Title: If God Doesn't Root for the Marauders, Why Does He Make the Autumn Leaves Maroon and Gold?
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: PG13 (if that)
Pairing: unrequited Sirius/Remus, Remus/other female?
Warnings: There's some blood in this story. Nothing in the way of violence or horrible wounds, but if you don't like reading about mentions of blood in any form, consider this your warning.
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. Not at all. This is just for fun.
Summary: A love-sick Sirius makes note of Remus' mothering instincts and attempts to use them to his advantage.
Beginnings & Endings Challenge Bunnies: 2, 5
Notes: I apologize somewhat for the long and silly title. It should give you a hint as to the tone of this fic, however. LOL And, just a warning, there is sneezing but it takes a while to get there. I promise it's there, though. And I promise it's worth not skipping ahead to (not that I do that sometimes when I read fics... no, not at all...)
If God Doesn't Root for the Marauders,
Why Does He Make the Autumn Leaves Maroon and Gold?
It should have been undeniably obvious to anyone, girls and boys alike: Remus Lupin was the best catch in the whole of Hogwarts. With his deep, amber-brown eyes and soft round cheeks, he was quite endearing. His light brown hair was parted to the side. It flopped and settled freely to fall naturally and cover some of his face. A handsome face, if only for its simplicity and softness, and the scars close to his hairline on one side that he fought so hard to hide. He could be graceful even when he was stiff or stumbling. He could be forceful even when silent. But normally he was the very definition of sweet, caring, and thoughtful.
He looked thoughtful at the moment, sitting beneath a tree with a book open on his lap. Eyes narrowed in concentration, Remus chewed on the end of his quill. Then he bit off the end and smiled. Sirius reminded himself that Remus always had a stock of sugar quills on hand to pacify his sweet tooth. Sill, as he watched Remus enjoy the candy and the book, Sirius could not imagine anyone looking more irresistible. He simply did not understand why Remus did not have girls fighting to get at him. Naturally, there was the occasional girl who flirted with him but he rarely flirted back. And sometimes he would treat girls to a drink in Hogsmede but never more than once per girl.
Not that Sirius minded the fact that Remus never went after girls the way Sirius and James and even Peter, though to a much lesser degree, did. He wanted Remus to be happy, of course, but in the last few years Sirius had never seen Remus happier. Remus was a prefect, and doing remarkably well in his studies. And on the more playful side, he was also doing well. He helped plan pranks and adventures much more than he used to. His friends' animagus transformations had caused a great change to come over him every month and he seemed to enjoy his times running wild with them as much as if he were still human. But Sirius had hope that with all his studies and excitement, Remus might decide finally that he had time for a relationship... preferably with Sirius.
"Whatcha lookin' at, Mate?"
Sirius glanced back to see James, fresh off the Quidditch pitch from practice. "Nothing," Sirius said, shaking his head. He was glad wizard robes hung the way they did and could hide the bits of himself he would have been ashamed for James to notice.
James did not look down, however, instead following Sirius' gaze over towards Remus. "Ohhhh," he said, grinning broadly. "I know what you were thinking."
Chills ran up and down Sirius' spine. Was he being so obvious as well? Could James tell how lustful Sirius was? Could James possibly know that Sirius wanted to jump Remus' bones?
James squatted down and whispered into Sirius' ear. "You want to jump Remus."
Added to the chills was now a wave of nausea. Sirius was frozen on the spot. He tried desperately to think of something to say. He could not lie to James, but neither could he admit the truth out loud.
James laughed and put an arm around Sirius' shoulders. "How about we do it together?"
Sirius tried to swallow but his mouth had gone dry. "T-together?" But surely James still fancied women with the way he went on about Evans all the time? Sirius was stunned at how well James was taking this realization that his best mate was a ponce. Not only taking it well, but encouraging such behavior and wanting to join in? Suddenly, Sirius found it difficult to breathe. It felt as though he had been hit in the chest with a bludger.
James nodded. "Sure," he whispered, still grinning. "If we keep down low behind those bushes we should be able to get close without him seeing. Then we can jump out and push him right into that pile of leaves."
His breath returning, Sirius could only nod along in great relief that James had meant the leaves all along, not Sirius' lustful desires. In and of itself, pushing Remus into the pile of leaves sounded like a brilliant idea. Filch would probably have their hides if they were caught messing up the piles, but so be it. The opportunity to have a little fun and to roll around in a bunch of leaves with Remus Lupin was well worth getting caught for.
James grabbed his arm and pulled him over to the bushes. They crawled along behind the row, coming close to the tree and the pensive young man beneath it. James held up a hand and silently counted down from five to one on his fingers. At the last, James, followed closely by Sirius, sprung from behind the bushes. Remus jumped with a start but was tackled by two of his friends and pulled into the large pile of leaves.
For a moment, laughing and covered in leaves, Sirius could imagine he was lying there just with Remus, as though the rest of the world did not exist and as though James was not inches away. But then the leaves shifted as the wresting began. Laughing as well, Remus tried to fight against them and they tried to keep him there. James shoveled leaves into their faces. It was at that moment two things happened nearly at the same time. Remus swung his arm to push away the leaves and James rolled over to pin Remus down onto the ground. The first action resulted in an arm smacking Sirius in the face and the second bent Sirius' leg, entangled with theirs, so that it snapped.
Sirius gave a startled howl and scooted back immediately. He cupped a hand to his face, feeling something warm and sticky. And he moved back using only one leg as the other dragged on the ground at a weird angle. Looking mortified and apologizing profusely, Remus and James scrambled out of the pile of leaves at once.
Leaves stuck to Sirius' robes and James began brushing them off. Afraid James might feel something he shouldn't, Sirius pushed his friend's hand away. Remus, however, would not allow Sirius to push him away. He took out his handkerchief and pressed it to Sirius' nose, then took Sirius' blood-covered hand and wiped it dry using the end of his sleeve. "You have a broken nose and leg," Remus told him flatly. Moving smoothly and softly, Remus' fingertips brushed Sirius' cheek and pushed back Sirius' hair to keep it away from his streaming nose. The touch was tender and Sirius, even in pain, was warmed by it. "But we're going to get you to Madam Pomfrey and she'll fix you in no time. Okay?"
He would have been happy having every bone in his body broken if it meant being touched by Remus. He was not very eager to be fixed so quickly. But he could not deny that he was in pain and people were starting to gather to gawk. So he met Remus' eyes with his own, then nodded and clung to his friends.
Together they lifted him and carried him straight over to the hospital wing. And though Madam Pomfrey insisted they give her room in which to work, James and Remus insisted they stay to watch over Sirius. Peter came by a little bit later, bringing lunch.
So insistent were they all upon staying that Madam Pomfrey threw up her arms and allowed them to stay until dinner when Sirius would be released. Sirius was quite glad for the company. The broken leg had been more easily mended than the nose, which bled a little whenever Sirius tried to breathe through it.
"Does it still hurt?" Peter asked as Remus passed another handkerchief over to Sirius.
Honestly, there was a bit of an uncomfortable tingle in his nose as though there were an insect sitting upon it and buzzing. But otherwise, it felt as normal as a nose ever did. Sirius started to shake his head, but caught sight of Remus' concerned expression. "Oh," he said, nodding fervently. "It does." Remus went from concerned to worrisome. "But not badly. I can handle it."
"That's our brave Padfoot!" James laughed, reaching over to the bed and patting Sirius' shoulder.
Sirius chuckled and nodded, lowering the hanky. His nose had stopped bleeding again, but he almost wished it would continue. The handkerchief had been waiting in Remus' hands so long it held Remus' scent. And it brought with it Remus' caring and concern.
This accident made Remus watch Sirius closely instead of the other way around, for a change. And that was when Sirius began to devise his plan to not only attract Remus' attention but gain Remus' affections.
The problem was, of course, that Sirius was not at all sure Remus would be open to the idea of a boy fancying him, let alone being capable of fancying one back. And not just any one, but a close friend and dormmate. But Sirius was indeed brave and, more importantly, willing to find out. It would just take some maneuvering and scheming on his part. With any luck, sixty years from then they would be growing old together and laughing together about this plan of Sirius'.
A week had passed since the tumble in the leaves, and Sirius' leg and nose were fine, even if two of his three roommates apologized about the incident on a daily basis. He had been careful to encourage this, however, as part of his plan. He had dropped subtle hints about the offended body parts, such as how strong his leg felt after they'd had a brisk walk from one classroom to another. He had mentioned the leaves whenever they were walking past a window or a particularly beautiful maroon and gold tree.
That night Sirius sported a bit of a headache which stabbed sharply in his temples as well as the back of his head at the top of his neck. It was certainly not the worst headache he had ever had, but it still made him miserable as he and the others sat down at a table in the Gryffindor common room to do their homework for the evening.
"I don't know how we're going to get through all this work for Potions," Peter grumbled, taking out his text and a scrap piece of paper upon which he had written the assignments due the next day- a set of problems about potion properties and chemical combinations and two essays, one to be researched and the other a practical observation.
"Professor Elson really puts the 'ass' in 'assignment'," James joked, taking out his work as well.
"You're an ass," Sirius grumbled, crossing his arms on the table and resting his head upon them.
"What's the matter, Padfoot?" Remus asked, scooting his chair closer to Sirius'. "You don't look so good."
"Head aches," he said with a moan, trying to make it sound worse than it was. "I think I'm going to die."
Remus stroked the back of Sirius' head, and Sirius found himself unable to breathe for a few moments again. Remus' touch was warm and tender, and Sirius found himself sighing at the wonders the simple petting did for him. Then Remus pressed his palm to Sirius' forehead and Sirius sighed again. "Feels a little better?" Remus asked and Sirius nodded, taking Remus' hand along with.
"Maybe you should go lie down," James suggested and Peter nodded in agreement.
Sirius agreed as well and pushed back his chair. He rose to his feet, head throbbing. He pretended to look faint, and Remus jumped up, grabbing hold of Sirius as Sirius had hoped. Wrapping an arm around Sirius' waist and urging Sirius to lean against him, Remus spoke. "I'll take you up to bed. It won't do to have you collapsing halfway there."
Sirius started to protest but Remus insisted and when Remus was forceful about anything, they all obeyed. So Sirius allowed Remus to take him upstairs, excited nearly to the point of bursting at being held so close by Remus. But the journey across the common room and up the stairs was far too short for his liking, and made shorter still by his legs giving out a few steps into their dormitory room. All the movement and excitement had made his head pound terribly and for a few moments he felt dizzy and nauseous all at once. Sirius clung to Remus and closed his eyes, trusting that Remus would get him the rest of the way.
When the feeling passed, he found himself sitting on the end of a bed but Remus was nowhere in sight. Sirius flopped back onto the bed and stretched out before he noticed a book lying on the side of the pillow and saw a glass of water and tissue box on the nightstand. "Remus?" he called out. But talking made his head hurt and he closed his eyes again. His headache had not been all that bad to begin with but now he would not have to overact at all. He felt completely awful.
"I'm right here," Remus said, climbing onto the bed from the other side.
"Your bed," Sirius informed him, waving a hand about at the curtains and bedposts he could not see for his eyes were still closed.
"I know, Silly," Remus said, sitting down beside Sirius and moving the book to the nightstand beside the glass of water. "You were bloody heavy and mine was closer. I didn't think you would mind. I mean, you sleep in Peter's bed all the time when he's scared after a nightmare."
Sirius' mouth twitched into a smile. He had hoped this would have been the result of all this. He just wished he didn't feel so bad and could enjoy it.
He felt something cool touch his forehead and opened his eyes to look up at whatever it was. What it was turned out to be a damp washcloth that Remus had in hand. Sirius sighed at the cool touch and closed his eyes again, relaxing against the bed. Remus slid up close to his side and pulled the covers up to Sirius' waist. "There," Remus said softly. "Feel better?"
Remus must have known that it felt better, but wanted to hear it from Sirius himself. Sirius debated saying nothing, or saying that he did not. It would make Remus stay and try something else, or even just stay and watch over him a little longer. But he did not want Remus to think his care was worthless, since it was far from that. "Much better," Sirius replied truthfully.
Remus smiled and went for the washcloth, to turn it over. At that same moment, Sirius pulled his head up a little in order to scoot closer to Remus. Remus' hand hit Sirius' nose and Sirius moved away with a whimper.
"Oh Sirius! I'm so sorry!" Remus exclaimed, his eyes widening.
Suddenly, Sirius' nose felt full and he felt blood running down his face to his upper lip. Remus snatched the tissue box from his bedside table, knocking over the glass but not stopping to wipe up the mess. "Sit up," Remus instructed. He pulled out a handful of tissues and pressed them to Sirius' face. Sirius went to tilt his head back, but Remus shook his own head. "No, that will do more harm than good. Just let it finish. It isn't bad." That did not stop his nose from tingling and bleeding, however, nor his head from hurting.
The tingling grew a bit more intense, and suddenly Sirius felt the urge to sneeze. Under normal circumstances he would have pinched his nose shut and stifled the sneeze, but he did not want to make his nose worse. Besides, his head would not be able to take it. But Remus still held the tissues to Sirius' nose and Sirius did not want to sneeze on Remus. That wasn't part of the plan and he was certain sneezing on Remus was not the way to win his heart. But Sirius' breath caught and all he could do was grip Remus' lower arm in warning.
Sirius' eyes closed and his nostrils flared. "heh-SHISHHHH!" He sneezed mostly into the tissues, but was sure he must have caught Remus as well.
But Remus did not pull back nor did he make a noise of disgust. In fact, he did not even flinch. Instead, he pulled out more tissues and wiped Sirius' nose and the area around it. Then he pressed more tissues to Sirius' nose. "If you feel the need to sneeze again, just go ahead. Your nose is feeling bothered. Best to let it do what it wants."
Sirius nodded, his mouth hanging halfway open and his eyes closing. "Deed to..." he whispered. Remus' hand tensed as he readied the tissues for the sneeze. "eh-HIHShhh! Hehh-CHShhhh!" With his nose still bleeding, Sirius resisted the urge to sniff. "Egscuse be," he whispered. Then he wiggled his nose, trying to rub it into the tissues.
"Wait, wait," Remus said, getting more tissues to his nose. "Okay, now you can blow your nose." Sirius hesitated. Sneezing was bad enough and if that hadn't disgusted Remus, surely this would. "It's all right, Padfoot. Don't be embarrassed. No one else is here to see or hear. Just give a nice big blow."
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath in, Sirius obeyed. When finished, Remus wiped his nose gently for him. "Good," Remus said, nodding approvingly. "It's stopped bleeding, too. So you should lie back down and try to rest."
Sirius lay back down and Remus put the washcloth back on his forehead. But all the moving and talking had taken its toll. Sirius winced as his head spun and turned onto his side, curling up a little. The washcloth fell off and hit the bed with a thump. Sirius lifted a hand heavily then pretended to be unable to pick it up again. Truthfully, he was sure he would be unable to hold it there for any long period of time.
Remus picked it up and held it against Sirius' forehead. After a minute, he spoke again. "I really am so sorry about hitting your nose like that. I'll make it up to you somehow. What would you like? I could go down to the kitchens and get you a milkshake..." Sirius did not say anything to that. "I could finish your homework for you." Sirius still stayed silent, but he reached out and put his hand on Remus' thigh. Remus got the message. "Or I could just stay here to keep you company and not hit your nose again."
"That's the one," Sirius said.
Remus smiled and patted his thigh beside Sirius' hand. "Alright. Then scoot over here so I can reach you better." Sirius did not hesitate to obey this particular request. He set his head down on Remus' thigh as Remus tucked blankets around him. He stroked Sirius' side while holding the washcloth against Sirius' forehead. He waved his hand and the light above his bed turned off. "Let me know if you need anything else, then. And feel free to sleep. That would help your headache."
Sirius sighed and nodded weakly. And though he wanted to stay awake to enjoy being so close to Remus, Sirius fell asleep in no time at all.
Early autumn turned into mid-autumn. The leaves, which had fallen slowly and gradually before, were falling more quickly and steadily now. After his great success of the first stage of his plan, Sirius spent much of his time trying to figure out what the next should be. It would be difficult to top spending an evening in Remus' bed with his head on Remus' thigh without coming right out and telling Remus about his feelings.
That was something Sirius could not do quite yet. He didn't know if Remus could take that step from platonic friend to boyfriend; he wasn't even sure he could. But he was damn well going to try. After getting a taste of it, Sirius was determined.
He sat out beneath a tree, the same tree Remus had been sitting beneath during the leaf pile incident. Somehow he felt closer to Remus while sitting there. The fact that it was chilly out and pouring rain had not dissuaded him from sitting there while thinking through his plan.
Sirius had another reason for sitting outside in the rain, however, and that was to watch Remus. By chance, he had been sitting there earlier that evening and had seen Remus enter the owlry. Several others had gone in and several had come out, but Remus seemed to still be inside. Sirius hoped perhaps another glimpse of Remus while he was thinking might help him to suddenly see the next step in his plan.
Remus did emerge eventually, but did not leave alone. Sirius squinted, wanting to be sure. Walking beside Remus was Belinda Conners, a Ravenclaw seventh year and a prefect. Even Sirius had to admit she was beautiful, but his heart fell when he saw Remus take off his cloak and put it around her shoulders. Then he put a hand on her back and ran with her across the grounds to the castle. When they reached the doorway with its overhang that kept them out of the rain, they were both laughing.
Though the temperature was cool and the rain even cooler, Sirius did not get chills until he saw Remus and Belinda together. It was not the mere sight of them together, laughing and touching, she wearing his cloak. He had seen Remus with girls before and he always enjoyed seeing Remus smile. What made Sirius shiver was the kiss he saw them exchange. Not a quick peck of thank you, but a longer, more involved kiss. Lips upon lips, her hand upon his heart. When they broke away, there was smiling on both parts. He slipped his arm around her waist and guided her inside.
Sirius knew that touch. It was the memory of this which made him shiver. And once he began shivering he could not stop. But neither could he bring himself to go inside now, not after what he had seen. What if he stumbled upon them in a corner of the castle snogging? Or worse? He did not think that he could bear that.
So he stayed outside all afternoon and into the evening. He watched the sun set, obscured by grey clouds. The day was already dark but it became darker. He could no longer distinguish the dark leaves from the lighter ones. He could no longer see the drops of rain splashing and rippling along the surface of the lake. But he could not get up. And when it was time for dinner, it was Peter who found him.
"We've been all over looking for you!" Peter said, taking off his cloak and putting it over Sirius' head and shoulders. "Why are you sitting out here in the rain?"
For all the thinking he had done that night, Sirius found he had no answer for that.
"It's dinner time."
Sirius was not hungry. How could he possibly think about eating at a time like this? There he would be, sitting and choking down food. And there Remus would be across the table as though nothing had happened. Or, at the very worst, Remus would be sitting with the prefects and with Belinda. Sirius was absolutely sure he would not be able to stand that. Not tonight, at least.
"Come on, Sirius. It's freezing and wet out here."
Sirius stood and handed Peter back his cloak. "I'll eat upstairs." Quickly, he searched for an excuse and the only thing in his head was his plan. His plan of getting close to Remus by needing care. His plan that, apparently, was not working. "I'm not feeling so well." There was truth in that, at least. He felt truly miserable now.
Peter offered a hand and Sirius took it. Peter rambled on about something that had happened in the library in the afternoon but Sirius did not comment and really did not follow it either. They went their separate ways halfway down a hallway. Peter went into the hall to eat and Sirius made towards the entry way and the stairs up to Gryffindor tower.
His shoes squished as he walked and sounded heavy against the stone floors. He took them off when he was seated in front of the fire in the common room. He had been able to hide his shivers before so Peter would not see them. But now, alone and heartbroken, they returned in full force. Sirius sat with his legs bent, hugging them to his chest. He watched the fire dance and crackle, but the colors only reminded him of leaves and the sounds only of crinkling leaves underfoot. He closed his eyes and buried his face in his knees, rocking slowly to try to soothe himself.
Try as he might, Sirius could not shake the image of that kiss from his mind. Remus had looked so happy. And Sirius wanted Remus happy more than anything else. But he wanted to be the one to make Remus that happy. And, deep down, Sirius believed he and Remus were meant to be together.
The only thing to do now was concentrate on the plan. Or think of a new plan. Or something. Sirius was too cold and wet to think straight at the moment.
Recognizing the voice, full of sweetness and concern, Sirius practically jumped out of his skin. His rocking stopped abruptly but his shivering only seemed to increase. Worse, yet, was how, seconds later, Remus squatted down beside him and put a hand on Sirius' back. So surprised at the touch was Sirius that he jumped again, this time smashing his nose into his knees.
Immediately he realized it was just about the worse thing he could have done as his nose began to tingle and bleed. Remus quickly pulled out a fresh white hanky and handed it to Sirius. Sirius was hesitant to stain such a nice handkerchief but the alternative seemed to be having blood-covered robes. So he pressed it to his nose.
Luckily, the urge to sneeze did not strike until after the handkerchief was in place. "hahhhSHISH!" His head bobbed at the force of the sneeze, then back up again as he took in a second deep breath for a second strong sneeze. "hehhCHISHH!" Sirius blew his nose and refolded the hanky before holding it to his nose again.
"I am so sorry," Remus said, sitting down beside Sirius. "I didn't mean to startle you. I said your name. I thought you heard me."
Sirius was not about to admit to why he had been so startled. But he did not want Remus to feel guilty, either. "It's all right," he told Remus. "This bassed quigly the last tibe. I'b sure it'll be dode id a secod." Sirius coughed and refolded the hanky, trying to ignore the bright red blood spots which stood out against the otherwise pristine white.
Remus nodded. "Peter said you weren't feeling well. I thought I would come up to see if I could help you feel better and now I'm afraid I've made you worse. Maybe I should go..." Remus started to get back up.
But, reacting on instinct, Sirius reached out and put a hand on Remus' arm, holding him there. He blew his nose and lowered the handkerchief. "No," he said, shaking his head. "Please stay. I always feel better when you're here."
Remus blushed slightly and smiled. He nodded again and stayed put. "So what's the matter? Are you coming down sick? Do you have a fever? You look like you have a fever."
Sirius shrugged. "Don't think so. I'm just cold and shivery."
Remus felt Sirius' forehead with the back of his hand. He wore a pensive expression and stared off seemingly into nowhere for a moment. Loving that look on Remus, it was all Sirius could do to keep from pinning the young man down and kissing him in a way that showed he was worth abandoning Belinda for. "You feel warm but not hot," Remus said. "But you say you're cold? And shivery? And not hungry?"
Looking as concerned as his voice sounded, "Sounds like a fever to me. Maybe you are coming down sick. I'd better keep an eye on you, just in case."
"You're going to stay with me? Really?"
"On one condition," said Remus quickly, holding up a finger. He checked to see if Sirius' nose was still bleeding and they discovered it was not. Sirius dropped his hand and the handkerchief in it to his lap. "I will stay with you so long as you promise to obey my every command. No arguments, no protesting."
He did not care what happened so long as Remus stayed with him. Sirius gave a nod.
"Good. Then the first thing is to get you out of these wet clothes. I want you to go straight upstairs and take a hot shower, as hot as you can stand it. I'll bring you your pajamas. Then I want you to get right into bed and I'll be sticking with you to be sure you stay there. No giving me the slip. And if your fever gets any worse, we're going down to see Madam Pomfrey right away. Got it?"
Sirius nodded in agreement. He stood, shivering a bit to be further away from the fire. But Remus marched him upstairs and Sirius went along, relieved at the prospect of a hot shower and a whole night in bed with Remus.
Days and weeks later, Sirius still watched Remus as closely as ever whenever Remus was in the room. Most of the time he was alone, or with James or Peter or one of the Gryffindor girls discussing an assignment. But sometimes, like this day, he could be spotted with Belinda. Sirius saw them through the stacks, giggling over a copy of some book about the trends of potion-making throughout the last century. Belinda's face was glowing and Remus handed her the book as they came around the shelves. Sirius quickly looked down at his book so he wouldn't be seen spying on them.
James came down and sat beside Sirius at one of the many tables in the middle of the library. "Have you seen Remus and that Belinda Conners?" James whispered, nudging Sirius.
Seen them? Sirius had not been able to take his eyes off them all evening. "Might have noticed them." Sirius looked around as though he had no idea where they were.
James leaned closer. "Rumor has it that they're something of an item." Sirius tensed up without wanting to. "But I have it on good authority that she's not into blokes."
Sirius' eyes widened. "What?"
"She fancies ladies." James unconsciously ran his hand through his hair to mess it up. Sirius noticed that he always did that whenever he talked about something that turned him on. Sirius hoped he had no similar obvious quality. "At least, that's what I heard. And that our Moony has been keeping her company to throw others off the scent. Besides, he would have told us if he fancied her, wouldn't he? We always share things like that with each other."
Yes, in most cases they did discuss their crush with each other. But Remus hardly ever said a word about his. Sirius nodded and said thoughtfully, "Unless there was some reason he didn't want us to know."
James nodded in agreement. "Exactly. Like if she swore him to secrecy about her sexual preferences. Because, honestly, do you really think Remus could be attracted to her?"
Sirius shrugged. "She's pretty. And she's bookish. I'd have thought that was his type."
"Nah," James shook his head and leaned back in his chair, hands folded against the back of his head. "That's not Remus' type at all. Remember what he used to tell us? More than anything he wants someone who understands about his condition. Could be the best woman in the world and if she flipped out about his condition that would be the end of it, wouldn't it? And I doubt a sweet little thing like Belinda Conners would be able to put up with what he goes through every month. He wants someone more... I dunno... more like us."
Jumping in surprise at the sound of those words, Sirius accidentally ran his fingers against the side of the book he was holding. "Ow!" he cried softly at the sharp sting. He immediately stuck his finger in his mouth, tasting the little amount of blood resulting from the paper cut.
"You all right?" Remus asked, taking the seat on the other side of Sirius. Somehow, even tables away, he had heard Sirius' gasp and was at his side in a flash. "Let me see how bad it is."
Sirius looked over at Remus, noticing that Belinda was now nowhere in sight. But, then, the library was terribly crowded so it was easy to lose someone there. He gave a last suck of his finger and held it out for Remus to inspect.
"Oooh, that doesn't look too bad," Remus said, tearing off a piece of his already rather shoddy robes and wrapping it around Sirius' finger to contain the bleeding. Then he pulled out his wand and performed a minor healing spell on it to lessen the stinging. Sirius took in every gentle touch, every concerned breath. "Any better?"
"Good." Remus smiled, and Sirius practically melted at the sight of it. "Now I think the best remedy is to sneak down to the kitchens and clean them out of all the chocolate they have before lunch."
James laughed. "Isn't that the remedy for being around Dementors?"
Remus waved a hand dismissively. "Shows how much you know. Chocolate is a proven remedy for just about everything. Dementors, paper cuts, you name it. So are we going or what?"
Sirius nodded decisively and let Remus lead the way. He had heard chocolate was also good at satisfying sexual urges. In which case he was looking forward to helping himself to as much as he could stomach.
Mid-autumn became late autumn almost overnight. Nearly all the leaves had fallen from the trees and nearly all the piles of leaves had been cleared away. The weather was so cold that students kept inside Hogwarts almost exclusively now, apart from traipsing across the grounds for classes. This resulted in a number of things, from fewer places to sit in the library to more between-house skirmishes. It also resulted in an increase of colds.
There was one particularly bad virus going around throughout the school that it seemed everyone was catching. Professors even considered calling off classes due to so many students not showing up because they'd stayed in bed and so many sniffling ones who had showed up when they shouldn't have.
Sirius was overjoyed by it. Catching a bad cold in his head would certainly ensure capturing Remus' attention and binding Remus to him for a few days at least, if not a week or more. And, hopefully, sometime during that week Sirius would somehow casually let his feelings show through. Even if Remus was completely disgusted and appalled by the idea, there was a very good chance he would not completely kill a sick Sirius. Remus was too nice for that. Surely he would wait until Sirius had recovered before murdering him.
So now the problem was in figuring out how to catch the cold. It should have been easy, considering how fast it was spreading. He would try to take seats in class or in the library beside or in front of other sneezing students. He hung around in the common room at every opportunity instead of in their dormitory. He even pretended to mistakenly drink out of a glass from a fellow student who had been coughing and sniffling through most of dinner. But try as he might, Sirius had not caught it.
He noticed, however, that Belinda had come down with it. And he noticed that Remus noticed that. Remus passed by the Ravenclaw table on the way to the Gryffindor one after class. He offered her a tissue out of his pocket and she accepted. But he did not feel her forehead for fever or rub her shoulders or kiss her again. He moved on to their spot at the Gryffindor table and took his seat beside James. Sirius took this to be a good sign. Surely if Remus truly had romantic feelings for Belinda he would have acted more concerned for her health.
"Seems everyone's got this cold," he said, helping himself to a roast beef sandwich. "But I feel fine," he said, pouring himself some pumpkin juice. "You all?"
"Just fine," Peter said, reaching for seconds.
"Me too," said Sirius, hoping his voice was free of depression.
There was silence following this, which made Sirius a bit uneasy. He looked across the table to see James looking down at his plate and avoiding eye contact with them. The food on his plate was practically untouched and even Sirius had to admit James had not seemed to be his usual conversational self during lunch.
Remus nudged him, however, and James sighed. "Actually," he said, his voice quiet, timid, hesitant. "I haven't been feeling so good this morning."
Remus immediately put down his glass. Like a magnet, his hand seemed drawn to James' forehead. Then he placed two fingers beneath James' chin and directed his face upward. Remus inspected his eyes and whispered something Sirius could not hear across the table. James reluctantly opened his mouth and Remus looked it over as well. James looked a little embarrassed at this, but not as embarrassed as he did a few moments later when he lifted his arm and buried his nose in the crook of his elbow. "HahhChooo!"
Remus offered James a napkin. "I'm sorry. I'm out of tissues." He rubbed James' back as James rubbed his own nose. "What would you like to do?" Remus asked softly. "Finish classes for the day? Go see Madam Pomfrey? Go to bed?"
"Bed," James nodded in agreement. "Definitely. I..." His face fell and his head turned down, glasses slipping down his nose, napkin held up at the ready. "hahhhCHOO! hahhChuhhh! Hahhhhh... hah-Shooo! Sniff!" He rested his head on Remus' shoulder. "I want to go to bed," he whispered.
"Okay." Remus took a single bite of his sandwich and chased it with some juice. That was enough to constitute lunch. Then he swallowed, nodded decisively, and took charge of the matter. "Peter, I want you to go tell McGonagal that James is sick and going upstairs to bed." Peter nodded. "Sirius, would you help me take James upstairs?" Sirius agreed and took James' bookbag as well as his own.
They left the Great Hall and walked briskly upstairs. There were quite a few people they preferred not to meet up with in the hallways when James was ill. When they reached the tower, the Fat Lady eyed them. "How many of you lot are sick, then?"
"Just me," James grumbled and sniffled into the back of his hand.
She frowned. "That puts us ahead of Slytherin by three and Ravenclaw by two. But I'm behind Hufflepuff by eight now." She shook a finger at James. "Just get better soon."
James nodded and coughed before mumbling the password. "Fishsticks." She swung open, allowing them passage into the tower. James continued to cough as they crossed the common room.
"Strange password," Sirius commented, trying to lighten the mood. He didn't need James feeling guilty about being sick.
"I think she picked it because it's easy to say with a stuffy nose," Remus chuckled. "It's nice to see that even the paintings are concerned with the way this cold is spreading."
"Concerned?" Sirius laughed. "The paintings are in a competition to see how few people in their houses are sick!"
"hahh-Ahshhooo! hahhChoo! hehhSHoo! hahhShooo! KShooo!" James snapped in half, sneezing freely, suddenly.
Remus rubbed his hand up and down James' back. "Sirius, would you go get some things from the bathroom? Box of tissues, water bottle, pillow..."
"Absolutely," Sirius agreed and took off up the stairs. Lately, tissue boxes seemed more abundant than wands and books in the school. There was a large stack on the counter. Sirius snagged one. The supply closet, which normally held towels and soap now also had excesses of everything from blankets to thermometers. Sirius took one of everything, piling them all on the counter as he raided the closet. There were no extra pillows, however. So Sirius took one of the blankets and transfigured it into a pillow. Even if the transfiguration did not last, it would still be soft and able to elevate James' pillows to make his breathing easier.
When he got to the room, Remus was helping James into bed. James had changed into his pajamas and crawled slowly, rubbing his hand against his nose. Sirius set everything up, propping up James' pillows, opening the box of tissues, covering him with the extra blanket. Remus charmed the water bottle to stay hot. "I'm going to get you some water, too," Remus said.
Sirius sat down on the side of the bed and pulled some tissues out of the box. He grinned playfully. "Now you need to stay in bed. Doesn't matter if the world comes to an end, you know, you've got to stay here in bed until you're aaallll better," he said, rubbing the tissues at James' nose. James laughed and pushed Sirius away. Sirius kept trying to get at James, though it was difficult to do with so much laughing. It dissolved into tickling in mere seconds, until James started coughing again. James held up a hand to cease the playing and holding a fist up to cover his mouth.
Backing off to give James room, Sirius waited until the man stopped shaking with coughs. Then he gave James a sympathetic smile. "No fair. Winning by using your illness and coughing." He handed James the tissues and James blew his nose.
"We'll call it a draw, then," James said weakly. He closed his eyes, lying back against the pillows. "Man I feel bad."
Sirius wished he could say the same. "If I could take it from you and be sick instead, I'd do it in a heartbeat, Jamie. But you may just have to settle for being able to boss us around for the next few days. Making us get you anything you need and all that."
James nodded. "As... as... hahh-hahCHOO! hahhShooo! hahhChoo! huhShoo!" He blew his nose. "As appealing as that sounds, I think I'd rather not be sick."
Nodding back, Sirius was stuck in thought. "Hey... do you think it might actually be possible?" Sirius asked. James looked curiously back at him. "I mean, with all the magic out there it only makes sense that there could really be some sort of spell to transfer an illness from one person to another."
James shrugged. "I think if something like that existed people would use it all the time to give their colds to people they didn't like." James chuckled. "I could give mine to Snivellus but just thinking of him sneezing with that big nose of his gives me the shivers." Sirius laughed in agreement.
"Shivers?" Remus called, pushing back the hangings around James' bed on one side. He looked concerned. "You're not feverish, are you?"
James shook his head. "Just talking about Snivellus."
"That's enough to make anyone sick!" Remus replied jokingly. But he checked James' forehead again just to be sure he wasn't feverish. "We need to go to class now. But we'll be back soon. Need anything more before we go?"
James didn't, and Remus and Sirius headed to afternoon classes. Sirius made James' excuses to the Gryffindor Quidditch team, which had already lost two members and had already decided to cancel practice for the day. He picked up some books for Remus in the library. Mr. Simmons, the Librarian, had not wanted to lend them out because of Sirius' track record but Sirius could be very convincing when he wanted to be. He stopped by the kitchens to see the house elves. He got them to send up a pot of tea now and arranged for them to send up soup and sandwiches later.
When he finally got to the room, intending to check on James, he froze at the scene before him. It wasn't as painful as it had been when Sirius had seen Remus and Belinda kissing, but it ranked right up there on the list of obstacles in his plan to get Remus. Remus was lying in James' bed, beneath the covers, fast asleep, with James' head on his chest. His arms were wrapped around James in a comforting sort of hug. It looked as though they had suddenly fallen asleep as Remus was in his school robes and James still wore his glasses.
Sirius should have expected this. Remus, who knew a thing or two about care giving considering his own affliction and monthly injuries, was always looking after them. He wasn't exactly angry about the fact that Remus was in bed taking care of James. He wanted James to feel better, after all. The closest thing to his feeling was jealousy. He wanted to be the one in bed with Remus. He wanted to be the one in Remus' arms.
He wanted James' cold. Decidedly, Sirius crawled into James' bed and lay down next to James. James stirred, then looked from one friend to the other. James smiled. "Hobe Worbtail doesd't wadt to joid us. Dob't thig this bed is big edough for all four of us."
"He can stretch out along the bottom," Sirius said. He rolled onto his side, propping himself up with an elbow. "Have you been able to sleep much? You're sounding pretty stuffy now."
James held his hand up with his thumb and finger just a few centimeters apart. "I've beed sdeezig bore thad adythig else." He sniffed hard to indicate how runny his nose was. But apparently the strong inhalation tickled his nose. His breath caught before he had a chance to do anything about it. "hahhhSHISHHHH!" He tried restraining it but was unsuccessful. He groaned quietly and searched for the tissues. "Sorry," he said softly. "Did I sneeze on you?"
Trying not to show his great pleasure at this, Sirius nodded. "Only a little. I don't mind it," he said casually, as though they were still just playing around. In fact, Sirius was ecstatic. He had hoped something like this might happen. But he found the tissues and handed one to James.
James blew his nose miserably. "Sorry," he said again, making a face at how he sounded.
"No need to apologize," Sirius told him. "Just try to get some sleep, Jamie," Sirius whispered. He reached up and slid James' glasses off his face. He folded them and set them on the nightstand. James smiled, closed his eyes, and turned his head to rest it up against Sirius' shoulder. Sirius petted James' head sympathetically. Much as he was there to try and catch James' cold, he didn't like seeing his best friend sick, either.
James' recovery was slow but soon he ceased waking them up in the middle of the night with sneezes and coughs. He still sounded stuffy but considerably better, and had left his sick bed to attend meals and classes. His friends forbade him to attend Quidditch practice, however. And they made sure he bundled up when going outdoors for any reason.
Sirius, however, did nothing of the sort. He was always the first out the door and the last inside again. He lent his hat and scarf out whenever he got an opportunity to do so. And he always seemed to brighten up a little whenever the cold made his nose run. But for all his trying and for all the times he'd been sneezed or coughed on, he remained well, much to his disappointment.
Remus resumed sleeping in his own bed when James seemed on the mend, and Sirius lay in his own at night, trying to come up with another plan. If he could not think of any, the only alternative seemed to be telling Remus straight out. And Sirius was not at all sure he could do that. The risk of hurting Remus was far too great. So he fell asleep trying to think of a new plan.
Sirius woke the next morning to Peter bouncing on the end of his bed. Sirius rolled onto his side and curled up more under the blankets. "Go away, Wormtail," he mumbled, burying his head beneath his pillow. "I don't feel good."
Then he froze as the realization swept over him. He didn't feel good. Not good at all. His body ached. His throat was in serious pain, especially as he tried to swallow. His head felt heavy and stuffed. And his nose... his nose tickled. Overnight, like magic, he had come down with a cold.
He sat up in bed, concentrating on his breathing with great interest. He could feel a sneeze building, growing. It wasn't like those tingly sneezes he'd had when something hit his once broken nose. It was deeper, stronger, and pulled at him with an undeniable urge. Sirius sat, panting like a dog, waiting for it. His tongue nearly fell out of his mouth as he tried to breathe heavily enough to draw out the sneeze. Finally it seized his nostrils and tickled so madly that the sneeze could not be denied. "uhhh-HITCHHHH!" And it came with a friend. "IhhhKShhhhhh!" He sneezed wetly, freely, and tried not to smile afterwards. He was supposed to be miserable because he'd come down sick. But he was so overjoyed he could not help it.
Luckily, Peter had turned away and did not see the smile. "Moony!" Peter called, sounding worried. "I think Padfoot's sick!" Peter left Sirius' bed to go search out Remus when Remus did not promptly reply.
Sirius swiped his hand beneath his nose, amazed at how runny it was already. Beneath the covers, he crossed two fingers of his other hand. He sniffed strongly, liquidly, against the back of his hand all the way past his wrist. He was going to need a tissue already. "Brilliant," Sirius whispered, grinning madly. There was no way Remus could stay away from him now. The werewolf had a mothering instinct stronger than Madam Pomfrey's.
"Sirius?" came Remus' soft voice from behind the curtains. They were drawn to the side, revealing the concerned, brown-haired boy. "Peter said you weren't feeling too well. Do you think you've caught that cold that's been going around?"
Sirius nodded woefully and sniffed pitifully. Then, to his great delight, his nose tickled again. He held his hand up in front of his face and breathed in and out a few times as the sneezes built. "ihhh... hehhh... hehhh-HEH-KGSHHH! EHGSHhhhhhh!" He sniffed hard afterwards.
"Bless you." Remus offered a tissue from his pocket and Sirius snuffled wetly into it. "I told you that you should have been wearing your scarf more often," Remus said disapprovingly.
"I know," Sirius said, nodding. "I'm sorry." He wasn't the least bit sorry, really.
"Well, there's nothing you can do about it now. You've clearly caught a cold. So I think you had better just stay in bed," Remus told him. Remus climbed up onto the bed just as Sirius obeyed and laid back down. Remus pulled the covers up to Sirius' shoulders, then felt his forehead for fever. "I'm going to get some tea sent up for you. And maybe a grapefruit and a bagel with jam for breakfast. Do you think you could manage to eat those?"
Sirius shrugged and sniffled again. "I'm not all that hungry..."
Remus stroked Sirius' head gently, tracing a finger around Sirius' ears to pull the hair back and out of Sirius' face. "How about if I eat breakfast up here with you? Do you think you could eat something then? Just to make me happy? I really don't want to go to class thinking you'll be hungry and alone the whole time. I'd feel so much better knowing you ate something."
Sirius nodded, a bit overwhelmed by Remus' insistence. "Okay," he whispered. "I can try."
"That's good of you," Remus said, patting his arm through the covers. "I'll go arrange the food be sent up."
"hehh..." Sirius pressed the half-balled up tissue to his nose. "hahhIHSchhhhh!"
"And I'll get you some tissues as well. Looks like you're going to be needing them." Remus paused for a moment, as though he wanted to do or say something else. But then he climbed back down off the bed.
He returned not three minutes later with a hot water bottle and a pillow and two boxes of tissues. One he set on the nightstand and the other he slid under the covers in front of Sirius so Sirius would have easy access to it.
Sirius was quite glad of that, actually, as his nose had, almost unbelievably, gotten worse in the three minutes Remus had been gone. There was constant activity now, and an equal balance between running and tickling. Sirius immediately pulled out a few tissues and blew his nose into them. He sighed at the feeling of relief that provided, and was pleasantly surprised when Remus kindly took the used tissues from his hand to throw them away. In all his longing for Remus to take care of him, Sirius had almost forgotten how incredibly good at it Remus was.
Despite his nose, he felt fantastic as Remus lay down behind him. Warm. Safe. "James and Peter are letting McGonagal know you're sick," Remus said, gently petting Sirius' head. "And I'll be back as soon as classes end to look after you."
Sirius smiled. "You don't have to," he said, already knowing Remus' response. "It's just a cold."
"I know I don't have to. I want to. I don't like to just sit around when my friends aren't feeling well." He paused, as though about to say something else but then thought twice about it. "Ah, breakfast is here," he announced instead. He sat up and helped Sirius do the same, pushing pillows back against the headboard. "Now, you promised me you would try to eat something." Remus said, setting the tray on his own lap and pouring two cups of tea.
Sirius ate, though he wasn't hungry. Remus constantly pushed at him and his 'Just one more bite's actually seemed to result in another bite every time. At least, every time Sirius wasn't just about to sneeze or in need of blowing his nose.
"Wish you didn't have to go to classes," Sirius said as Remus exchanged Sirius' tea for more used tissues. He was sure that once Remus was gone, his condition would move steadily towards pure misery. He had seen it in James and had no doubt that he would be there soon as well.
Remus nodded. "Me, too. But... ah... before I go..." Remus checked his watch as though to be sure of the time. Sirius could not tell whether he was hoping for more time or less time, but whatever the verdict, there seemed to be enough to say what he had begun to say. "There's something I've wanted to say to you for a while now. And I'm not entirely sure how you're going to take this."
Sirius struggled to swallow his tea but Remus' serious tone made him tense up. Some of the tea went down the wrong way as he had taken a deep breath in reaction to Remus' words, and he coughed harshly, trying to pass it off as part of his cold.
Taking his tea so Sirius would not spill it, Remus seemed unable to make eye contact with Sirius. And Sirius was suddenly dead afraid that his obvious lusting after Remus had been detected. Sirius quickly tried to decide if he should deny it or just apologize profusely.
Before he could make a decision, Remus continued. "I think I've fallen in love with you, Sirius." Then, before Sirius could respond, Remus went on. "I find myself watching you and thinking about you all the time whether you're there or not. I know you fancy girls and all but I can't help the way I feel. And I hope that no matter how you feel about this, we can still be friends. But if you don't want me looking after you now while you're sick, that's okay. I just thought this would be the right time to tell you because you're sick and too weak to murder me at the moment."
Sirius blinked once, twice, but otherwise he was completely frozen with shock. A hundred ways to respond came to his mind, but he had no idea which to select. He wanted to kiss Remus, but he did not want Remus catching his cold. He wanted to burst out laughing, but he thought Remus would take that the wrong way. He wanted to describe every feeling he had experienced ever since he realized he had been keen on Remus, but he did not know where to begin.
Taking Sirius' silence as a form of rejection, Remus' cheeks went scarlet and he turned his head away. "I'm sorry. I'll go."
"No, stay!" Sirius grabbed Remus' hand and held him there. Remus set the tea and food tray on the nightstand so as not to spill it.
"I'm sorry," Remus apologized again. "I'm sure this came as a shock to you. You didn't need that on top of being sick. I should have waited a few days to tell you when you felt a little better."
Sirius sighed. "No. I mean, yes. Yes it did come as a shock to me. But not for the reasons you think." Sirius noticed Remus' eyes getting a bit teary and he abandoned his search for the right thing to say in favor of saying anything that would alleviate Remus' pain. "I was shocked because I feel the same way, Remus. Watching you, thinking about you, lusting after you, thinking you only liked girls, feeling scared to death about telling you..." He left out reference to his plan as he was fairly sure Remus would chide him for it. Sirius sighed again. "Merlin I want to kiss you so badly."
Remus' face was bright with a smile, and he took a tissue from Sirius' box to dry his eyes. "Then by all means do so," he said softly.
He had been waiting so long for this opportunity. But Sirius shook his head. "I... I can't, Remus. I've got a cold."
"Oh, hang your cold!" Remus exclaimed. His hand found the v-neck of Sirius' pajamas and pulled Sirius a little closer. "I don't care if I get sick."
"I care," Sirius said, pulling back. "Because as soon as I'm well I want to be all over you and I can't do that if you've caught my cold."
Remus chuckled. "Yes, but if I catch your cold we can stay in bed together all day and kiss and not worry about anything."
"But then I'll feel horrible for making you sick."
"Okay," Remus laughed. "But I'm still coming right back after classes and snuggling with you in bed."
Sirius nodded. "Ah... agreed... hahhh... hah-ih-HAHSHhhh! HuhTchhhh! Sniff! Excuse me." He blew his nose.
"I'm so sorry you're sick, Sirius," Remus said kindly.
Sirius shook his head. "I'm not." If he hadn't caught this cold, he might never have known about Remus. He would never have been able to admit how he felt. He snuffled into a few tissues and relaxed back into his pillows. Remus helped put them back down again and tucked them around Sirius tightly. "Thanks."
Remus nodded. "Sleep as much as you can." He petted Sirius' head, then paused, bent, and placed a kiss on Sirius' forehead. "I'll be back soon and we can talk more about..."
"About us?" Sirius finished. For one, they still needed to discus how in the world to tell James and Peter. And for another, they had to figure out exactly what 'us' really meant.
Remus nodded. He was all smiles as he climbed off the bed. "Hey," he said, drawing the curtain further back so Sirius could get a look out the window. "It's snowing."
Sirius smiled at the sight. Autumn was over, and with it every need to try to get to Remus. Sirius pulled a few more tissues out of the box and rubbed his nose with them. It had not been that terrible an autumn, but he had a feeling that winter was going to be far more enjoyable.