Out of the Shadows
Chapter 15: Fever
Writter: fall shadow
Summary: Harry has been raised to follow a path of darkness, but when he meets Hermione things start to change and he finds out everything he has been led to believe is a lie. Now, with a strengthened resolve, he must do whatever it takes to stop the one he once considered his master.
One day in early February, Hermione was sitting on the sofa reading when she sneezed for the third time.
“Hermione, are you alright?” Harry asked, looking over at her from his spot on a nearby chair.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Hermione answered, trying to go back to her book with little success as she started coughing.
“Hermione, really…” Harry moved over to sit next to her on the couch and gently took the book from her hands. Setting it down on an end table, still open to her last page, he turned back to her.
“Who is making all the fuss?” Andromeda asked as she entered the room. “It can’t very well be my daughter, because I was just with her.”
With one look at Hermione, she said, “Oh, poor Hermione. Why didn’t you tell me you were sick? I’m sure I have a potion around here somewhere that I can give you to ease the symptoms.” Then she quickly retraced her steps out of the living room.
Harry gave Hermione a look as she shivered.
“You’re fine, huh?” Harry shook his head. He reached behind them and pulled the blanket off of the couch, unfolding it and handing her one side, throwing the other around her shoulders.
“Thank you,” Hermione said in a quiet voice.
“Well,” Andromeda said as she came back, “we don’t have much in stock unfortunately.” She gave Hermione a look of apology. “I should really keep it in case Dora gets sick… with her being pregnant, it could be more dangerous since we don’t know what you’ve got.”
“Yes, you’re right. Don’t worry, I’m sure I will be fine,” Hermione said.
“I’m afraid you and Harry are still going to have to share the living room. But you’ll to have to be extra careful to stay out here… we don’t want everyone else getting sick.” She conjured a sort of temporary, paneled wall partition in the open area between the living room and the hallway which led directly to the kitchen. Then she eyed Harry for a moment. “You might not have much of a chance, but we can hope for the best. Would you mind taking care of her? I’ve got Dora to look after, and my daughter is certainly a handful right now. I would feel more comfortable not being near both of them in case I pass it along.”
“Err, sure, no problem,” Harry answered with as much confidence as he could muster. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Oh, Harry, I’ll be alright,” Hermione tried to assure him. “If I really need anything I can just ask you to go and get it for me. I won’t bother you much.”
She seemed uncomfortable at the idea of making him wait on her.
“Alright, then,” Harry told her. “That shouldn’t be too tough.”
“Good,” Andromeda said. “I’ll just be down the hall then, let me know if you need anything, Harry.”
The older woman walked around her makeshift divider and out of sight.
Harry felt strange; he wasn’t usually put in charge of anything. He wasn’t used to being responsible for someone else. All he had ever done before was take food to prisoners when he was directed to. Now it was like he was being left to watch over a pet or a young child… a very independent one who didn’t like having someone else told to look after her.
Hermione rolled her eyes, telling Harry that it was probably just a cold that would pass in a day or two.
For once, Hermione had been wrong.
The next day hadn’t been much different, other than Hermione sneezing more than before and asking Harry how in the name of Merlin he wasn’t freezing without a jacket or a sweatshirt or a blanket.
The day after, Hermione seemed to be getting worse. Harry noticed that she still looked cold off and on, and she kept fidgeting restlessly.
“How are you feeling?” Harry asked that evening.
“Not that great, I guess,” Hermione answered in a disappointed voice.
She really looked miserable, sitting on the couch, a mass of blankets.
“Is there anything I can get you?” Harry asked. “Come on, what is it?” he prodded, noticing how she hesitated.
“Well, some tea would be nice,” she told him quietly. “It might warm me up from the inside.”
Harry smiled. He had never been around someone who so disliked asking others for something. His whole life had been quite the opposite; he had been ordered to fetched drinks, make food, get the remote, grab a book from the study, clean the entire house by dinnertime, mow the lawn, trim the hedges, and anything else whoever it was fancied for as long as he could remember. It was like that with the Dursleys, the Malfoys, and the Death Eaters, and they had certainly never been shy about telling him to do what they wanted.
With Hermione it was completely different. She seemed troubled having to ask him to get things for her or do things she shouldn’t (like check on the potion, since she didn’t want to get any germs near it just in case she was still contagious). Harry couldn’t decide what bothered her more- not being allowed to do the things herself, or feeling like she was burdening him by asking him to do them. Whichever it was, she needn’t worry about it so much, since Harry didn’t mind helping her. But even though he had reminded her of this several times in the past two days, she still didn’t look comfortable with requesting his assistance.
“Tea it is,” Harry saluted her in a joking fashion, but the grimace he got in return showed her lack of amusement.
When Harry returned with the cup of tea and a biscuit, he offered it to her with a smile.
“Just like old times, eh?”
It took a few seconds for her to realize what he meant.
“Harry, that’s an awful thing to joke about!” Hermione said, scolding him for trying to joke about her time at the Malfoy Manor when he brought her food.
After she took everything from him, he sat down next to her (and her blankets) rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.
Why would I bring up the times I brought her food while she was locked up as a prisoner? I doubt she wants to think about that! She was taken from her family and locked up in a dark dungeon, had hardly any food or water for days, and got tortured and almost killed afterward! Yeah, I’m sure that will cheer her up. I’m such an idiot.
“Sorry,” Harry said in a disheartened tone. “I’m not trying to make it seem like- I just thought it might be funny that… well, I brought you food when I first… saw you, and now I’m bringing you food again…” Harry sighed, his hands coming to rest on his legs. “I shouldn’t have brought it up. That was really stupid.”
Hermione set her tea on the end table on her side before turning to Harry, who was looking at his hands dejectedly.
He watched as one of her hands grasped one of his. To his surprise, he didn’t flinch; but he did worry his heart had stopped for a moment. He took a shaky breath and she started to speak.
“Harry, it’s alright,” she gave his hand a gentle squeeze for emphasis before removing it, at which point Harry swallowed the strange nervousness he felt. “I know you were only trying to cheer me up. Really, it’s okay.”
Harry looked at her warily before nodding uncertainly.
She made a face of discomfort and shed one of her blankets. Before Harry could ask if she was alright again she began talking.
“Is anyone else still up?” Hermione asked.
“No, I think they are all in their rooms now… why?”
“I just wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Alright,” Harry agreed, hoping she couldn’t tell he was still uneasy.
For a moment, which she passed by removing another blanket, Hermione didn’t seem sure of what to say.
“Was I the first prisoner while you were living at the Malfoys’?” she asked finally.
“No.” He didn’t elaborate.
“Was I the first one you had to… bring food and water to?”
“No,” Harry answered, and sensing she wanted to know more, he tried to explain. “They didn’t like tending to the prisoners, so they usually had me do it. Especially for the…” Harry trailed off, feeling his face heat up somewhat at the memory of having called her the word before- having addressed her with the hurtful, disgusting slur.
“…the muggle-borns?” Hermione guessed.
Harry nodded, his eyes trained down in front of him.
“You… snuck me extra food, after a few days, didn’t you?” She was fairly sure that he had, but she wanted to confirm her theory.
“…why?” she asked, taking his uncomfortable silence as answer enough.
He shifted in his seat, still refusing to look at her.
“I… I don’t know. You just… looked hungry,” he answered lamely.
There was a pause before she asked her next question.
“Did you ever do that before, with the other prisoners?”
“No, I was afraid I’d get caught.” Harry told her.
Did I even seriously consider it before then? With her, I just… did it.
“Did you?” At his confused look, she added, “Get caught.”
“Oh,” Harry said, “no. It was mine, so they never noticed.”
“It was yours?” Hermione asked, looking curious.
“My food- part of my meal,” Harry explained, feeling stupid for some reason. He glanced in the direction of the kitchen, briefly wondering if he could make some excuse to get out of this conversation. It was pointless though; he would have to come back to the living room eventually.
She looked at him interestedly, not that unlike the expression she wore when reading one of her books or when she watched him catch his snitch from time to time.
Wait, how do I know what sort of face she makes when she reads…?
Thankfully to Harry, she dropped that line of inquiries and picked a different track.
“There was something else I’ve been wondering, too,” she said, looking puzzled.
Harry waited for her to continue, trying not to look anxious.
“Do you know how You-Know-Who came back?”
Harry shuddered involuntarily. Did he? He had been part of it. He swallowed thickly. What was he supposed to tell her?
“I… yeah,” he eventually got out, cringing at how his voice sounded.
Hermione studied him before ultimately deciding not to push him.
“It’s alright, you don’t have to explain,” she said, now removing her final blanket. “I doubt it was a particularly pleasant experience. Is it warm in here all of a sudden? Am I hot?”
Harry jolted a bit at her question, sputtering, “Wha- what?” before realizing what she meant and quickly saying, “Oh, right,” and reaching a hand over to check her forehead.
“It feels like you’re burning up,” Harry told her worriedly, removing his hand. “Do you want me to get Andromeda?”
“No, no,” Hermione told him calmly. “The fever probably broke, that’s all. If I feel worse or it doesn’t go away, I will tell you and you can go and get her, alright?” Hermione added, seeing that the alarm had not faded from his face.
“Fine, if you’re sure,” Harry relented.
“I have been sick before, you know,” Hermione told him with a small smile. Some of her skin was now shining slightly with sweat.
Harry made a face at her before saying he was going to get her water.
He nearly dropped the cup when he came back in the room to find her wearing guys’ boxers (which he guessed were actually hers) and a tank top. When he had left the room, he was sure she had been wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt. And her feet, which had been covered in two layers of socks, were now bare. Quickly recovering from being startled at her unexpected change of attire, Harry brought over the glass.
Her face looked flushed, and when Harry checked, he thought her forehead felt hotter. Harry felt his stomach squirm uncomfortably.
“Harry, I’m alright,” she told him, seeming somewhat amused, if anything, that he looked so worried.
She drank some of the water, and he took the rest of the glass from her before setting it on the nearest end table.
“Here,” Harry said, moving the blankets she had been using, “lay down.”
She did as he instructed, gently lying back on the couch.
“I’ll be right back, okay?” Harry asked.
“Sure,” she said, scrunching her face slightly in discomfort.
Harry quickly returned with a small bowl and a washcloth in his hands. Harry knelt down next to her and set the bowl down on the floor. He dipped the washcloth in.
“What are you doing?” Hermione asked.
“Helping,” Harry answered uncertainly, “I think.”
He wrung it out enough so that it stopped dripping before bringing the cool cloth hesitantly up to her forehead.
“I saw my aunt do this for Dudley when he was sick, once,” he explained.
He arranged cloth on her head, pressing once or twice; trying to make sure it was in place properly, gently brushing her hair out of the way so that it wouldn’t get wet.
His movements were a little shaky and tentative, but she could feel his kindness and concern.
Hermione was glad her face was already flushed- she was sure if it wasn’t she would be blushing.
Harry’s eyes darted to the source of the noise, meeting the twinkling eyes of a grinning Tonks, who was standing next to the divider. He leaned back from the couch, his hand flying away from Hermione on instinct, looking like a little boy who had been caught trying to sneak an extra cookie before dinner. His face clearly showed his confusion, not sure if he had done something wrong. Hermione looked just short of mortified. Tonks couldn’t help laughing at the pair of them.
“I was just coming to check how you were feeling before I turned in for the night. Harry said you seemed worse earlier. Mum doesn’t want me over here in case I get sick, but I think she’s gone to sleep and I wanted to see how you were.” She paused for a moment before eyeing them with a teasing smile. “It seems you’re well taken care of.”
Harry was sure his face had turned scarlet when Tonks shot a smirk in his direction.
“I’m feeling a bit better than I was,” Hermione managed to reply a bit feebly. “I think my fever has broken.”
“Good,” Tonks told her sincerely. “Then I’ll leave you to it, Harry.”
Harry looked away from her as his heart kept up its elevated pace.
“Just behave you two,” Tonks said, before turning to leave. “I know Hermione is sick, but you never know…”
“Tonks!” Hermione finally protested, at the obviously suggestive comment, causing the washcloth to slide off of her forehead.
Tonks laughed quietly and assured them she was only having some fun with them before leaving the flustered teens.
There was an awkward silence.
“S-sorry,” Harry stammered, grabbing the washcloth from where it landed on the couch and setting it aside.
“No, it’s alright,” Hermione answered, though her voice still sounded nervous, too. “You don’t have to apologize; you didn’t do anything wrong. The cold cloth felt good- it helped.”
There was a noise from the hallway and Harry just about jumped a foot. Apparently someone had gone into the bathroom.
“Harry, relax,” Hermione told him gently. “Do I still feel as warm?”
After she asked, she realized that the currently embarrassed Harry might be opposed to checking, which was confirmed by the startled look on his face when he heard her suggestion. It faded quickly, though, and he reached up to see if her head felt as warm.
“No,” Harry said after a moment, “no, you don’t feel as warm.” Then he added, “I wonder if it’s just because of the cold cloth. What if that made the skin cooler there?”
Considering this Hermione asked, “Well, does my neck feel warm?” in a tone that sounded as if she was asking him about the weather.
Harry blinked. He blinked again.
He leaned over again and laid his hand on her neck softly.
“It’s not that warm,” Harry reported.
It is sort of warm… but I think that’s normal. It doesn’t feel hot like her forehead did when the fever was worse. It feels…
His eyes met hers, and he felt her heartbeat quicken under his fingertips- wait, felt. He hurriedly removed his hand, and leaned back, saying, “Yeah, you definitely don’t feel as hot as- as when the fever was bad.”
“Good,” Hermione said, looking maybe a tiny bit flustered.
“Should we, err, get some sleep now, then?” Harry asked, rearranging the blankets so that he had his normal spot on the floor next to her couch.
“Yes, we probably should; it must be getting late,” Hermione answered in a more normal voice.
“Do you… want a blanket at all, or no?” Harry asked.
“Oh, yes, please. Now that the fever has gone away I actually feel a bit chilly again.”
Harry picked out one of the lighter blankets she had been using and swiftly draped it over her.
Harry nodded and went back to fixing the rest of the blankets into his own pile before getting the lights off and lying down. Within seconds he noticed something unusual; something smelled different. He moved one of the blankets closer to his nose and found that it smelled faintly like Hermione.
This must be one of the ones she was using earlier.
“Goodnight, Harry,” she said, breaking his train of thought before it had really formed.
He smiled and closed his eyes, a funny feeling still swirling around within him as he let himself drift off to sleep.