Title: Avoiding

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter (set during HP book 1)

Rating: PG

Pairing: Hooch/Pomfrey

Warnings: femslash (but mild sexual content- see rating)

Archive: My own site/LJ, otherwise you must ask first

Disclaimer: Goodness, no, I don't own them. Only the plot is mine, and I'm not getting paid for any of it.

Summary: The beginning of the term is off to a slightly awkward and rocky start

Notes: This is the fifth in my Friday Fic series. It also answers Challenge#1 at the female sneezefic group. It is only roughly edited.

More notes: Madam Hooch's first name is listed as Rolanda based on the official HP trading cards and as Xiomara based on the movies. I, being a slave to canon, am confused as nothing is mentioned in any of the books and logically use both :-)





     Neville snuggled into Madam Hooch's side with a bit of a whimper. Her arm was around him reassuringly, which made it a bit easier for him to hobble along down the corridors. While his arm was in great pain, Neville had twisted his ankle enough times to know that he could add another mark to that tally. He looked up at Madam Hooch, wanting to ask a question but hesitating. She seemed to have only two expressions, mean and stern or over-joyously happy. Currently, it was the former. Still, he felt it might be better just to ask, and she was holding him very comfortingly. "Am... am I going to be okay?" he blurted out, biting his lip afterwards. The tears were still running down his face from the pain of the injury and the massive embarrassment.


     "Well that's really a matter for the school nurse to decide," she replied, looking down at the small boy, who was nearly trembling between the pain and nervousness. She coughed and tried to come up with a better answer. "But I've seen a number of Quidditch accidents in my day and yours is certainly among the least serious I've ever seen."


     With a small sigh of relief, Neville seemed to relax a bit as they walked through the halls of the school. Perhaps it was the pain of his injury, but it seemed to Neville that with all the possible accidents from Quidditch and flying lessons, they should really put the Hospital Wing in a more accessible location. He was glad Madam Hooch had accompanied him, and he was sure he'd never have found it on his own and would have been wandering through the halls with a broken wrist and sprained ankle for days. He looked back up at her. "Madam Hooch, do you think they'll stay off their broomsticks while you're gone?" Neville sounded curious, though in truth he was worried about being blamed for causing a situation where so many could get in trouble or hurt each other.


     Her brilliant yellow eyes twinkled and she coughed a few times into a fist. "Let's just say they'd better, but I'd be very surprised if they all did." She smiled down at Neville with her other expression, then turned her head away, holding a fist to her face. "hitchhh!" Her eyebrows raised as she sniffled lightly afterwards.


     "Madam Hooch, are you all right?" asked Neville.


     She nodded, her hand snapping back down at her side. "Perfectly, so long as you don't say a word about that sneeze to the school nurse." Neville nodded in silent agreement and understanding. He didn't much like to sneeze in front of people either.


     They reached the Hospital Wing at last, and Madam Hooch directed Neville to the nearest cot. He sat down, still gingerly cradling his wrist. The school nurse came from her office at once, bearing down upon the two of them. "Well now, it's only four days into the start of term and already we have an injury?" She narrowed her eyes a bit at Madam Hooch and settled on the cot beside Neville. She picked up the corner of her apron and wiped Neville's tear-stained cheeks dry. "What seems to be the trouble?"


     Neville looked from the school nurse to Madam Hooch, wondering how much he should reveal about the stupidity of his accident. If she didn't need to know about Madam Hooch sneezing, surely she didn't need to know about his anxiety at not being able to fly and instead shooting up twenty feet and slipping off his broom to get back down on the ground. "Um, I fell off a broomstick and hurt my wrist," he said. "I heard a snap as I fell on it. Oh, and I hurt my ankle, too."


     The school nurse held her hand out and Neville gave his wrist over gingerly, wincing as it she touched it in the wrong place. "Try to wiggle your fingers for me?" She asked. Neville tried desperately, and failed. His hand hung limply at the end of his arm. He whimpered. "It's just broken," she reassured him. Then she held out her hand and offered it with a smile. "I'm Madam Pomfrey. And you are?"


     "Neville Longbottom," he said.


     A small flash of something passed over her face, but she kept a pleasant smile on her face all the same. "Of course. I should have guessed. You look just like your mother."


     Neville blushed and turned away so she couldn't see the tears in his eyes. He'd never lived away from home before, or gone so long without visiting his parents. To be reminded of that when he was already in pain wasn't the most comforting of things. "Will I be all right?" he asked quickly to change the subject.


     "Oh, absolutely," Madam Pomfrey said, reaching up and stroking Neville's fair hair. "Easy to fix, though I want to be sure there aren't any adverse side effects and to be sure you didn't hurt your head in the fall. So you may have to stay through dinner just in case."


     "Don't worry," Madam Hooch said, with that happy look of hers again. "People in hospital get the best food. And the best care," she added, gesturing towards Madam Pomfrey, who smiled mildly back at her, apparently still a bit annoyed that there had been an accident at all. Madam Hooch squatted down and looked up at Neville, patting his leg. "I'm going to go check on the students now. I promise you're in good care." He nodded back, hoping that if anyone were to be caught flying upon Madam Hooch's return, that is was Draco Malfoy and not any of the Gryffindors.


     Madam Hooch rose and turned with a small cough, and had made it halfway to the door before her head snapped down with a small "hch!"


     It was barely audible, but nonetheless, Madam Pomfrey looked immediately from Neville's wrist to Madam Hooch's back. "You know, come to think of it, Rolanda, I haven't seen you yet for a start of term check-up, have I?"


     Madam Hooch stopped and looked over her shoulder, a bit of a flush in her cheeks. No one ever used her real first name, not even Dumbledore. "Ah, no you haven't, Poppy," she replied. "I'll be sure to come by and schedule something as soon as possible. But right now I have to get back to my class. I've left them alone with broomsticks and I fear if I don't return promptly you'll have more than just one boy to tend to."


     "Of course," she said with a nod, though Neville noticed coldness in both voices that rang with formality, rather than a real conversation. Then she turned back to Neville and asked which ankle was hurting, allowing the other woman to leave without another word exchanged. "One of the things I learned a long time ago about being a nurse here," she said, with a much more genuine smile for Neville. "Is not to ask too many questions." She picked up a roll of bandages from the tray beside the cot and placed them against Neville's wrist. "Now hold still while I immobilize this so it won't hurt more when I try to heal it."




     Madam Pomfrey frequently missed eating meals in the Great Hall in order to keep close watch over her patients. It was several days before she sat down to lunch at the staff table with Professor McGonagall on one side and an empty seat on the other. "Minnie, you haven't seen Xiomara today, have you?" she spoke softly so Dumbledore, who was on McGonagall's other side, would not hear.


     Minerva shook her head. "No, no. She didn't show up to any meals yesterday, either. I would have thought her ill but if you had no knowledge of it, that could hardly be the case, could it?"


     Poppy paused a moment in thought. "You must be right. She's probably just busy getting the Quidditch team rosters finalized, the schedules approved, the equipment ordered, and all that." She turned back to her food, filled with worry now. It was all she could do to choke it down before bolting from the room. She headed up the main stairs, taking it up three, four, five flights before crossing over to a side staircase. She had walked the path so many times that she was actually angry at herself for not having done so in the last day or two. Three more flights up, a corridor which led to a tower, and one more staircase, found him knocking on Xiomara Hooch's chamber door. It was a loud knock, which filled the small passageway, but went unanswered. "Xiomara? It's me. Open up, please?"


     The light footsteps of bare feet sounded, and the handle depressed. Slowly the door swung open to admit Poppy and closed behind. "Don't suppose you're just here to schedule that check up?"


     Poppy shook her head. "Don't suppose you're just avoiding me for no reason?"


     Xiomara shook her head. "Honestly, I was hoping you wouldn't get suspicious for another day or two," Xiomara said, leaning back against the closed door.


     "Shows how well you know me," she replied, taking a moment to look at the other woman. She wore gray flannel sleep pants and a white tank top that showed the muscles in her arms developed from years of Quidditch. Her normally bright yellow eyes seemed brighter, her normally pale face paler, and her normally disorderly, short, spikey hair was just as short and spikey as ever but much more unkempt. Overall, she looked tired all around, not just in her eyes. Though she had been standing with her arms crossed over her chest, she raised a hand to her nose and rubbed at it. "Oh, Xio," Poppy said with a sigh.


     Xiomara cleared her throat and walked briskly past Poppy to cross the room. "I was just making a pot of tea, would you like a cup?" Her back turned, she gestured for Poppy to take a seat on the bed, as she had nothing in the way of chairs.


     "Of course I would." Poppy sat down at the foot of the bed out of habit. There was nothing much in the way of typical furniture at all, in fact. There was a bed and small dresser, and a wardrobe which had been taken over and transformed into a display case and storage cabinet, full of awards, broomsticks and balls. The best was a little black bludger of a trophy that liked to hop around, frantically trying to separate itself from its base and trying to knock the other awards off the top shelf. Otherwise, there wasn't much more to the room, except for a small kitchenette and a large window that overlooked the Qidditch pitch at the best angle to avoid the stands getting in the way of seeing the field and goal hoops on both sides.


     Xiomara returned with two cups of tea and handed one to Poppy before sitting down on her bed. She settled on the other side, up against the pillows, and crossed her legs, forcing distance between the two of them, making herself as unavailable as was possible without physically pushing the other woman away or telling her off. She took a few sips of the tea, then reached over and pulled a tissue from the box beside her and rubbed it at her nose.


     There was silence a while, as they both sipped their drinks. Then finally Xiomara sneezed and blew her nose, and Poppy answered it with a "Bless you" followed quickly by a "So how long have you been feeling sick?"


     Xiomara sighed and leaned back against the pillows, shoulders sagging.


     "What's that for?" Poppy asked.


     "Didn't take you long to launch into that. I knew you would."


     Poppy set down her teacup on the bedpost. "I'm sorry. Launch into... what exactly?"


     "Your overprotective nurse mode." Poppy raised an eyebrow. Xiomara pulled back a little more, into the pillows. "I knew you'd take it badly. I wanted to avoid having this conversation. At least while I was feeling... feeling sick." Moving as though she'd had much too much practice, she pulled out another tissue from the box and held it to her face with both hands. "ihhh... ihhShhh!" She sniffled and rubbed her nose. "I didn't want to hurt you."


     "You wouldn't," Poppy insisted, resisting the instinct to grab the tissues and tend to Xiomara's nose for her.


     "I would have. Why do you think I didn't tell you from the start that I wasn't feeling so hot? Do you know how frustrating it is to have a..." With no relation to her words at all, Xiomara paused a moment, eyes fluttering shut. She pinched her nose for a moment, fighting against the sensation to sneeze. Then she quickly picked up where she'd left off. "To have a nurse for a lover? Every time I'm stiff after referring a game, or I come in from the rain with a little sniffle you push that fizzy, bubbly, annoying potion on me. You don't let me keep a thing about my health to myself." She sighed, avoiding Poppy's gaze now. "It's difficult to have a lover who's more concerned with my body than the rest of me."


     Poppy sighed. "That's not how it is--"


     "Well, it's how it feels sometimes." She broke off to sneeze again and blow her nose. Then she picked up quickly before Poppy could interrupt. "And I know it's not your fault. Healing's your passion, it's what you do. And you want to take care of me when I'm not feeling well. I get that. It's just... well... sometimes you can smother a bit too much." She looked up hesitantly, meeting Poppy's brown eyes with her yellow ones.


     Poppy sighed again, but nodded. It had certainly not been the first time she'd been told she was too overly kind and concerned for her patients. And she realized it was different for lovers than her strict nurse-patient relationship. But at the same time, she couldn't just walk away. "If you let me stay, I promise to back off any time you feel even remotely smothered. I simply..." she reached over, petting Xiomara Hooch's cheek gently. "I simply want to make sure you get better as soon as possible." Xiomara started to speak, but she held up a finger to hold her off a moment. She could be more stubborn than McGonagall when she wanted to, and that was saying quite a lot. "Wait. I know you're strong, you've always been strong. Stronger than me. But it wouldn't hurt to have someone look after you once in a while, either. Maybe not as much as I seem to be doing, but when you need it. Like now." She put down her hand. "Now that's all I wanted to say. Do you think you could put up with me taking care of you a little?"


     A soft smile spread across Xiomara's face. Not the forced smile she wore when she was being stern, nor the over-excited happy smile. This was a different sort of smile. She put her now empty teacup down on the flat surface of her headboard and pushed off from the pillows. She curled up beside Poppy, head on the woman's shoulder, hugging her chest gently. "I definitely think I could."


     Poppy smiled back and caressed her cheek again. Then her finger traced down from cheek to chin and guided Xiomara's face upward. They met in a kiss, soft and sweet, that lasted through several breaths. Then Xiomara pulled away with a cough and shiver. She froze for a few moments, breath catching. Then snapped forward. "hihshhh! HITChhhh!" She shivered again.


     Sympathetically, Poppy put her arm around the woman. "Bless you. Come on now, Xio, get under the covers. I'll make you some more tea."


     Xiomara let herself be tucked beneath her blankets, but still protested a bit. "But I really don't..."


     "Hush," said Poppy, crossing over to the tiny counter where a teapot sat. "You're getting more tea and that's that." She filled it with water from the tap and cast a spell to heat it. Xiomara found herself gratefully accepting the tea when her cup was brought back, and even more gratefully snuggling into Poppy's warmth when the woman had laid herself upon the bed beside. Poppy slid an arm beneath and wrapped it around Xiomara's shoulders. Her other hand stroked the woman gently, first again on the cheek, then the top of her head, then her upper arm. "Can I get you anything else?"


     Shaking her head, she answered with a sniffle. Poppy located the tissue box, which had been moved during their climbing into bed, and pulled a few out to have them ready when needed. Xiomara smiled that soft smile again. "I've been so sneezey all day," she confessed. "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't wished you were here." She sighed and closed her eyes. "And now here you are." Her face screwed up a little as she sniffed hard.


     Poppy rubbed the tissues at her nose. "Yes, now here I am. But I'm not going to smother you, I promise."


     Eyes still closed, Xiomara nodded. But now her face was just the opposite, slack and full of concentration. Poppy held the tissues to her nose just in time. "ihhShhh! hihChhh! hihShhhh!" She screwed up her face and blew her nose as Poppy carefully maneuvered the tissues. Xiomara sniffled to clear his nose a bit more, then snuggled closer, her face pressed into the larger woman's chest and breasts through her robes. "Well, maybe just a little bit of smothering wouldn't hurt," she admitted.


     "Whatever you say, my dear Xio." Poppy could simply not resist grinning from ear to ear at this.


     As though sensing this, Xiomara opened her eyes and looked up. "I love when you smile like that." She reached up and stroked the bridge of Poppy's nose, where it wrinkled greatly when she smiled so broadly. She gave the woman a soft kiss, then rested her head back onto Poppy's chest. Just for that, Poppy resolved not to stop smiling until the other woman was asleep. She wrapped her arms around her and held her comfortingly. Xiomara was asleep in mere minutes.