Bedside Manners (G) Title: Bedside Manners Author: Serpenscript Rating: G Character(s): McGonagall, Pomfrey, Luna, mentions of Neville, Snape, Carrows Warnings: very bad poetry? @_@ Author's Notes: GASP! I wrote genfic, and moreover, fluffy genfic....whatever is the world coming to??? Well, fluffy in an angsty funny sort of way. Written for HP Genfic, this was something new, both in style and delving into a new character's way of thinking.
Poppy Pomfrey liked to sing. It was a little known secret, because although she indulged in singing quite frequently she very rarely gave anyone the chance to hear her sing. To put it kindly, she was tone deaf; to put it bluntly was to say she sounded like a hippogriff caught in a harpy's nest. But back when she'd first been a student studying mediwizardry her instructors had told her she needed to work on her bedside manner, as if to find fault with it. It wasn't that she was bad at it, or even that she was harsh or cruel. It was just that if she were to be really truly honest with herself, she'd have to admit her brusque bedside manner was a cover up to hide the part of her that quivered in sympathy when someone was hurt or ill. She hated seeing someone suffering - that was why she'd become a mediwitch, after all. But she couldn't very well do her job properly if she was all a-quiver and full of tears!
Instead she'd locked it down and become the epitome of dutiful and efficient and decided to leave the sympathy and tears to parents and those not involved in the business of healing. Of course, her superior at the time had assumed that she just didn't 'connect' with her patients....and had gotten the rather daft notion that singing would make her more approachable. He had ordered her to sing around her patients while monitoring their care until her next evaluation.
So she had - grudgingly at first, and then with more freedom. Her voice made her patients groan and over their ears, but it had a surprising side effect: it also made them a lot more willing to do as she asked, when she asked, if it would get them well and out of the hospital faster.
Oh, she knew she sounded like a kneazle in heat, but if it was for her patient's well-being, she'd do whatever was necessary, wouldn't she?
By the time she'd completed training as a mediwitch, her singing, such as it was, was legendary. Forget about talk of the ward, she was the talk of St Mungo's! But she'd also had phenomenal results with the average injury or illness, and quite a way with handling the recalcitrant children. Those scared of the hospital were set at ease by her off-key attempts at Opera, while rebellious patients (adults included) who refused to take their potions were forced to endure her practicing scales until they capitulated - and they always did, in record time.
So she wasn't too surprised to get an Owl from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry offering her the position of School Matron, though it was an honor for someone fresh out of training. She was amused to see that a term of her employment, however, was to moderate the volume of her singing and to constrain her arias to the Hospital Wing.
If she was being really truthful, she couldn't blame them, one bit. The only problem was, she liked singing by that point. So mostly she sang while she worked, when there were no children in the hospital wing (though she wasn't as strict about this rule if one of her colleagues ended up there, because surely they knew better by now). She sang while she set fresh bandages rolling into neat, tight rolls and checked her supplies and updated her logs and made sure the beds were all made, with perfect hospital corners, every one.
Minerva McGonagall was one of the very few staff members now who remembered her singing days, such as they were, and one of the even fewer who had actually heard her sing at any length. It was a running joke between them; Minerva liked to pick apart the verses Poppy made up while on her rounds and claim Poppy should leave the singing to her betters.
Though if Minerva was a better singer, it really was by the slimmest of margins. And getting her to sing took most of a bottle of very old, very strong spirits - no one held liquor quite like Minerva did.
"Drink this potion, take a shut-eye, And Merlin's sakes the time will fly! And you'll leave here like an Expelliarmus, Hum-hum-hum, and never harm us...."
"That's one of your worst verses yet," Minerva said dryly, "it's amazing you haven't left your patients deaf in self-defense."
Poppy pretended to sniff in disdain at her friend's light-hearted mocking. "You just don't know talent when you see it," she said primly, before allowing a smile to show. "How are your Gryffindors?"
Minerva sighed. "I did check on Mr Longbottom, as you suggested. That tonic you made him did help reduce the tremors faster than the standard variation. Though I did mean to ask," her eyes narrowed shrewdly, "how did you come up with this new variation? Last I knew - "
Poppy cut her off with an offhand shrug that fooled neither of them. "Oh, I found an idea for it in a book, and decided to try it. I had to do something, after all. I mean, who ever would have thought we'd have professors casting Cruciatus on students!"
"Those aren't professors, they're monsters in clothing!" At Poppy's pointed look, she subsided and sighed. "I know you don't like them any more than I do. It's just that - having him sitting in the headmaster's office, when he ought to be sitting in a cell in Azkaban! And he's the worst of them! Don't deny it," she all but hissed, "he's sent more students to the hospital wing than the Carrows combined, and you know it!"
Poppy sighed, and looked down at the sheets she was smoothing under her fingers; Neville Longbottom had laid there earlier, trembling with the aftershocks of Cruciatus while she'd prepared the improved nerve tonic. Longbottom, now - he was a good lad. Ended up in the hospital wing far more often than he should, but she was familiar with students like him - nervous, clumsy. For all that, he was too brave for his own good, meaning he had a tendency to run afoul of the Carrows. Those two were a nasty bit of work, full stop.
She wished she could tell Minerva that it was Severus who had given her the hint. He brewed most of their potions, of course; Minerva knew that as well as Poppy did. But they'd been closer as colleagues due to the overlap in their professions, and he sometimes nudged her in a certain direction when she needed to know more than she already did.
This time he'd walked past - barely sparing a glance for the boy trembling on one of the beds - and into her office, in search of some potion or other he didn't keep on hand himself. When he'd left, the shelves were a mess and she'd have to reorganise them. It was part of a game - or subterfuge - they'd played for years, and so she ignored the mess and focused on the book that was now lying open on her desk. Open, incidentally, to an article reporting a new way to boost the efficacy of nerve tonics.
Minerva was one of her best friends, and she did a great many things well. She was a keenly intelligent and fiercely loyal person, but perhaps also because of those things, she had a hard time understanding that a person could actually be one thing, and appear to be something completely different.
"I won't deny that, Minnie," she admitted, using the nickname that usually disarmed her friend, "because it's true. But it's also true that they're usually easier to patch up than those who've had detention with them - " the Carrows, she meant - "which I won't complain about. Would you prefer they all suffer the Cruciatus?"
"And hexing them with Dark Arts is better, is it?" Minerva looked outraged, probably because it was her precious Gryffindors so often targeted for curses and hexes, and kept back for detentions.
"I say I'm grateful they're not all being Cruciated until their minds dissolve, Minerva!" she snapped, suddenly angry and out of sorts. Angry, and tired of patching together students caught in the midst of an ugly war. "It's not ideal, no, of course not, but at least they're alive, and I'll do whatever I must to ensure they come out of it as healthy as I can manage!"
"Ah. Of course, Poppy, I meant no offense," Minerva said, suddenly subdued and taken aback by her friend's outburst.
Immediately, Poppy felt guilty for her burst of temper. Minerva didn't know the things she knew, after all. Minerva was in the business of impressing knowledge into hale young minds. But Poppy...she fixed up broken bodies, and occasionally broken minds and hearts and souls. You got to know a person a little better when they'd sobbed to you about their pet toad dying, or how they'd failed their Astronomy test and their parents would be livid, or when you'd repaired their legs because they'd fallen off a broom - and then helped them deal with the resultant fear of heights.
Often, the way one handled pain and sickness told a great deal about the person.
So she summoned a smile (she could still hear her instructor telling her, as a freshly-starched trainee at St. Mungo's, "Smile if it kills you! You don't need a wand or a lot of magic prowess to summon a smile, and it sets the patients at ease!") for her friend.
"No offense taken," she said, and took a deep breath. "Not all of us can sing our troubles away, as it were."
Minerva accepted that for the olive branch it was and snorted, indignation forgotten. "Sing it away, is it? I'd say your singing is a trial to be borne in and of itself."
Poppy pointed her wand down the row of beds and flicked; the pillows plumped and released the faint scent of lavender and thyme, the sheets straightened until the long row presented identically neat corners. "A trial, is it," she sniffed, "I suppose you won't care to hear the verse about the bossy tabby cat, then - "
"You didn't--!" Minerva gasped, eyes widening until she caught the glint of mischief in Poppy's eyes. "I am not bossy," she grumbled, before she allowed herself to smile in return.
For one moment, they shared a smile, a brief reprieve from heavier matters - and then there was a commotion outside the door and it burst open. Sprout rushed in, levitating a student ahead of her.
The switch from relaxed friend to competent Mediwitch was instantaneous; Poppy was immediately at the student's side, clearing the way and directing her to be set down on the nearest bed. A flick of her wand, and the sheets slithered aside helpfully as the Ravenclaw was carefully lowered, the white-blond hair spilling over the pillow.
"What curse was it?" she snapped out, all business, even as she cast diagnostic spells - long slashes, blood loss - she barely blinked when Pomona stammered out Sectumsempra, though she did remember to smile briefly in reassurance before she rolled up her sleeves and banished Luna's outer clothing, leaving Sprout to see her way out.
"Not to worry, you'll be right as rain," she assured her, then waved Minerva over. "I need you to help hold the wounds together - I have to sing them closed," she said quietly, "I won't be able to pay attention to anything but that."
She didn't wait for Minerva to answer; they'd worked together before. Minerva was, after all, no stranger to war and wounds. So she began to sing (and thank goodness she didn't need to be on key for this particular counter to work, and wouldn't Minnie have kittens if she knew who had actually taught her that?) and run her wand along the raw edges of the wounds, watching them slowly seal as she half-sang, half-chanted under her breath. When she was done, the wounds were completely healed though the scars themselves were pink and likely tender.
"Blood replenishing potion now, I think; you look far too pale, Miss Lovegood," she said decisively, sitting back and drawing a small glass vial of the potion from her apron - she carried a small stock of the most common in the many small pockets - and held it out to the Ravenclaw. A Summoning charm also brought a fresh set of clothes.
"Oh no, I'm fine, thank you," Luna said in her dreamy, whimsical way, ignoring the vial and pulling on the clothing with no discernable shyness or modesty. "I won't have to worry about the blibbering humdingers haunting my dreams if they think I'm a ghost - "
"Miss Lovegood--!" Minerva began, clearly scandalised, but Poppy held up a hand.
"If you do not take the potion and rest like you ought, I shall be forced to sing you a lullaby," she said firmly.
Luna sighed. "Oh, I suppose that wouldn't be a good idea. I don't suppose there's really room in the castle for a herd of Erumpets, is there?"
Poppy, of course, was used to her eccentricities - she'd been a frequent visitor to the hospital wing that year, often alongside Longbottom - but Minerva blinked. "Excuse me?"
"You know, Erumpets. Rather like very large rhinoceros. They might be drawn to the castle if Madam Pomfrey sings. Which might be lovely, but it would be a shame if they had their mating season here and one of the classrooms was blown up, and - "
"I do not sing like a herd of mating erumpets, Miss Lovegood," Poppy said severely, folding her hands together and giving her patient a stern look, one she'd used often and to great effect. "In fact, I have it on good authority that my singing is very moving - "
When she opened her mouth to sing, Luna hastily grabbed the blood replenisher and gulped it down. "May I go back to the dorm? I promise to rest," she said earnestly, her pale eyes seeming more protuberant for the way she opened them so widely.
Poppy cast another diagnostic spell, before nodding. "I suppose it won't do you undue harm," she conceded, "but I do mean rest. No lingering in the halls!"
Together they watched her slip out the door and down the hallway, before Minerva's stiff demeanor dissolved. "Moving?" she said, corner of her mouth quirking into a smile as she used her wand to banish the last traces of blood from her own hands while as Poppy used hers to send the bloody sheets to the laundry and Summon fresh sheets.
"Well, it does prove quite moving for certain students," she murmured smugly, sending the clean bedding to stretch out over the thin mattress. "And I do endeavor to use all tools at my disposal to ensure my patients get what they need, even if it's proper motivation to take care of themselves."
"Speaking of tools," Minerva said darkly, "I'd like to know where you learned the counter charm to Sectumsempra, Poppy."
"He wasn't always a Death Eater, Minerva. Should the Wizarding world forget all the improved formulas he's developed, simply because a Death Eater developed it?"
"He can't be trusted!" she snapped, but she looked away when Poppy gazed at her levelly. "No, you're right, of course." She sighed as she hauled herself to her feet, for once looking very much her age. "I ought to get back to grading essays, lest you start singing to me - and Merlin knows I heard enough caterwauling after those Stunners I took." She spared her colleague an amused glance.
"Well, I made another twenty-four verses to that one song - "
"The cockatrice ate lots of mice, the basilisk ate fish - "
"Dear Merlin, that's not even a proper rhyme!"
Poppy watched with amusement as Minerva grimaced and made a beeline for the door. It was good to know that some things, in the end, never changed.