worthy. He wiggled his wand, as if to say, “Are you a witch or not?”
Lily hissed out in a stage-whisper, “You are such a massive git.” Turning her back to Severus, she plucked up the chair that he made specifically for her and sauntered back across the infirmary to drop it at Remus’ bedside. The two Gryffindor Prefects bent their heads together, quietly conversing.
Madam Pomfrey didn’t miss a thing, her expression stormy with disapproval as she moved Deirdre again, repositioning her into a pool of sunlight in the west side of the room. Severus felt cowed, not having wished to disturb the peace for Madam Pomfrey; she had always done so much for him. He hunched forwards over the paper, redoubling his efforts to avoid confrontation.
It wasn’t until later when the Mediwitch practically threw Lily out, rather sooner than necessary, that Severus understood that the matron was upset on his behalf, rather than because of his actions. On reflection, he was nothing but a gentleman, after all. He wasn’t sure how to process that, so he tucked it away to consider another day when he wasn’t still vibrating with the aftermath of his confrontation with Lily.
Keyed up by Madam Pomfrey’s promise of visitors, Severus was hyper aware of the door, so he turned to look moments before the door banged open, having heard the heavy footsteps approaching. Two more people burst in, talking loudly and laughing. Severus couldn’t help but stare in abject horror. Surely he didn’t deserve this too?
James Potter and Sirius Black have come to check on their mate, have they? Come to think on it, why was Remus Lupin there at all? Thinking himself stealthy, he continued to hide behind his newspaper, bum firmly in his chair, feet on his bed. His entire attention was focused in that direction now, and he observed that James Potter had seated himself in the chair Severus had made for Lily, while Sirius was perched on the end of Lupin’s bed.
For a migraine sufferer, the Prefect sure seemed to not mind the noise, jostling, or bright light. Madam Pomfrey, who has been inspired to make up a tray with things for formal tea, approached Severus. She stood in his line of sight, pointedly. “Now Severus, you need to eat. You aren’t getting better any faster by sitting there and reading.” Movement from the other side of the room caught his eye, so his response was a distracted nod and a vague, “Yes’m.”
Across the infirmary, Sirius Black was performing a pantomime, silently echoing what Madam Pomfrey was saying in gross parody, complete with fluttering eyelashes. A pause with his arms folded in a mirror to the Mediwitch drew his attention back to the subject herself who cleared her throat, perhaps suggesting that he hadn’t heard her. She added, “I have put together a nice platter for you. Look, sandwiches and cold ham, and every nice thing!”
Severus reached over to pull a teacup towards him, almost spilling it as his gaze was dragged back over to Sirius. Lupin chuckled, his fist stuffed in his mouth to keep the hilarity in while Sirius translocated to James’ lap. James Potter, of course, had taken up a position exactly like the one Severus had been relaxing in when Madam Pomfrey invaded his visual space. Meanwhile, Sirius was fussing over James, tossing his hair to the side and posing like he was a Grecian statue to be admired.
Understanding that the Mediwitch would not leave until he did as was expected, he dropped the paper into his lap and plucked up a crustless triangle-shaped monstrosity and stuffed it partially into his mouth. As Madam Pomfrey turned away, hoping that her distraction has been successful, Severus chewed slowly, watching Sirius continue to pretend amorous interest, his Poppy to James’ Snape. James was sitting unmoving, his feet still up on the side of the bed, arms crossed with a sour expression on his face.
That was it. He’d had enough. He turned away slightly, but his wand was casually pointed in the direction of James and Sirius; who had devolved into obvious audible laughter. He was getting good at these silent spells. Eyes closed for a moment, he visualised how the spell felt, and with a quick succession of wand work, he performed the perfect Finite Incantatem. James was dropped unceremoniously to the ground as his chair returned to its original sports page state, Sirius flailing on top of him in an effort to maintain balance. His expression was unabashedly smug, and Remus Lupin was rolling with laughter, his hands clutching at his sides. “Oh Merlin, stop it! I can’t breathe!”
Madam Pomfrey practically teleported across the infirmary, and before the boys could gather their wits long enough to muster a response, she had each of them by the ear and dragged them out of the infirmary by force. She had seen what they were doing and was highly annoyed. Were they trying to bring attention to their friend? She shoved them out the door with a perfunctory, “He’ll be back in the dorms tonight, so no need to come back!” A kick of her toe slammed the door shut behind them, and she turned back to the room at large, brushing her hands together as if she needed to free them of dust.
Lupin had quieted now and was studiously trying to look like he was ready for a nap. Nothing to see here, nope. Taking pity on her patient, she pulled a privacy screen. Severus distinctly heard her comment, “Your friends are dunderheads. I don’t know what you see in them! No more visitors today, Mr Lupin. You are cut off!” A muttered conciliatory reply didn’t reach Severus’ ears.
Severus was trying to memorize that moment when James and Sirius were dumped on the floor. He might just get the brightest Patronus ever with that memory. With that thought in mind, he turned his attentions in earnest to the tea set before him, valiantly showing his appreciation for Madam Pomfrey’s thoughtfulness.
It wasn’t until almost dinnertime when Severus’ visitors made themselves known. Avery and Mulciber entered, looking cagily about for Madam Pomfrey. She was expecting them, so she was at hand, and pointed them over in Severus’ direction. Severus stood, holding out a hand to shake in an earnest but formal greeting. A repeat of the earlier spell, this time pulling the entertainment page for the task, created a second chair, and Severus sat down on the bed, indicating that Avery and Mulciber should sit. They were staring at him, possibly in shock over his short hair.
Lip curling in annoyance, Severus chose to use the writing for communication with his “guests.” Written out, this time in green, the words hovered, “To what honour do I owe you both this visit today?” Mulciber didn’t seem to get it, reading over several times, but Avery was faster on the uptake. “We’ve got this team project for Charms we need you to deal with. And McGonagall wants a volunteer to present a unique personal transfiguration a week Friday. We reckon you’d best do that too.” Ah, so by virtue of his absence, Severus was now the whipping boy for unwanted class assignments. Oh goody. Severus reached over to pluck the parchment from Mulciber’s fist. Yup, parameters for the team project.
Severus looked it over and wand-wrote, “You do realise that the whole team is going to have to work together? This is a layered charm. Each part will have to be different but interweave with the others seamlessly.”
Avery shrugged. “Sure, whatever you say, Snape. We just need it by next Monday, okay? You tell us what to do and we’ll do our part.”
Severus nodded. Yes, that would work. That’s always the way it goes, isn’t it? Still, it seemed that he could count on their cooperation for success, a reassuring thought.
The two sixth year Slytherins fidgeted and passed on fragments of gossip, detailing little pains that they shared, such as who has gained and lost points for the House, and, of deeper entertainment value, who got caught sneaking laxatives into the pumpkin pasties. Good thing they were caught too, or the infirmary would be overrun with students with the runs. Vulgar humour was ever popular, it seemed. With that, the boys took their leave, pleading hunger. It was dinner time; no doubt they timed the visit just to have that excuse to leave. Severus nodded to each of his housemates in thanks for the company, as brief as it was. Their return farewells were perfunctory handshakes and with that, his much fussed over visitation was over. Pathetic, really.
Severus decided to not allow it to deflate his ill-gotten good mood as he considered what to do with the rest of his evening. He jotted down a quick note to Madam Pince, charming it into the form of a raven before sending it flapping on its way. Madam Pomfrey discharged Lupin from the infirmary, and Severus observed the signs of pain displayed in his classmate’s posture and guarded gait. He also observed the disapproving expression on Pomfrey’s face, and the furtive glances she had sent his way as she ushered Lupin out. He put that into his memory’s gizzard, to be regurgitated and chewed upon later as he had more pressing things to do at this moment. Severus stood and made his way back to the potions lab to finish off the contraceptives. He was meticulous in his technique. If he wasn’t careful, idiots like the Gryffindors might reproduce. We couldn’t have that now, could we?