It had been a long night, and Severus was even more confused than ever about Harry Potter after listening to the murmurings the boy had been making as his fever grew steadily, worryingly higher.
"Pear pimples for hairy fishnuts," he said, moving fretfully under the light rectangle of linen that lay over his nude body.
What? the Potions master thought, ignoring the way Potter's form was showcased more than covered by the sheet. Pear pimples? Fishnuts? Perhaps they're Muggle snack foods.
He levitated a cauldron of cool water to the head of the bed, and dipped a flannel into it before wiping the cloth over Harry's forehead and cheeks, his neck and chest. It never occurred to him to set a cooling charm.
"No, m'not a penguin," the Seventh Year protested.
"You certainly are not that, you irresponsible prat," Severus said acerbically, more because he had just caught himself staring at Potter's mouth again than because he was angry at his student's failing to have followed the directions that would have saved him from a potential death by internal burning, he knew. I never should have allowed Albus to include him in N.E.W.T.s-level Potions, he chastised himself. I never should have given in to my own perverse desires.
Pulling back Potter's sheet to his waist, the wizard stroked the chilled water over the boy's—the young man's—chest, inadvertently teasing his nipples into peaks from the friction and temperature of the flannel.
Oh. . . . I should never have kept him here, rather than the Infirmary, either.
"M'not a spiritual pilgrim—don't want to worship in his temple," Harry protested.
"What are you raving about, Potter?" the wizard asked, laying the cloth over the rim of the cauldron and sending the vessel away. It's time for another dose, he told himself, pouring liquid from a small phial into the boy's mouth, and helping his student swallow by massaging his throat.
He tried not to enjoy the silken, heated texture of Potter's skin, or the tightening in his trousers.
Harry took the fever-reducing potion and then murmured, "Cough up . . . some dough."
"You are requesting money?"
"For the temple," Harry said, his eyes fluttering open. "You're . . . you're not Opus," he said to Severus, his eyes widening in an unfocused way.
"And who might this 'Opus' be, Mr. Potter?" the Potions master asked in a mild tone. Gods, but they're very green, he thought of Harry's eyes, and then damned himself for sounding like a besotted adolescent.
His patient did not appear to understand the question or his own condition. "Wh—where?"
"You are in my guest room due to your incompetence to follow a simple recipe, boy. Do you not remember?" Severus asked, reaching for Harry's glasses on the side table and placing them on his face.
"Oh, I, I mixed up the order, didn't I?" the young man said weakly, his eyes blinking in confusion at his professor's gesture—and the unusual softness of his mouth, which was not pressed in its customary disapproving line. He's . . . he's concerned about me.
"Indeed. I've been feeding you various corrective potions for over thirty-six hours, Mr. Potter."
"Do I have detention, sir? Oh, and th—thank you," Harry added, attempting to sit up. Dizzy, he thought, as the room began to spin.
And the Hare Krishna glaring at him in the corner did not help matters.
Severus placed one splayed-fingered, firm hand against his chest and pushed Potter back down on the bed; he had no desire to have an eyeful of naked Harry discomfit him any more than his ridiculous fancy already had. "Be still. You're weak. You'll need your strength to earn back the one hundred points your carelessness cost Gryffindor."
"See?" Harry said to the man in the saffron robes in the corner. "I told you I didn't have any money."
"But you're dimples are worth something," a high voice piped up from the side of the bed.
"Opus, your nose—it tickles," Harry said, giggling.
Severus called back the cauldron. Still delirious, he thought, beginning to tend his patient again.
It surprised him how very much he did not mind.