< >"For you, maybe, that was funny."
< >"What happened to you?"
< >"What do you mean?" Draco demanded, shoving his books onto the floor angrily so that he could see the other boy from across the room. They landed hard with a loud thud, but neither boy paid any attention. They were the only patients in there at the moment.
< >Weasley set his book on his own bedside table. "You were gripping the sheets like you were holding on for dear life. I can see, you know," he said sarcastically. "You also went nearly rigid."
< >Draco hesitated. "What's it to you?" he snapped finally.
< >"Fine. I'll leave you alone."
< >"For how long?"
< >"Huh?" Weasley grunted.
< >"A day, a week? How long until I get carried back here on a stretcher - again?" Draco demanded angrily, glaring hard at his opponent.
< >Weasley glared back, but didn't say anything.
< >After a little while, there was a knock on the door.
< >"Madam Pomfrey," Weasley yelled. "Someone's at the door."
< >Madam Pomfrey came storming out of her office, still red. "If they're patients, why didn't they just come in?" she demanded of Weasley. She didn't wait for an answer and flung the door open once she'd reached it.
< >"No - more - visitors," she said icily to whoever was standing outside the door.
< >"We've brought them dinner, Madam Pomfrey," came Harry Potter's voice. "The kitchens were closing, so they sent us up, and we were already coming to see Ron . . ." His voice trailed off hopefully.
< >"Fine," Madam Pomfrey said irritably, swinging the door the rest of the way open. "I'll be in my office. Shut the door, Mr. Potter." She strode to her office and closed the door behind her heavily.
< >Harry Potter and Hermione Granger entered the room, each holding separate trays. Draco swallowed, not wanting another confrontation. He smoothed back his hair without success - he could feel it sticking up every which way because of the way it had dried.
< >Hermione walked over to Draco with the tray and Harry Potter went to Weasley, the two boys watching Hermione carefully, ready to spring out at Draco on a moments notice.
< >"Here you go, Ron," Potter said to Weasley, handing him his tray.
< >Hermione handed Draco his own tray and was about to walk away when she noticed his books, scattered all over the floor. Draco watched her in amazement as she bent over and collected them into her arms, setting them back onto his table.
< >As she turned to walk away again, Draco mumbled, "Thank you."
< >Hermione jumped and turned around. "What?" she asked.
< >"Thank you," Draco repeatedly, only a touch louder.
< >She blinked, and after taking a moment to register what he had said, replied quietly, "You're welcome." She then turned and walked away, over toward Weasley's bed, where the three began speaking immediately, though were careful to speak in low enough tones so that Draco couldn't hear.
< >Draco sighed and turned to his food. Roast duck, potatoes, beans - a fine meal. His stomach lurched. Oh, he was hungry, but this food disgusted him greatly. He turned to the water cup that he had set on the table earlier and filled it again with water from the pitcher that Madam Pomfrey had earlier indicated.
< >He gulped down the water like a dehydrated animal, feeling sick. He blinked his watering eyes twice, trying to keep them focused. They seemed to be confused between the sudden exhaustion washing over him and the putrid smell of dinner causing his stomach to twist. Draco turned his head to the nightstand on the other side of him and pushed his tray carefully onto it. Doing this made Draco's stomach suddenly relaxe, though it still rumbled slightly with hunger. He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, forcing himself to release into the forgiving blackness. As if I haven't slept enough, was his last thought of the night.
< >When he woke up, Madam Pomfrey was peering down at him, not six inches from his face. He gave a start, startled, then relaxed, realizing who it was.
< >"Good morning," Madam Pomfrey said crisply. "You did not eat dinner."
< >"Do you greet everyone like this in the morning?" Draco asked, grunting as Madam Pomfrey pulled him into a sitting position, so she could pull the bed into a slanted position to lie his back against.
< >A small, amused smile graced her face. "No, just you." She shoved a spoon suddenly into his mouth and he choked, sputtering in surprise. He was forced to swallow the foul tasting whatever it was - she still had the spoon in his mouth.
< >When she finally pulled it out, Draco leaned over, and spat on the ground, but it was useless. He had swallowed. "Ugh!" he cried. He turned back to Madam Pomfrey, his eyes nearly watering. "Sick! What was that?" he demanded shrilly, coughing now over the side of the bed.
< >"Hot cereal - with your medicine. Now," Madam Pomfrey ordered, handing him a bowl, then the same spoon that she had laced with the medicine. "Eat - you're not leaving here for a while."
< >Draco moved to protest, but then he understood why. His back muscles sized up and he grimaced in pain. He moved his body back onto the bed more comfortably, and soon could be seen eating greedily.
< >Weasley was gone, he noticed out of the corner of his eye, and no one else was there. He didn't really mind - as he had caused Draco decrepitude - although he wished he had someone to talk to besides Madam Pomfrey and himself.
< >About two or so hours later, his wish was granted, though he probably wouldn't have asked to talk to this person - given the choice of being embarrassed in front of someone, it would have been someone completely different.
< >Hermione Granger came walking through the door when Madam Pomfrey was trying to force the medicine down his throat again, trying to use the hot cereal trick again; Draco was nearly in a screaming fit, trying to push her away with his hands and nails.
< >He stopped everything when she walked in and Madam Pomfrey seized her chance and shoved in the spoon, holding it there until he swallowed. When he finally choked it down, she set down the spoon, smiling triumphantly, then turned to Hermione.
< >Draco was still coughing behind her, holding a hand over his mouth in case it came back up. After a moment, he was certain it wasn't coming back up, and began to wipe his mouth of the drying food, muttering curses under his breath.
< >"Hello, Miss Granger," Madam Pomfrey said pleasantly to Hermione.
< >"Hello, Madam Pomfrey."
< >"Here for your detention, are you?"
< >"Yes," Hermione said heavily.
< >"I personally do not see the reason for Professor Snape's punishing you, but I am obligated." Madam Pomfrey sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. "I'll put you on bedpan cleaning. I personally hate the job and I need to do paperwork."
< >With that, Madam Pomfrey gave Hermione short, simple instructions, and then walked briskly to her office, closing the door behind her with a satisfied snap.
< >Hermione glanced at Draco, then began collecting the bedpans, her face contorting with disgust. Draco was thankful that Madam Pomfrey had already cleaned his.
< >Draco stopped watching her and sighed, staring up at the ceiling miserably.
< >After she had collected as many bedpans - clean or not - Hermione dumped them in the sink near the opposite side of the room from Madam Pomfrey's office, and for over a very silent hour and a half, washed them out.
< >She was persistent, Draco noticed as she scrubbed one bed pan for five minutes.
< >Hermione was soon finished after that, drying her last one a half an hour before lunch time. She sighed and turned around from the sink, leaning back against it, obviously tired from the smelly, tedious work.
< >She suddenly strode over to the bed next to Draco and pulled herself onto it. "I have to stay here until lunch," she explained when he had stared at her, "or Professor Snape will go ballistic if he sees me."
< >Draco nodded and moved his eyes away from her.
< >There was a silence between them for a while.
< >"Snape gave you detention?" Draco asked, finally breaking the silence.
< >"Yeah," Hermione replied slowly, looking at him uncertainly. "He gave a lot of people detentions, especially the ones who were hitting you . . . hard . . ." Her voice trailed off.
< >Draco rubbed his aching side. He hadn't known there were more people attacking him - but it explained why Ron had not been expelled. "Why did he give you a detention?"
< >"Because I didn't stop Ron from fighting with you."
< >"There wasn't much you could have done," Draco muttered.
< >Hermione snorted. "I could have knocked some sense into Ron."
< >"It still probably wouldn't have done anything," Draco mumbled, looking away. "He was out to get me, no matter what." He said these words too soft for her to hear or notice that he said them.
< >Hermione blinked and looked at him in surprise. "Why do you say that?"
< >"That it wouldn't have done anything."
< >"Oh, er," Draco said, shifting around uncomfortably, "he was too determined. I shouldn't have even said anything - just let him hit me. I know I deserve it. But, oh, God, ouch." He back sized up again so much he couldn't move his arm back to rub the muscles.
< >Hermione allowed a small smile. "Are you all right?"
< >"I guess." Draco shrugged, his shoulders instantly hurting. Do I have to feel it now? he demanded of himself, feeling pain that felt like hot needles were being pressed into his back. He arched his back slightly.
< >"You don't look all right."
< >"Probably because I haven't showered in ages . . ." He could have hit himself. Draco's cheeks burned in embarrassment. Why did I say that? he yelled at himself
< >Hermione laughed. "No," she said, smiling warmly - a first for one directed toward him, "but have you looked in a mirror lately?"
< >"Should I?"
< >"Probably not."
< >Draco chuckled softly. "I'll take your word for it."
< >Hermione smiled again. "I wished I could have stopped it," she said, suddenly solemn, the smile gone.
< >Draco shook his head. "No, and stop worrying about it. It's the past - I just have to get past this. I just cannot believe my father hasn't shown up yet - "
< >He was interrupted by the door to the infirmary being kicked in with a crash.
< >"Oh, God, I spoke too soon," Draco muttered under his breath.
< >His father, Lucius Malfoy, came storming in, looking quite disheveled and furious. He spotted Draco immediately - obviously - and Draco's state at that time seemed to put him over the edge . . .
< >"I demand to see the person treating my son!" Lucius yelled at the door to Madam Pomfrey's office. He was breathing hard - as if he had run from the front door all the way to the infirmary.
< >Madam Pomfrey came running out, her face contorting into a glare when she saw the shouter. "Yes, Mr. Malfoy?" she demanded irritably. Her eyes narrowed angrily at him.
< >Lucius looked shocked. "Some respect, Madam!"
< >"My respect for you is hardly - "
< >"My son was in a fight!" Lucius yelled, quickly dismissing the subject and changing back to the reason he was there. "He looks terrible! I thought you were a doctor! At least - a witch!"
< >Madam Pomfrey glared maliciously at Draco's father. "Your son took a good beating and will be here for as long as it takes to recuperate, Mr. Malfoy. Rest cures better than anything - and I take offense to that, Mr. Malfoy. I request you look up my qualifications - I have very good marks. And I suggest you stop your yelling, as well, Mr. Malfoy, or I will be forced to make you leave."
< >Lucius, taken aback, turned to Draco, ignoring Hermione. "She has been treating you well?" he demanded of his son fiercely, pointing a long finger at Madam Pomfrey who had a look of fury on her face..
< >"Yes, Father," Draco replied stiffly. "Very well."
< >"What about the other boy? A Weasley?" He sneered the name. "What happened to him?" Lucius demanded, turning to Madam Pomfrey. "What happened to him?"
< >Madam Pomfrey crossed her arms over her chest. "He got away with just a scratch from Professor Snape when he was being pulled off him. Your son, obviously, received the worst."
< >Lucius looked at his son again, an eyebrow raised. "Did you even fight back, son?" he asked, his eyes wide with surprise and suspicion. His eyes narrowed demandingly at Draco.
< >"No," Draco replied defiantly.
< >"What?" Lucius yelled. "Not even a damn kick?"
< >Draco looked at Madam Pomfrey desperately. "Madam . . ."
< >Madam Pomfrey understood immediately and stood in front of Lucius. "Your son stood his ground, Mr. Malfoy, be proud. Now, I suggest, you either go home or go to Professor Dumbledore's office. Your son needs his rest."
< >"He's had enough rest - can't you tell?! And get this filthy Mudblood out of here! Away from my son!" Lucius shouted maliciously, finally noticing Hermione, and pointing at her furiously.
< >Hermione looked as if she had been slapped, and so did Madam Pomfrey, though Madam Pomfrey also looked ready to start yelling and screaming at his - Draco - father's benightedness.
< >"Father!" Draco yelled, just as shocked for some reason that was unbeknownst to him at the time. "Get out! My God, get out of here!" His hands gripped the sheets, preventing him from sitting up, and killing his back with pain.
< >Lucius stared at him.
< >"As long as I'm not upset, I'll get out of here soon! But I cannot stand the yelling! GET OUT!" Draco screamed. With a groan, he laid back down heavily, his whole body aching, and his heart racing. He gasped for air.
< >The three people in the room stared at him for a few moments in shock, then Madam Pomfrey took over the situation:
< >"Hermione - leave, dear. If you see Professor Snape, tell him to come and speak with me." Hermione nodded and hurried out of the room, then Madam Pomfrey turned to Lucius. "As for you, Mr. Malfoy," she said bitterly, "you may leave this infirmary and this castle. You are going to make your son hyperventilate."
< >"Hyperventilate my - " Lucius started angrily.
< >"Mr. Malfoy, leave." Madam Pomfrey led him roughly to the door and slammed it in his bewildered face. Madam Pomfrey turned around and leaned against the door, locking it with her hand. She sighed.
< >There were a few minutes of silence, until Madam Pomfrey spoke, her voice sharp and orderly again. "You need to be washed," she told him, striding over to him, and looking in his hair.
< >Draco jerked back defensively. "Alone - right?"
< >Madam Pomfrey blinked, then scowled. "With that back - !"
< >"No!" Draco said, pushing away her hand that reached for his wrist. "As if I have not had enough embarrassment!" He pulled off the covers that covered up past his waist and with his hand, began to slowly move his legs off the bed.
< >Madam Pomfrey looked shocked, then quickly recovered herself. "You'll hurt yourself worse," she snapped, striding around to the other side of the bed. She looked at the situation, then put her arm tentatively around his back.
< >"Oh, no - "
< >Madam Pomfrey cut Draco off. "It's the only way," she said flatly, putting her other arm underneath his legs.
< >Draco wasn't sure if she could lift him, but, miraculously, she did. With barely a grunt, she hoisted him into her arms, and carried him past the sink that Hermione had worked at, and into a small bathroom.
< >Madam Pomfrey set him on the toilet and made him strip out of his hospital clothes in front of her. After this embarrassing deed was done, she helped Draco into the bathtub, and turned on the water.
< >"Clean yourself quickly. Call me when you're done." With that, she left the room, closing the door behind her.
< >Draco plugged the drain and let the hot water fill up. It was heaven to his aching body. He leaned back, sighing contentedly, basking in the water for a few minutes before he picked up the bar of soap.
< >When he was finished, Madam Pomfrey came in and gave him a towel to dry off with. He changed into fresh clothes and yet again, just as carefully, Madam Pomfrey picked him up, and carried him back to his bed.
< >She handed him a tray, then picked up a spoon.
< >"Oh, no," Draco said, moving his face away defensively.
< >Madam Pomfrey glanced at him as she filled the spoon with the thick, foul potion posing as some sort of healing medicine. "I'm not giving this to you just because of your bruises and pains, you know," she said.
< >"Then what for?" Draco demanded shrilly.
< >"You had merely a virus when you came in here. You still have it. You've had it for a while, but it will go away after a day of this," was Madam Pomfrey's short and simple answer.
< >Draco stared at her. Maybe that's why I've been feeling the way I have, he thought to himself. Everyone would think me mad if they knew what I've been thinking lately. Crazy thoughts, they are . . .
< >Madam Pomfrey looked at him. "You are going to take this straight now. It is nerve-racking enough trying to force this down with cereal and you scratching at me like a deranged cat."
< >Draco hesitated, then nodded. "Oh, go ahead. What do I care?" he grumbled.
< >"There's a good lad. Open up your mouth."
< >Draco obeyed and choked down the potion that tasted ever so worse than before. "Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," he said idly with a touch of reprisal in his tone. He coughed loudly.
< >Madam Pomfrey smiled satisfactorily. "While you were gone, Miss Granger and Professor Snape came back," she said slowly after a moment, her smile turning into a frown.
< >Draco looked at her expectantly.
< >"Professor Snape, of course, was furious to find Miss Granger walking around, and marched her back here," Madam Pomfrey said icily. "Of course, I explained, and then the professor wished to see you."
< >He looked at her, alarmed. "And - ?"
< >"I didn't let him, of course, so he left," the madam replied crisply. "Miss Granger, however, is doing me a favor by getting your lunch. I will be in my office. Call if you need me - or tell anyone looking for my services where I am." She strode to her office and disappeared.
< >Draco sighed and flattened his wet hair as best he could. He leaned back on the bed, his back relaxing against it, a pleasant reward for Draco who thought he could not stand anymore pain.
< >After about five minutes, the door to the infirmary swung open, and Hermione Granger walked in, carrying a very loaded tray, and her bag was slung over one arm, looking extremely heavy.
< >"Hello," she said, handing him the tray. She took one plate off, though.
< >"Why are you taking that?" Draco asked slowly.
< >Hermione shrugged. "I can't study in the Great Hall and I figured you might be lonely." She pulled herself into a sitting position on the next bed, and pulled out a book from her bag.
< >"Why would you think that?" Draco demanded sharply, shifting in his position on the bed uncomfortably. At least you're clean, he told himself reprovingly. Be thankful of that.
< >"What?" She peered over the top of her book.
< >"That I would be lonely."
< >Hermione hesitated. "Because . . . you looked like you were earlier."
< >"Pansy might come," he replied softly, looking down.
< >"She might," Hermione agreed inimically, looking back down at her book.
< >"You obviously don't like her," Draco said, smiling with amusement at the wall in front of him, and stroking his chin. He didn't look at her, though she had looked up again.
< >"Well, if you must know - " Hermione began, indignant.
< >"I know."
< >Hermione was silent, so Draco turned to his food, and began eating slowly.
< >"How is Weas - er - Ron?" Draco asked with a stammer, breaking the silence a few minutes later.
< >"Fine," Hermione said from behind her book. "Better than you."
< >Draco chuckled softly. "Oh, don't patronize me. Everyone looks better than me." He smiled broodingly to himself.
< >Hermione looked at him. "Almost everyone. You still look better than - "
< >"My 'goons'?" Draco interrupted.
< >She looked down. "I never said that," she said.
< >"I know you didn't," Draco replied with a sigh. He took a drink of water and kept his eyes still on the wall across the room from him. He didn't even dare look at Hermione.