Title: The DeForré Potion

Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Harry Potter

Rating: G (Ok... I think there's a kiss or two in here, but it's HP/HG and they're in their 7th year)
Spoilers: read the third book at least
Disclaimer: J.K.R.'s characters, brilliance and world and I don't get a dime for this- it's all in fun
Summary: Harry has mysterious sniffling and sneezing attacks and no one's quite sure what's wrong with him.

Note: In response to the 'Harry is very allergic to Crookshanks and it is a while before Hermione realizes this.' Challenge (is there a better name for it? LOL)

Comments: I'd love 'em!




     "Tea leaves again?!" Hermione asked, astounded. She'd just come up from the Library to find the common room nearly deserted. Neville Longbottom and Ginny Weasley sat playing exploding snap across the room, while Harry and Ron sat near the fire with a tea kettle and a stack of china cups and saucers. They had several rolls of parchment and books open between them, and a few pieces of parchment which looked as though they'd gotten the worst out of their tea bath which lay balled up on the floor. "I thought we did those back in the third year." She frequently teased about their Divination homework now that she was two and a half years wiser for dropping that subject.


     "We did." Ron groaned, sipping his scalding hot tea a little too quickly. He winced and stuck his tongue out, vigorously fanning it. "Bud appawanly you ged diffend fotuneth fo diffend typeth of tea."


     Hermione, frozen in place, stared at him a moment. She blinked once, twice, then turned to Harry. Speaking in a much perkier sort of voice, "So, I thought we did those back in third year."


     Harry raised his teacup so Ron couldn't see his smile as he tried to hold back laughter. "Yes we did." He wanted to sound as though he were the top expert on this absolutely fascinating subject. "But apparently you get different fortunes for different types of tea."


     "Oh, is that so?" said Hermione, now trying to sound overly curious and extremely astounded.


     "Thath wha I jusd thaid!" protested Ron as his two best friends dissolved into giggles around him and his still burning tongue.


     Suddenly, Harry scooted back his chair, clamped his palm to the lower half of his face and sneezed. "heh'Ihhshhh! eh'Hishhhh!" He tugged up the side of his robes to fish around in his pocket beneath, finally pulling out a tissue. He unfolded it and rubbed at his nose. "ehh..." He closed his eyes and braced himself. "heh'Ehhshhhh!" He drew a considerable breath and gave his nose a clearing blow. But his nose refused to stop running and after a few sniffles and rubs at it, he rose to his feet. "I'll be right back," he said, a hint of congestion in his voice. Casually he tossed the used tissue into the fire and headed for the boys' bathroom.


     Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, Hermione turned to Ron. "What was all that about?"


     "Dunno really," he replied, chewing on the end of a cooling clubber candy. "Been sneezing like that all evening. That's why I suggested we do Divination. Thought the tea would do him some good."


     "But he isn't sick, is he? I mean, he wasn't sneezing during Transfiguration or Care of Magical Creatures or any of the meals was he?" She looked as though she were trying hard to recall more than just the lessons of the day.


     "I don't think so. But maybe--" he gave a loud cough and quickly picked up his cup to drink the remaining bit of the now cooler tea. Harry had rejoined them, and looked well enough at first sight.


     Admittedly he sniffled a bit as he took his seat, and rubbed at his nose a bit more than was natural. But otherwise, he looked just fine. Or at least, he did for a while. He and Ron had swapped cups and begun to make up interesting stories about the images in each, when his nose started bothering him again. He tugged another tissue out of his pocket, slid back from the table, turned his head and sneezed. "ihhShhhh! Hih'Ehshhh! Heh'Ehhshh!" He froze, tissue to nose, eyes still closed, breath held. "ehh-heh...heh'Ihhshhh!" Sniffling, he rubbed at his nose with the tissue. "Excuse me," he said softly, though without embarrassment in front of his friends.


     He and Ron continued with their homework, trying to put the worst spin possible on the images they saw. "This here looks like a fork..." Harry pointed out to Ron. "What's it say in the book about that?"


     "A right-side-up fork symbolizes a number of new directions whereas an upside-down one symbolizes the coming together of many paths into one," Ron read.


     Hermione rolled her eyes. "Well really, how are you to know which side is up if you're looking at a circle?" But her question went without a proper response as her cat picked that moment to leap lightly onto her lap. "Hello Crookshanks," she cooed, rubbing his chin affectionately. The cat burst into a loud purr and curled up on her lap to sleep.


     "I'd better say your choices split into many paths, each filled with a different deadly danger," Harry suggested, putting down his quill to rub roughly at his nose. He sniffed strongly, and then took off his glasses for a moment to give both his eyes a good rub with the back of his hand.


     "Good," replied Ron supportively, who was more than eager to get the assignment done and head off to bed for his own sake as much as Harry's. "And I'll say this artichokey thing here means you'll--"


     "heh'Emphshh! Hih'Ihshmphh!" Harry sneezed again, the sound muffled, his face buried in his sleeve.


     "Bless you," Hermione said, giving him a sympathetic smile. Then, deciding she'd just come out with it, asked, "Are you coming down with something, Harry?"


     Harry was sniffling madly. It seemed that as many times he blew his nose, it still ran. And his eyes were beginning to water badly at each sneeze. "heh'Ihhshhh! hih'Ehshhhh!" He shrugged, a tissue held to his nose, and blinked to get a good look at her through watery eyes. He noticed Crookshanks take a long, evolved stretch and yawn, and decided that was the way for him. "I think I'd better go to bed," he replied, getting to his feet and trying to gather up his things.


     Ron leapt up to help him with a reassuring, "We've still got two days to do this so we're okay." Hermione rubbed Crookshanks and stood so that he jumped to the floor. She helped them organize their things and carry the tall stack of cups back to their dormitory. Seamus and Dean were already asleep in bed, and Neville followed them in having just lost dreadfully to Ginny. Harry went right to bed without changing, pulling a box of tissues under the covers with him.


     And as Ron and Neville headed out to shower and change, Hermione lingered a moment to be sure Harry was all right. "Can I get you anything, Harry?" she asked softly as she pulled his bed hangings down for him.


     He looked up and smiled at her. "No, thanks. I think I might just be... getting... a cold or... some..." his voice raised in pitch and he clamped two tissues over his face. "Ehhh...heh'Ihhshhhh! Hih'Ihshhh!" He blew his nose quietly and balled up the tissues. "Ug... or something," he finished, sniffling.


     "Get some sleep and see how you feel in the morning," she advised. She leaned over him a minute, considering. Then she bent down and pressed her lips to his forehead very gently, missing his scar by a centimeter.


     With a deep intake of breath, he burst into another small set of sneezes. "ihhShishh! Hih'Ihhhshh! Heh...ihhShhhh!" He rubbed his nose miserably. "Thags," he snuffled. "Good dight." Carefully, she unhooked the last curtain and tip-toed out to the girls' dormitory.


*          *          *


     "How're you feeling this morning?" Hermione cautiously asked Harry over breakfast. Meanwhile Ron tried to finish the last inch of his History of Magic homework in between bites.


     "Just fine," Harry replied, skimming through The Daily Profit for anything interesting. "A few sniffles when I woke up, but not a single, solitary sneeze all morning. Fastest cold I've ever had," he said with a shrug. He didn't mention, of course, that it had taken him at least an hour to finally fall asleep, what with the sneezes and needing to blow his nose. But once he woke up, everything seemed so much better.


     There was a disturbance a few seats down from him. Neville's toad, Trevor, had gotten loose and was on a rampage. At first the culprit couldn't be found, but then they realized, with a bit of shock and disgust, that someone had set an army of ants on the table. Most of the table yelled and leapt back. A few of the younger girls jumped onto their benches, while others ran back to other tables. Neville was crawling around the table trying to reach the toad while Dean and Seamus were trying to keep him from knocking things off the table.


     "Clear the table," Harry exclaimed, and all the remaining Gryffindors sprung into action at his lead. With most of the dishes and trays gone, they were able to see the sea of ants which apparently had spilled from a container one of the owls had dropped. No need to guess at who sent that. Harry glanced over at the Slytherins who naturally howled with laughter. Draco Malfoy looked particularly pleased at the joke.




     Harry froze as he felt something very wet slimy slide down his front. Neville, still crawling around on the table, had managed to overturn a large pot of sweet, sticky porridge right against Harry. His robes were covered and the ants seemed to be crawling right towards him. Quickly he tore off his robes and laid them on the table for the ants. Trevor paused to enjoy his breakfast, and Ron and Neville got a good hold on him. They managed to lure the remaining ants onto Harry's robes with a trail of sugar. Then they balled the whole thing up in Ron's robes and two fifth years carried it outside to dispose of while everyone else helped clean up the mess.


     "Ten points from Gryffindor for a blatant, unnecessary disruption!" announced Professor McGonagall's voice from the staff table. Then she smiled coolly. "And twenty points to Gryffindor for dealing with the fiasco quite efficiently and responsibly." They smiled at each other at the achievement, and Harry cautioned another look at Malfoy who was looking much less smug.


     "You two had better go run and put on new robes. We've only got a few minutes until class." Ron and Harry nodded to Hermione for the suggestion and raced through the hall and all the way up to Gryffindor tower. They were both panting and out of breath by the time they reached their room. It was laundry day, which meant their dirtied robes were being cleaned anyway by the house elves. It took them a bit of a search but they found clean ones their size in a pile in the common room by the fire. Crookshanks came prancing out of the girls' dormitory to watch them pull their robes on. He purred and rubbed up against their legs but when the boys wouldn't stop to pet him, decided to simply pounce on top of the clean laundry and make a nest for himself.


     Harry reached over and gave the ginger cat a pet. "You guard the tower for us now, all right?" He'd grown quite attached to Crookshanks since the incident with the Shrieking Shack and had always put quite a lot of trust in the fact that if something did try to threaten them again, the cat or Kneazle or whatever it was would be right on top of it, fighting for them.


     The cat purred and looked rather happy, though it was difficult to tell with its squashed face.


     "C'mon, we'd better run," Ron suggested, picking up his own bag and handing Harry his. "We've only got a minute."


     Harry nodded, sniffed a few times, took a deep breath, and bolted for the door behind Ron. They arrived at the History of Magic classroom just a few seconds before Professor Binns sailed in through the far wall with a determined look on his face and instantly began to launch into a discussion about the dwarf mine unions of the last century in a droning, monotonous voice.


     However Harry wasn't really concentrating. "ihh'Heshhh! Ihh'Hihshhh!" He hadn't thought to stock up on more tissues since he'd felt fine all morning. So he was forced to sniff rather loudly as the sneezey tickles struck once more.


     Ron and Hermione exchanged worried looks, but it was Hermione who whispered, "Harry, are you all right?"


     Blinking tears out of his eyes, Harry nodded. "ihh'Humphh! Ihh'Ihshmphh!" He sneezed into the crook of his arm. He sniffled loudly and gasped for breath as those sneezes seemed to make things about ten times worse. "heh'Ihhshhh! hih'Ihhshh! Ihh-ehh'Ehshhh! Ihh'Chishhh! heh'Ihhhhshhh! heh'Ehhshhh!"


     Hermione pulled a small pack of tissues from her bag and forced them into Harry's hand. But even as he blew his nose, grateful for the tissues, the tickle seemed to remain. His head was spinning, his eyes starting to hurt again. He rubbed the tears out of them with the back of his hand and tried to concentrate on the lesson for the professor had been speaking all the while.


     Harry's sniffling was starting to receive suspicious looks from the class. Funny, really, they didn't mind him fighting Voldemort but they'd inch their desks away from his the second he was seen fighting a cold. He sniffed and rubbed his nose with a tissue. The pack Hermione had given him was wonderful but he was running through those quickly. Frustrated, he lowered his hands to his lap and blinked his eyes, trying to concentrate on the lesson.


     But the sneezes had different intentions and before long, his nose was not simply running but tickling. And tickling madly, even with a tissue pressed against his nose. "hehChishh! Ihhshh! Ihshhhh!" He blew his nose a few times and looked up, finding that the class was regarding him with much more disturbed looks than he'd before assumed. He was close to running out of tissues, his nose seemed to be going at full force without stopping, and he hadn't heard a single word of the lesson. "ihhHeshh! Ihh'Epshhh!"


     He felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and looked over to see Ron looking concerned. "Maybe you should go back to bed, Harry. Or to Madam Pomfrey. You don't sound very well."


     Funny thing was, apart from the stuffy head and the runny nose and the slightly itchy eyes and, of course, the sneezing, he felt pretty good physically. But he did feel extremely lousy for disturbing the class, and he could have used more tissues.


     Only once before had Harry seen someone raise a hand in Professor Binns' class, and that had been Hermione way back in their second year. But he'd made up his mind and raised his hand before he could stop himself. "Brofessor Bids?" He sounded terrible.


     The ghost teacher paused, then looked at him. "Yes, er, Potter, is it?"


     Harry rolled his eyes. He supposed a ghost who'd died hundreds of years ago was less impressed by recent developments in the wizarding world. Still, his subject of expertise was History of Magic and there was no perfectly good excuse for him not to know who Harry Potter was. And at least he'd gotten his name right. "Yes Sir. Could I be... excused, Sir?" His nose was starting to tickle again and this time he was sure he had the whole class' attention focused on him.


     The ghost regarded him a moment, bobbing up and down in mid air, in thought. "Why?" He sounded astounded that anyone would voluntarily want to miss the class.


     Harry rolled his eyes. He knew Professor Binns could get absorbed in his lectures but to the extent of missing all these sneezes? "I uh..." But what exactly was wrong? "I..." his face changed from uncertainty to realization. "I have to sdeeze," he blurted out breathlessly, holding his hand up to his face and bracing himself on the desk. "heh-IHHshhhh! Ihh'Ehshhh!" He paused, waiting, then, "heh'Ihhshhhh!" He rubbed his nose on his sleeve roughly, having no tissues, and his the fiery tickling in his nose grew to greater proportions. "Ihhshh! Ehshh! Heh'Epshhh! Hih'Ihhshhh!" He sneezed quite violently. He felt a sympathetic hand on his back, knew it was Ron's, but couldn't stop sneezing long enough to catch his breath let alone open his eyes. "heh'Ihshhh! Hih'Ihhshh!" They were harsh, but relatively soft, but still difficult not to notice. Harry finally reached a pause, his nose tickling madly still, and found a handkerchief being pushed into one hand. It was Ron's. Crumpled, wrinkled, but clean and just what he needed. He sunk into his chair and gave his nose a blow or two until the tickle backed down enough for him to speak. His eyes were watering and his throat itched. All he felt like doing was getting out of the classroom and back into bed.


     Stunned, Harry realized that Professor Binns had begun lecturing already, and was deep in the middle of a description of bad working conditions that existed for dwarves in the fourteen hundreds.


     Not wanting to interrupt any more than he had to, Harry waited a moment to see if he really needed to leave or not. But the more he sat, the more his eyes itched and his throat hurt and his nose tickled and "Brofessor Bids?" And his voice was thick with congestion. "Cad I blease be excused?" Harry thought he heard a few relieved sighs from his classmates.


     The ghost teacher looked at him a moment, then nodded, waving him off as he looked back down at the textbook. "As I was saying, the equipment was not at all up to the sort of standards we have today..."


     Harry didn't hear another word. Quickly he packed up his things, gave both Ron and Hermonie a look to convey his desperation and gratefulness, and headed out into the hallways. His first thought was his bed, so he headed there first. His second thought, as his sneezes continued with him up the stairs, was the hospital wing. He wasn't feeling achy or tired or all that ill, really like he did with other colds. But the thought of curling up beneath his blankets and sneezing with no one there to get annoyed at him was much too inviting.


     So in he went, sneezing as he tried to muddle through the password routine with the fat lady. The password was 'Polyjuice' which was one, a joke of Hermione's, and two, rather difficult to say properly with a stuffy nose. He snatched the box of tissues from the bathroom on the way in and trudged up and down the stairs to his room. "heh-IHHShhh! ih'Hipshhh! Heh'ehSHHhh!" They were unrestrained and louder now, tossing him forward, making him weary from the exercise rather than from anything else. Thinking he should at least do things properly, he changed out of his clothes and into his pajamas before crawling into bed. He kept the curtains open so he'd be able to hear or at least see when others came back from classes.


     Then he set his glasses on the bedside table and fell back against his pillows and sheets. He had to admit, they were particularly inviting at the moment. He snuggled up in the covers, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand first. Then, when they continued to itch, with his thumb or forefinger. And while the sneezing persisted a while, it slowed gradually to the point where he actually fell back to sleep.



*          *          *


     "Should we wake him?" came a soft whisper.


     "Dunno. He looks terrible. I'd hate to have him wake up and feel all sick again," came the reply.


     It was Hermione, then Ron, sitting on Ron's bed, just beside Harry's. They had books spread over the mattress and looked to have been there a good while before Harry woke to hear them talking about him. The room was dim, but it had been rainy and overcast for days so he thought nothing of it.


     "What tibe is it?" He said, rubbing his eyes, sitting up. He retrieved his glasses and gave his nose another blow. It wasn't tickling any longer. In fact, aside from a bit of congestion, he was feeling better than he had in days.


     "Almost eleven o'clock," replied Ron, looking at his watch.


     "Brilliant!" said Harry. "I'm starving. I could use an early lunch."


     "At night!" Ron laughed, clarifying. "Eleven at night, Harry. You slept the whole day!"


     Eleven at night? Why hadn't anybody woken him up? "Why'd you let me sleep so long?" he gasped, feeling panic rise in his stomach. To skip History of Magic was one thing, but to miss an entire day's worth of classes as well as a Quidditch practice, well, that was bad. Was he really that sick? His eyes felt dry and his throat felt sore, but otherwise he was in top shape. He jumped up and grabbed his bag, pulling books and papers out. "What happened today? What'd I miss? What's the homework?"          


     Hermonie beamed. "You're beginning to sound like me, now." And she flipped through her assignment book to find the right day.


     "Well, I'm far from making Head Girl," Harry said, still a bit panicked and stunned. And, with the rumbling in his stomach as an indication, very hungry. "Merlin's Beard, I could go for a seven course dinner right about now." He had of course missed both lunch and dinner.


     Whether it was their guilt for not having awoken him for dinner, or whether it was their relief he was feeling better and hungry at all, both Ron and Hermonie agreed he should venture down to the kitchens for a bite. There was room for only two of them to comfortably walk under the cloak now that they'd grown a bit so Ron volunteered to go down with him while Hermione sat outside the portrait and did some work until they returned.


     With the promise to bring her a small pie, the cloak over them, and the Marauder's Map in hand, they set off slowly down to the kitchens.


     "So you're feeling better?" Ron asked as they walked along the corridors.


     Harry nodded, careful to keep the cloak in place over them. "Just fine. I don't know why I keep sneezing, but it's not a normal cold, that's for sure."


     Ron suggested, "I have an uncle who once got a twenty-four hour cold and every day for twenty four days he sneezed for an hour. I remember Fred and George counting down the seconds each day until he started sneezing."


     With a shrug, "I don't think that's it, but maybe I've got something like it." Who knew how many odd maladies existed in the wizarding world. He'd spent six years at Hogwarts and still felt he had much to learn. His stomach rumbled louder than their whispering, and they hurried along a bit faster to get to the kitchens before it tipped anyone off to their presence. Harry tickled the pear in the painting to gain admittance for them, and Ron closed the portrait behind. They were met by a handful of perky, helpful house elves dressed in what might have been called pajamas if they were a bit cleaner and a little less pillow-case like.


     "How may we help you Sirs?" one asked in a squeaky voice as the elves began thrusting plates of sweats at them. Among other things, Harry managed to eat a full meal: left over pork chops with apple sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits with butter, cooked carrots and beans, and five glasses of pumpkin juice. Ron had a bowl of pudding and a small pie, another of which he did pocket for Hermione. As they left, the house elves weighted down their pockets with fruits and cakes and bid them a good night.


     "Always so easy with that lot," Ron commented with a smile, wiping icing from the corner of his mouth. "Do you feel better, Harry?"


     "Much," Harry nodded and smiled contentedly. Their only thought was getting back to the tower and so focused they were that they even forgot to check the map. Upon turning one corner, they found themselves less than two meters away from Mrs.Norris, the caretaker's cat. Harry still wasn't sure if animals could see through the invisibility cloak, but whether she could see them or not, she was headed straight towards them, sniffing them out.


     Ron and Harry stood perfectly still, holding their breaths, trying to will Mrs.Norris back away from them. But it was no good. She circled them, looking up at them with beady, glowing eyes. Then she stood a moment, mouth half open, perhaps wondering what she should do next. Decidedly, she rubbed up against them as if marking them, realizing at once that they were solid, real entities. But before she could meow, they had another visitor.


     It was not Filch, but Peeves, floating about in the air, dropping stink pellets haphazardly through the halls. One landed right beside Mrs.Norris, catching her in its gaseous spray. She hissed and shook, her hair poofing as she did so. Peeves noticed them and gave a mischievous smile. "Ooohhhh and wha'sh all thish, hrmmm?"


     So now they were faced with two hazards who could call Filch instantly to their side: Mrs.Norris and Peeves. And unfortunately for them, things weren't going to get any easier any time soon. Harry tugged on Ron's arm rather desperately. Ron, who was already looking troubled, saw the expression in Harry's face at once. "Not now, Harry!" he mouthed urgently. But Harry, hand clamped over nose and mouth, had absolutely no control over it. His nose was tickling again, very ferociously. His eyes watered a little as he tried to restrain even so much as a sniffle. But the tickle was terrible, and his nose was running again, and it seemed absolutely inevitable. "huh'epsh!" he sneezed finally, trying to stifle it with no success.


     At once, they knew they were in trouble. Mrs.Norris' ears perked up and she let out a loud, shrieking mrowl. Peeves began giggling madly, turning summersaults in mid-air and singing "Students out of bed!" at the top of his lungs.


     "Run for it!" Ron gasped and they ran full out, as fast as possible under the cloak, trying to make their footfalls quiet as well. Harry was sure his constant sniffles would keep the others on their tail, and he could hear the sound of Filch's voice wafted through the empty corridors as it asked what was wrong.


     Harry was sneezing into his arm as they approached the corridor where the Fat Lady's portrait hung. Hermione was no where in sight. Figuring they had only one shot not to get caught, they tore off the cloak. Ron whispered the password harshly between pained breaths, and they slipped into the common room unharmed and uncaught. They didn't stop running until they reached their room, and collapsed upon their beds immediately.


     "heh'EHSHH! Hih'Chishh! huh'Ihhshhh! heh'Ehshh!" Harry reached for the tissues and rubbed his nose. "I'b sorry, Rod." He sniffled and blew his nose, then continued to sneeze. "heh'Ihhshhh! heh'Ehshhh!"


     "It's all right," Ron panted. "Just wish those sneezes had picked a better time to strike. How're you feeling?" He got up and poured some water for himself and Harry.


     "Aw... heh'IHHshhh! hup'Tishh! Chishh!" He blew his nose. "Awful." He rubbed at his eyes and gave a cough to clear the raspiness from his throat.


     "Oh, you're back!" Hermione sighed, relieved as she came into the boy's dormitory. "Thank goodness!"


     "Where were you?" Ron asked accusingly, as Harry continued to sniffle and sneeze.


     Hermione held out her arm in Ron's face. He recoiled, cupping his hand over his nose. "Peeves," she explained. "He was throwing stink pellets and two of them hit me. I've been in the shower this whole time and it's still bad."


     Harry snuffled into a tissue. "I cad't sbell adythig," he complained, and sneezed again. "hih'Ihhshh! Ehshhuhh!"


     "Then lucky you," Ron said with a laugh, pushing Hermione's arm back to her. "Maybe I should catch that cold of yours, too."


     Hermione settled on the edge of Harry's bed. "You're feeling sick again?"


     "heh'Ihshh! Heh'Ehshhh! Ihshhuhh!" Harry gave a miserable nod visible in between several tosses forward from the sneezes.


     Cautiously, Hermione reached over and felt his forehead. "You certainly don't have a fever. What in the world could this be?" She thought a moment. "Where were you this time when you started feeling, er, sneezey?"


     "We were... heh... dowdstairs od the secod floor... heh'Ehshh! Heh'Imshhhh!" Harry tried to explain, really he did, but it was getting difficult and he wasn't at all sure Hermione understood him.


     Ron took pity on him and helped answer. "We were on the second floor landing, that hallway right after the painting of the witch with the long white hair and the hawk on her shoulder."


     Hermione looked at him thoughtfully. "Did you go down that corridor on the way to class this morning before Harry started sneezing?"


     Ron thought a moment, but Harry nodded enthusiastically as he rubbed at an eye and sniffled.


     "How about yesterday?" Hermione tried. "Did you go there before you started sneezing yesterday?"


     Harry thought a moment, then shook his head. "I did't go there all day. Add I started sdeezig while I was id the cobbod roob after didder."


     Hermione nodded her understanding. "I'll check the library tomorrow at lunch. There's got to be some reason you keep sneezing, and I really don't think it's as simple as a sneaky cold." Hermione would check the library. Yes, that seemed typical. But Harry had another idea and took out a piece of parchment and readied his quill. "I'm going to go take another shower then go to bed," she admitted. "See you in the morning."


     Ron and Harry nodded and wished her good night. Harry started writing and Ron lay back on his bed, eating one of the small chocolate cakes from downstairs. "Are you writing to Sirius?" he asked casually.


     Ron knew him so well. Harry nodded. "Yeah. He's got to dow what this is if it's a wizard thig." He sniffled and rubbed at his nose. "Uhg... I just cad't stob sndeezig! What's wrog with... be..." his eyes narrowed, then closed. "heh'Ihshh! Ehshhh! Heh'Epshhh! Ih'Hihshhh!" He paused, starting to blow his nose, but found more sneezing on top of him already. "heh'Imshh! Hih'Ihhshhh! heh...ehh'Ihshhh! Heh'Ehshhhh!" And when he blew his nose yet again, this time the tickling backed down.


     "Bless you," Ron mumbled through more of his desert. "You know, maybe you should just go see Madam Pomfrey. I'm sure she'll be able to figure it out."


     But Harry shook his head, rubbing his nose with the palm of his hand. "I've beed to see her six tibes already this year. Add with by luck lately, I'll just stop sdeezing by the tibe I get dowd there and she'll sed be away for havig bothered her." And frankly, the less the whole school knew about this, the better. He added a few more lines to the letter, folded it up, and carried it to the window.


     Hedwig, perhaps sensing his need, hovered at the window and swooped in, landing on his bed. She stuck her leg out and nibbled a bit at the oatmeal cookie which sat beside his schoolbooks. He patted her on the head after tying it to her leg. "Cob back as quick as you cad, all right?" The beautiful snowy owl gave a nod. He certainly needed all the help he could get, and speed in the answer wouldn't be so bad either. She took off, the window closing behind her.


     Harry, not very tired after sleeping all day, stayed up a few hours past Ron, doing some catch-up work. His sneezes were persistent, but slowed and quieted a bit. There was nothing immediately due the next day, but he was worried about missing classes from sleeping in too late. So he showered and changed for bed. The warm water cleared him up quite considerably, and gave him a bit more time to think. It made his eyes feel a bit better as well; at least they'd stopped itching. What was this thing that kept coming and going and throwing his whole schedule off? Whatever it was, he hoped he'd figure it out much sooner than later.


*          *          *


     There was no sign of Hedwig with Sirius' response at breakfast time the following morning. However, there was no sign that anything was wrong with Harry, either. His eyes were maybe a little bloodshot, but his head was clear and even his sniffles were gone completely. Ron was perplexed and Hermione kept shooting him looks as if she knew something they didn't and expected him to suddenly burst into sneezes from nowhere. The first class of the morning, Transfiguration, went just fine as well. Not a single sniffle, let alone a sneeze, and Harry was starting to feel less worried about what it was and why it was.


     At lunch, Hermione slipped off to the library as promised, while Ron and Harry talked casually about the recent developments of the Quidditch tournaments. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were slated to play that weekend, and the teams were relatively well matched for once. They were deep into discussion of scores and statistics when Hedwig soared in, dropped a note onto Harry's empty plate, took a quick drink from his goblet, and soared back out.


     Ignoring the inquisitive Gryffindors who were wondering why he'd gotten post in the middle of the day, Harry tore the letter open. "It's from Snuffles!" he announced with a relief, keeping his voice only loud enough for Ron to hear. Ron leaned close to read over Harry's shoulder:

Dear Harry,

     Sorry to hear about your troubles. You're right,

it certainly doesn't sound at all like a cold of any type

I've every heard of. Have you thought about the

possibility of  it being an allergy? I remember your

father was highly allergic to a few of the herbs we

used in potions. He needed to be excused from classes

several times because of it. Whatever it is, I hope you

feel better. Let me know about any developments.

                                                            Love, Snuffles


     "Well, there's a thought," said Ron, well, thoughtfully.


     "An allergy?" Harry asked. The thought hadn't even crossed his mind before this.


     A large book was dropped in front of them with a resounding thump. Harry tucked the letter away quickly in surprise, and they looked up to see Hermione beaming. "An allergy," she confirmed. The book she gestured towards was entitled 'Allergies of Magics and Muggles'. She flipped through the pages. "There are hundreds of possibilities, but your symptoms match an allergic reaction perfectly."


     Harry looked rather doubtfully down at the book and its long list of allergens. "I don't know... I've never been allergic to anything before."


     Hermione wasn't swayed. "Then it's probably something you've never been exposed to before. Maybe it's a new cleaning agent they're using on the statues of armor. Or maybe there's some plant this time of year sending off spores. It could be anything. So..." she pulled out a small notebook and a quill. "I want you to write down everything you've had to eat or drink, where you are, who's with you, what you smell, what you touch, everything," she stressed the word almost harshly, "the next time you start to sneeze."


     Harry took the notebook, still holding a bit of disbelief about the theory. Ron, on the other hand, snorted loudly. "Come on, Hermione. Every time he starts sneezing do you think the first thing he'll want to do is write down that he just ate a cucumber sandwich?"


     Hermione glared at him, apparently put out that he would question her plans. But she took back the notebook, smiling. "Fine. If you're so concerned about Harry's inability to take proper observations while he's sneezing, then you can do it." And she thrust the notebook at Ron.


     "Me?! Hermione, I didn't mean--" but she cut him off.


     "No, no. You're absolutely right, Ron. Now we can be much more objective and logical about it." She smiled and made note in her assignment book. "I'll spend the day reading through the book and you can follow Harry around observing. And pay close attention to things Harry's never been exposed to."


     Ron rolled his eyes. "Just perfect," he said with quite a lot of sarcasm. He took a rough bite of his sandwich and chewed to get his annoyance out.


     "Great!" she grabbed a sandwich and leaned over the table, administering soft kisses to each on his cheek. "See you after class, then!" She headed out to Arithmancy with the book clutched in her arms.


     Ron huffed dramatically. "Do you get the feeling she thinks she can spring something like that on us and then give us kisses and we'll be all right with it?"


     Harry, grinning from ear to ear, cleared his throat and replied, "Yes, I think she does." And he hoped his cheeks weren't flushed as visibly as the red in Ron's ears. "C'mon, let's go."


     Ron marked him well nearly all day, even following him into the bathroom once for a laugh. But so far, there wasn't so much as a sniffle from Harry. Harry and Ron parted that afternoon when it was time for Quidditch practice with the promise that Harry would remember anything important. But again, nothing significant happened and, after making several spectacular catches, Harry concluded that he certainly was not allergic to golden snitches.


     It was late autumn, and it was getting darker much earlier, so much so that by the time Harry emerged from the locker room, the sun had begun to set. Oranges and reds danced across the pitch and towards the forest which was mixed with greens and golds as well. Autumn always made him feel that nature rather favored the Gryffindors, and he picked up two leaves as he walked back towards the castle- one gold and one maroon. Lost in thought, he didn't notice the person approaching until the man was almost on top of him.


     "Good evening, Harry."


     "Professor Lupin!" Harry exclaimed with a smile, which faded quickly. "Look, I'm sorry about missing your Defense Against the Dark Arts class yesterday. You see, I started sneezing and--"


     "It's all right," said Lupin, waving his hand at it. "I got a letter from Si... Padfoot this afternoon. He wanted me to check up on you." He paused as a few team members passed them on the way up to the castle, shouting hellos to Lupin and goodbyes to them both. "Would you like a cup of tea in my office? It's dark out, I know, but it's an hour after tea time and I'm a little hungry to wait so long for dinner."


     Harry nodded and followed the man up to his office. The fire in the room burst into life upon their entry, illuminating the tiny office. It looked just as Harry had seen it the first time he'd had tea with Lupin over three years ago. It was sparse but cozy, drab but warm. There were two very large containers by the far wall of creatures for his class, another trademark of Professor Lupin's teaching techniques. The first container was filled with mud and water and marsh grass. There were over a dozen small pixie-like creatures hopping up and down. When they noticed Harry, they all threw themselves to the mud floor of their habitat and lay motionless. They were all brown and apart from their beady black eyes staring unblinkingly at him, he might not have noticed them at all. The other container was closer to Harry and the creature inside seemed rather put out to be caged. It looked remarkably like a larger, furrier, meaner version of a cat he knew very well. And at the same time... reminded him of another cat he couldn't quite remember.


     "That looks like Crookshanks!" Harry exclaimed, walking over to it to get a closer look. While most professors did not know their students' pets by name, Lupin certainly had cause to know Crookshanks quite well. And the cat in the cage definitely looked as put out as Crookshanks would at being caged up, even though there were blankets, toys, food and water for it.


     "Right you are," he said, waving his wand so that the kettle of water flew to his fire and began to heat up, hovering there in mid air. Then he strode over to join Harry. "This is Rory. She's a pure blood Kneazle. I'm using her to help me round up the Imps after lessons," and he gestured towards the creatures in the other container who had been jumping up and down angrily but again lay silent, quiet, and hidden at the sight of their sudden onlookers. The memory of watching Crookshanks chase gnomes in the Weasley garden sprang to Harry's mind.


     Lupin continued, "She's remarkably clever and can catch them in seconds. When I used the Imps my first time with the third year class this last week, one of them hid and tripped me as we were cleaning up." He rubbed his arm as if the memory of his fall hurt it. "So I borrowed Rory from a... mutual friend of ours." Harry narrowed his eyes in curiosity. Surely Sirius, a dog by nature, hadn't taken to keeping house cats? "Usually Kneazles aren't very trusting of me with my werewolf blood, but Rory's known me for years and Mrs.Figg insists she'll behave well in front of a group." Harry nodded, understanding, smiling. Lupin reached into the cage and gave the cat-like animal a firm rub, then scratched behind her ears. Rory's eyes closed and she gave a loud purr. "Here, Harry, have a go at her. She'll probably remember your smell."


     The cat had stopped purring and was looking daggers at him. She hissed as he stepped closer, showing large, tiger-like teeth. Nervously, he lowered his hand into the cage and patted her head. She sniffed his hand, then began to purr. "Try scratching her chin. She loves that," Lupin whispered, smiling. When Harry tired it Rory rolled right over onto her back, wagging her limbs in the air loosely in pleasure and kneading her paws like a kitten. Harry looked up and grinned at Lupin who smiled back, approvingly. "I'm afraid of her getting loose, so I keep her in there while I'm out and can't keep an eye on her."


     "You can let her out," Harry insisted, noticing how Rory's ears twitched as he said the words. So Lupin, after making sure the door to his office was secured, did so. Rory sprang from the cage, rubbed up against both of them in gratitude, then began walking around the room, probably stalking dustbunnies.


     The kettle began to whistle, so they sat down at Lupin's desk to drink and talk. At the taste of the tea, Harry was reminded of his Divination homework due the next day and all the other work he needed to get done.


     "So Sirius tells me you haven't been feeling well?" Lupin said kindly, sounding concerned.


     "He and Hermione think it's an allergy," Harry said with a shrug and he rubbed his nose absentmindedly.


     Lupin nodded. "Ah. Your father had an allergy to a whole family of herbs, I believe," he said thoughtfully. "Any time he got near them, he'd start sneezing his head off. I remember one time in Herbology class Lily and I had to drag him outside and into the fresh air and he didn't stop sneezing for half an hour. And there was another time when the Slytherins thought it might be funny to play a trick on us. So they..."


     Harry was listening, he really was. Stories about his parents and the Marauders back in their day always had the effect of cheering Harry up, no matter what sort of mood he was in. When Lupin had been asked to return to teaching at Hogwarts, they had made it a weekly date to drink tea, eat cakes, and tell tales of their adventures. Once in a while, Sirius made a very welcome appearance as well. But, as Harry took another sip of tea, a rather terrible and all-to-familiar feeling came upon him.


     Lupin must have noticed the change in Harry right away. "Harry, are you all right?"


     He nodded weakly, slowly, then shook his head no. He felt around in his pocket for the tissues he'd placed there, just in case. But before he could get to them, Lupin had pushed his own tissue box towards Harry, and Harry took full advantage. "heh'Impshh! Huh'Ihhshhhh! Heh'Ihhshhh!"


     Lupin put down his tea and moved swiftly around the desk, squatting down beside Harry in the chair. He patted the boy's arm comfortingly, waiting for the bout of sneezes to subside.


     "heh'Ihhshhh! ihh'Cheshhh! Heh-ehh...ehh-Ihshhh! EhIshhh!" Harry paused, rubbing at his nose, blowing, then rubbing at his eyes. Harry reached over to his bag, noticing Rory sitting less than a meter away, watching his plight sympathetically. "heh'Ihhshh! Heh'Ehshhhh!" Fumbling around for a paper was the intention, but sneezes kept getting in the way. "ihh'Heshhh! Heh...hih'IHHshhhh!"


     "Harry, what are you looking for?" Lupin asked, taking the bag from him to retrieve whatever he needed.


     "Barchbedt," Harry mumbled through a handful of tissues, hoping Professor Lupin could figure it out. He blew his nose a few times and stated again, "Parchment. I'm supposed to write down... notes... abou...ab..." His face fell and he held the tissues up again, ready, his eyes squinting shut. "heh-EHHshhh! Heh'Shoo! ehh'Ihhshhh!" He tried to explain, and wanted to explain. He even wanted to take down the notes for Hermione, but he just couldn't manage it. "heh'Impshh! Ihh'Hehshhh! ihh-ehh'Emphshhh!" Harry blew his nose, then reached beneath the rims of his glasses and gave his eyes a harsh rub with his thumb. When he went to rub at his nose, it only made him sneeze more. "heh...heh'Ihshhh! ihh'Heshhh! Hih'Ihshh! Ihshhuh!" He recovered, and managed to get out. "I deed to take dotes."


     Lupin smiled, but kindly. "Actually, I think you need to get some air," said Lupin, standing up. "Let me put Rory back in her cage and I'll help you out." So Remus carefully scooped up the large, orange fur ball and closed her up. She looked around the room and hissed nastily at the cage of Imps, who quickly ran to the corner of their enclose and huddled in a formation that made them look like a large pile of mud. Then he picked up Harry's book bag and the box of tissues, and helped Harry up by the arm, escorting him from the office and down the hall.


     The staff bathroom was like nothing Harry had ever seen, even compared to the Prefects'. There were high, canopy ceilings and columns adorning the walls. Large paintings of landscapes covered each wall, everywhere from the giant swimming pool-sized bath tub to the couches and tables. A tiny orchestra of string instruments sat on a shelf above the couches and struck up a beautiful classical piece on their own as soon as Lupin entered. Professor Lupin walked him over to the sink, and a stool pulled itself over for him to rest the items on while he attended to Harry. "Do your eyes itch?"


     Harry nodded, wishing his eyes weren't watering as well so he didn't look like he was crying. Sneezing was one thing, but he didn't fancy the idea of crying in front of a teacher, even one who'd seen him do it before. Lupin stood in front of one of the sinks, rolled his own sleeves up, and proceeded to wash his hands quite vigorously. Then he turned to Harry. The sinks were tall, and the one in front of Harry lowered itself a few centimeters so it was at his perfect height. Lupin instructed Harry to wash his own hands while he carefully slipped the boy's glasses off his face. Then Lupin gently splashed his face with cool, rather refreshing water.


     "Ub... Brofessor?" Harry snuffled, wiping his hands on the towel he could barely make out in Lupin's hand. "I thig I deed to sdeeze agaid..." So Lupin politely stood back to give him room, and offered over another handful of tissues. "heh'Ihshhh! ihhSHHuhh! Ehhh...ehh-heh-ihh-" Harry paused, tissues clamped beneath his nose. The tickle was still there, just playing with him. "heh-IHHSHH!"


     "Bless you," said Lupin kindly, lightly brushing his hair from his eyes. Harry rubbed at his eyes again, sniffling. "Blow you nose, and I'll get something for your eyes," he promised. Harry followed orders, and closed his eyes as Lupin applied a cool compress to them. "Better?" he asked.


     "Better," Harry agreed with a relieved sigh. Within ten minutes, Harry's sneezing had once again subsided. And though his nose still ran a little, he felt considerably better. He sat on one of the plush couches, sinking into the luxurious pillows and fabric, while Lupin sat on the chair beside him for moral support more than anything else. He slipped Harry's glasses back on and smiled as he watched the boy rub a little more at his nose. "What?" Harry asked, tossing the last of his tissues into a garbage can which was running around, zig-zagging about between their legs and the coffee table and other furniture as if it couldn't stand still from the excitement of being used so frequently.


     Lupin smiled, ran his hand through his graying hair, and shook his head. "Nothing, Harry. Just the feeling that I'd done this before... with Jamie. That's all." His voice was soft, with a hint of sadness behind it.


     Harry nodded and rose. "I think I'll be all right now. I need to go put my things upstairs before dinner."


     Lupin agreed and saw him out. The trash can managed to escape between their legs as they exited, trying to be helpful and stay with them to provide them with their garbage needs. It came to a stop in the hallway, apparently confused, looking right and left over and over again. Harry backed into the door to hold it open while Lupin picked the garbage can up by the rim and set it inside. They both quickly pulled the door shut before it could escape again. Then Harry took off for the stairs, with a wave back at Lupin. "Thanks Moony," he grinned and Lupin paused, still looking a bit nostalgic, then grinned back at him.


*          *          *


     Hermione shot Ron a displeased look. He shook his head with remorse, "I know, I know. I wasn't with him." He relinquished the notepad and quill, put his hand to his heart, then stretched his arms out, open. "Just kill me now. Go right ahead. I'll sit still for you."


     Harry chuckled, looking up from his homework to watch them. They three were spread all over Ron's bed with their schoolwork. The common room had been busy, and they wanted to wait until they could find spots near the fire to finish their Divination homework. But they certainly had enough to do in the meantime.


     Hermione, nearly finished with her homework, had taken to trying to figure out Harry's allergy. She had been furious that Harry had had another allergic reaction and nothing helpful had come of it. She had long since forgiven Harry for not taking notes during his sneezes, especially as he'd insisted that he'd even tried. So she had shifted the blame quickly to Ron.


           "Can one of you show me that charm for flipping again?" Harry asked, looking down at his book, wand outstretched. He had missed charms as well the day before and wasn't having much success at catching up. "Just my luck," he grumbled. "I inherit my father's gift of allergies but I don't get my mothers' ability in charms."


     Ron started to explain the charm, but Hermione interrupted with what looked like sudden inspiration. "Harry, what did you say your father was allergic to?"


     Harry shrugged. "Some herbs. Professor Lupin and Snuffles didn't mention which ones specifically." He paused, completely forgetting about the charm. "Why?"


     Thoughtfully, "Well, maybe we're going about this the wrong way. Maybe instead of figuring out what all your sneezing attacks have in common, we should be looking at all things it could be." She leafed through the Library book and rested on a page about plants and herbs. "I'm going to make a list." And she set to it, copying down names of plants and such, stopping every so often to ask if Harry had ever sniffed Ragweed or rolled around in a patch of Fluxweed.


     Harry and Ron continued to work on their homework. In not much time, Harry had managed to flip a few objects, including Hermione's book to much annoyance, in mid air. Frustrated, she began to devise another approach. "We've got Herbology tomorrow morning. What don't we try some of these out on you, Harry?"


     Trying not to laugh, Harry replied, "What, try and make me sneeze?"


     She nodded. "To find out what you're allergic to. I've got a list." She brandished it with a flourish. "We can start with the ones I've starred; those are the ones you haven't had much contact with."


     Harry thought it over for a moment or two before agreeing. A little while later, the three packed up their things and moved to the common room, which was much quieter now that the younger students had gone off to bed. The other seventh year boys and most of the girls were there, most working hard. Lavender and Seamus were perhaps the exception, stealing kisses when the others weren't looking. Harry, Ron, and Hermione took seats by the fire at the table it seemed Crookshanks had reserved for them. He was stretched out on the table, basking in the warmth of the fire.


     "Hello Crookshanks," Hermione sang sweetly, nuzzling her cat. It jumped off the table at once and landed back in her lap, curling up.


     Ron put the pot of tea on, and Harry leaned over towards Crookshanks. "Can I rub his chin?" Hermione nodded, and Harry obliged. The cat did not react quite as dramatically as Rory, but Crookshanks did wag his fluffy tail, close his eyes, relax his ears, and begin to purr contentedly. Harry grinned and sat back, getting together his Divination notes, book, and half-finished homework assignment.


     A few moments later Ron poured the water, they dropped in the leaves, and their spoons began to stir for them. Harry inhaled the faint smell of the tea; it was sweet, soft and comforting, and reminded him of Lupin now more than Divination class. "So Hermione," he sniffed strongly and rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. The steam seemed to be getting to him. "How many herbs do you have on your list now? Sniff, sniff!"


     Hermione started at him very intently, her eyes narrowed. "Over one hundred," she replied in a flat voice, as though her mind were elsewhere.


     Harry took a few sips of the tea, careful not to burn his mouth as Ron was so skilled at doing. He swallowed and sniffed again. "That many? It could take ages to go through all... of those..." he trailed off, noticing that both Hermione and Ron were looking at him with a mixed expression of eagerness and horror. "What?" he asked, sounding rather confused. Had he spilled tea down his front?


     They exchanged worried looks. Then Hermione answered, "Do you feel like you need to sneeze, Harry?"


     His eyebrows raised in surprise, "No, not really. Why do you ask?" And he suddenly realized that he'd just been rubbing at his nose again. He sniffed, realizing his nose was running as well. Then all of a sudden from nowhere at all, "heh'IHHSHH! Hih'Ihshhh!" Harry managed to drop his tea and raise a hand in time. He pushed back from the table, stood, turned, and held both hands up to his face. "ehh'Ihshhh! Hishhhh! Ihshhhhh! Heh'Ehhshhhh!" One hand fumbled around madly for the tissues in his pocket, bringing one out in time. "heh'Ehhshhh! Hih'Ihshuh! heh'Ihshh! Ihtchhh!" He blew his nose furiously.


     "Bless you!" It rang throughout the room, and Harry could tell that it wasn't just Hermione and Ron who were watching him sneeze but most of the room's occupants.


     "Thags," he snuffled, wiping his nose and inserting a finger beneath his glasses to rub his eyes as well. The rubbing only seemed to make them itch more.


     Hermione was looking around at everything, taking mental notes of her own. Crookshanks, startled by the loud sneezes, had sprung up and landed lightly on the table. He was circling it now, looking for a nice place to rest. The cat stopped at one of the teacups, sniffed it, then looked up at Harry, who was blowing his nose.


     And then Hermione's eyes widened in sudden, brilliant realization. "I think..." she whispered, and stopped to write furiously on a scap bit of parchment. "Yes!" She was beaming and nearly bouncing at her concealed, newly found knowledge. Harry returned to his seat, still sniffling and sneezing badly, but eager to hear her revelation. "Harry, the first time you started sneezing, a few days ago... you were doing your Divination homework then, too, weren't you?"


     He nodded, but could not answer for the sneezes which were rather strong and violent, tossing his head forward so that his glasses began to slip down the bridge of his nose. "heh'IHSHH! Yihh'Ihshh!"


     "And today you had tea with Professor Lupin right before you started sneezing."


     Harry nodded again. And this time, Ron began to look excited, offering, "When we went down to the kitchens for dinner last night, you had tea with your desert!" Harry agreed, sniffling into a handful of tissues he was keeping at the ready, just in case.


     "What about yesterday morning at breakfast?" Hermione asked excitedly.


     He thought a moment, sneezed again, "heh'EHShhhh! Hih'Ihshhuhh!" and then confirmed it. "I started drikig sobe right before Trevor got loose."


     "It's the tea!" Hermione slapped her hand on the table rather loudly in her proclamation and the whole room turned to her. "Sorry!" She waved apologetically to them all with a bit of a blush in her cheeks, then lowered her voice. "That's it then. You said yourself it's a different type of tea you've been using for Divination. You barely started drinking it just now and look at you!"


     "heh'Ihhshhh! heh'Chushhh! Heh...heh'IHHshhhuh!" He blew his nose and wiped his eyes free of tears. "Add listed to be."


     Hermione was looking over all her notes, nodding approvingly at the conclusion. "It all makes sense. Especially with your father, Harry. Tomorrow morning I'll sneak down to the kitchens at breakfast and find out what type of tea it is. Then tomorrow in Herbology we can test you out on it to be sure. But that's just got to be it!"


     "But what about Divination class itself?" Ron asked, sounding a little less enthusiastic. "He hasn't sneezed once in class and we drank three teacups full of this stuff last time."


     Hermione did some very quick thinking. "Well, you know Professor Trelawney's classroom. It's got all those perfumes and scents. One of them probably blocks the effects of the tea on Harry. But in the fresher air here..." she trailed off as Harry was already lost in another serious fit of sneezing.


     "ihheh...heh...heh-ih-IHSHH! ihhHehhshhh! Hih'Ihhshhhh! Sniff! Sniff! heh'Ehshhh!" Harry did not look well at all, sneezing rapidly, fiercely, wincing as he blew his nose. His hair, usually untidy, seemed moreso; his eyes, when they opened briefly, were teary and bloodshot from his rubbings. And his glasses kept sliding down his nose.


     It was Ron who finally spoke. Softly, leaning towards Harry, "Harry, do you need a breather?"


     Harry nodded, again unable to speak between sneezes and sniffles and blows. Ron stood and pulled Harry up by the arm, escorting him towards the bathroom. They returned nearly twenty minutes later to a worried Hermione.


     She paced back and forth in front of the fire, thinking. She had thoughtfully packed away both cups of tea, as well as the mixes and the kettle and given the table a thorough wipe down. Crookshanks, tired of nipping at her ankles playfully as she paced, had gone back to the girls' dormitory to sleep. Hermione looked up with a smile as the boys returned. "How are you feeling, Harry?" she asked softly, sounding a bit worried.


     He shrugged, sniffling. "All right." Then nodding towards the table, "Thanks for putting the tea away. I do feel much better." He took his seat again then, timidly, took a few deep breaths. Ron and Hermione quickly sat as well, sitting motionless, staring at him unblinkingly. One minute passed. Then two. Then three. At the start of four minutes, Harry started laughing at his two friends staring so fixedly at his every breath. "Stop it already! I'm not sneezing!" Ron and Hermione both joined in with the relieved laughter.


     "Well, I guess it's really back to basics with Divination then," Ron said, opening his book to the proper chapter. "Making things up from scratch. And this time," Ron shot Hermione a superior look, you can't say a thing about how we should be doing it properly!" Hermione nodded and smiled in agreement, looking at Harry very sympathetically.


     Harry smiled, looking over the chart of symbols and meanings. He gave another laugh and suggested, "How about 'You will develop a mysterious allergy' for mine?"


     "Perfect!" Ron laughed and copied it down at once.


*          *          *


     Harry felt full of nervous anticipation as they trudged along the grounds to Greenhouse Number Seven. The autumn air was full of an invigoratingly crisp chill, and the leaves crunched invitingly beneath their feet. On any normal morning he might have had the urge to push Ron or Hermione, or on a good day both, into a pile of leaves and then jump in himself. But this morning there were more important things on his mind. He had tucked away several handkerchiefs and a bottle of water as well as a pocket full of tissues for the mission. He was ready and willing, and sure that by the time Herbology ended, he would have the culprit by name and not have to worry about any of these sudden sneezing fits again. Harry was slightly sad over the thought of not being able to drink tea again, or at least at having to figure out what sort of tea was being served each time he wanted some. But he supposed if his father could stand missing select Herbology classes rather than sneeze himself silly, then Harry could have the resolve to stay away from tea.


     Herbology class was as normal as was possible. The daily assignment was to observe the reproduction habits of the Alihosty and Dittany and try to get them to successfully mate with each other. It was tiresome work, and required luring one plant to the other with small colored mints and humming softly in a minor key, among other things. Only Neville's table seemed to be having any great success. Normally Hermione would have been worried about missing the grade, but she seemed to have other things on her mind.


     Every few minutes, Hermione would crouch down and crawl beneath the tables to the cupboards which were fitted beneath the rows of tables holding plants on either side of the greenhouse. Each cupboard had roughly a hundred different containers of dried herbs, leaf samples, and more. She'd been going back and forth, getting different samples based on her very thorough list.


     "Here, Harry, try this one first," she whispered, checking the label to be sure, then uncovering the lid. "It's what the house elves said they use for the tea."


     Harry withdrew a few tissues to be sure, and leaned over the container. The other two held their breath in anticipation as he took a deep breath. Seconds passed. Then minutes. Harry looked up at them with a confused shrug. Hermione had to stuff the container beneath her bag as Professor Sprout walked by to observe their progress. But even when she'd taken it back out and Harry had chewed on one of the withered, dried and fermenting leaves, there wasn't a single sneeze.


     Frustrated but staying calm and logical, Hermione moved onto the next container. "These are commonly used in teas. Your Divination book mentions them with about ten others in the chapter you're on now. Try?" And she passed it over. But that, too, produced no reaction from Harry except a dismal shake of his head.


     All class they tried, first everything on Hermione's short list, and then began on her longer list. And nothing at all made him sneeze. They stopped early and Harry and Ron scrambled around on the wet, leaf-covered floor to quickly put the containers away while Hermione convinced their Alihosty plant to jump into the Dittany's pot. By the time Harry and Ron had returned, the two plants were massaging the other's leaves enticingly.


     "Good, good!" Professor Spout smiled at them as she passed. "A late start, but accurate result. Full marks." Hermione beamed.


     They packed up their things, drew a shade around the two plants for privacy as instructed, and left the greenhouse for lunch.


     They three were quite subdued as they started back, everyone around them talking and sharing mints they'd lifted from the class. Hermione seemed to be trying to refigure things mentally, whereas Ron just seemed confused as to why it hadn't worked. "Well," Harry said as the crunches of leaves cheered him up, "We've still got Potions with the Slytherins this afternoon, sniff, sniff, to look forward to."


     Ron gave him a suspicious, sideways glance. "You don't feel sneezey right now, do you?"


     Harry gave a puzzled shake of his head. "No, why?"


     "You're sniffling," he pointed out plainly. "Runny nose?" He looked almost thrilled about it.


     But Harry laughed at his friend's desperation and misplaced assumption. "Yeah, in case you hadn't noticed it's freezing out here." He puffed out some breath to show the emitted white cloud. "And you're sniffling just as much as I am!"


     "Good point," Ron said dejectedly, and he rubbed at his nose.


     Hermione was quiet through much of lunch as well. She repeatedly took her lists out and examined them more closely, counting on her fingers the numbers of things they'd tried. "I just don't understand!" she moaned, stuffing the book and parchment away for the umpteenth time as Harry finished his second cup of tea and was still entirely sneeze-less.


     "You know, Hermione," Ron said, finishing up his lunch with a rope of self-tying red licorice. "It is possible that you were wrong. I mean, it had to happen sooner or later."


     "No it didn't!" she cried softly, though with a smile. She took out the book on allergies once again and flipped through it. "I was so sure that was it."


     Harry poured himself another cup of tea, held it up for Hermione to see, then took a long, dramatic sip. Quickly he set the cup down, stuck out his tongue, and fanned his mouth. "Uch too hot!" he reported, laughing but not sneezing.


     With a sigh, Hermione rose from the table. "Well, I'd better go get Crookshanks. I'll meet you in potions in a few minutes." She turned, robes billowing, then looked back at them. "Ron, if he sneezes while I'm gone, promise me you'll take notes this time?"


     Ron crossed his heart stoically then put his arm over Harry's shoulders, pulling him close. "He won't leave my side for an instant!" he promised. He knew better by now than to cross one of Hermione's instructions. Harry pushed him away, laughing, his tongue still smarting a bit.


     "Too bad I'm not allergic to Snape," Harry grumbled as he and Ron made their way down the stairs towards the dungeons. "I wouldn't mind having a good excuse to miss Potions class." Ron was quick to agree, especially as three familiar Slytherins passed them on their way down, bumping them into the wall with no apology.


     Draco Malfoy did cast a snide look back at them. And as he did so, Harry and Ron caught glimpses of something clutched very tightly in Goyle's great hands. It was something to make both Harry and Ron gape. It was, unmistakably, a large, plump, gray ferret. Harry and Ron had to pull away into an alcove to keep their laughter to themselves. They doubled up, laughing too hard to speak. Harry's eyes watered again, but not from allergies. As their laughter died down a bit, Ron did an impression of bouncing a ball, and they started up again. There was no telling how long they might have stayed there had Hermione not come by to drag them both out and down to class, Crookshanks grasped tightly under one arm.


     The reason for the pets was simple really. For the last month or so they had been working on and off on a particular potion in Snape's class-- The DeForré Potion, by name. While its effects seemed something worthy of a third year Gryffindor prank, the potion itself was immensely complex and the lesson had been about patience in the world of potions as much as anything else. The point would, supposedly, cause the de-furring of any fur-bearing animal it was administered on. Then the re-growing of that hair would be in the complete control of the administrator: color, consistency, style, and the like. Harry still had to contain laughter as he remembered Snape showing his own rather terrible example when they began the potion, a white-faced cat with long, thick, black spikes for fur on his backside. The poor thing had not looked at all pleased but as it was irreversible, or supposed to be, they weren't too worried about it. Its fur would just grow back as normal as if it were a bad dye job. It was the control over this potion that was key, the control that was taking them weeks to carefully measure out and refine with several dozen ingredients at least. But today, today they would finally test their potions.


     They took their seats at the same table, looking around at the other pets. Harry was forced to clamp a hand over his mouth when his eyes fell again on Malfoy's group, who were trying desperately to make their ferret sit still. All it seemed to want to do was get away from the Slytherins as quickly as possible. Harry couldn't really blame it. Crookshanks, on the other hand, was being quite obedient. He laid on the table, patient and looking nobly around at the lesser, uncooperative pets.


     Snape entered, a flurry of black robes and black hair, his black eyes looking over his class. Most were still wresting with their animals. There were hisses and meows, and a few scratched or bleeding hands amidst the group as well. "I hope you are all as overjoyed as I about finally finishing this potion." No one, even the Slytherins who usually regarded him with nothing but reverence, looked anything close to overjoyed. Nor, in fact, did the pets. But Snape continued, "You will need to bring your potion to a boil and allow it to remain there for two minutes before you add a small sample of your pet's hair." He reached forward and plucked a pinch of fur from one students' rabbit. It squealed and chomped its owner's, luckily, gloved hand. "After another exactly two minutes, remove it from the fire. Stir continuously, and then rub it into the animal's coat thoroughly."


     So Harry, Ron, and Hermione set to it. Hermione was in charge of her cat, naturally, and supervised as Harry and Ron quickly assembled all that they needed. Ron started the fire with a swish and flick of his wand, and Harry carefully levitated the cauldron over it. The most difficult part about this particular potion was how they were unable to even touch the cauldron, lest they contaminate it. Hermione, one hand on Crookshanks, watched her watch carefully to record the exact time the pot began boiling. Ron and Harry slipped on their gloves to prepare for the next step; they weren't supposed to directly touch the ingredients, either.


     "Two minutes starting... now!" Hermione announced as the bubbles began to pop on the frothy yet greasy surface. Ron began to stir, and Hermione got a tight hold on Crookshanks, who was starting to look a bit apprehensive at his involvement with this project. Harry reached over, apologized softly to the cat, and plucked out a few strands of ginger hair. Crookshanks mrowled angrily and tried to swipe at Harry, but Hermione kept a tight hold. She looked down at the watch. "All right, get ready, Harry."


     Harry nodded, holding his hand with the hairs over the potion in place. They were all counting down the seconds so carefully that no one, including Harry, noticed Harry's nose begin to run. He sniffed a few times, quite absentmindedly, but kept his concentration on the pot, the bubbling substance, and the fur in his hand.


     "Now!" Hermione said, and he let the hairs go. They floated down and landed in the center. Ron immediately resumed stirring feverishly, and Harry stepped back to give him room. He stood at Hermione's side, helping to restrain Crookshanks, who was now absolutely sure that he did not want to be part of the project.


     Hermione was the one to notice his sniffles first, but did not call attention to them, as she was so intent upon watching the time ticking down. And when he sneezed, strong and quick, into his shoulder "heh'Impshh! Ehshhh!" she only managed a soft bless you between mouthing seconds in time with her watch's ticks. Harry rubbed his nose on his shoulder, sniffing louder, the horrible look of foreboding on his face.


     "That's it!" she announced, waving at Ron with one hand to remove the pot from the fire. Harry gave his wand a wave, and the flames snuffed themselves out. Ron gave it a few more hefty stirs. The potion had already begun to thicken.


     "Quick!" he said, directing the cauldron, still floating, towards them. He and Harry readied their gloved hands as Hermione held Crookshanks flat onto the table. Ron allowed the cauldron to tip and slowly, carefully pour the potion over Crookshanks. Harry and Ron began rubbing at once, kneading the solution into the cat's coat.


     "heh'IhhShhh! ihh'Hehshhh! heh'Ihshhh! ihh'Ihshhhuh!" Harry sneezed again, stepping back, raising one hand high in the air so he could sneeze into his arm rather than onto the potion, which would be a devastating disaster. Both Hermione and Ron looked at him, worry in their eyes which matched his own. Any moment now, he could burst into a full blown allergy attack, and it mustn't happen until they'd finished their work.


     "Harry, are you all ri--" Hermione began to ask.


     But Harry cut her off, rubbing the solution in hurriedly. "Just fidish! Thed worry about be." He paused, turning his head again. "heh'Impshhh! ihh'Hehshh!" He sniffled, wanting to stop to blow his nose, but that was out of the question. Snape was looking at him suspiciously, and he knew the Potions Teacher would simply love to see him ruin the potion which took over a month to produce within the last few minutes of it.


     Seconds later, it happened. Crookshanks stood with a startled look in his eyes. Instead of his fur simply falling to the tabletop, or coming off in their hands, it did something very much different. Something much less expected. With an extremely disquieting *POOF* Crookshanks' fur did not simply come off. It, well, poofed off. Fur rose in every direction, but mostly upwards for at least three feet, towering over their heads before falling back down, spraying into their faces, covering their still out-stretched arms and their fronts. Soft, fluffy fur, obstructing their view of everything for a number of seconds.


           By the time their views cleared, the new fur Hermione had decided upon for Crookshanks began to grow in its place. There was a delicate rainbow pattern with at least twenty distinct colors from red on his squished snout to purple at the end of his tail. It was curled in ringlets and looked somewhere between hideous and rather adorable. The DeForré Potion had worked absolutely perfectly.


     But as Ron and Hermione stared through the still settling fur, Harry took a step back and blinked. Immediately, his eyes began to itch and water. And his nose... his nose began to tickle so fiercely it was impossible for him to think of doing anything at all but sneezing as much as possible. His eyes closed as he took a deep, involuntary breath. He managed to raise his hands to his face just as his nostrils flared, his brow wrinkled, and his body tightened with tension. "heh-IHSHHH!" The first was violently harsh, and threw his whole body forward. "heh'IHHSHH! Heh'EHHSHHH! Ihh'HIHshhh! IHHshhhh! EHshhhh!" He sneezed, lurched forward, and then straightened up just to sneeze again. They were rapid, and he could barely take a breath inwards before sneezing again. "heh'Ihhshhhh! Heh'Ihhhshhh! hih'HISHHHH!"


     Ron and Hermione watched him helplessly, restraining a still startled Crookshanks and wondering what to do. The rest of the class turned their attention from their own poofing pets to Harry. But it was Snape who spoke. "Potter!" He looked accusingly at Ron and Hermione, then narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Harry. "What's going on?" There was sniggering, most from Malfoy's table.


     Harry couldn't answer apart from "heh'IHSHH! Ih'Hushhh! Ehh'Ihshhh! ihh...heh'EHSHhuhh!" The sneezes were too strong, too many, too fast. All he could do was stand and sneeze again and again.


     Snape looked cold, stern and quite annoyed that anyone dare disrupt his final, glorious lesson for this particular potion. "What's wrong with Potter?!" He asked again, louder, and before Ron and Hermione could answer, he continued by asking with a laugh at the utter absurdity of his next question, "What, has he developed a sudden allergy to cats?"


     Ron and Hermione's eyes widened as they looked at each other. "CATS!" they both yelled. Hermione grabbed Crookshanks, clutched him tightly in her arms, and took a few steps quickly away from Harry. Ron gave himself a quick rub down, getting a good bit of the cat hair off before dropping his gloves and going to Harry's side. "C'mon." And he pulled a still constantly sneezing Harry out of the room with a call back to Snape, "I'm taking him to the hospital wing!" Harry wasn't in the position to call anything back at all and they were out into the corridor before Snape could say anything contrary.


     "heh'IHHSHH! Heh'IMPshhhh! huh'Ihshuhh! IHshhhh! Ehshhh!" He tripped up the stairs, led along almost blindly by Ron. Ron pulled out a handkerchief that had been under his robes and was as cat hair-less as it could be. Harry took it thankfully, rubbing at his nose "heh'Ihhshhh! ihh'Hishhhh!" His sneezes started to slow as they continued in the relatively fresher air. He managed to catch his breath and look up at Ron with a very stuffy, "Thags."


     Ron nodded, pulling Harry left down a hallway. "Well..." he said with a grin, though still looking a bit worried about his friend. "We passed the lesson, figured out your allergy, and get to miss the rest of Potions. Maybe I should be thanking you?"


     "heh'IHshhhh! ihh'Yihshhh! Hitchhh! Ihchuhhh!" Harry sneezed severely, but managed a weak laugh anyway.


*          *          *


     "hah'Ihshoo! Huh'Ihshhh!"


     "Bless you," Madam Pomfrey said for the hundredth time, as kindly as she'd said the first. She had just finished her examination, which might have gone quicker without the persistent sneezing. Harry sat with a box of tissues on his lap, delving into them quite frequently. "I want you to change out of those clothes," she said, looking down at the orange fluff still covering his robes in places. "I'm afraid all I have are pajamas, but those will do until your sneezing dies down."


     Harry obliged, as long as he could take the tissues with him behind the curtain. Ron had stayed to help out, handing Harry his clothes, opening new tissue boxes for him, fluffing his pillow. He was sure he'd rather be there than back in Potions, no matter how beautifully colored Hermione's cat now was. "You all right?" he asked just before Harry emerged, changed into the pajamas. Ron took a look at them, smiling. Every year it seemed, Harry found himself in a pair of these. And it seemed this time he was stuck without actual clothing to change back into. "How's about I go get you a change of clothes from upstairs?" Harry nodded eagerly, not wanting to walk back upstairs like this.


     "What I dod't udderstad," Harry snuffled, settling himself back down on the bed. "Is why this allergy suddedly struck. I've dever beed allergic to... to cah..." his face fell and he grabbed two tissues from the box in haste. "cahhhh...ah'Ihshhhh! ehh'Hishhuhh!"


     "Bless you." And she answered his question before he could try to repeat it. "Sometimes allergies develop after a lot of exposure to an allergen. Sometimes they develop for no reason at all. And sometimes, it's because you're getting older. Just like your eyesight gets just a little worse when you get older, sometimes other things catch up with you, too."


     He nodded, blowing his nose. He didn't need a speech about puberty and maturity from the school nurse right now. He rubbed at his eyes, but Madam Pomfrey pulled his hand away. "Rubbing at them will only make them itch more afterwards."


     "But they itch dow!" he complained after another blow of his nose.


     She nodded and told him to lie back with his eyes open and glasses off. He obeyed, though his head pounded a little from congestion as he did so. Quickly, before Harry could blink, she had dropped a few drops into one eye. He blinked instinctively and his eye felt cool, soothed. "Better?" she asked, and he nodded, nearly causing her to miss when she administered the same treatment to his other eye. "If you had come to me days ago, there might have been no need for it to get this bad."


     Harry nodded, sheepishly. "Didn't want to bother you," he mumbled. As he sat back up, taking a few more tissues for his still runny nose, he noticed he had visitors, and not at all the ones he had expected. Before he could greet them, his nose tickled again. "hehh...ehhh..." With tissues to his face, and his eyes shut, he snapped forward, shoulders limp and weak from all the sneezing. "heh'Ehhshhh! Hih'Sheshh!"


     "Bless you, Harry," said Professor Lupin softly, then turned towards the school nurse. "Could you allow us a moment alone, Madam Pomfrey?"


     She smiled. Nearly all the teachers called her by her first name. But Lupin had known her quite well as a student here and never seemed to want to make that leap towards informality. "Of course, Remus." And turning to Harry, "Just call if you need me."


     Lupin locked the door to the hospital wing, and from behind him stepped an all too familiar shaggy, black dog. Harry's face lit up and continued to smile as the dog transformed back into a man. "Hello Sirius!" he was quite enthusiastic but tried to be quiet about it. "Add Professor Lupid. How'd you dow I was here?" He sniffled and rubbed at his nose.


     "Sirius wanted to check up on you," explained Lupin, taking a seat in the chair beside Harry. Something told Harry that his decision to visit had been based on Lupin's witnessing of one of his allergy attacks. Sirius sat down beside him on the small bed. "And we ran into Ron in the hallway just now." He coughed to hide a smile. "It sounds like a very exciting Potions class with Severus."


     Sirius nodded, agreeing, though he sneered when Lupin mentioned Snape's name. "So how are you feeling?" he asked, looking much more concerned than he needed to have been. He reached over and ruffled Harry's hair affectionately, then straightened his glasses for him.


     "Badab Pobfrey says by sdeezig should stop sood." And speaking of sneezes, he felt another few sneak up on him. Sirius, noticing the sneezey, anticipating look on Harry's face, pulled a few tissues out of the box and handed them over. "heh...ehh'Ipshhh! Heh'Hehshhh! ihhh'Uhshhuh!"


     "Bless you," Lupin and Sirius both said, and Sirius pushed Harry's glasses back up his nose for him when Harry had finished blowing his nose.


     "So," Lupin said, trying to sound as if he were making casual conversation rather than quenching his own curiosity. "What did it turn out that you were allergic to?"


     "Is it an herb, like your father?" Sirius asked suspiciously, sneaking a look at Lupin.


     Harry shook his head. "Do, it's dot. Actually, it's..." his nose tickled fiercely again, and he managed to raise a hand in time as the corners of his mouth drew down into a slight frown. "ihh'Ehshhh! Heh'Ehshhh! Heh'IHHSHH!" He rubbed at his nose and blinked the tears from his eyes that the last vicious sneeze had caused. "It's cats," he finally managed. Then, with a bit of a chuckle. "At least I'b dot allergic to dogs, right?"


     "Cats!" Sirius said almost triumphantly, and held his hand out to Remus. "I'll be collecting now, my friend."


     Remus opened his mouth to speak, but Sirius cut him off with an instant clearing of his voice. So Professor Lupin dug beneath his robes and pulled out two shiny bronze knuts. He handed them over quickly and before he could say anything about them, a look of understanding crossed his face. "Cats? Oh... oh, Harry. I'm so sorry. Yesterday in my office, with Rory..."


     Harry nodded but shrugged. "It's all right." And he was smiling. With a strong sniff and rub to his nose he asked, "So you two had a bet od be?"


     Sirius grinned and nodded. "Yeah, and I won." And he widened his eyes and stuck his tongue out at Lupin good-naturedly.


     "You see that?" Lupin said, leaning past Sirius to get closer to Harry, but pointing at Sirius. "Takes money from a poor school teacher. Utterly shameless." Sirius laughed, pushing Lupin out of his face and back against the chair.


     Harry smiled at his father's two oldest friends acting as if they were boys again. He plucked a few more tissues from the box as the sneezey sensation snuck up on him once more. "heh...heh'Ihshhum! Ehh'Ihhshhh! yihh'Ihshhuh!" He blew his nose and then rubbed at it roughly with his palm until the tickle cooperated and backed down. When he looked up, both Sirius and Remus were watching him with the same look in their eyes. "I dow," he said softly. "I rebid you of by father."


     Remus nodded and Sirius smiled, looking down sheepishly with a similar nod. Before the discussion could go any further, there was a creak of the door as Madam Pomfrey re-entered from her office. Before Harry could blink, his godfather was a dog again. The dog snuffled against Harry's hand affectionately. Harry patted his head back. "Take care, Harry," said Professor Lupin kindly. "Tea in my office next week? Rory will be gone by then. And I'll make sure someone cleans it thoroughly," and he shot a look at the dog who was trying to look terribly innocent. If dogs could whistle, Harry was sure Padfoot would have been doing just that.


     Of course Harry accepted the offer and watched them find their way out as Madam Pomfrey came over to him. "Feeling better?" she asked in a very nurse-typical tone of voice. Harry nodded. He was still stuffy, but the sneezes were few and far in between now. "Good," she said with a smile. "Because you have more visitors."


     Harry looked up and grinned broadly to see Ron and Hermione hanging in the doorway to the ward. He waved them over, noticing that both his friends had changed clothes to leave no trace of orange cat fur anywhere on their persons. Harry and Ron took seats on the bed beside Harry's.


     "heh'Ehshhh! ehh'Ihshhh! heh'Ehshhuhh!" he sneezed, rubbing at his nose with the tissues. "I'b feelig better, reall I ab," he told them before they had to ask. "Badab Pobfrey gave be sobethig for it."


     Ron handed over the clean change of clothes for him. And Hermione, biting her lip, looked down at her lap. "Harry..." Her hands clutched the fabric of her robes tightly. "I am so sorry."


     He shook his head. "It's dot your fault, Herbiode. Sniff! Sniff!" He rubbed his finger under his nose. "Baybe I should't say your dabe udtil I've cleared up a little?"


     The joke didn't make any of them laugh, but Hermione did smile at it. She seemed a bit too preoccupied. "Harry," she looked up into his eyes and took a deep breath to gather her courage. So he wouldn't interrupt her, she spoke quickly. "I'll get rid of Crookshanks. He can live with my parents. I'll send him home tomorrow on the first train out of Hogsmede if that's soon enough. We'll keep him in my room tonight, or you could stay down here, I suppose." She took a deep breath. "I'm really sorry," Hermione said with the same sort of feeling as she had used when she apologized to Ron years ago when Crookshanks appeared to have eaten Ron's rat. She was, in fact, close to tears, and looked back down at her hands, waiting nervously for his answer.


     Harry fought back a smile. "That's very sweet of you." He paused. "Add I appreciate it, but..." Another few sneezes got in the way, his face screwing up, his breath hitching. "hehhhh...ehh-IHShhh! heh'Ihshh! Ehshhuhh!"


     "That's what I thought," she said softly, standing. "I'll send an owl to my parents straight away." Ron was looking rather saddened as well.


     Looking up from a handful off tissues, he saw her wipe away tears and move towards the door to leave. He looked at Ron with wide eyes and shook his head, trying to signal his friend to go and stop her. "heh'IHHshhhh! Heh'Ehshhh!" He was sneezing too much to catch his breath, and by the time he'd given his nose a quick blow and wipe, Hermione was almost at the door and Ron still hadn't caught on.


     "Wait!" he called out with a cough from his congestion. "Herbiode, it's all right."


     She stopped a meter from the door, brought a hand up to her eyes, then turned back. "What's... what's all right?"


     Harry coughed again, and punched Ron on the arm.


     "Ow! Harry--" He rubbed his upper arm gingerly.


     Harry's eyes were insistent, "Go, brig her back over here."


     Ron stood and dragged a very reluctant Hermione back to the bed. She looked as if she were trying very hard not to cry. Ron put a comforting arm around her.


     Trying to be as plain as possible, Harry explained. "Herbiode, you dod't have to give Crookshaks up."


          "No, Harry," she shook her head. "I couldn't possibly. What if you get too near him and have another allergy attack? I wouldn't want you suffering so unnecessarily, and--"


     Harry blew his nose again, sniffling, trying in vein to clear his nose but to little success. "Do, I bead... sniff, sniff... you dod't have to give hib up, because he's dot goig to bake be sdeeze so buch ady bore." As if his body were trying to prove him wrong, his nose tickled and he turned his head to sneeze once more. "heh'IHhhhshh!" He rubbed his nose and continued quickly before she could say anything. "Badab Pobfrey gave be ad allergy adtidote. It's supposed to quiet the sybtobs so I wod't sdeeze the dext tibe I'b dear a cat."


     Hermione's face glowed with understanding. "You mean, like allergy medication or shots in the muggle world?"


     "Exactly." He nodded. "I bead, baybe I'll sdeeze if fur flies right id by face agaid, but it wod't be adythig this bad. She says I'll be able to be aroud hib add eved pet hib add adythig else without sdeezig."


     "Oh Harry!" Hermione leaped up and wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. Harry patted her back, not knowing what else to do, but very glad she was pleased at the outcome.


     "Well, that's great!" Ron agreed as Hermione sat back down. Harry knew he'd never admit it, but his silence had revealed enough as well; Ron had certainly become quite attached to the cat as well and didn't want to see him gone, either. He smiled. "Cuz you know, Harry, it was going to be pretty hard to decide between the two of you." He held his hands up, palms up. "On the one hand, my best mate, the greatest seeker in school history, tri-wizard tournament champion, the boy who lived. And on the other, a squashed-faced, now rainbow-colored cat who can sniff out- Ow!" Harry had punched his arm again.