Remus walked slowly back to the dorm. He had stopped by the Hospital Wing only so Madam Pomphrey could officially get him out of classes. He had woken up with a sore throat and a runny nose, but he missed enough class as it was so he figured he'd just suffer through it. Not even ten minutes into breakfast and he decided it wasn't worth it and left, asking James and Peter to take notes for him.
He quietly opened the door hoping not to disturb the other occupant of the room. Sirius still laid there dead to the world, his face flushed. He had fallen sick a few days before. Though it took him longer to admit it. Remus noticed that Sirius' blankets were now pooled around his ankles and went over to tuck them around him once more. Didn't need him getting worse.
It had been very interesting, Remus mused as he changed back into his pajamas and slipped into bed. He had thought that when Sirius got sick he might be like James who was very over dramatic about the whole thing, but that wasn't the case at all. They hadn't noticed that there was something wrong at first. Sure Sirius had been a little bit quieter than usual, but that happened on occasion after a letter from home, which he had received that morning. So they let him be, for the most part, James trying and seemingly failing to distract him. It wasn't until that night, when he and Sirius had been playing Wizard's Chess, that Remus had started to notice that something was off.
Sirius was the only one who could match Remus in skill, strategy, and patience when it came to the game. Peter just didn't have the mind for it and while James could be good, he didn't have the patience. Usually, Sirius could give Remus an actual challenge. Though he had been sorted into Gryffindor, Sirius still had the cunning and ruthlessness of a Slytherin. But that night Sirius lacked the focus he usually had for the game.
After the third time that Remus needed to remind Sirius that it was his turn and another horrible play Remus finally asked, "Are you alright, Sirius?"
"Hmm, what?" Sirius looked like he had been pulled out of some other world and just plopped in theirs.
"Are you alright?" Remus repeated, more concerned now. James looked up from where he and Peter were looking over their Chocolate Frog cards.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm good." Sirius ran his hand through his hair and seemed to lose focus once more.
"Are you sure?" Remus asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Sirius said again, quieter this time.
It was then that Remus really looked and took in his pale face, and the slightly glossy look in his eyes, and the dark circles that were starting to form under them. "Uh-huh," he doubted.
"You look a bit pale, Mate," James had piped in at that moment.
"I'm just tired, that's all," Sirius admitted.
"Hmm, maybe you should head up to bed then," Remus suggested. "We can finish this game tomorrow, yeah?"
Sirius didn't even argue. "Yeah sure."
James and Remus exchanged glances but didn't talk about Sirius' behavior for the rest of the night. When they finally went to their dorm Sirius was dead to the world, huddled under multiple blankets. The next day, however, Sirius didn't look any better, he looked worse. At breakfast, he just pushed his food around his plate listlessly. Both James and Remus had suggested the second year just skip classes and go back to bed, but Sirius refused and so they went to Transfiguration.
It was so obvious that Sirius wasn't paying attention that Remus was surprised when Professor McGonagall didn't immediately call him out on it. Instead, she left the four of them alone, only occasionally calling on Remus or James to answer a question. At some point, Sirius rest his head on the desk. James kept looking at him with concern. Remus figured they were thinking along the same lines. Sirius needed to go to the Hospital Wing, or at least back to the dorm.
Once they got to the practical part of the class, McGonagall came over to them. "Are you feeling alright Mr. Black?"
Sirius lifted his head looking confused for a second as to where he was. "Wha..? Oh yeah, I'm fine, I'm fine." He shook his head as if trying the clear it.
"Hmm," she placed her hand on the boy's forehead and Sirius froze. If Remus had learned anything about Sirius it was that he did not like to be touched. Ever. Remus had his suspicions as to why this was but he never voiced them. Not really his place. But they had learned that fact very quickly, because of James.
James wasn't a cuddler or anything extreme but a hug here or a hand on your shoulder there was normal for him. And Sirius had hated it. In the beginning, Sirius would tense up immediately if someone just accidentally brushed against him. Being in his rather large space bubble was reason enough for him to glare at you. While the three of them were allowed closer than most Sirius still kept them at a distance.
Remus noticed and respected that right away. Peter was not so secretly terrified of Sirius, due to an incident with some seventh years, and didn't want to get too close to him anyways. James either didn't notice the signs (which was likely) or ignored them (also likely). James just kept pushing Sirius's boundaries more and more. Then one day Sirius yelled at James and stormed off. Remus became mediator for the two for the night. Which meant that he went and talked to them separately to tell them they needed to work this out and try to get them to see the other person's point of view, and then passed "messages" between them for the rest of the night because they wouldn't talk to each other.
Something (Remus wasn't sure what but he had a guess) happened between that night and the next morning and then the two of them were fine. James didn't stop invading Sirius' space, but Remus did notice that it was less and at most, it was a 2 second half hug. Occasionally James lingered longer, to see if he could get away with it, but if he didn't let go before 5 seconds Sirius would shove him off, and glare.
But teachers were an entirely different matter. It was one thing to glare and yell if fellow students didn't back off, but teachers? Not much Sirius could do there that wouldn't get him into trouble. And though he and James enjoyed pulling pranks, they didn't actually want to antagonize the teachers. In James's words they "would like to actually survive their seven years of school." So he just sat there, tensed as if ready to bolt at a moment's notice, but not daring to move, until McGonagall removed her hand 10 seconds later. She was silent for a moment contemplating the boy in front of her.
"Mr. Potter," James's head shot up, "Please escort Mr. Black to the Hospital Wing."
"But..!" Sirius started to protest but was stopped by a look from the Professor. "Yes, ma'am." With that James and Sirius left and Remus didn't see them again until he and Peter went back to the room to retrieve some books after lunch. Sirius had been buried under his mountain of blankets again, while James had decided to be productive for once and work on some homework. James opted to stay with Sirius the rest of the day, so Remus and Peter had gotten both boys' assignments for them.
According to James Sirius had slept most of the day, and didn't ask them to get him anything when he was awake. Sirius tried to get up this morning but had become dizzy, and James insisted that he stay in bed. Sirius protested until Peter mentioned that they could always just take Sirius to the Hospital Wing. Both James and Remus had looked at the boy in shock, but it was Sirius that made Peter squirm. If looks could kill, Peter would have been fried a hundred times over by the glare that Sirius gave him.
Remus laughed quietly to himself, burying his face into the pillow. He clutched the old stuffed rabbit close to his chest and breathed in the familiar scent of the dorms and the toy as he fell asleep.
He was awakened a couple of hours later by the sound of a toilet flushing and then running water. He closed his eyes after the water stopped and tried and failed to fall back asleep. After a while, he opened his eyes again, because of a realization. There had been no footsteps. It had been almost 10 minutes since the water stopped.
He got out of bed and walked over to the bathroom, double checking to make sure Sirius's bed was empty. Knocking on the door he called out, "Sirius? You ok in there?" A moan was his only response. "I'm coming in."
He opened the door to see Sirius sitting against a wall with his head bowed. His hands were resting loosely on his knees which were curled into him. Remus crouched in front of him. "Sirius?"
"I'm ok. Just waiting for the room to stop spinning," Sirius moaned letting his head fall onto his arms completely.
"Come on," Remus said softly, "Let's get you back to bed." He gently helped the other boy up and lead him to the bed. He didn't mention the fact that Sirius was mostly leaning on him when the dark haired boy inserted feebly that he could walk. Sirius let himself fall into the bed and didn't move while Remus tucked the mound of blankets around him once more.
"Why are you here?" Sirius asked.
"Bad cold," Remus answered. "Decided school wasn't worth it."
"You're dying aren't you?"
"What makes you say that?"
"You're skipping school."
Remus laughed. "Well, that's a lame ending. Werewolf took down by a cold. The tragedy." Sirius laughed quietly. "Do you need anything else?" Remus offered.
Sirius gave him a strange look. "Why do you guys do that?"
"Ask if I need anything. James was doing it too."
"Well, you're sick…" Remus started to explain.
"So are you," Sirius protested.
"Yeah, but I can actually walk to my bed from the bathroom," Remus countered. Sirius scowled. "Anyways we just want to make sure you get better by taking care of you, that's all." He ignored the nagging worry in his chest that Sirius even felt the need to question their care.
Sirius was quiet for a bit, so Remus sat on his bed and made himself comfortable. Sirius would talk when he was ready. Remus didn't have to wait much longer. "Why?"
Remus closed his eyes and took a deep breath. What did his family do to him? "Because that's what people do Sirius."
"No, they don't."
"Sirius," Remus paused almost deciding not to ask, but his curiosity got the better of him. "When you're sick at home, what happens?"
Sirius was quiet again, gathering his thoughts. "We had a lot of lessons during the day, memorizing books, learning basic spells and theory, different languages, etiquette, things like that. When we got sick we were expected to just continue on and try to act like we didn't feel like we were dying," Sirius admitted. "Mother and Father would usually let us go to bed early those nights and sleep in a little, but that was it." Sirius shrugged.
Remus closed his eyes and took a deep breath. That explained it. If Sirius was raised to not take it easy when he was sick, why would he do so now? He wondered briefly what they were supposed to do when they literally couldn't stand without falling over but decided he didn't want to know. He opened his eyes again to see Sirius contemplating him. "I see," Remus whispered.
"What about you?"
"Well," Remus almost didn't want to tell him, but Sirius needed to understand. "Usually I would sleep on the couch in the living room. Mum said it was so she could keep an eye on me. And Mum would be constantly fussing and taking my temperature and stuff. She worried a lot cause of... Well, you know." Sirius smiled slightly. "Anyways, Mum always made soup. Chicken noodle. Only she would leave the meat more raw than she usually does."
"When I don't feel good I prefer my meat raw," Remus shrugged.
"Ah. Werewolf thing?"
"Werewolf thing. I like things raw or at least rare normally but Mum's gotta cook for all of us, and I'll eat the meat regardless. Anyways I usually just slept and watched movies all day."
"Like the wizard pictures, except they tell a whole story, and they have music and different places and stuff," Remus explained. "And it's the same story every time."
"I guess. Anyways, Mum never lets me watch a lot of the telly," Sirius raised an eyebrow in question. "That's what you watch the movies on. So it was always nice to just watch them." Remus smiled suddenly at a memory. "There was this one time when my dad got sick too, so I got to sleep in his bed and we played games, and talked. And Mum came in and told us all kinds of stories. It was a good day."
"That sounds nice," Sirius admitted. Remus watched him for a moment feeling sorry for him. This lonely boy whose family was neglectful at best. He really didn't understand what it was like to have people care for you when you were sick. He got up and grabbed his pillow, blanket, and rabbit, and came back over. "What are you doing?" Sirius asked.
"Well, we're both sick. And when we're not sleeping, we'll probably be talking. So we might as well share a bed," Remus offered. Sirius stared for a moment then shrugged and moved over so Remus would have room. Remus laid down and adjusted his pillow and blanket for maximum comfort. "I think you're bed's softer than mine."
"Cushioning charm," Sirius admitted.
"Hmm. Seems excessive, but I can't argue with the results," Remus closed his eyes.
"What is that?"
Remus opened his eyes and looked at his stuffed rabbit that Sirius was pointing at. "Oh, this is my stuffed rabbit. I've, um, had him since I was a kid. Please don't tell James."
Remus held up the rabbit. "This is the kind of stuff normal people get mocked for."
"Well, then it's a good thing none of us are normal," Sirius joked. "So is there a point to the rabbit?"
"Not really. It's just, sort of like, a comfort you know? Makes me feel safe, and reminds me of happy memories."
"Hmm, guess that makes sense," Sirius nodded.
"Plus my Mum made it for me. It's based on a character from one of my favorite books as a kid."
"It's called The Velveteen Rabbit."
"Never heard of it," Sirius admitted.
"I'm not surprised. It's a muggle book."
"Oh. What's it about?"
"Well, there's this little boy, and he gets this stuffed rabbit. The rabbit eventually becomes his favorite toy and because of that he becomes real, or what he understands real to be," Remus explained.
"So the boy uses magic?"
"Um no. How about I start from the beginning?"
"No, start from the end crazy!" Sirius teased. Remus laughed, and then launched into the story about toys, and love, and what it means to be real.
James walked into the room quietly to check on his friends and was surprised at the sight. They were in the same bed, with their own blankets and pillows. But they were curled up close to each other, almost cuddling. James shook his head fondly, wondering when those two would realize that they both just craved feeling loved.