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This Is Personal

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One in the morning and he'd only just finished the readings for the rest of the first week of classes. Severus groaned and stuffed his books back in his bag. Limited sleep was exactly what he needed with his first class of the morning being with the Gryffindors, namely the same group of idiots whose fault it was that he was up so late. He would have had the reading done hours ago, but no, they just had to try and pull some stupid prank on him the night before that ended up with all six of them assigned detention before the Welcome Feast had even begun. Which had to be a new record.

At least Lily had been just as furious as him, Severus thought as he dropped his schoolbag in his trunk and crept back out of the room with his toiletry kit. It was some consolation that his best friend had aided him trying to defend himself first against his attackers and then against an angry Professor Kettleburn who didn't care who started it; he had loose creatures, some of them injured, and every student involved was going to pay for it. Pity he'd been paired up with Black for detention instead of Lily. (Why couldn't he be more like his brother? Not that they knew each other particularly well, being a year apart, but Reggie was an enjoyable enough opponent for the occasional game of chess in the common room.) The company was worse than the slimy old dungeon they were scrubbing out. Sartre was right; Hell was other people.

Oh no. This wasn't good. Why was there a first year on the bathroom floor looking like death warmed over.

Sick first years were definitely not on the list of things that he wanted to be dealing with. He wasn't much of a people person, he was in a bad mood, and it was one in the damn morning. So of bloody course there would be a very ill first year on the bathroom floor when he was the only other student still awake in the Slytherin dormitory as far as he knew. Third year was not off to a good start.

"Let's get you to Madam Pomfrey." He held out a hand to the little boy, trying to keep resentment out of his voice. It probably wasn't his fault he was sick.

The boy shrank back, shaking his head rapidly. "No! Please. You can't tell. My father will be angry."

There was something about the look in the boy's eyes that made Severus's own array of mementos from his father throb in sympathy. "What d'you mean? Did he do something to you?" The boy tensed. Bingo. Severus retracted his hand and sat down on the floor. "I won't tell. Promise. Mine hits me too."

The boy looked down. "He's at the office too much of the time to hit me very often. He made me take pills though. Muggle ones. I hate them. I hate how they make me feel. I won't take them anymore. I WON'T. Not now I'm here and he's not here to force me."

Withdrawal. That made sense. Life with an alcoholic father meant that Severus was quite familiar with the misery of withdrawal. "What'd he do that for? Doesn't trust magic?"

"I'll have you know we are an old pureblood family." The boy tried to puff himself up but the effect was ruined by another round of muscle spasms.

"Meant no offense." Severus reached over and borrowed a cup left sitting on a sink by somebody. "Drink some water, your body will thank you for it."

His hands trembled so badly that Severus scooted over and helped him steady the cup. The boy allowed it.

"His reputation. It's all he cares about. Wants to be Minister. Can't have me reflecting poorly on him."

"Is he mad you were sorted in Slytherin?"

The boy shrugged. Severus wondered when the child had started leaning against him. "Hasn't said anything. Dunno if he even knows; he might be too busy at work to have noticed yet. That'd be awfully rich though, considering he was in Slytherin himself. Still, it's not like he mentions that if he can avoid it."

"I suppose in this case no news is good news. But you look exhausted and a cold tile floor is no place to sleep. If I have some calming draught in my trunk, would you be willing to take it? Our textbook mentions it helping with muscle spasms, and you need rest if you don't want the teachers noticing you're unwell." As do I.