Title: 2005 Gift for a4o

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter

Rating: G

Disclaimer: These characters and their world are not mine. I've no rights and no money.

Summary: While at Hogwarts during the holidays, Snape has a cold. But he also has a plan to get over it more quickly.

Notes: Written as a gift fic for a4o during the 2005 holiday season.



2005 Gift for a4o

     Severus Snape hated going home for the holidays. Home meant frightfully dull relatives and boring conversations. Home meant forced smiles and singing supposedly  cheery songs. Home meant seeing his father... and that was something he dreaded more than almost anything else.


     Accordingly, he couldn't have been happier when he had been allowed to remain at Hogwarts during the holiday that year. He'd been even happier to find that Potter and his gang of pathetic misfits were all spending the holiday away from the school. It looked as though Snape might actually, finally have a happy Christmas.


     "ehyShihhhhh! Hehhh-ehhhShhooo!" With the possible exception of one rather nasty head cold he couldn't seem to shake. "ehhhKkkShoo!" His eyes closed, his nose dripping, Severus felt around beside him on the bed. Amongst the books and parchment he found his handkerchief. He quickly brought it to his nose and snuffled wetly into it, just as another sneeze struck. "ehhhh-IHHShimmphhh!" Alone in the room, he had absolutely no qualms about sneezing freely. But when the sneezes got too wet and too strong, he felt he would be mad not to use a handkerchief.


     Shivering, Severus blew his nose rather quickly, then reached back and pulled a blanket up around his shoulders. The sneezes had forced him to bend forward at the waist, but he was already somewhat hunched over as he sat on the edge of his bed. He hugged the blanket tightly around himself, pulling it into place so that he could see the book open on his lap.


     The book was, naturally, his potions textbook. He had his handkerchief in one hand and a quill in his other hand, which had paused in its writing while he sneezed. Now he brought it back to the pages and scribbled in the margins. Then he sat back and sighed deeply. It made him cough a little, but he had sighed for a reason.


     In the wizarding world, there were two accepted remedies for the common cold. The first was Pepper-Up Potion. Invented by Glover Hipworth (1742 - 1805), it warmed a person up until smoke steamed from one's ears. It calmed sinus pressure and soothed aches. By most accounts, it was a cure. But it was most useful as a preventative draft. With a really terrible cold, it could not relieve all symptoms. The second remedy was equally effective, which was to say not entirely effective at all, and that was sleep. In all of the texts for healers, as well as most of the potions texts which mentioned The Pepper-Up Potion, mentioned the importance of bed rest for someone with a cold, in addition to any other treatments. As such, sleeping draughts were popular and frequently used.


     The problem, as Severus Snape saw it, was that someone with a cold could not take both a Pepper-Up potion as well as a sleeping potion. The ingredients counteracted each other's active elements and the drinker was no better off than if he'd taken nothing. Severus did not like that idea in the least. Not just because he was sick now and wanted to feel better, but because he felt that was very poor potion-making. There simply had to be some way to brew versions of both potions so that they were both effective and could shorten a cold significantly. Or, at best, end it.


     "ehhhh-Schhhhhuhhh!" Preferably sooner rather than later. And preferably before Christmas day.


     Severus swabbed at his nose with the handkerchief, cleared his throat, and flipped through his textbook until he found the page where he'd listed probable substitutions for various ingredients. He shuffled his papers around until he found a piece of parchment whereupon he had written out several sleep-inducing potions. He had read them over and over, looking for similarities and conflicts with Pepper-Up, and it seemed the problem lay not in the picking of the fluxweed as he had originally thought, but in the addition of seeds from unripened kumquats. They reacted badly with midgehall root and crabgrass, two necessary ingredients for a decent Pepper-Up. Therefore, it certainly made more sense to substitute for the kumquat seeds... but he just could not figure out with what.


     "hehhhhh..." Additionally, it was growing difficult to concentrate when sneezing every five minutes. Severus was beginning to think the best time to come up with a solution to the problem was not when was already suffering from the affliction. "ehgggShuhhh! hehhhKShhehhh! Heh-ehh-EHHH-Shooo! Urghhh..." Snape groaned and rubbed at his nose, which was getting sorer and sorer by the minute. "Damn this. I need sleep. Sniff! Sniff! Which means I need to concentrate properly."


     He held his handkerchief to his nose as he sat and read, head turned down where it was more likely to run. He sniffled and snorted from the congestion in his nose, not caring as he was the only one around to hear.


     "Seeds from ripe ones have caused prolonged sessions of sleep," Severus said to himself, musing over his problem. "And seeds of other plants were found to send subjects into somas or prevent them from sleeping for days. I definitely don't want that." He felt tired. Until now, he had been taking breaks often to nap or to take a cup of tea. But when he'd discovered the commonality of kumquat seeds, Snape had grown excited. It flowed through his veins now, filling him with anticipation and longings. He felt so very close now and he did not want to sleep, lest he miss his own discovery.


     "So what of potions to keep a person awake?" He flipped through his textbook again, finding one such potion on a page absolutely filled with writings in the margins and even between lines of printed text. This potion was a simple one, used by many of the students during late nights before difficult exams. It allowed them to stay up all hours studying.


     Severus had used it a few times, himself. Leading up to his O.W.L.s during fifth year, he had perfected it by adding three pinches of grindylow scales and stirring it for an extra half an hour before bringing it down from a boil.


     However, if brewed incorrectly, it could actually make the drinker more tired, rather than less. A miscalculation or mistake easily turned it into a sort of sleeping potion. And what was best was that it required absolutely no seeds of any kind.


     Triumphantly, Severus snapped the textbook shut. As always, he kept it with him for safe keeping, but this time he carried it under his arm in order to reference it when he'd reached the supply cupboards. There were a number of ingredients that made up the potion which were not in his possession at the moment. It was necessary to get them from the supply cupboards for Potions class... which meant a visit to Professor Slughorn and quite a bit of finger-crossing for good luck.


     It also meant bringing along three or four good, clean handkerchiefs. Given the way he was headed with his cold, he would probably need more but a few unseemly bulges in his pockets were quite enough. There was no use drawing any more attention to himself than necessary. "hihhhKShhoo!" Besides, his sneezes were doing a fair job of that already.


     Severus ignored the glances he got from the younger Slytherins in the common room as he passed through, sniffling lightly into his sleeve. He felt another sneeze coming on already and preferred not to have an audience. Thanks to the miracle that was sneezing, he was unable to keep his eyes open during the event in order to see himself, but he was certain he wasn't a pretty sight at the moment, whether he was sneezing or not.


     Mercifully, the hallway was deserted. He did not bother with a handkerchief. "ehhh-Chhooo! Hehhh... hehhhShuhhhh! ehhhhChihhhh!" By the time he was done, he was halfway down the hallway and sniffling even more.


     Severus made his way over to the potions classroom, which was located just between the storeroom and Professor Slughorn's office. Given the time of day, there was a good chance the professor was in his office, rather than in his rooms or elsewhere on the grounds. If he were elsewhere, Snape was going to have a difficult time locating him and gaining access to the ingredients he needed. But when he knocked on the door, he found he was in luck as the man's deep voice bade him enter.


     "Ah, Mister Snape!" Professor Slughorn said, sitting up straighter in the chair behind his desk. "How nice it is to have a visit from one of my best pupils." Severus shivered at the 'one of' bit. The only one who even remotely came close to his level of proficiency was that mudblood, Lily Evans. "How are you on this fine wintery day?"


     "I'm..." Severus trailed off with indecisiveness. He was so used to answering that question from someone who did not actually care to know how he was. And he knew there was really no point to lying as it would not be long before his illness was revealed. Especially now that he felt another sneeze coming on. "ihhh... Hih! EHH!" With a handkerchief pressed to his nose, he did his best to hold off the sneeze. But it was strong and he was tired of fighting. "yihhSchphhh! Ehhhhgshphhhh!" He sniffed hard and mopped his nose. "Actually, Sir, I am feeling a little under the weather."


     "Ohhh," nodded Professor Slughorn. "And during the holidays, just a day and a half short of Christmas, too. I am sorry to hear that!"


     Snape gave him an appreciative look and nod as he gave his nose a last rub and dropped his handkerchief down again. He paused, not sure exactly of how to lead into the subject, so he just came right out and asked. "I am spending my break practicing for my N.E.W.T.s and I discovered I'm running low on a few ingredients for a truth-telling spell."


     From the expression on his face, Slughorn seemed to be buying it. "What is it that you need?"


     "Grindylow scales, for one. And then some boonslang skin and some Jellyweed powder." He had thrown in the powder as an afterthought. It was a key component to spells with mental components but not at all useful to him in his current exploits. Hopefully Slughorn would not suspect his true intentions. But, just in case, "I know how well stocked you always keep the supplies, so I thought I should ask." Severus took his handkerchief up again and sniffled into it. There was another sneeze, but it was approaching slowly from the back of his nose.


     "I do so try to keep the cupboards stocked with everything," said Slughorn, beaming at the compliment. "I learned that from Jean Mirna who now works at the Ministry, you know. Very hard-working woman, always wanting to be prepared for any eventuality--"


     "HEHShuhhhh!" Severus snapped forward, handkerchief cupped to his face. He put on a grimace which was not so far exaggerated from the way he actually felt. It seemed to do the trick.


     "Ah, but you're sick and don't need to hear about Jean right now, do you? Let me get those ingredients for you right away." He stood and headed for the door with Severus on his heels.


     "Yes, thank you, Sir. Sniff! Sniff!"


     Professor Slughorn was only a minute in the store room. He emerged with a bag that held a small pouch of powder and two vials of ingredients. He started to hand it over, then pulled his hand back. "As your instructor and your head of house, I must insist you go to see Madam Pomfrey about that cold of yours. I want you to promise me you will go and take some Pepper-Up, or I won't give these to you."


     "I promise," said Severus, truthfully. After all, for his experiment to work he would need both the sleeping potion and the Pepper-Up potion. He was also quick to answer in order to keep the professor from asking a rather obvious question, which was to see the final result. There was only enough of the ingredients for one dose of the sleeping potion and he would have to explain somehow why he did not have a truth-telling potion. The most obvious excuse, of course, would be that he made a mistake in the brewing, but he hated to claim a fault for any reason.


     Severus refolded his handkerchief and buried his large nose in it. He closed his eyes, waiting not more than two seconds for another sneeze. "hehhh-Shuhhh! Ehh-ehhhChihhh!" He gave his nose a good blowing, then lifted his head. "I will go there right away."


     "Good lad," Professor Slughorn said, handing over the bag without giving it a second thought. "I hope you feel better. Come to see me if you do not and I will try to think of something that might help, all right?"


     Severus nodded. "Yes. Thank you." He left with a smile on his face. He was, of course, quite appreciative about the ingredients. But, in addition, it was nice to hear someone concerned with his well-being. He was not used to it, but he certainly liked it.


     The hospital wing was a fair distance away, and Severus was feeling tired when he arrived. So much so, in fact, that he was tempted to just lie down on one of the cots and take a nap. His own excitement prevented him from it, however. That and the fact that his sneezes kept him from relaxing even a little. That was where the sleeping potion was supposed to come in. While Pepper-Up would quiet most of his symptoms, with a bad cold there would still be enough sneezing and coughing to keep him awake. So a sneezing potion would help him get the rest he craved.


     Severus put his handkerchief down on his thigh as he gripped the smoking goblet with both hands. Hoping that it had been brewed to proper standards, Severus drank it down until smoke poured out of his ears. He could feel his face grow red as the rest of his body grew hot. It was as though he were overheating, the warmth overpowering his cold. He was not sure it was even doing much for most of his symptoms, but he was sure that he would not be shivering again for a while.


     That was certainly good news where his sleeping potion was concerned. The way he'd figured it, he would need to drink it within an hour of taking the Pepper-Up potion. If he completed it correctly, he would fall asleep at once. If it was incorrect... the result would most likely be getting sick to his stomach for days until the conflicting potions had worked through his system. So it really all came down to Severus Snape's ability to purposefully make a mistake while brewing the sleep-prevention potion.


     It was not a very difficult potion, but it was time consuming. He had the long walk back to his dormitory room to work it all out in his head, which he did between sneezes. He was forced, several times, to pause and lean against the wall as his body shook with sneezes. He had already worked his way through two handkerchiefs when he left the hospital wing but he was trying hard to make his fourth and last one last. His legs felt tired by the time he was back in his room.


     Though it was hardly professional, Severus first changed from his school robes into his pajamas, which were thick flannel and dark green in color. If the potion worked, he wanted to be able to fall over right then and there and sleep for as long as needed. Accordingly, he sat on his bed, amongst the pillows and blankets, and prepared to prepare the ingredients.


     With the Pepper-Up rushing through him, he found that it was nice not to need to quickly cover up in blankets. He could just sit there, feeling nice and warm and comfortable as he spread the ingredients out on the bed in front of him.


     Nice and warm and comfortable.


     Almost... almost a little too nice and warm and comfortable.


     As they had been doing all day, Severus felt his eyelids closing heavily. His nose was runny and ticklish and his throat was raw and scratchy from his cold. Yet, somehow he did not notice it so much any more.


     Until he sneezed again. "hey-YIHSchuhhh! ehhh-IHShuhhh!" Pressing the back of his hand to his nose, he left his bottles and baggies of ingredients alone for a moment in order to lean over and retrieve a fresh hanky. He blew his nose into it harshly and repeatedly. "You see, this is why I need to figure this potion out," he explained to himself. "Pepper-Up doesn't take care of everything. I still need to... hehhh... to sleep-Ihhhhh!" Quickly, he covered his nose with the hanky in preparation. His slightly watering eyes closed. "ih-heh-ehhh-HIHShuhhhh! ehhhGshuhhphhhhh!"


     This time, Severus did not bother to open his eyes. He simply refolded the handkerchief and blew again. And again. Doing so took quite a bit of energy out of him. He lay down on the bed, pulling a few pillows over to prop himself up. Then he opened his eyes, spotting the potion ingredients right in front of him. With him lying on the bed as he was, the mattress sagged around him and his cauldron was tilted as it sat on the bed. That could not possibly be good for the potion. He reached over and pushed it back a little, so it sat on a part of the bed which was further away.


     Then Severus reached out and took hold of two bottles. He eyed their contents, but his eyes hurt as he strained them, trying to determine which bottle contained more. There needed to be equal amounts of them and he did not feel much like getting out the measuring spoons. That required getting up and out of bed. And Severus wanted to stay in bed.


     Shaking his head, he forced himself to stay awake. "Need to stay awake so I can... Sniff! Sniff! Potion... Sniff! Brew potion." His arm grew heavy as he reached out and took the bag Professor Slughorn had given him. He took out the contents and surveyed the collection of ingredients to be sure he had everything. He closed his eyes, trying to envision the list, not feeling much at all like going through his book to find the listing. He could remember a simple potion, of course.


     He found it difficult to open his eyes back up, however. "Need to make the potion," he said around a deep, body shaking yawn. "Need to... need to sleep... to feel better... by Christmas." It was a mistake to close his eyes the first time, but the second time was completely beyond his will. And Severus found it very difficult to open them yet again.


     Instinct took over, and he found himself pulling the blankets up. He reached out, towards the ingredients, determined to keep trying. But the sleep he had been searching for overpowered him when he least wanted it to. Despite the sniffles and tickles in his nose and scratches in his throat that the Pepper-Up had not taken care of, and despite the fact that he had not managed the sleeping potion he'd spent days working on, Severus drifted off to sleep, hoping that he would sleep straight through until Christmas and would then wake feeling better.