Title: Dark Eyes

Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Harry Potter, set a little more than halfway through the Chamber of Secrets

Characters: Snape, and others
Parings: Severus/Lucius (implied)
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: read the second book… and read the fourth book for the undertones
Disclaimer: J.K.R.'s characters and world and I don't get a dime for this
Summary: In the second book, it's clearly mentioned that there are many colds around winter time. And there is also a passage wherein Snape sneezes at exactly the same time Ron stubs his toe as he and Harry sneak out of the castle to see Hagrid under the invisibility cloak. So this story picks up on those hints and follows a poor, sniffley, miserable Snape around a bit. And if you think Snape was bitter and vindictive before… wait till you see him miserable and tired and, well, rather cute as well.

Comments: Sure.



Dark Eyes


            There had been an abundance of colds going around the students in late fall, early winter. Constant sniffles and dripping noses as students hovered over potion contents. Chilled bodies lingering by their fires for warmth and allowing their cauldrons to bubble over from inattention. Students working twice as slowly for having to put down their tools and ingredients to take up a hanky to rub or blow their noses. Severus Snape stayed at the front of his dungeon classroom, not wanting to pace up and down the rows as usual, not wanting to brush against desks of sick pupils. Most students attributed his distance to his normal cold demeanor. Others, his own Slytherins mostly, thought he was simply being kind to those who were sick by not hovering over them.


            Either way, keeping his distance worked to keep him well through the seasons. Seasons which were filled with angst, terror, horror, fear of the mere thought of the Chamber of Secrets and the monster within. How many times had he searched for even a hint of it? As head of Slytherin house he'd felt sure to find something. He and the other teachers had covered every centimeter of the school, sending beams of light from their wands against every bit, tapping lose pieces of plaster on the walls or chipped stones on the floors or tiny holes in tapestries. How he had longed to find it, if only to shut up that git Lockheart for good. But as Spring came, there was nothing to be found and the attacks continued.


            In fact just that morning Penelope Clearwater, a Ravenclaw prefect, and Hermonie Granger, an insufferable know-it-all, had been petrified just outside of the library. By midmorning the professors were buzzing with new security measures to stop things getting in or out, with ways to spy on the corridors where the attacker surely must have traveled, with ways to keep the students safe. It was only a matter of time before one died… they had all been extremely lucky thus far. Teachers and prefects had been assigned shifts to patrol the halls and common rooms all evening and into the morning, to be sure nothing dangerous lurked out from the shadows… and to be sure no students took it upon themselves to walk straight into harm. Snape had the early shift for the night, ending at two in the morning.


            But early did not, by any means, imply luck or warmth. As the sun set and the castle halls emptied of students, everything became dark and cold. And while dark and cold was how Snape best liked things, after all he lived in the dungeons, it was not entirely conducive to a sniffle he had in his nose. He patrolled the corridors with preciseness and thoroughness, keeping his eye out for any sign of movement, or any sound out of the ordinary.


            Once, he thought he heard a very soft, dull thump. But he sneezed immediately afterwards and by the time he was dabbing at his nose with his handkerchief, there was nothing at all to be heard but silence and nothing to feel in the hallway he paced but cold air. It was minutes later that he spotted movement down an adjacent hallway and darted over, black robes flowing in the quick-paced walk. He spotted a familiar head of white-blond hair and a pointed cane and smiled, hanging in the doorframe behind the figure. When it turned, Severus smiled wryly and greeted it, “Well, hello Lucius.”


            The pale face of Lucius Malfoy stared back at him, eyes widening. “Severus. How nice to see you.” Then before he could be accused of lurking about the school in the dead of night, he quickly stated, “I'm here on official business from the governors. Here to see Dumbledore.”


            Snape narrowed his eyes, and flicked them from Lucius' face to his cane-in-hand then to his other hand which held a roll of parchment. A surge of something terrifying and at the same time relieving pulsed through his body. Choking it back with a hard swallow, “He's gone to Hagrid's, I believe. Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic…”


            “Yes,” interrupted Lucius snidely. “So I've been told.”


            Snape sniffled, feeling a tickling in his nose which distracted him from the sick feeling in his stomach. He turned, hand cupped to his mouth and sneezed. A forceful, wet sneeze which turned into two. Malfoy said nothing, but shifted his cane to his other hand in order to take out a neatly-pressed handkerchief and offer it to Severus. Snape reached out and took it, their fingers brushing, a twinge of pain shooting through their arms, a twinge of something very much separate rushing through their bodies. Snape pulled back quickly, rubbing at his nose with the handkerchief and giving a nod of thanks. When he made to return it, Lucius held his hand up.


            “Thank you,” Snape mumbled, rubbed his nose with a little more force, then tucked the cloth away.


            “Take care of yourself, Severus,” he said with a mysterious sort of air. “Times like these… we all have to be at the top of our game, now don't we?” He gave a smile and took a step away with his last sentiment, “Nice to see you again, old friend.”


            Snape nodded. “And the same to you, Lucius.” He realized, as he made to return to the previous hallway, that his hand had been rubbing his forearm absentmindedly. And though his skin beneath his robes looked pale and normal, it was the invisible mark that had been burned into him many years ago that seemed to call his attention, and seemed to draw him instinctually towards Lucius very much unlike he was drawn to Dumbledore.


            He headed back to the hallway and took a window seat for a moment, gazing out over the grounds. He saw Hagrid's door open, Hagrid's form fill the doorway, then close without admitting anyone. Curious. Perhaps Hagrid had heard his approaching visitors and merely anticipated their arrival. Blinking, confused, Snape stared harder as, moments later, Fudge approached the hut and Hagrid let him in with the same manor, closing the door behind. Then he saw the headmaster enter Hagrid's hut, and last but certainly not least, Lucius. Snape scanned the grounds to see nothing else out of the ordinary.


            Was the monster coming in from the outside using some means of stealth? How was the attacker entering? Or was it indeed already inside, dwelling in the chamber, appearing at will to attack and vanish. He gazed back at the cabin to see Malfoy walking out with Dumbledore, and then Fudge walking out with Hagrid. Hagrid's was the only face he could distinguish at the distance, and the large man looked as if he were about to be ill in the pumpkin patch. Not wanting to witness any such display, and feeling that his shift was over, he got up and gave his area one last look-over before handing it over to Professor Sprout who was carrying a goblet of foaming brew, presumably to help her stay awake. Besides, if he stayed another few moments he risked bumping into Lockheart, and he certainly did not want that.


            Satisfied at having done his duty for the night, he drew his cloak tightly about him and headed downstairs towards the dungeons. By the time he reached his office and was admitted, his found himself shivering from the cold. Not a single shiver here and there as the coldness touched him and backed off, but instead a continuous shiver that seemed would only stop when he was sufficiently warmed by a fire.


            His fire burst to life in the fireplace as he flung his door closed tightly behind him and muttered the words to lock it securely. The flames cast glowing, dancing colors on the bottles and jars which lined his shelves. He pulled his cloak off as an armchair slid from his deck to the fire into perfect sitting position for him. He shivered as he settled into it, pulling his legs up onto the chair with him for warmth. Truth be told, he'd been feeling cold and tired all day, and not the usual cold and tired either.


            ehhChuhhh! Ehhheh-Chooshh!” he sneezed, then wrapped his arms around his legs and tried to make the shivering stop. It took another ten minutes and a large mug of homemade butter beer to do it, but it did happen. He summoned a blanket and pillow over from his bed and curled up on the armchair with them, drowsy in the firelight. He did need to take care of himself, despite that advice originating from Lucius Malfoy. This was not the time to be coming down with anything. Worried and sniffly, he fell asleep to the soothing crackles and hisses of the fire.





            Snape woke a few hours later to a shrill bell which signaled a morning staff meeting before breakfast. Having a good idea what might be said, he moved slowly to pull himself out from under the blankets and into fresh, clean clothes. He found himself slumped in an armchair in the staff room minutes later, arms crossed over his chest, hook nose slightly running.


            Oddly, it was McGonagal, not Dumbledore, who stood up to address them, but the look on her face told them all something else was terribly wrong. “The prefects are patrolling the halls now and escorting their houses to breakfast, so that we may all meet. I'm afraid to say, last night the governors called for Albus' suspension.” Her face went white. “He has gone, and has placed me in charge temporarily.” She quickened her words. “His instructions were to run everything as normal, but enforce the safety precautions. We must all remember, this is still a school and that means proper instruction, exams, and the welfare of our students.”


            There was a nervous murmur which traveled about the room, and Snape sneezed a muffled sneeze into his handkerchief. “huh-Chmph!” McGonagal went on to explain about Hagrid being taken away, and how he could simply not be guilty. She talked about how Lucius had been the one to bring the order of suspension and that Albus was escorted away immediately. Snape nearly dozed off in the midst but his running nose and scratchy throat kept brining him back to reality. When it was time for breakfast, the teachers filed out towards the great hall, talking amongst themselves about this and that in worried voices.


            Severus took the opportunity to sneeze strongly “heh-Cheshh!” and then give his nose a rather hard honk. He headed towards the door, at the end of the pack, finding the Madam Pomfrey had purposely paced herself to meet up with him as they hit the doorway. She leaned over to him, trying to sound casual. “Couldn't help but notice you looked a bit under the weather, Severus. If you cared to stop by the hospital wing after breakfast, I'd be happy to make some pepper-up potion for you. Warm you right up.”


            Sniffling, rubbing a finger under his nose which was already beginning to threaten him with the prospect of more sneezes, he shook his head. “No, thank you. Was up late patrolling, just a little chilled.” He restrained himself from mentioning that he could brew such an easy potion any time he liked without her help.


            She nodded with understanding, though didn't exactly agree with him. “All right. But if you wanted to come by when, say, everyone was at lunch, I assure you I would be most discrete about it.” She reached over and patted his arm through his cloak in a very soft, comforting, reassuring sort of way.


            “Thank you,” he said, voice raspy, and he paused to clear it. “But no, I'll be fine.” And he followed the group of teachers towards the great hall as Madam Pomfey returned to the hospital wing.


            Severus found the last an empty seat at the staff table, located unluckily right between Professor Lockheart and Professor Kettleburn, the care of magical creatures teacher, both of whom the teachers did their best to sit far away from. With Lockheart, it was evident why, but Professor Kettleburn was an extremely kind man and generally very well liked. Unfortunately, he was missing a leg, several fingers, and one complete arm and thus constantly asked for things to be passed over to him… he also smelled of any number of foul beasts. This morning, however, Snape was lucky to have lost his sense of smell. His cold or whatever it was dulled his senses enough to even allow him to ignore Lockheart's constant boasting about how he, Lockheart, had always suspected Hagrid and was relieved they could finally celebrate. Severus barely touched his food, but mulled over some porridge and downed a few goblets of orange juice.


            McGonagal and most of the teachers were busily discussing last night's patrolling and how no one had seen or heard anything out of the ordinary aside from the spotting of Lucius Malfoy. Snape found something stir in his chest at the sound of the man's name. But before he could repress anything, he felt the need to sneeze again. As discretely as possible, he brought his handkerchief up and took a few heavy, gasping breaths. “Huh… hehhahh-SHOO!Very strong and much louder than he'd intended. He noticed, as his eyes remained closed and his nose remained buried, that the whole table had grown rather silent and the rest of the room had quieted significantly. Were they all staring at him?


            He sneezed twice more to finish off the tickle sufficiently. “heh-chishh! hih-choo!” And when he opened his eyes his assumptions were proved correct; nearly everyone at the staff table were sitting motionless, eyes right on him. A number of students at the house tables close to the front of the room were looking over as well. “Excuse me,” he grumbled loud enough for the whole table to hear. He rubbed his nose clean, grabbed an untouched scone off his plate and tore from the hall, head bowed so his hair hid most of his face from the side with his slightly flushed cheeks.


            On the stairway down to the dungeons, he passed Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle on their way up for breakfast. “Oh, Professor. I meant to ask…” Malfoy said, pausing and turning just as Snape, winded and congested, was trying to restrain coughs.


            He croaked, “See me later, Mr. Malfoy. You three need to hear the announcements in the hall.” And he turned his back to them, raised an arm, and sneezed harshly into the crook. Eshhhumph! He turned to be sure the lads had not been lingering to watch, and thankfully they had not, then followed the winding staircase down to his office. Once there, with the door locked behind and the fire springing up again, he settled back down into the armchair and pulled the blanket up around his shoulders. It was a thick winter blanket, a brilliant green with a silver snake pattern.


            As he sat, dazed and congested in front of the fire, he found his mind wandering. He felt perfectly miserable, and there was no one to complain to. Luckily he would be seeing the Gryffindors for potions later that day and would be able to take his aggressions out a bit then. But what he was really in need of was someone to be with him, comfort him, look in on him. He found himself half wondering if Lucius Malfoy had just been over for the night, or if he had stayed overnight in the village inn to take decent transportation back in the morning. If he were still in town… Snape pushed up his sleeve and ran a long finger against the invisible outline of a mark on his arm. “Lucius?” he called softly. But nothing happened, and nothing would happen. Their link had been broken long ago and their friendship… their loyalty…


            Snape pulled himself out of the chair and put a kettle on the fire for tea. He ran his hands up and down his arms in attempts to warm himself as he paced about his chambers. His bed looked highly inviting, but he dared not lie down because there might not be any getting up again. As he saw it, there were three options. He could cancel class, but he refused to do that on a moral basis. He could request a substitute, but there was no one he trusted who could cover all his classes and the other professors had enough to worry about already what with escorting students around the building and being on the lookout for trouble. Or, he could simply drag himself in, teach, and ignore the strong desires of wanting to be napping in bed.


            Ready, the kettle began to sing 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow' and Snape raced over and pulled it off the fire. It had been a joke gift for his birthday a number of years ago but used it still for the simple fact that it was effective and boiled water in half the time it took non magical kettles. He poured the water into a tall goblet which took the full contents of the kettle easily, despite being only a fifth of its size. Then he added a few tea bags, sugar and honey for taste, and tested it. It was a warm and soothing comfort and made him confident that this cold or whatever it was wasn't at all as bad as it seemed.





            The tea had run out midway through his first morning lesson with the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. Admittedly, he had hit it pretty hard, but he had been hoping for it to last a bit longer. And by the time he had seen both groups to their next classes, which were Transfiguration and Herbology respectively, he was very cold and tired indeed. Though it was spring, and the grounds were warm and welcoming, the cold breezes seemed to be the only thing that were getting to him. As he returned to his classroom for a few minutes pause to collect himself, he found his nose was running worse than ever before. He held a handkerchief to his nose constantly, sniffling miserably as he snuffled spells out at the room to tidy itself before his next class. The prospect of seeing the second year Gryffindors and Slytherins was not having the proper effect upon him. Instead, he was beginning to dread the lesson. But today was an important class, the beginning of a series that would result in a perfect floating potion to levitate anything alive several feet from the ground for an entire hour, if done properly.


            The two groups of students descended upon the room at nearly the same time, led by professors McGonagal and Flitwick, who was nearly running and out of breath to simply keep up with his students. Snape gave them a nod, ignored the suspicious look McGonagal gave him as he sniffled and tucked away the handkerchief, and stood at the front of the room as the students all took their seats. All, but one. One blatantly empty seat at the front of the class which would have been occupied by a one Ms. Hermione Granger. But he said nothing and tried not to let his gaze fall upon it again as the students quieted down and the lesson began.


            He lectured about the importance of adding the right amounts of ingredients or it could produce badly-timed results in making the subject uncontrollably hit his or her head hard on the ceiling, or making them walk three feet above the ground permanently, or delaying effects for up to three years in which the subject suddenly finally starts to float in the middle of nowhere. Snape was sniffley, but managed to silently stifle his only two sneezes with a finger pressed firmly to his nose. But his congestion was much different to hide, and he noticed a few confused expressions the first time he mentioned the words 'b'potiod' and 'flyig'. But they seemed to get the idea as he rambled on with narrowed eyes and a malicious 'you'd better pay attention or else' expression on his face.


            As he instructed them to get out their cauldrons and supplies, he moved among them, inspecting the cleanliness of all. If a cauldron had even a hint of dirt, it might throw the potion's effectiveness off. “Yours should be scrubbed out again Ms. Brown,” he snapped, rubbing a long finger on the inside of a greasy cauldron. “And you should consider purchasing a new one all together Mr. Longbottom,” Snape said with a sneer at the state of Neville's badly burned pewter cauldron.


            When it was time to give the list of ingredients, he employed the use of a piece of chalk he had charmed into taking notes from him. It zipped across the board at each word, understanding him clearly despite the mild congestion. “Three inches of night-spun silk. Twenty-two and a half grams of fluffed mull powder. Three litres of boiling billweed bubbles.” Snape felt the sneeze approach quickly and intensely. And so strong it was that he was certain he would not be able to properly stifle it. “Eight moncorn horns cut off at… at fifty-five degree angles.” No, this sneeze would be forceful. And it would be coming soon. He pulled a handkerchief out, trying to speed up the list before the sneeze came. “Six grams of… of…” But he couldn't continue. He lifted the handkerchief to nose and mouth with one hand and turned sharply as his other hand, pressed on the top of his desk, steadied himself. “ehh-SHARSHH! Heh-CHUshhh! The sound trailed off into the handkerchief as he gave his head a shake and sniffled strongly. There were a few giggles which were quickly silenced with his harsh look at the class. “Six grams of pulverized bat wing,” he continued quickly, as if the sneezes had not happened at all. “Three legs from a female spider.” And it happened again. That strong, tickling 'I need to sneeze now' sensation. Quickly he raised the handkerchief again, still out and in his hand. And quickly he sneezed once more into it. “heh-Ch-ESHH!” He gave his nose a soft, wet blow and lowered the hanky. He hazarded a glance over at his chalkboard to remember where he had left off and felt his cheeks and ears grow bright red with embarrassment. On the board, three times, were his sneezes, each spelled out with phonetic-accuracy, along with a few sniffles and the blow.


            Snape's eyes grew wide and he tucked the handkerchief away as he turned to the board, grasping the eraser so tightly his knuckles were white. He furiously erased the last few lines on the board over and over until there was nothing except a cloud of grey chalk dust. Then he dropped the eraser and picked the offending piece of chalk up. He held it in his hand a moment, squeezing tightly, and crushed it into half a dozen pieces which he left fall to the floor. Quickly, he took out another piece of chalk and finished the list for the day's ingredients in his own hand. The only sound that could be heard apart from the scratch of the chalk was his own frequent sniffling, which was not reported on the board this time.


            He set them to work at once, advising them all to pay attention to order and quantity, and to get everything right now as they would be working on this until the end of the term and thus it would constitute a large portion of their grade. And instead of moving among them, he remained at the front of the class, draining the very last few drops of tea from his goblet and rubbing at his nose frequently with his handkerchief.


            Halfway through the lesson, he got the sneezes again, directing the lot into his handkerchief, holding it close to muffle the sound as much as possible. “huh-Mumchh! Hehheh-Chumshh! Ehh-Chumphh! Ehh-Cihumsh! He sniffled and winced as he rubbed violently at his runny nose and found it getting a little tender.


            From somewhere in the classroom, he heard a soft, absentminded “Bless you.”


            His cheeks burned red and he snapped his head up, looking around but not entirely sure who had said it. “Quiet!” he hissed menacingly. “The next person who speaks out will receive a detention.”


            While he did hear a few bits of conversation, he didn't bother snapping at anyone until after a particularly embarrassing wet sneeze “heh-Chetchhh!” forced another blow from him and he heard the two phrases “shouldn't wonder with that nose” and “hope he doesn't sneeze on my cauldron and mess up this perfect potion”. The first voice had a thick Irish accent, the other was slightly deeper in tone. His eyes flared darkly. “Mr.Finnigan, Mr.Thomas. Detentions!” The harsh exclamation caused him to cough a few times, which he directed into his handkerchief as well.


             He patrolled the room, assigning a few more detentions, mainly to the Gryffindors, and telling off even the Slytherins with a harsh, snappish tone. When he passed by Draco Malfoy's table, he caught a snip of conversation but, curious, allowed it to continue. “I always thought father might be the one who got rid of Dumbledore. I told you he thinks Dumbledore's the worst headmaster the school's ever had. Maybe we'll get a decent headmaster now, someone who won't want the Chamber of Secrets closed. McGonagal won't last long, she's only filling in.” Snape swept past, between the table where Malfoy sat gloating to Crabbe and Goyle and the table at which Potter, Weasley and an empty seat stood. He gave a shiver at the thought of Lucius raising a son to be so single-minded and publicly cruel. At least Lucius had tact and grace when he acted evilly. But his presence hadn't gone unnoticed by Malfoy, who spoke up quite loud enough for the whole class to hear. “Sir!” he called to get Snape's attention. “Sir, why don't you apply for the headmaster's job?”


            Snape replied roughly, his voice harsh from the cold or whatever it was. But he suppressed a smile. “Now, now Malfoy, Professor Dumbledore has only been suspended by the governors. I daresay he'll be back with us soon enough.”


            Malfoy gave a nod and smirked to Crabbe and Goyle, “Yeah, right. I expect you'd have Father's vote, Sir, if you wanted to apply for the job. I'll tell Father you're the best teacher here, Sir.”


            Snape smirked at the thought of Lucius Malfoy casting a vote in his favor for anything. Their days of standing up for each other had long since gone the way of the dinosaur. But it was amusing to hear naive young Mr.Malfoy speak like this. He heard the quiet sound of vomiting from the corner where Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan sat and caught a glimpse of the later boy pretending to be sick into his cauldron. He overlooked it, however as the boys already had one detention.


            A few minutes later, the bell rang and a prefect arrived to escort the Gryffindors to Herbology, while he was left to take the Slytherins to transfiguration. The group of Slytherins chattered happily behind him as he led them up the stairs and through the halls. Of all the groups in the castle, they seemed the least worried about this whole chamber affair, and for good reason: none of their lot had been attacked yet. Still, they were slightly more subdued than usual and certainly didn't mind the accompaniment of a teacher to and from lessons.


            Snape deposited them at the transfiguration classroom just as Professor McGonagal arrived after having seen the second year Hufflepuffs to Herbology as well. She gave Severus another suspicious look, her eyes flickering from his nose to the handkerchief peaking out of his dark robes. He quickly pulled his cloak closer around him to hide it and gave her a soft smile with something between an apologetic look and a sympathetic one. She looked at least as tired as he felt, and it was not even lunch time. And she had… were those red eyes from crying? Over Albus? She, however, looked as stern and serious as always and nodded as she saw her students to their seats.


            He quickly disappeared back to the dungeons and his office. He had to speak the spell to unlock his door twice before he said it clearly enough to make it work. He had a free period now, then lunch, then double potions with Ravenclaws and Slytherins in their seventh year. They should be old enough to get along on their own without much guidance from him. After all, they were simply working out of their textbooks this term to prepare properly for their N.E.W.T.s. Maybe he would send someone to look in on them while he took a bit of a midday nap.


            heh-Cheshh! Heh-CHISHH!” he sneezed freely, wiping his nose roughly on his sleeve and closing the door to his office behind him. Severus prepared another pot of tea and curled up with a goblet full under the covers of his bed. So comfortable, so soft, so welcoming. Together, the blankets and tea warmed him as he had not been all morning and night. Curling into a half-fetal position, he hugged a pillow to his chest in comfort and closed his eyes to sleep. What he needed, he thought to himself again, was something like a friend. Something like a lover. But before he could think on it any more or even remove his shoes and cloak, he fell asleep.



            He felt the fingers brush his forehead as his dark black hair was pulled from in front of his face. The bed was weighted down in the middle and his waist was pressed against someone else's, a someone else who was sitting. He opened his eyes hesitantly to find the figure dressed in very navy robes topped with blond hair. He recognized the figure before realizing what it must mean. “Lucius?” he whispered, relieved.


            The figure nodded, turning its head to his face with a smile. “Shhh, Sev. Go back to sleep. You need it.”


            Severus shook his head, pushing himself up on an elbow to get closer to the man. Suddenly, the realization hit him. “How'd you get id here?” He sniffled and reached for a handkerchief under his pillow.


            “You used the same spell on your trunk when we were at school.” He looked around the office with disgust and an evil-looking smile. “Don't know why you bother, really.”


            Severus coughed and smiled weakly as his hair fell back into his face; he pushed it back out himself. “Why're you here?”


            He shrugged. “I'm a school governor. I'm allowed—“


            “No,” he said softly, rubbing at his nose roughly for it had begun to run again. “Sniff, sniff! I bead, why are you here?”


            “I thought—“ but he cut himself off from that vein. “Why, don't you want me here?”


            Hesitantly, Snape nodded. Then sneezed. Into his pillow, the only directly he could move where Lucius Malfoy wasn't.heh-Cheshh! Hih-Chishh! He winced again as he rubbed at his nose. As he lowered a handkerchief from his tender nose, he felt a soft hand on his own hand. A hand so gentle that it felt as though it had never done a single day's hard work. “Lucius,” he began weakly, anxiously, but was cut off by another sneeze. Heh-ehh-keh-Chishhh! He rubbed again at his nose, sniffling, and mumbled “'Scuseheh-Chishhh! Sniff, sniff! Excuse be.”


            “Bless you,” Lucius replied almost sweetly.


            Severus tried again. “But Lucius—“


            Shhh, Sev,” Lucius said again, reaching down and easing the man back down onto the mattress and pulling the blankets up to his chin. Then Lucius ran his hand up and down the man's side comfortingly. He justified the touch soothingly. “We Slytherins take care of our own, all right? Just get some rest now.”


            But Snape shook his head and fought to get back up. “But why—“


            Seeing the man wouldn't be at rest until giving a suitable answer, he whispered. “Because of your eyes. Those dark eyes.” Eyes he knew. Eyes he had looked into so many years ago. Eyes that held so much pain behind them. Eyes that held so many secrets behind. “And that look you gave me last night.” And he gave the man a tender kiss on his warm forehead. A kiss that meant so much more than either man cared to believe. “Now will you sleep? For me?”


            Yawning, Severus obeyed, feeling some sort of comforting satisfaction in following the man's orders once again. Following them without questioning, as he had done as a schoolboy, and then afterwards in the ranks. Yes, he'd turned on them. And yes, Dumbledore trusted him with good reason. But Dumbledore wasn't there just now. And Dumbledore had neither bedded him nor cared for him in sickness. He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, hours later, he was alone once again in his bed with no trace of Lucius Malfoy to be found, not even the mark of a cane on the rug. Had it only been a feverish dream?


            Snape pressed a hand to his forehead to check for a fever. It didn't seem overly hot, but it was difficult with nothing to compare it to. “heh-Chishhh! Heh-Chushh!  His head felt full of congestion and he felt rather light-headed. Rubbing his nose with the back of his hand, he forced himself to wake up.


            He coughed and sat up, rubbing at his eyes. According to his clock, it was well past dinner time. A sinking feeling settled in his stomach, making him feel much more ill. His classes. Who had covered his classes? He hadn't even told anyone he needed someone. If the classes had simply been sitting alone in the dungeons. Another attack?


            Frightened, disoriented and weak, he pulled himself up and out of bed and fell over a chair which sat just a few feet from the bed with his cloak and shoes on it. The bump dislodged a small white envelope which fluttered towards the floor before being scooped up in his hand. Snape sat down on his bed as he ripped the envelope open to read, in a neat and perfect hand, 'Cancelled your afternoon classes. Left dinner in thermos on your desk. Caught last train out of Hogsmede for the day. Take care of yourself, my old friend.'  And that was all.


            Exhausted and something between relieved and worried, Severus fell back onto his bed. He was cold, shivering without his blankets over him. But there was nothing to be done now except indulge himself. Carefully, he slid back under the covers and closed his eyes, falling to sleep once again.