"I'm going to fucking die, James," said Sirius.
He was clammy, shaking, and sweating. Lily was brewing yet another potion in the kitchen while James vanished the contents of the bucket next to the sofa into which Sirius had just vomited. Again. He hadn't realized how serious his situation had gotten until he tried to stop drinking. It was barely after lunch when the physical symptoms began to set in, and he headed straight for James and Lily's. It had officially been 48 hours since the last time he drank or took anything illegal. He was freezing, then he was boiling. He was exhausted, then he was hyperactive. He kept seeing the patterns on the wallpaper move of their own accord, and James continually had to assure him that everything was fine.
"You aren't going to die," said James, grabbing the latest potion from Lily and helping Sirius down it. "This won't last forever."
"It'll last until I die," Sirius said, his hand still trembling.
"Try to keep this one down," said James as Sirius drained the last drops.
Lily sat down on the floor beside the couch and wiped Sirius's forehead with a cool rag. It felt good, and the potion took the edge off his symptoms, but he still couldn't help but feel that an impending doom was weighing him down. He just kept reminding himself that this was for Remus, that it wouldn't last forever, that it was important. He felt another wave of pain and nausea roll over him.
"James, just fucking kill me," said Sirius in a strangled voice, burying his face in the pillow. "Please just Avada Kedavra me right now."
"You can do this," said James.
"You're doing wonderfully," cooed Lily softly.
Half of him wanted Remus there with him to help him through it, but the other half was too embarrassed and ashamed of what he'd become. How had the occasional binge at a Halloween party turned into this?
He vomited into the bucket again and another fit of shaking took him. The room began to spin. He vaguely recognized Peter coming over to check on him. When was the last time he'd seen Peter? Months? Maybe it was just a hallucination. Lily alternated between keeping his face cool and brewing potions to help him get through it. James just sat patiently by his side, offering words of encouragement and a clean bucket to throw up in. He tried to thank them both, but the words couldn't form coherently in his mouth. His thoughts lingered on Remus. Where was he? What was he doing while Sirius suffered so gravely?
He was three glasses of wine into dinner at Michael's flat, just enough to keep a bit of a buzz. They were flirting; Michael's advances had gotten braver as the days went on, and Remus was very cautiously returning them. His thoughts still drifted to Sirius often. At the end of the night, with the wine making him daring, he allowed Michael to kiss him. It was sort of like dusting off your favorite book from your youth and reading again with fresh, adult eyes. Familiar and comforting, and totally different now that life has changed your perspective, forcing you to look at everything in a different way. You remember why it was your favorite book when you were a kid.
But you know it will never be your favorite book again.
Remus pulled back. Michael's eyes were sweet but lustful. Remus faced two distinct choices, and he had no idea which he'd rather choose. Remus closed his eyes, which Michael took as a good sign, because he felt Michael's lips press against his again.
The fireplace blazed up and James Potter's voice rang through the flat.
"Can I come through?" asked James cautiously.
Remus sprang back from Michael, straightening his clothes and letting a disappointed Michael mutter his assent. James came into the room, looking a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable, but that Gryffindor courage won out. James squared his shoulders.
"You'd be really proud of Sirius," said James.
Michael groaned a bit. He stood and left the room with an eye roll, leaving James and Remus alone.
"I would?" asked Remus quietly.
"He hasn't touched a drink in three days," said James. "You should see what he's gone through. The withdrawal . . . he's been hallucinating and shaking and sicker than I've ever seen anyone."
Remus's heart felt like breaking. Sirius had been sick and cold and miserable, and Remus had just been having some wine with Michael O'Malley . Guilt ripped through him and he suddenly felt like he might cry.
"I didn't think he'd make it through, Remus," James continued. "I thought surely he'd either pick up the bottle again or else die before he could get clean."
Remus's heart spasmed painfully.
"But he did," James said. "He's at our house, and he's exhausted and feels like shite but he did it. I really think . . ."
James trailed off, and Remus looked up at him, waiting.
"Merlin, I really hate playing matchmaker between my two best mates," said James with a chuckle. "I really thought I was used to all this gay business, but it's a bit awkward when I'm thrown in the middle of it."
Remus laughed lightly as well.
"If you want to stay here with this Michael bloke, I won't blame you," said James quickly. "No one will. Sirius really buggered everything up. He got worse after you left-"
James paused, as if he was deciding something. He opened his mouth and closed it a couple of times before shaking his head.
"It doesn't matter, Remus, because he fixed it. He did it for you," said James. "So if you ever want to give him another change, now's the time."
Remus huffed a deep breath, glancing to the kitchen where Michael was scowling and pretending to wash up dishes. James was looking at Remus imploringly.
"Remus, if you don't come back, I can't guarantee that Sirius won't-"
"Don't," said Remus gruffly. "Don't try to guilt me into it. I need to think about this, all right?"
James nodded, his lips pressed together in a line.
"All right, then," said James. "Maybe I'll see you later."
Remus nodded to him , and James disappeared into the fireplace.