TITLE: On The Bathroom Floor
TIMELINE: MWPP Sixth Year (c. 1976)
CHARACTERS: RL, SB
SUMMARY: After The Prank, Sirius finds Remus drastically ill in the bathroom, with no one to care for him but Sirius himself.
A/N: unintentional Sequel to 'Dark Thoughts'. Mostly introspective, and it goes on and on and on, but oh well. Many, many thanks to my beta reader, Adia.
TECHNICAL: The symptoms Remus has are actually severe food poisoning. Just so you know. Undercooked potatoes, or something. Can't imagine a werewolf liking too many greens so soon after the full moon.
DISCLAIMER: Remus and Sirius are not mine. I am not pimping them for money. Please don't sue me.
Sirius couldn't sleep. It wasn't because James was snoring or Peter's nose was whistling, nor because it was too warm or too cold. He shifted restlessly, irritated at his quilt and pillow and pyjamas and hair and everything within five feet of him. A part of him knew that this was misdirected anger; the last week had been trying for all of them, but it seemed James and Peter were perfectly capable of getting a good night's sleep. For Sirius, this had been impossible since the full moon. The night he almost got one of his best friends killed.
Huffing, he kicked his quilt to the bottom of the bed, ignoring the prickle of cold air over his feet. He stared unseeingly at the canopy of his bed, absently tracing the folds and creases in the red velvet, running over every last detail of The Prank in his mind as he had done for the past five nights. If only he had not been in the library late, if only Snivellus hadn't had that huge spot on his nose just asking for a snarky comment, if only Sirius wasn't a complete and utter arse. The same thoughts, over and over, twisting his stomach into uncomfortable knots. He hadn't eaten a proper meal since then; figured that, if Remus wasn't well enough to come out of the Hospital Wing, he didn't deserve treats like treacle pudding. None of them had been allowed in to see Remus, not even James with his huge bag of chocolate frogs; constant badgering of Professor McGonogall had only led to threats of more detention.
But Remus was released at last, and Sirius had barely seen hide nor hair of him. The three Marauders had eaten breakfast in their new tense quiet, and gone to class, to find Remus setting out his quill and parchment, looking sickly and exhausted. Prongs had spent the rest of the day sitting next to Remus, leaving Sirius with Peter to coach through every single class. A tense lunch, followed by a tense dinner, and Remus didn't look at Sirius once. It hurt more than he thought it should, but his pain didn't matter.
Sirius was jerked from his thoughts by a creak of the floorboards. Someone was moving unsteadily towards the en suite, by the sounds of it, stumbling with no care at all to avoiding the creaky spots. The two noisiest Marauders were still sleeping like the dead, and the footsteps were far too light to be made by clumsy James or heavy Peter. Sirius almost instinctively knew that the person slouching into the bathroom was none other than Remus. A part of him wanted to get up and help the boy – it was unusual for Remus to get out of bed in the middle of the night – but the rest of him was terrified of what would happen if he did. He settled for a compromise; Sirius would wait up until Remus was back in bed.
So Sirius waited, and waited, and waited, ears perked for any sound of returning feet. As the minutes ticked past, he grew more and more concerned. Remus had certainly looked ill all day, but only now was Sirius beginning to suspect that he really was sick. Just as he was debating again whether to follow his friend, there came a muffled moan.
Sirius was pushing open the curtains and running across the dorm before he could question his actions. In the bathroom, propped against the wall by the sinks, was Remus. Sirius blanched at the sight of him. His pasty face was shining with sweat, his teeth chattered audibly; he hugged his knees tightly to his chest as if in pain, and worst of all, there were tears streaming down his cheeks unchecked. Remus never cried - not when Malfoy hexed a bludger to hit Remus over the head, not when the owl came informing of the death of his grandma, not after any of the painful full moons without his friends. It disturbed Sirius to see his friend so frail. There was another whimper, catching low in Remus' throat, his face blanching in agony. For a horrifying moment, Sirius just stood there, mouth agape, feeling completely unprepared and useless. Then Remus made a gargling kind of scream, quiet but filled with pain, and wrapped his arms around his stomach.
It was that tortured sound that snapped Sirius into action. He knelt down by the boy, placing a cool hand to Remus' forehead. Remus flinched from the touch, tried and failed to open his heavy eyelids. "It's only me, Moony," Sirius murmured softly. Remus turned his head uncertainly.
"P-Padfoot?" he panted. Shudders racked his lanky frame as Sirius carefully slipped an arm around his shoulders. The attempt to lift him, however, failed, when Remus had to muffle his cry by gnawing on Sirius' shoulder. It was abundantly clear that Remus would not be moving from the bathroom unless unconscious on a stretcher, something Sirius was loathe to do. "God, it hurts," Remus whispered. Sirius sat heavily on the floor, manoeuvring Remus so that he was leaning on Sirius and not the cold stone wall.
"Where does it hurt?" Sirius asked, though what help it would do he didn't know. He had never been sick himself, had never seen anyone sick like this. He felt completely helpless. Remus' back bowed as another spasm shook his muscles.
"Hurts, hurts!" he sobbed. Sirius felt tears dripping down his face; he was the cause of this, he knew. Remus only ever got sick during the new moon, when his immunity was at a low. This bout of whatever-it-was was because of The Prank, and that made Sirius feel nauseous himself.
"What can I do?" he whispered brokenly, pulling Remus into his lap and off the chilly floor. Remus trembled violently in his arms, left elbow digging into Sirius' stomach uncomfortably. "You need to go back to the Hospital Wing," Sirius said after a long time just rocking the smaller boy. That seemed to pull Remus from his pain-induced haze, and he tried to drag himself out of Sirius' arms, but failed almost immediately.
"Can't. Won't," he gasped. Sirius pulled him back firmly and kept him there, one hand running soothingly down his arm. "M-must be nor-normal." Sirius nodded, pressing his forehead to Remus'. Never had he seen Remus so vulnerable, and it finally dawned on him the price Remus paid to keep up the pretence. All of Remus' life was dedicated to acting just like everyone else; if someone were to find out the secret and spread it to the rest of the school, it would negate everything Remus worked so hard to achieve. Cursing himself a thousand times over, Sirius settled Remus more securely in his arms. The cold stone numbed his legs and back, but so long as Remus was off the floor Sirius was prepared for a long night.
Dawn saw Remus Lupin curled up in Sirius Black's lap, the shivering gone and colour back in his cheeks. A small puddle of vomit was by Sirius' left knee, but apart from that nothing had changed from the night before. Remus' head was still nestled on Sirius' shoulder, and Sirius, black shadows under his eyes and a painful crick in his neck, was watching over his friend. His eyes were a little unfocused as they stared at the opposite wall, until he finished mentally reciting all the ingredients needed in a Dreamless Sleep potion and checked on Remus' breathing. His friend seemed to have finally defeated the sickness, and now Sirius felt it was time to put him to bed.
Standing proved a difficult task, but somehow Sirius managed to support his weight on cold, numb legs and still keep Remus in his arms. He felt a little dizzy, as if he had just come out of a long dive in Quidditch, but pushed the feeling aside. The dorm air was positively stifling after the chilly bathroom. He laid Remus on his messy bed, tucking the boy in gently. The wave of dizziness came again, and suddenly his own four-poster seemed very far away. And really, he reasoned, he should be near Remus in case something happened. All this he thought while curling up at the bottom of the bed like a faithful dog, where he dozed fitfully, unable to really let himself relax even with fatigue nagging at his mind.
Remus was still first in the dormitory to open his eyes, soon after Sirius had surrendered himself to uneasy sleep. This was not to say Remus was awake. For a long moment, he merely lay with his eyes open, staring unseeingly at nothing. His conscious mind trickled in slowly afterwards, until he became gradually aware of the draft from the open bathroom door and the numbness in his feet. He wasn't quite sure what had woken him, until he felt the bed tremble again. Pushing himself upright was a much more daunting task than it had ever seemed before, with his arms shaking and his head feeling full of fluff, but he struggled to do it. The room tilted oddly for a disconcerting second, before righting itself.
Sprawled across his feet, shivering and twitching, was Sirius Black. Something twisted sharply in Remus' chest, anger or tenderness or maybe a confusing mix of both. His hand reached out of its own accord to brush away a lock of sweaty hair that had stuck to Sirius' forehead. The touch shocked Sirius out of his fitful slumber so abruptly that he jerked back and fell off. Remus couldn't help but laugh as he crawled to the bottom of the bed and peered over the edge. Sirius looked up at him dazedly.
"Hullo," he greeted, blinking a little rapidly.
"Good morning," Remus replied dryly. Reaching down with one hand, he half-dragged Sirius back onto the bed, where the tall boy promptly fell into a wet coughing fit. A concerned frown knitted Remus' face. "Are you alright, Padfoot?" he asked. Sirius looked up at him with too-bright eyes.
"Yeah," he said, a little breathless, "You?" And that was when Remus remembered: staggering out of bed with the worst stomach-ache, curling up against the cold floor, and Sirius coming to help him, holding him …
"Did you sit on the stone floor all night?" he spluttered suddenly. Sirius winced, sinking lower onto the bed.
"You didn't want to move," he muttered. Remus stared at him, shocked and touched that Sirius – brash, abrasive, tactless Sirius – could be so thoughtful towards him. Sirius coughed again, hacking up a lung or so it sounded, and it seemed so alien because Sirius was never sick. Ever. He had played in the snow during First Year wearing nothing but a thin t-shirt and been the picture of health the next day; it was a constant sore point for James, who seemed to come down with every bug going.
"Come here," Remus groaned, dragging the limp, heavy body up to the pillows. He, himself, wasn't quite up to par – under normal circumstances, bodily pulling Sirius anywhere wouldn't have been a problem. Lying next to each other, their faces inches apart, each breath sharing untold bacteria, they slowly relaxed into a light doze. Remus' internal clock said it was approximately six in the morning, with maybe an hour before they had to go down to breakfast. He mentally cursed getting sick on a Wednesday, but at least they didn't have Potions.
Sirius shivered, and his rattling breath sounded uncomfortably loud in Remus' ear. Uncertainly, he wrapped his arms around Sirius' shoulders, offering his body heat, and groped with his free hand for his discarded blanket.
"Thank you," Sirius murmured, his eyes already drooping shut. Remus hushed him, tucking Sirius' head beneath his chin. He was awake now, and could physically feel his strength returning with every passing second. The urge to get out of bed and do anything physical – fly over the Quidditch pitch, run laps around the lake, something – was insistent, but then he thought of Sirius, who was sick now for the first time because he had sat up all night with Remus, and couldn't bring himself to be so selfish.
It was strange, really, in a way that only Sirius Black could make it. Not two days ago Remus had been cursing that very person, vowing to himself that he would not be so blindingly naïve again; he refused to be taken advantage of like that. As a werewolf, he had precious few legal rights as it was, but to have a friend use him for what essentially amounted to premeditated murder …
Remus shoved the thought roughly from his mind. He knew that the hatred Sirius had for all snobbish purebloods knew no bounds; he knew that Sirius, while harbouring some particularly nasty impulses towards certain Slytherins, had not thought through the consequences of using Remus. That, if The Prank had succeeded, it would likely have been a double murder, had never once crossed his mind. Remus knew this, but isolated in the Hospital Wing it was all too easy to brood.
Another cough shuddered through Sirius, and he burrowed further into Remus' body. It seemed he was only dozing lightly; already he had slipped into a troubled dream. Remus could smell it on Sirius' skin, feel it in the tense muscles bunching in his shoulders and back.
"Sirius," he murmured, because he knew how awful it was to be caught in nightmares. "Sirius, wake up. C'mon, open your eyes," he coaxed, "Padfoot …" Grey eyes snapped open abruptly, locking on Remus' for a split second before Sirius started backwards. Caught as he was in Remus' embrace, however, he didn't get far. "Hey, it's okay," Remus soothed immediately. Sirius blinked blearily at him.
"You're really here?" he questioned weakly. Remus nodded, brushing the hair from Sirius' eyes, which followed his hand avidly. "What – Why are you being so …"
"Nice?" finished Remus. He didn't think he had seen anyone look so miserable as Sirius did right at that moment; it oddly pleased him that Sirius was suffering too, and made him soften just that little bit more towards the other boy. "I don't know," he admitted with a sigh, "I don't like to see anybody suffer. Even you." Sirius seemed about to add something to this, but couldn't seem to quite catch enough breath before he was coughing again. Remus grimaced to think of all the germs being sputtered onto him.
"Sorry," Sirius gasped, and they both knew he wasn't apologising just for getting spit and mucus all over Remus' sheets. Sirius wasn't good with apologies, and even when he was sincere he could often sound painfully flippant, but the sudden illness made him seem more genuine than he otherwise would. Remus was glad.
"C'mon," he muttered, after listening to a few minutes more of Sirius' wheezing under the covers. "I'm taking you to Madame Pomfrey. You can't suffer like this all day, especially in my bed." There was a huff and a moan to this statement, to which he laughed. Energy thrummed through him, which was most peculiar with the waning moon. Still, he wasn't one to question fate and fortune, so long as he could coax Sirius off the soft mattress.
"Don't want to," was muttered from the lump. Remus winced as he stepped onto the cold floor, and quickly slipped his slippers on. He felt he was being rather generous in getting Sirius' too, so that the other boy wouldn't have to walk around barefoot for even a second.
Remus was only just beginning to question his generosity at all as, ten minutes later, they were sneaking past James' bed to the door. Thankfully, his returning strength meant his patience was also as inexhaustible as ever. Sirius shuffled next to him like a man wading through cold treacle; the blanket covered his shoulders, but his too-short pyjama bottoms meant his ankles got the full bite of winter air. Every step he took was accompanied by an unconscious grunt. Remus knew what aching muscles felt like.
"Where're you two off to?" James grumbled, eyeing them suspiciously from his bed while trying to find his glasses and his wand on his bedside table with one hand. Sirius sniffled miserably, but Remus made sure he didn't stop the momentum.
"To the Hospital Wing," he whispered so as not to wake Peter, still snoring cheerfully at the far end of the room. "We'll see you at breakfast."
Madame Pomfrey, predictably, fussed ever so much over Sirius, making him down three floridly coloured tonics followed by a healthy dose of Pepper-Up potion. Then, much to Remus' annoyance, she busied herself with checking him, and made him take a dose of Pepper-Up too.
"You'll both be feeling a bit rough for a few days," she warned them, "but the potions should alleviate most of the symptoms. Enough for you to go to lessons as normal, Mr Black, so don't even try that with me. Honestly."
By the time they reached the Great Hall, loud with the din of morning conversation and the clatter of cutlery, they were both fairly bouncing off the walls. They grinned as they plopped down opposite James and Peter, hands grabbing automatically at any platters in their vicinity.
"Where were you?" Peter asked curiously, watching as Remus demolished five rashers of bacon in an uncharacteristically rabid fashion. Sirius was giving his scrambled eggs on toast the same dedicated treatment.
"'othpi'al wung," he said through a large mouthful. James gave him a disgusted look and pushed his porridge away.
"Padfoot, pass the sausages?" Remus asked. Peter didn't really see the surprise in this, but James stared from Remus to Sirius as if he had never seen them before.
"Are you two …?" he trailed off, not knowing how to word the massive chasm Sirius had created, and which now seemed to have been filled, or at least firmly bridged. Giving Sirius a considering look, Remus swallowed and said at last,
"Not quite. But we're getting there." And nothing more was spoken about it.