Title: A Week's Worth of Visits

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter (set during Prisoner of Azkaban)

Rating: G

Pairings: None

Spoilers: HP3

Disclaimer: These characters? No rights! Not mine! This fanfic? No money! No fame!

Summary: During the week leading up to the full moon, Remus isn't feeling well and Snape isn't entirely thrilled, either. The fact that Snape is required to see him for daily potion deliveries only makes things worse.

Notes: I wrote 'Futile Hopes & Unexpected Kindnesses' which I think worked well as a standalone. Thank you all for your feedback concerning it! The characters, however, begged to differ with me and I ended up making it into this longer fic.

Feedback: would be much appreciated



A Week's Worth of Visits


Day 1


     Having just finished sneezing, Remus looked up at the man whose cold eyes were shooting daggers at him. Quickly he fumbled with his large handkerchief, snuffling and rubbing in order to make himself as presentable as possible given his condition. The handkerchief was damp and uncomfortable against his nose, however. He carried it with him everywhere in order to blow and rub at his nose, but when in the company of others, he also sneezed into it as completely as possible. Like his other condition, sickness was something he loathed transmitting to others. But if he had his druthers, he would sneeze unrestrainedly and unashamedly. His sneezes were simply too wet and too strong to do otherwise when the occasion presented itself. "'Scuse..." he muttered hoarsely, clearing his throat several times to do away with the scratches before trying again. "Excuse be."


     Severus Snape showed not even a hint of sympathy. "Yes," he said flatly and held out the goblet. "As I was trying to say when I came into your office here and those sneezes and snorts of yours drowned me out, it is time to start taking your potion again."


     Remus knew this, of course.


     "Had you forgotten, Lupin?"


     Remus sighed and shook his head. With his cold coming on, he had to admit he'd lost track of the specific date. But he could feel it in his blood already... the wolf's time nearing. The way the waxing moon pulled at him. "I'd not forgotten," Remus replied. "I am simply glad you did not."


     Though glad wasn't exactly the right word to use when speaking about his affliction or the potion he was forced to drink. He wasn't much feeling up to another week of drinking a goblet of the vile concoction every single day, but he didn't have much of a choice in the matter. He and Snape both knew that. His only hope was that his cold might dull his sense of taste enough to make the potion slightly more bearable.


     "I do not forget anything even remotely as important as this," Snape replied. And he held the goblet out at arm's length, not wanting to move closer to Remus if he did not have to.


     With a deep breath and two fingers crossed under his desk where Snape couldn't see them, Remus took the goblet. He sniffed at it, finding it smelling almost the same as ever it did. Looked like that hope had been dashed. "It's the sabe as last tibe?" he asked. Since the beginning of the school year, Snape had been tweaking the potion a little. The fourth time, the previous time, seemed to have been perfect.


     "Yes. With an unrelated addition," he replied. "After your display at the staff table this morning, I spent a little while with the potion and added a decongestant draft in quantities that should not interfere with the wolfsbane."


     Remembering with pain and embarrassment the way he'd sneezed and coughed his way through breakfast rather helplessly, Remus flushed. He'd even given up on eating halfway through, as the prospect of sneezing with food in his mouth in front of the staff and students was too hideous to imagine. But two cups of tea hadn't done much to calm his sniffles, and a morning of sneezing through breakfast had quickly turned into a day of sneezing through classes. Most of his students had been significantly more sympathetic than Snape was being at present.


     Though Remus had to admit that the man had been thoughtful enough to put the decongestant in for him, and that was something. As was this additional bit of effort Snape had expended to get the amounts just right. "Thadk you very buch, Severus," Remus said, eyeing the goblet. Perhaps with the added ingredients it might taste bit better. Unfortunately, it still had a sour, overly bitter taste to it. Remus did his best to try to choke it down.


     "I didn't do it for you," Snape said coldly. "Given the way you've been strutting around in your normal routine while sick and spreading germs everywhere, I feared for the school's health. I just wanted to lower the possibility of you giving your head cold to the rest of us."


     Remus gulped down the last of it, and picked up his hanky before even a beat had passed. He felt another sneeze coming on, and though he hated to let it out he knew he should at least prepare himself for that inevitability. The sensation was strong, though he rubbed his nose and fought against it. Barely ten seconds had passed since drinking, and the tickle was unrelenting. Shoulders hunched, he leaned forward with a deep breath. If he had to sneeze, the least he could do was try to keep it to himself as much as possible. He could do no less, considering Snape's last comments. "heh...EKUShhhh! Hih-IEKPHShhhhh! ahhKufshhhhh!"


     Blowing his nose messily, he winced at the noise and thought he saw Snape do likewise. Remus thought he heard Snape mutter the word 'disgusting' but wasn't exactly sure. It could have just as easily been 'pathetic' or some other word with three syllables that took to having the middle syllable emphasized. Remus wiped his nose clean and dry and set his hand and the handkerchief down in his lap afterwards. All the movement from the sneezes, which had violently snapped him further forward, had combined with the potion to cause his stomach to churn. He closed his mouth and swallowed hard, fighting now against the wave of nausea.


     Whether reading Remus' mind or simply seeing it in the man's face, Snape immediately instructed, "Don't even think about getting sick to your stomach, Lupin. You'll lose all that potion and I won't have time to brew more this evening." It was a week before the full moon, and Remus was supposed to take a whole gobletful tonight if he wanted it to work at all.


     Remus' hand left the handkerchief on his thigh and clutched at his stomach. He took strong, deep breaths that hurt his throat a little, but calmed him considerably. He wasn't about to risk a transformation without the wolfsbane potion just because his stomach was feeling a bit on edge from his cold.


     "Lupin?" Snape followed-up guardedly. Remus saw his eyes flicker over to the pewter basin sitting on the windowsill beside the half empty pitcher of ice water.


     "I'b fide," Remus said, trying his best to make that sound like the truth. His throat hurt from the words, but he dared not cough and upset the delicate balance of his body at present. He wanted to be sure his stomach calmed considerably before he allowed another cough or sneeze to unseat him. He looked up at Snape, eyeing him. "Really, I'b fide. I'b dot goig to..." He didn't even want to think about getting sick in front of Severus Snape. Sneezing was bad enough. Sitting up straight, and with a deep breath, he spoke firmly, "I'b fide."


     Whether Snape actually bought it or not, Remus could not tell. But Snape nodded just the same. "The decongestant should kick in within the next twenty minutes," he explained. "At which point you should start feeling a little better."


     Remus nodded back, glad to hear that. Most remedies were out of his reach, due to his condition. But mild decongestants alone were usually all right to take, though it was rare to find such weak potions all by themselves. Madam Pomfrey always had cold remedies, but those were packed with other things like pain killers and throat soothers which always contained ingredients he could not handle. The addition to his potion was the best news he had heard all day. "I certaidly abbreciate it, Severus." Quickly, he added, "Eved though I dow you did't do it for... for be."


     He could feel another sneeze coming on. His stomach gave a preemptive lurch, but settled again. Feeling he could now take the risk, and knowing how much worse it would be if he tried to stifle his sneezes, he recovered the handkerchief at once. "ehhhhh..." he wavered in uncertainty, vocalizing the urge as a warning to Snape who ignored it and stood steadfast, towering over where Remus sat at his desk.


     At that moment, Remus wished for nothing more than for Snape to be gone, so he could suffer properly in private. But Snape did not budge. Instead, he stared unblinkingly at Remus, and Remus felt horribly self conscious about every move he was making. Sneezing in front of the whole Great Hall was somehow less embarrassing than sneezing alone in his office with Snape eyeing him critically. Sparing him a long, embarrassing build-up, his body tensed and more sneezes struck. "ehhhKUFShhhh! Hehguhshhhh! Ehgushhhh! ehhh... EH-UHShhhh! Uhhh... uh, excuse be." Remus went through the process of blowing and rubbing again. He thought he could hear Snape say something, but the man apparently realized Remus couldn't hear him and stopped.


     Snape cleared his throat in a way that commanded attention, and Remus stopped wiping his nose, though it still tickled fiercely. "I shall take my leave of you now." Snape could have easily left before these last sneezes. They'd taken quite a lot more out of Remus than he'd expected and he was sure he had not looked very good either.


     Caught between wanting to ask Snape to linger a few minutes more so he would have someone to talk to and wanting Snape to go so he could sneeze in private, Remus decided to make no move to tell him to stay. His nose was tickling maddeningly already, and he did not wish to risk speaking. Instead he waved his hand, inviting Snape to leave. Snape eagerly took the invitation and headed for the door. With any luck, Snape would be gone before the next sneezes, however.


     Remus fought back the tickles in his nose as he watched Snape cross the office and walk through the doorway. Remus' nose twitched, and he pinched it shut, though that did nothing to stop the escalading sneezy sensation. Assuming the man would be gone in a second, and unable to deny the tickling any longer, Remus cupped the handkerchief to his face again. "hehh-GUHShhhh! KUFChhhh! Sniff!" This time when he blew his nose, he heard no comments from Snape at all. Hoping against hope that meant Snape had left, Remus sighed with relief and did not bother excusing himself.


     But when he looked up again, Snape was still there, watching. He groaned at the sight and gave his nose one more wipe. "I'b so sorry," he said. "I cad't seeb to stob sdeezig. I dow I soud berfectly awful."


     There was a brief pause, then Snape answered, "Actually, you sound considerably better than you did this morning." After a pause of disbelief at the comment, Remus brightened at these words. Despite the fact that they were an outright lie, they had come from the person least likely to have spoken them to Remus. That on top of the decongestant, and Remus was almost willing to believe Snape was actually capable of caring about something.


     "Thadk you," Remus said softly in appreciation.


     "That does not mean of course that I want to hear you keep this up all through dinner." Snape stood in the doorframe, doorknob in hand, door half shut. "It might behoove you to skip dinner in the Great Hall tonight."


     Remus sighed inwardly, but was forced to agree with the man. If he were someone else, he wouldn't want to watch or hear him like this either. "I shall do so," Remus agreed. It was the least he could do considering Snape's near kindness. He supposed that for Snape, that was as good as it would get. It wasn't as though Remus had actually been expecting sympathy of any kind anyway.


     Rubbing the handkerchief at his nose as he felt the need to sneeze again, he forced his eyes to stay open a few moments more. He watched as Snape stepped back and pushed the door closed. Then Remus dropped the wet handkerchief and allowed himself to sneeze freely in the privacy of his own room. "ehhh-HEHGShoooo! ahhhKEHShooo! KUHShahhhh!"






Day 2


     "Before the holidays, be sure to fidish those essays od... od... oh excuse be agaid..." Remus said quickly, clamping the handkerchief to his face. One handkerchief per lesson seemed to have worked fine yesterday, but today he was averaging four. Most of his students seemed somewhat forgiving of his frequent pauses and interruptions, mainly because he was giving them the lightest workload ever. "h'phshh! Heh'phshhh!" The sneezes were strong, but muffled in the handkerchief.


     Skipping over the need to blow his nose, he wiped it dry and cleared his throat. "Looks like sobe devide bower is keebig be frob fidishig that sedtedce. Bust be a reasod." There was a light murmur of laughter from the class of sixth year Hufflepuffs. "Thed how about addig to that essay two bages about curse rebouds add turdig it id after the holiday?" They clapped excitedly and cheered at the extension. "Guess you all dod't have a brobleb with that, thed." He leaned back, sitting on the edge of his desk and smiling. "Dow go get out of here before I sdeeze agaid. Add have a good holiday, all!"


     Most students smiled and nodded on their way out of the classroom, and a few wished him happy holidays or that he felt better. He reassured them that he would, or that it was just a minor cold. "I always seeb to catch whatever's goig aroud. Dod't worry about be," he said, waving his hand dismissively at one incredibly sympathetic pair of Hufflepuff girls who had stayed behind to see if he needed anything. "Have a good holiday!" He waved the class out the door, following them with a smile.


     But his smile froze when he saw Albus Dumbledore appear in the doorframe. He coughed nervously into his handkerchief, trying to get his voice to sound as strong and clear as possible. He still had another class in five minutes, after all. "Hello, Headbaster," he said, hoping Dumbledore would not notice how stuffy he sounded.


     Dumbledore nodded hello. "Remus," he greeted the man cheerfully. "Come take a walk with me." Dumbledore held his arm out, gesturing towards the door.


     Remus hesitated, then decided he might as well go ahead. Perhaps it was a matter of importance. "Actually... I have another class in just a few--"


     "Not anymore." Dumbledore shook his head and put a hand on Remus' back, guiding him out of the classroom. "Professor Flitwick has volunteered to take your class of second years this afternoon. As dueling is one of his specialties, I think it an excellent fit at such short notice."


     Remus cleared his throat again. He had an armful of books and papers in one hand, and was digging his handkerchief out with his other. "Ah, I cad teach. Really, Hadbaster, it's odly a little head... head cold." Another sneeze was on the verge, with the worst timing of any sneeze yet. He could feel his breath hitching and the tickle filling his nose. Quickly he buried his nose in the handkerchief, determined to pinch his nose shut and hold back the sneeze. With luck, it would die down and Dumbledore would overlook it. Sneezing now would not help in the least to prove his point that he wasn't very sick.


     But the more he tried to hold it back, the fiercer the tickle became. It grew in intensity, until he could not control his breathing in the least. Little gasps and puffs of breath silently filled the handkerchief. Then came a few more audible ones, "hehh... ehhh... HFShh!" His ears popped tremendously from the pressure of restraining the sneeze even the little he had. Furiously he wiped his nose dry and moved his jaw open and shut and side to side until his ears popped back.


     Dumbledore raised an eyebrow, then led the way through the corridors, with Remus a step behind. "I would have liked to have believed you about this, because normally you have excellent judgment, Remus."


     Over the folds of his handkerchief, Remus looked pleadingly at Dumbledore. "Headbaster..."


     "But this time I'm afraid you must yield to my authority in the matter," he said.


     Remus realized, suddenly, that Dumbledore was no doubt taking them on the shortest route to Remus' office. They passed the corridor with the one-eyed old crone and Remus felt a slight twinge of guilt about the secret passages he and his friends had once discovered illegally. Sirius Black could be using any one of them to enter the castle, after all. But when it came down to it, Remus could not explain it all to the headmaster. It was much easier arguing about his cold than his childhood exploits. And he didn't dare give Albus Dumbledore a reason to fire him only halfway through the school year. There would be nowhere for him to go except back out on the streets, friendless, jobless, homeless.


     Remus cleared his throat and tried again. "But Headbaster, I cad... I cad teach just fide..." His voice died away and he pressed the handkerchief firmly to his nose and mouth. "hehhh-EHKFSH!" It was as close to stifling as Remus could get, though he'd tried hard in order to keep himself sounding less sick. The sneeze still exploded from him, popping his ears and sounding too loud to be overlooked. As a second crept up, he knew any attempt at restraint would be pointless. His only hope was that it came quickly and relatively softly. "ehhhh... uhhh..." No such luck on the first count. The sneeze played with him, taking its time. He tried to will it on, but it did as it wished. "ahhh.. huhhh... eh-hehh-HIH-KUFFSHhhhhh! Sniff! Ughhh... excuse be." Quickly he blew and wiped his nose, to get it over as soon as possible.


     He could feel Dumbledore watching him, but not in the way Snape had. The headmaster's gaze was soft and sympathetic, and he stood waiting patiently for Remus to compose himself. When Remus looked up, Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at him, clearly wondering how Remus could claim to teach normally when his sneezes were so terrible. Remus cleared his throat. "I dow I'b a little codgested, but it's dearly the holidays add there are odly a few bore classes. I cad teach, I dow I cad."


     Dumbledore shook his head, however. "It is not a matter of how capable a teacher you are, but a matter of your health, Remus. You are ill and should be in bed taking care of yourself. You will need all your strength in a few days anyway. And I've no intention of seeing one of my best professors work so hard that he makes himself sicker."


     He stopped dead in his tracks, causing Dumbledore to do the same. Lowering his handkerchief and opening his mouth, Remus began to try to protest further.


     But Dumbledore raised a hand and shook his head, holding him off. "No, no. My mind is made up and not even a large box of sweets will sway me. I am relieving you of your classes until after you are quite recovered."  He reached over and patted Remus on the back, then eased him along, walking back down the corridor to Remus' office and bedroom.


     Remus knew Dumbledore too well to continue his protest. The man was kind and understanding to a fault. He trusted his employees immensely until, of course, they went against what he thought was best. And then he would not budge in his resolve.


     Mercifully, they reached Remus' office just then. Remus led the way in, lighting the lanterns and candles with a wave of his hand. He left his papers and a textbook the fifth years had been assigned to work from on his desk, and Dumbledore hovered over him until Remus made for his bedroom. Dumbledore gave him a few moments to change, then entered.


     The room was dim, with the only light coming from the candles on Remus' nightstand. There was a bed, with pillows facing the doorway, stretched out against the right wall. The window over the bed was drawn shut with dark curtains that seemed not to have been moved for some time. The nightstand was to its left, and left of that was the dresser against the left wall. On the wall beside the door was a bookshelf packed full of books. While those books in his office were textbooks pertaining to his area of instruction, the ones in his bedroom were mostly fiction.


     Under Dumbledore's watchful eye, Remus climbed into bed. He did not feel the least bit tired, but was not about to admit that to Dumbledore. Nor would he admit that as soon as the headmaster left, he would go back to his office to get the rest of his end of term grading done. "You dod't hab to fuss over be," he said. "I will be alright dow."


     Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, I suppose you will. Feel better, Remus."


     Remus nodded back. He certainly did not need the headmaster waiting on him like a nurse. It was nice to know the man cared, but the line had to be drawn somewhere. On a normal day he might crave a good conversation with him, but right now he needed to sneeze again. Determined not to make the same mistake as the day before, Remus pinched his nose and listened carefully. He heard the footsteps crossing his office and took a deep breath, trying to hold it and the sneezes in so he could listen better. He clenched his teeth and closed his eyes, concentrating hard on restraining the sneeze. Remus heard the sound of the door opening and closing, and let out his breath in relief. His eyes shut tightly, he swayed back and pitched forward. "HAH-TSHOO! HEH-KShhooo! HUHKShooo!"


     One thing Remus could admit about being back in his room after an almost full day of teaching was that it felt incredibly nice to be able to sneeze unrestrainedly once again. All that stifling had made his ears ache and all that sneezing into his handkerchief had made his nostrils sore.


     Remus took in a deep breath, which made him cough a few times, and lifted his handkerchief, preparing to blow his nose. But he heard a throat clearing and knew it wasn't his. Cringing, he opened his eyes and looked up, hoping to see Dumbledore. If it had to be someone, at least Dumbledore would be kind and understanding.


     It was, however, one of the very last people he wanted to see. "Oh doe," he groaned, rubbing his nose into the handkerchief rather than rubbing it against his nose. "Oh Severus, I'b so sorry. I did't realize you were there."


     His lip curled. "Obviously," Snape replied, a strong note of disgust in his voice. "I passed the headmaster coming in and he told me you were still awake and able to drink your potion."


     Remus craned his neck and saw Albus Dumbledore leaving the office finally, with a wave to Remus, as though everything were just fine. Remus grumbled inwardly, reminding himself to check and double check the next time he had to sneeze. "Yes," Remus said, sitting up in bed. Realizing he was in his nightgown, Remus quickly pulled the covers up to his chest to hide as much of himself as he could. "I cad take it dow."


     Snape looked as though he'd rather drink one of Neville Longbottom's potion assignments than enter Remus private bedchamber. But he didn't want Remus to get up, either. So he walked the perimeter of the room, staying as far away from Remus as was humanly possible. Across the back wall then the side one, he walked as though gliding and left the goblet on top of the dresser. "I'll just leave it here for you. But you should drink it directly. Before it cools."


     It seemed rather stupid to leave the goblet across the room, considering Remus was supposed to take it immediately. If the man couldn't put his high and mighty manner aside for a moment just to hand it over, he deserved getting sick. Remus thought to ask for Snape just to bring it over, but another sneeze and a tickle in his throat reminded him to be polite. Demands and insults were, after all, the very last thing Snape responded to. And they had another half a year of working together to endure before the summer break. "Th-thag you. I'll do that," Remus managed, the tickle catching him unawares for a moment.


     Remus rubbed at his nose, feeling the sneezy sensation build within it. He forced a cough and cleared his throat, looking up at Snape with a finger bent beneath his nose. "Severus, I thig I'b goig to..." He sighed, not actually wanting to say that out loud. It almost made things worse to talk about his sneezes. He hoped Snape wouldn't mind his dropped sentence, as he picked up with a better one. "What I bead is, you cad go."


     Snape nodded and shot for the door. "Gladly. Thank you Lupin." But he hung in the doorframe a moment, teetering between the bedroom and office. He gritted his teeth rather visibly and closed his eyes. Talking through clenched teeth, he spoke, "Since I'll be seeing you every day, the headmaster made me promise to ask if there was anything I could get you that the house elves could not."


     The offer seemed so forced that Remus winced. The fact that Snape refused to make the offer himself spoke volumes to Remus, who had almost thought him kind the day before. And though Remus contemplated asking for a library book, he decided the look on Snape's face said that the man did not want to do anything more for Remus now. What pleasantries they'd exchanged in the office the day before seemed like fantasies compared to the stiff tension that now filled the bedroom. "Thag you, but..." Remus drew a sharp breath and had to press two fingers firmly against his nostrils to stop the sneeze from striking. He trembled, frowning, struggling to keep his eyes from closing. "Doth... dothig today," Remus managed quickly.


     Snape's face brightened considerably, and he almost smiled. "I'll just be going then." He nodded to Remus, who nodded back, finger still pressed beneath his nose as the sneeze hovered on the verge of release.


     This time, Remus kept his eyes open until he was sure Snape was gone. Then, with the door shut, Remus looked around quickly to make certain he was alone. Leaning forward in bed, Remus dropped his hand to his lap to sneeze freely. "hehhh-IHHKSHOO!" The first sneeze struck the hardest, but a handful more were not far behind. "EHKShooo! KShooo! Ahhh-HEHShooo! Hah-Shooo! HEHPTShoooo!" Remus sniffed hard and pulled himself out of bed.


     Crossing the room, he sniffed and rubbed at his nose. But the congestion made the potion taste a little less terrible today, and he headed right back to bed after drinking every last drop down. Rather glad to be in bed rather than in front of a class teaching, Remus snuggled beneath the blankets and hugged his pillow to his chest. Maybe he'd work up the courage to ask Snape for a library book tomorrow. Hopefully, he would fall asleep immediately and sleep through most of the day, anyway. Having a book now would surely mean neglecting it.







Day 3


     It wasn't a particularly good dream, but it wasn't anything like the nightmares that had filled his mind during the night. Sleeping during the day always reminded him of the day after a transformation when he was too tired to do much of anything useful. But sleeping during the day brought a welcoming, warming sun that felt good against his face. It seemed to help bring lighter, happier dreams more often than not.


     This one, however, was neither light nor happy, and when Remus woke from it, he did so in a panicked, cold sweat. His heart was racing, thumping so hard it echoed in his ears. His breath was shallow, fast, unsteady, and he felt as though it was uncatchable.


     "Nice to finally see you awake, Lupin."


     Remus looked up to see Snape hovering over him. "I've been trying to rouse you for a good ten minutes." He paused a moment. "Rather, a bad ten minutes in which I was forced to listen to you muttering hoarsely and coughing in your sleep. What *were* you dreaming of?"


     Remus shook his head. "I cad't rebeber dow," he lied, clearly remembering. Dreams of all sorts, even the bad ones, were personal and he had absolutely no intention of divulging the details to Snape of all people. Most especially when the dream concerned his former friends, none of whom ever received anything but insults from Snape.


     Luckily, Snape noticed he had to sneeze again and did not press the matter further. Remus shuffled through the sheets to find a relatively clean handkerchief. He cupped it to his face securely, not wanting to give Snape another reason to be rude, especially with the man hovering over him so closely. "HEHShhh! HahKshhhh! Hehtshhff!" He shook his head and rubbed at his nose. "Excuse be." He cleared his throat and looked back up at Snape. "So I assube you are here for to deliver the botiod?"


     Snape's lip curled. "Do you think I'm here for my health? Of course I brought your potion. Why else would I be here in your bedroom?"


     Remus tried to push himself up to sit up a little, but the strength in his arms was minimal. He tried to distract Snape from noticing it by talking. "I wasd't exactly sure what tibe it was as I've beed sleebig all day..." Up again came the handkerchief, though folded. "heh... hehSHIHH! HahShhfff! hehChffff!" He dreaded blowing his nose, so he spent twice as long rubbing as thoroughly as possible before continuing. His voice sounded even stuffier than before, if such a thing was possible. "The headbaster did ask you to look id od be add ask if I deeded sobethig. I was'd sure if that was why you were here." Remus managed to roll onto his side and prop himself up. Leaning to the side, he pushed off his pillows to an almost sitting position. He couldn't resist sighing with relief to not need Snape's help with it. Not that he expected the man to actually touch him to help.


     "Well, it's the afternoon and I have your potion." Snape took it off the bedside table and handed it over, then immediately stepped back. "I can only guess that your comment is some roundabout way of asking me to get something for you?"


     Drinking the potion, and feeling glad he couldn't really taste it, Remus nodded. "I could certaidly do with a book to read."


     "Book?" Snape repeated skeptically.


     Thinking twice about jokingly clarifying what the word book meant, he simply nodded.


     He turned stiffly with this new charge and eyed Remus' bookshelf which was bursting to full with books. Two of the skinny shelves were filled with books by Jane Austin and all four Bronte children. Early Victorian post-gothic works suddenly seemed both the best possibility of interest and not a possibility at all as Remus had so many of them already. Other shelves contained some books he recognized as dramatic or humorous books. The books filled the shelves in clumps by author. But there were many by authors he had never heard of, presumably because they were muggles. He turned back to Remus. "And how am I supposed to find something you would like?" Or, for that matter, something that he had not already read. Remus appeared to be quite well read.


     Struggling with the urge to sneeze, Remus pressed the handkerchief to his nose. He was starting to feel a bit faint as the deep, building breaths filled his head. "huh...HahShahh! hehShuhhh! Sniff! Excuse be. Sniff!" Had he known Snape would have such a difficult time accepting this task, he never would have made the request. As it was, he wanted to hurry things along. "Sobethig, adythig id the fictiod sectiod. Use your best judgebedt. I just... I like readig before bed add I'b afraid I have gode all through by books already."


     Snape nodded curtly. "Fine. Is that all?"


     Remus gulped down the last of his potion and handed the empty goblet back to Snape, who quickly stepped back again. Lowering himself back down into bed and under the covers was almost as difficult as sitting up had been. But he sighed when he managed it, resting his throbbing head on the pillow that was still propped up to support his body. He had not the energy to reach up and pull it down into place.


     "I said, is that all?" Snape said again.


     Remus closed his eyes. He needed more water, and certainly another handkerchief. He felt more sneezes coming on and his current one simply would not hold up to much more use. "Actually," he said with uncertainty. "I..." Things went fuzzy before his eyes, and the next thing he knew he was being slapped on the cheek.


     "You must be..." Snape's voice growled in his ear, "The only person... who can faint... while already lying down." Snape was pulling at the blankets though having some difficulty as Remus seemed to be weighing down some part of them. Remus couldn't tell whether the man was trying to pull them up or down.


     Remus lifted his head and opened his eyes, then suddenly wished he had not done either. He shut his eyes again, tightly, as his head spun madly. His nose began to tickle almost automatically now that he was awake, and he couldn't tell where a handkerchief was. After two rather embarrassing moments in the last two days, and with his passing out added on top, Remus was determined not to sneeze freely in front of Snape again. However, he had not the strength to hold the tickles back for very long. He wiggled his nose and tried holding his breath. But the urge to sneeze had already grown too strong. "Ah... Sev... Severus..." he managed, trying to communicate his need for another handkerchief.


     He reached out, grabbing hold of an arm and squeezing. He felt Snape pull his arm from Remus' grasp just as he felt his breath catch. "hehhh..." Remus pulled his hand back to cover his face when he found a handkerchief being stuffed roughly into it. Remus had no time for thank yous, even if his surprise made the sneezes pause for a few beats before striking. "ehhhChffff! Kchffff! Hehh... huhShhfffff!" He buried his nose deeper into the handkerchief and blew hard. One ear popped but he didn't care. He blew a few more times, then sighed and relaxed against the pillows. He didn't care that Snape was still watching him. He didn't even care about how he must look or sound. "'Scuse..." His nose was too stuffy to talk well, and he coughed a few times. "Ughh..." He shook his head and blew his nose again.


     "Think you had be better off getting back to sleep even with those nightmares," Remus heard Snape say. Then he heard footsteps leaving the room. His sense of hearing, just about the only thing the cold in his head had not ruined, detected Snape muttering under his breath, "Cannot imagine what a werewolf has nightmares about. And for Merlin's sake, a book? I don't know what he reads." Before Remus could direct Snape's attention towards the bookshelves, he fell back to sleep.


     When he woke again, it was to see a dark sky outside his window. He found the handkerchief still clutched in his hand, and he lifted it to his face immediately to rub. His nose was stuffier than ever, and running. But his head felt a little better and he managed to sit up and steady himself before he sneeze again.


     "HAHshooo! HEHTShooo! HEH-Kchoo! Huhhhh... HUH-KUFShooo!" The sneezes were rapid and strong, though he felt a bit better to get them out. He blew his nose and barely detected the smell of food.


     Sitting on his nightstand was a tray not unlike the others the house elves had brought him, though this one had metal covers over the plates and drinks. Beside that was a small stack of freshly laundered handkerchiefs. And beneath those was what appeared to be a thick hardback.


     Abandoning his handkerchief, he retrieved the book, careful not to upset anything else on the nightstand. It was all he needed to overturn his dinner or the candle which had been lit at night so he would not wake up to complete darkness. The book turned out to be "Evonley's Avenues" and written by a one Gerard Rhedd. Not recognizing it by title or author, Remus flipped it over. The description on the back cover led him to believe it was some sort of drama about a witch's torrid love affairs and unrequited affections. It had gleaned praise by a number of reviewers who described it as passion-filled and exciting. But Remus saw it for what it was: a trashy romance. "Of all the thigs, this is what he susbects I read?" he asked, scanning the back cover for some clue as to why Snape might have selected this particular book.


     Slightly puzzled, Remus leaned back against his pillows and poured himself a cup of tea from the tray. It was still hot and steaming, so he blew upon the surface as he settled in to read by candlelight. He bent his knees and rested the book against his thighs, with a neatly pressed handkerchief shaken open and lying ready in his lap. When he opened the book Remus was surprised at the lack of a Hogwarts Library stamp. Instead, on the top inside of the cover in very small green letters, were the words 'Belongs to the private collection of Severus Snape'. Remus raised an eyebrow.


     By the time he fell back to sleep, Remus had finished much of his dinner and all of the tea. His nose still tickled badly, but his congestion was a bit better. He had made it through nearly a third of the book, finding it quite engaging and intriguing, though Remus stared at those words magically etched into the front cover far longer than any other words in the book. He fell asleep not reading but instead working through the many questions concerning Severus Snape running through his head. And that night, even though it was night, he had not a single bad dream.







Day 4


     "Is that all o' them then Professor?"


     With a handkerchief pressed to his nose, Remus nodded back at Hagrid. In his arms was a cage of pixies and another of doxies. With these gone, his office would be completely cleared out apart from some empty cages and an empty aquarium. Not only was it not safe to have magical creatures in his office while he was transformed into a werewolf, but with the holiday break upon them, there was no need to have them around.


     "Well I'll make sure these get o'er ter the post office all right. And I'll be takin' good care o' the other few fer yeh until after the full moon," Hagrid promised. His smile was noticeable through his thick, bushy beard.


     Remus smiled back gratefully. It was nice to have someone so knowledgeable in magical creatures and possessed of the resources and space to be able to take care of them. His own smile was partially obscured by his handkerchief. He pinched his nose through it and tried to force his breaths to come normally. But they caught and sped up, and his eyes closed instinctively. "hehhhShooo! hehhShufff! ehhhKShuhhhh!"


     "Got yehrself a bad cold there, Professor?" Hagrid asked, as though he almost expected the answer to be something other than yes.


     Remus lowered his handkerchief to chest-level and nodded. "Is there such a thig as a good ode?"


     "S'pose not," Hagrid said with a sympathetic smile.


     Remus had been hovering on the verge of the question for a while, but now he finally decided to ask it. "Would you care for sobe tea, Rubeus?"


     Hagrid's smile did not falter for a moment. "I appreciate yeh askin', but I really should get goin'. Not much daylight left and I need to get into town befer everythin' closes or it starts snowin' or summit."


     Glancing out the window of his office, Remus could see thick grey storm clouds he hadn't noticed before. It looked like a blizzard was going to hit soon.


     "Another time, maybe, Professor?" Hagrid suggested.


     Remus nodded. "Of course." He should have known Surely Hagrid had better things to do than take tea with a sick and sneezy colleague. Though his prospects for a little company to take his mind off his cold now consisted just of Snape. And he had little hope of that being much of a success. "Have a good day, add holiday if I dod't see you before Christbas."


     Hagrid's head bobbed up and down in a nod. "And to yeh, Professor. Happy Christmas." He let himself out of the room and shut the door behind. It locked itself, thanks to a charm Remus had put on it earlier in the year.


     Remus sat back in his chair with a sigh, resting his arms on the armrests, but still gripping his handkerchief tightly as he felt more sneezes coming on. He had changed and tried to look somewhat healthy for Hagrid's sake, and his body ached at the thought of getting up again to change and return to bed. All he would be able to do in bed was lie there sniffling and concentrating on every tickle and itch in his nose. "hehhShoo! hihhhKshuhhh!" And there were certainly a lot of those tickles and itches.


     There wasn't much he could do now to distract himself from his cold. There was the book, of course, but there was only so much of that he could take. So the only logical place to turn was to his work. Stacks of books and parchment rolls littered his desk. So he sat up and pulled something to work on closer.


     In the midst of reading a second year's description of the types of dark creatures most likely to be spotted by muggles, his eyes went so blurry that he could not further make out the words. "hihhhhh... hih-" His breath catching, Remus quickly set down his red grading quill to trade it for his thick handkerchief. He had been able to speak clearly enough to spell this one to hold up better than normal. "hehhh..." he breathed out heavily into the cloth, keeping his germs contained. "hehhh-IHShhffff! HEHShhphhhh!" He paused a moment, by now used to sneezing more than simply twice in a row. There was a tickle still in his nose, but it faded as he waited with his fingers pinching his nose through the handkerchief. He gave a strong blow and folded the handkerchief, placing it back onto his lap and picking up his quill again.


     "I am amazed that you aren't in bed nursing that cold, Lupin," a flat voice from the doorway called out.


     Remus jumped in his seat, hand clapping against his chest, over his heart. "Severus!" he said once he'd recovered his breath. He looked up to see his fellow professor leaning against the doorway. "You startled be terribly!" He took a few calming breaths and lowered his hand. "I did dot realize I'd left by office door udlocked."


     Snape shifted a bit, uncrossing the arms which had been across his chest, then clearing his throat. "You did not. It was locked. The headmaster gave me a charm to gain access to your office and quarters." Remus raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Dumbledore thought it best I not have to ask you to open the door every time I needed to come in to give you your potion. Assuming, of course, that you would remain in bed, sleeping or not, while ill." He smirked. "The headmaster apparently failed to inform you of this."


     Nodding, "I dod't doubt he thought it obvious add did dot wish to disturb be." Snape nodded as well, not believing that either. It was clearly Dumbledore's sense of humor that was to blame.


     Feeling another sneeze brewing in his nose, Remus pushed back from his desk a little and buried his nose in the handkerchief. He had half a mind just to blow his nose and relieve the tickle now. But he wasn't sure which was more embarrassing to do in front of company and before he could weigh the positive and negative aspects of the boisterous, uncontrollable sneezes verses the full, moist, forced blows, the tickle in his nose rose to fruition. "huh-huhChhhff! hehhShhuhhh! huhKtchfffff!" He rubbed at his nose, needing to blow but refusing to allow both out right now. The sneezing was bad enough.


     When he finished and looked up, Snape was a few steps closer, as the man was walking slowly to him. "I cannot imagine why you would insist upon dragging yourself out of bed to grade papers when you sound like death warmed over."


     Remus flushed and looked down at his papers, refusing to meet Snape's eyes. Of course the man wouldn't understand what it was like to have a responsibility to one's students. "I was feelig better. Add I thought it a good idea to get these out of the way before by tradsforbatiod id three days."


     He could still feel Snape staring down at him. Remus cleared his throat and added, "Add I was feelig a bit restless id by sick bed." The days leading up to his transformation had never been easy. Restlessness was a common symptom usually repressed nowadays by the wolfsbane potion and his older age. Though many times he felt the need for morning and evening jogs around the castle to calm and tire himself out. Staying in bed now every moment was irritating, to say the least.


     "Restless?" Snape asked suspiciously. "And grading papers is your chosen remedy?"


     "I bay be restless, but I'b still sick. And I'b doe idiot," Remus replied quickly, looking up to address Snape. Through his eyes he tried to communicate his desire for this conversation to end now.


     Snape stared back, his own eyes glaring, though Remus was unable to properly decipher what it meant. "I brought you a perfectly good book." Remus coughed a bit in surprise at the particular wording Snape had used. "A thing you requested, if you've forgotten. Have you even bothered to read it?"


     "I'b at least halfway through it, actually," Remus told him. He could not resist exploring the questions of what Snape was doing owning such a book, let alone giving it to Remus to read. But he approached the subject cautiously. "I exbect you'll wadt it back sood?"


     Snape made a face. "What, with your germs on it? Not on your life. I simply thought you shouldn't be borrowing a library book. I would not want you giving this cold to everyone in the school."


     Remus smiled weakly. "I'b afraid it's already bade its rounds without by help. But I abblaud you for your... forethought... ihhhh..." Quickly, Remus covered his nose and mouth and turned a bit to escape the full force of Snape's glare. "ehhhh... ehhh-KIHshhhhh! KFshhhhh! Chshhhh! HihShhhhh!" He did not expect a 'bless you' by any means, but at least Snape wasn't muttering rude comments every time Remus sneezed. "Excuse be," Remus said, rubbing at his nose. He coughed and cleared his throat, then extended his head. "Sorry, I cad take that frob you dow."


     Snape clutched the potion-filled goblet tightly in his hand. Then he shook his head. "I believe the headmaster would have at me if I did not first tell you that you should be in bed taking care of yourself." Remus started to object. "As the person who has to see you every day, sick or not, I would find it preferable if you were well instead of sick. And so I really must insist you return to bed at once."


     Remus flashed a sly but soft smile. "Why, Severus. I did't thidk you cared."


     Snape scowled. "I most certainly do not. I don't care how miserable you are or how much you stupidly overexert yourself, so long as you refrain from sneezing and coughing in my presence as much as possible. Mealtimes at the staff table without you are becoming almost enjoyable." He shifted his weight from one side to the other, as though impatient. "Now are you going to retire to your chambers or must I report to the headmaster that you were up and attempting to do work?"


     Reluctant, but knowing Snape was absolutely right, Remus rose and headed slowly to his bedroom. He felt a bit faint as he walked, wishing he'd just stayed put as he had no intention of fainting in front of Snape again. However good the man was at his core, he wouldn't rush to catch Remus; that much Remus knew. He pushed back the unsteady feeling as he went from office to bedroom. Having been away from it for a fair amount of time, Remus remarked to himself as to how welcoming and comforting his bed looked.


     It wasn't until Remus had crawled into bed and under the covers that Snape entered the room and offered the potion over. Remus drank it at once, pulling a face after the first gulp but continuing to drink. His strategy of drinking as fast as possible did not always work, but coupled with his congestion, it was slightly less offensive. The quickness made him cough, however. And he grabbed a handkerchief to hold it over his face as he coughed. Meanwhile, Snape took back the goblet and moved away a bit.


     Finishing coughing, Remus thought he saw Snape glance at the book he'd lent. Remus smiled. "It- the book- is very... good..." he said, his face falling again. With the handkerchief still up, he brought it up to his nose. A deep breath shook him, and he closed his eyes expectantly. But as quickly as the need had come, it backed off again, reminding him of Snape in that respect. Behind the handkerchief, Remus smirked. Then he shook his head and lowered the handkerchief. "Excuse be... I thought I bight sdee... sdeeze..."


     "Imagine my surprise," Snape replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.


     Up came the handkerchief again. "hehhh..." Remus closed his eyes, concentrating hard on the tickle, willing it to come out without delay. Sneezing in front of Snape was terribly embarrassing but not sneezing felt even worse. He could hear Snape's light chuckles already, and Remus' cheeks went a deep shade of scarlet. "ihhhh... hehp-" Expecting it, wishing for it, Remus tensed up. But the urge dissipated, leaving him to sigh and rub at a runny nose. Were he alone, he might try a spell to induce the sneezes. Instead, he simply shook his head in frustration.


     "Having some trouble, Lupin?"


     Remus groaned inwardly. If his nose could simply decide whether to sneeze or not, things would be perfect. Well, perhaps perfect was overstating it a bit. He cleared his throat and nodded. "It's dothig I caddot..." The buzzing in his nose intensified as he spoke, doing just what he wanted it to do. Remus snapped the handkerchief back into place again. "huh-CHISHH! KShihhhh!" Remus blew his nose hard to clear it of any more tickles. "Excuse be," he said, feeling rather relieved not to have it teasing him any more.


     Snape did not look particularly forgiving of the sound and display, but said nothing about it. "While I am here, is there something else you require?" His words had an angry, short sound to them, as though he were daring Remus to request something, just so he could provide some snide remark about it.


     Remus shook his head and pressed the handkerchief to his nose to hide its runniness. He shivered and slid further under his covers, waiting for them to warm him sufficiently. 


     As Remus reached out and pulled the book from the bedside table over onto the bed and halfway beneath the covers, Snape curled his lip disapprovingly. Shortly, he said, "I believe I shall take my leave of you now." He turned, then looked over his shoulder. "That is unless you have intentions of returning to your work the moment I am gone."


     Remus shook his head, sniffling. "I'll stay right here," he promised. "Add thadk you agaid for the book. It beads a lot that you would trust be with ode of your owd."


     Looking rather disgusted as Remus flipped it open to where he'd last left off, Snape replied, "It took me a while to locate a book of inferior quality that I was willing to part with. But I assumed you so desperate that you'd read anything. You may certainly retain it when you are finished with it. I don't want it back now that you've handled it, what with your cold and all."


     Remus should have expected as much, coming from Snape, but he wasn't fooled. Not only had he noticed Snape's mark at the beginning of the book, but the spine had been cracked and the pages turned many times. There were creases up at the top corners of a few select pages where a reader wanted to revisit moments on those pages. And the book, even Remus with his stuffy nose could tell, smelled like a rich glass of brandy and a fireside. "Thadk you agaid, thed," Remus said politely. "I look forward to a secod readig of it sobe tibe whed I'b dot ill. Add I abbreciate your gesture eved bore."


     "Leave it to you to get all sappy about something so petty. It's just a trashy book, Lupin. About some witch falling for men she can't have. Married dignitaries, princes, men under the influence of curses." And with those as his last words and with him gripping the goblet a bit tighter than he needed to, he turned on his heels and headed out. Remus could hear him locking the door to his office on his way out. Remus relaxed, picking up the book and turning onto his back. After properly adjusting the covers, he rested it on his lap and picked up reading where he'd left off.



Day 5


     "No, really, I'm, ihhh..." Expertly, Remus fought back the tickle, having had ample practice at that lately and finding the urge to sneeze being much weaker than usual. "I'm feeling better," Remus insisted. Not believing him, Madam Pomfrey continued her examination.


     Remus rolled his eyes as Madam Pomfrey touched her wand to his forehead to be sure he had no fever. She tucked his blankets around him tightly and handed him a handkerchief and a glass of water. Sighing, he took it all in turn and refrained from grumbling at the way she was calling attention to every detail of his suffering.


     "Mister Lupin, I want you to promise not to do any more work until you have fully recovered." He started to protest, but she looked at him sternly.


     "All right," he sighed. "No work. But I am feeling better. It's just a tickly nose and throat now." He waved a hand at the offending body parts. Even his congestion was better.


     She shook her head as she used a fluffing charm on his pillows to elevate his head and help his breathing. "I don't care how much better it is. The point is you shouldn't be working when sick. Especially not this close to the full moon. You need all the strength you can get. I only wish I could give you something to help."


     Madam Pomfrey reached over and patted his hand. Then she continued, "Now you get some rest and make sure you drink plenty." To be sure he did, she poured him a fresh glass of water and forced it on him. He gulped down a little to please her and she gave him one of those smiles she kept just for him. He had not seen it since his days as a student, but it still filled him with warmth. "That's a good lad." Again she patted his hand affectionately and left. He sighed, relieved to be alone again and through with having her fuss over him.


     In her place, however, was Severus Snape. Something in his stomach fluttered as he realized how late in the day it was already and how he would soon be forced to drink more than just water. Immediately he wished Madam Pomfrey back, fussing or not. "Making the staff pay you in-room visits now?" Snape asked, cocking his head with a smirk.


     Deciding not to bring up Snape's command about staying in bed, and guessing that Snape knew he'd been out of been all morning to attend to a few matters, Remus simply sighed. "Madam Pomfrey was kind enough to fit a visit with me in on her way back to the hospital wing after a late lunch." Madam Pomfrey rarely took her meals at the same time as the other staff members, and even then she typically ate alone in the hospital ward. But as it was the beginning of the holidays, her routine had varied slightly and she had no problem stopping in to see Remus.


     "How nice that she went so out of her way for you. Must be nice," Snape scoffed.


     Remus certainly did not agree. "I appreciate her concern and care, but she's so used to taking care of me as she did when I was a student here that I doubt she sees me as anything but a teenage boy still. She acts as though I can't possibly think for myself on the matter of my health." He had spent a good fifteen years without her. But even just a month into his stay at Hogwarts and Remus felt like a kid again in her presence as well. So he couldn't blame her fully. Still, he didn't particularly like her constantly over-protective manner. "Did you see her much when you were a student here, Severus?" he asked curiously. He could remember a few occasions where one of Snape's illnesses or injuries coincided with the day after the full moon. But having spent an unusual amount of time there, he wasn't really sure what usual amounts were.


     "No, Lupin," Snape spat. Remus took a moment to reflect on how he and Madam Pomfrey were the only two people he'd known from his days at Hogwarts who insisted on calling him by his last name. Even Professors McGonagall and Flitwick had greeted him using his first name when they met up at the beginning of the year. But as Madam Pomfrey used it in an affectionate sort of way because of her many years of familiarity with him as her patient, Snape used it more as an insult, as though he would not and could not possibly lower himself to speak it. Or, perhaps, there was another reason altogether which was not far off from the idea of familiarity and affection.


     Snape continued on, however, about his time at Hogwarts. "I was hardly ever attended to. Apart from a few mishaps thanks to you and your friends," his voice was cold but cruel, "I avoided the hospital wing at every turn. I have always done without the comforting and smothering that accompanied treatments."


     Remus nodded. At the beginning of the school year, Remus had been rather apologetic towards Snape about events in his past. Snape never accepted his apologies and, if anything, made him feel the idiot for being guilty now instead of back then. So after an entire term at Hogwarts, working as Snape's colleague, his guilt over many of the things he and his friends had done to Snape in their youth had dissolved. This was the first time Remus had ever heard Snape willingly bring up the subject, and it didn't feel too good for a much different reason.


     When he had decided to accept the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor at Hogwarts, it had been for three reasons. The first was that he had no current form of employment thanks to the newly-passed werewolf restrictions. The second was that Dumbledore had asked him personally with such faith and trust and understanding, and it was impossible to turn down a direct request from that man. And the third was because of Sirius Black's escape and the memory of his three closest friends dead because of his fourth. He knew Sirius very well, and was sure the angry, escaped spy would instinctively come after Harry to finish the job he'd once started. Sirius was persistent if nothing else. He'd go through anything and anyone to get what he wanted. It stung painfully to think of his friends as they once were at Hogwarts, when all they had to worry about was what prank to pull on Snape next.


     "hehhhTChhhhooo!" A sneeze, which he had restrained during Madam Pomfrey's visit, finally came out and caught him off guard. As he felt a second sneeze on the way, Remus grabbed his handkerchief and covered his nose. "ehh-HEHShhfff!" Vaguely, he remembered how Sirius had always known when he was going to sneeze and been ready with a hanky in time. Something else stung in his stomach and he swallowed hard before blowing his nose and excusing himself.


     Snape's expression read that the man did not care about Remus' apology for sneezing, either. Sure the sneezing had stopped for the moment, Snape walked over and handed Remus the drink.


     Remus nodded his appreciation. Two more days of drinking it after today's dosage. Two more days until the full moon. Two more days before he had to be well and strong once more. Remus wasn't entirely sure he would make the deadline. His cold was, as he had insisted to Madam Pomfrey, much improved. The stuffiness in his nose, for one, was better. His nose still tickled and ran, but not to the point where he could not be understood. And though his throat was still sore, it did not hurt quite so much when he swallowed or coughed.


     With a soft sigh, Remus downed the goblet's contents in a single series of gulps. He drew his wrist across his mouth to wipe the taste of the potion from his lips, and swallowed a few times more to try and take it from his mouth. "As terrible as ever," he commented, handing the empty goblet back to Snape.


     Snape grumbled, "The effectiveness or quality of a potion is not measured by its taste, Lupin."


     Remus should have known better than to joke about one of Snape's potions. But, luckily, another sneezing fit struck and he did not have to explain himself or apologize yet again. Not that Snape would accept his word if he did.


     "hihhhh-KShhhff! ehhShhiffff! hehhChhhfff! Heg- hehhhh... hah-Shhhhhh!" Remus immediately blew his nose and rubbed at it until he looked and sounded more presentable. "Excuse me." He sniffed a few times and forced a smile. "You wouldn't know it by how I sound, but I am feeling better."


     "Mmm," Snape muttered, as though he couldn't care less. "But you're still not going to get up and do work."


     Remus shook his head. "I shall assure both you and Madam Pomfrey of that." Remus narrowed his eyes at Snape. "Come to think of it... it seems a bit odd that she would drop by just out of the blue today. If Dumbledore told her I was sick, which he might have had cause to do a number of days ago, she would have been over then... especially since the nausea and dizziness have long worn off..." He trailed off, looking thoughtful. Then he smiled. "You didn't by any chance have a talk with her and tell her I was working while sick?"


     Snape's expression showed no hints of any kind, but Remus didn't need it to. He replied coldly and quickly. "Of course not."


     Remus sighed inwardly with a bit of frustration but nodded in understanding. "Of course not," Remus repeated, a bit of anger bubbling inside him. First Madam Pomfrey fussing over him as though he were twelve... then memories of the friends who were now dead and the one alive who was still responsible... and now Snape seeming to be civil and almost caring one second and then rude and spiteful the next. Though Remus was normally quite calm and polite, there were times even he was forced to cross the line. "Of course not... I mean, why would you?" Remus coughed a few times, and Snape took the pause as an opportunity to end the conversation.


     "I have better things to do with my day than worry about your health. And I certainly have better things to do with my time than stand here waiting on you. So I ask you: is there anything you require? Or may I get on with the rest of my day in peace?"


     Remus waved a hand dismissively. The daily request was getting more tedious and shallow every day. "Go on then. I know Dumbledore's instructions but if you simply wish to get in and out of here as quickly as possible once you've managed to hurt me all you possibly can then by all means, do so." Remus snatched Snape's book off the bedside table and opened it in a huff, pretending to thoroughly enjoy the passage he wasn't really reading while ignoring Snape.


     When Snape had gone, Remus set the book back down. Even angry, he wouldn't stoop to actually throwing a book. He sighed and kicked his neatly-tucked covers down. The worst part about it all was that they were right. He knew he shouldn't get out of bed or work until he truly felt recovered. Pushing himself two days before his transformation was a terrible idea. But, at the same time, letting them control him like this wasn't too pleasant either. For years he had managed to survive without people hovering over him every time he caught a sniffle or every time the full moon came round. He'd managed to live just fine without Snape forcing the potion on him.


     Madam Pomfrey's visit, the memories of his friends, and Snape's insults all made him feel young again. And while those days at Hogwarts had been mostly enjoyable for him, they still made him feel helpless and out of control. Determined, Remus kicked the blankets off completely. He shivered in the cold castle air but did not care. He had to get out, had to do something to take back his life. And, quickly, he decided to take a walk to see how the students who had stayed behind for the holidays were doing. Secretly he hoped he might run into Harry, but was rather sure he wouldn't. No doubt Harry had better things to do during his holiday than roam the hallways.


     Remus stood and began changing from pajamas to his robes. He pulled on a few layers beneath to stay warm. It made no sense to walk through the castle, where any number of fellow professors would see him and scold him for being out of bed while sick. They'd said nothing to him several days ago when he had sneezed his way through breakfast, but now that he'd admitted his illness and stayed in bed, they would have no trouble pushing him back to it. So the only reasonable solution was to take one of the secret passages downstairs and outside. That way his escape would be hidden and he would be able to get out to some fresh air. Best of all, he would be honoring his promise to Madam Pomfrey about not doing work while blatantly violating Snape's directive to stay in bed constantly. 


     But as Remus pulled on a second pair of socks, he caught sight of the grey sky and sheets of snow pouring down from it. While he didn't mind the snow, getting cold and wet while sick was not the best of ideas. Even Remus, who was feeling the rebellious marauder spirit within, was not so stupid as to risk pneumonia or other complications.


     With a sigh of frustration, he flopped back down onto his bed and pulled his covers back up. He curled up beneath them. He was too tired to go on a walk, anyway. "hehhh-IHpshhhh! hehTChooo! ehhhKShooo!" Tired and sneezy. Remus grabbed a fresh handkerchief and pulled the covers up over his head. It was warm beneath. Warm and stuffy, which made his breathing easier and his coughing lessen. He could almost forget the snowstorm raging outside. And could almost forget the memory of the annual snowball fights he used to have with his friends in the winter. Even the book, its pages orange in color from the light coming in through the blanket, wasn't sufficient to drive the thoughts of the past or his current sufferings from his mind. Nothing like a bad head cold on the verge of a transformation to make him feel useless again. His current company certainly hadn't helped things, either.


     Hoping tomorrow would be better, Remus shut the book and made up his mind to sleep as much until then as possible. Soon, the effects of being beneath the covers got to him and he found himself yawning. He pushed the blankets away from his face and promptly fell to sleep. It did not turn out to be a particularly sound sleep, but it was enough.






Day 6


     The snow fell steadily through the night, morning, and mid-day. Remus tossed and turned, falling in and out of sleep but managing a cup of tea or a hot roll here and there. The house elves were good about bringing meals and taking trays away regularly, as though familiar with his sleep patterns. He was most pleased to wake sometimes to find a bowl of his favorite soup kept warm under a lid or an extra few lumps of sugar with his tea.


     Most enjoyable, was to wake with a case of the sneezes and find a cleaned and pressed handkerchief on the pillow beside his head. The house elves were quick and helpful, and at least they made having a cold not quite as miserable as it could have been. Before coming back to Hogwarts, having a cold usually meant staying in bed with the covers over his head and rationing his meager supply of handkerchiefs.


     "ehhh-HIHChhhh! HehTchhhh!" This time, however, he felt much more comfortable using handkerchiefs whenever needed. And though he was feeling significantly better, they were still much needed.


     He had neared the end of the book, as well. Characters' fates were to be decided. Their lives were to be changed drastically forever. And Remus couldn't read fast enough. He found himself jumping ahead of short narrative paragraphs to get to the heart of discussions. Given the quality of the book, or lack thereof, he did not feel as guilty as usual about skipping a few things here and there the way he would most assuredly had he been reading any of his favorite books.


     So engrossed was Remus in the book that he did not realize the time until he felt the last of the sun's rays leave him. As it was just past the winter solstice, the days were dreadfully short in comparison with the nights. It was an especially torturous time of year to be a werewolf. But more importantly, it was well into the evening and he had been paid no visit by Snape yet with the potion.


     Pulling out his pocket watch, Remus double-checked the time. It was definitely past the time when Snape usually came around. Feeling a bit nervous that the harsh words exchanged the day before might have kept Snape away, even with the order from Dumbledore. Harsh words had never seemed to penetrate Snape's thicker-than-normal skin, but there was a first time for everything. And these days, being back at Hogwarts, Remus was beginning to realize the seemingly impossible was a whole lot more probable than it once was.


     Remus set aside the book and slid out of bed. He dressed warmly with several thick layers, planning to go to the dungeons or anywhere else needed to track down Severus Snape. He tucked a handkerchief into every pocket, just in case the journey proved to be a long one.


     It was not, however, long at all. Barely a step through the door into his office, Snape entered the room through the other doorway. Snape looked up, studying the man. "Going somewhere, Lupin?"


     Remus knew better than to sat he'd been attempting to find Snape. But, whether it was from his cold or something else, he could not quickly produce an acceptable explanation. "No, not any longer, Severus."


     "You suspected I'd forgotten your potion tonight, hadn't you?" Snape spat. "You should know by now I wouldn't do that. I had a prior engagement and I was unable to excuse myself earlier." He held his hand, and the potion out. "But here I am with it."


     Remus took it and smiled apologetically. He wasn't quite sure he believed Snape's excuse, but he knew Snape hadn't believed his, either.


     When he drank, the full flavor of the drink struck him, and he pulled a face. "Yeich!" Remus complained between gulps. Perhaps it was simply the fact that the congestion had dulled the taste so much that he had forgotten how horrific it was, but somehow it seemed worse than ever before. In the meantime, however, he thought he heard a sound from Snape. Assuming it was some sort of sound to indicate he was annoyed with Remus' comments about the flavor every time, Remus looked up. But Snape had his attention elsewhere.


     Remus finished the drink and handed the goblet back, wiping the back of his hand against his mouth. "Thank you," he muttered, handing the goblet back. Snape did not take it, however. He had turned his attention to something outside Remus' office window. The grounds and a bit of the forest were visible from there, though the window also sported an excellent view of part of the Quidditch pitch. Remus could not imagine any of these making Snape look as pale and shaken as he did at present. "Is something wrong?" Remus asked.


     Snape turned his head sharply towards Remus.  "Why must you insist upon making small talk every day?" he sneered. "Do you really think I like this repeated banter and having to ask you every single day if I can serve you in some way? Does it make you feel superior, Lupin?"


     Wishing a bout a sneezes would strike now and prevent him from having to answer, Remus simply shook his head. Every time Snape used his surname, it was as though he was saying 'werewolf'. The tone in the potion master's voice alone was terribly insulting. Feeling anything but superior, Remus spoke quietly, with his eyes averted. "No, Severus. I was simply concerned. You looked pale and as though something was troubling you."


     Snape was silent for a minute or two, staring back out the window. When he answered, it was in a similarly hushed tone. "You'll think I'm daft." He met Remus' eyes and looked away before Remus could convey the fact that he would think no such thing. "But a moment ago I thought I saw a grim."


     Remus' heart skipped a beat. "A... a grim?" A big, dark black dog. A symbol in the wizarding world which heralded certain death looked oddly similar to something else Remus was dreading seeing.


     "Yes, a grim," Snape snapped back. "No need to mock me. It could have been a figment of my imagination because I don't see anything out there at all now."


     Too scared to look out the window himself, Remus shook his head. "I'm sure it was. No need to worry."


     "Did I say I was worried?" he shot, eyes glaring angrily down at Remus.


     "I am sorry, Severus." Remus simply did not have the energy to put up with the man. And his mind rested on a more important matter now. Remus put little stake into the art of divination, which could only mean one thing. Apart from the fact that now he needed Snape to leave as soon as possible.


     Luckily, he was provided with a decent enough excuse. He raised his handkerchief, swaying a bit in place as he drew deep, silent, building breaths. "heh... ehhhCHHH! hepChihhh! ehhhKTShhhh! Hehh..." What had started as a good excuse to ask Snape to leave was quickly becoming an uncontrollable fit. He loosened the grip on his nose through the handkerchief to allow himself to sneeze as forcefully as needed and drive the tickle from his nose. Cool air snuck in around the handkerchief and tickled more fiercely, bringing the last few sneezes to the surface and clearing him out. "EHHShooo! hehKTchooo! EHHT-Chooo! HUH-Shooo!" He sniffed wetly and rubbed at his nostrils.


     When he lifted his head, he saw Snape had been stealing a glance out the window. "Excuse me," he said, clearing the scratches from his throat just after. "I've been feeling much better today, but I'm afraid I just can't seem to shake the sneezes. They're the first to come and the last to go when I've got a cold."


     Snape stared back as though he could not possibly care less. However he took the hint. "I'll see you tomorrow, then, for the last day of your potion." Both seemed exceedingly glad about the idea of having to go through this just once more.


     Remus nodded and blew his nose. It sounded so unpleasant that it drove Snape from the room more quickly than Remus had hoped for. Remus hardly felt in the mood to be glad about that or anything else, now. He grabbed his winter cloak and pulled it on over his many layers. He dawned a knit hat, a pair of gloves, and a ratty old scarf on his way out of the room.


     He headed straight down by way of the stairs which were closest. One thought and one thought alone occupied his mind, and that made him hurry along despite his health. His breaths were shallow and harsh as he walked hurriedly. Frequently he fought back against the need to break into a heavy coughing fit. The out-of-doors was far colder than he'd expected it to be, even without the snowfall that had occurred for much of the previous days. The air was numbingly cold and stung his face even as he buried it into his thick scarf. His nose ran but he dared not take gloved hands from his pocket to rub at it. So he sniffled and tried to ignore it as his breaths against the scarf brought an uncomfortable juxtaposition of moist heat.


     His feet sank into the snow, crunching the hardened layer which had come from frozen ice. He trudged on towards the forest, stiff and shivering. No matter how much better his cold was, it was making him feel far worse now that he was outside than it had when he was inside. But he continued on because of the pain in his stomach which told him what Severus Snape had seen was not a grim. Nor was it simply a regular stray dog which had happened onto the grounds. Now that the winter holidays were upon them and the student population quite decreased, Harry was even more of an obvious target. And though the Dementors still circled the castle, Remus alone could deal with this new possible problem.


     Remus felt another sneeze on its way, and pulled his face out of the scarf in order to sneeze free from it. "heh-h'CHHHHOO! huhSHOO!" He stumbled forward several steps from the force but recovered and kept walking determinedly. By now, he wasn't going to let a few sneezes stop him.


     He reached the edge of the forest and walked parallel to it for a little while, staring into the dark woods as though expecting something to leap out at him. But nothing did. He wanted to call out, but didn't know what to call. He certainly couldn't yell Sirius' name. How would it look for Sirius' old friend to be walking around calling for him to come? Remus wasn't too keen on using the nickname, either, just in case Dumbledore or McGonagall or even Snape knew what he and his friends had once called Sirius. "Anyone there?" he finally decided to call out. But there was no answer in voice or movement.


     Remus shook his head and turned his eyes to the ground. At the base of one tree he spotted some disturbed snow. His breath suddenly left him, and his heart leapt to his throat. He was there in a split second, down on his knees, hands in the snow. In the deep snow there was a set of large, familiar paw prints. Remus suddenly felt quite sick to his stomach and closed his eyes tightly, hoping the prints would be gone when he opened them. To his utter dismay, they were not. He followed the tracks with his eyes, seeing how they came from the forest and then disappeared back into them. There was only a little snow on the ground beneath the trees so there was no hope of using them to figure out where the dog was now. And Remus' nose was far too stuffed from the cold to sniff him out by scent.


     His ears, however, detected something behind him. Both hoping and dreading the discovering who it might be, Remus stood and wheeled around. It was, not unsurprisingly, none other than Severus Snape. Remus took a step back, disturbing the paw prints. As casually as possible, he slid his foot over, kicking up the snow to prevent any from being seen. Then he re-wrapped his scarf around the lower portion of his countenance to prevent Snape from seeing most of his expression.


     "Lupin," Snape called out on his approach in a mocking sort of way. "Fancy seeing you here. What brings a man with a cold out here in the snow?"


     Snape had been following, that much was clear. And probably had an excellent excuse worked up already should Remus ask him the same question. "As I was feeling so much better, I thought I would take a bit of a walk around the grounds. My room was getting a little stuffy."


     Snape frowned and looked around, as though sure he would see something else there. Something that wasn't supposed to be there. Something... or someone. But there was nothing but Remus and trees. As he struggled to think of the next accusation, a few snowflakes began falling down upon them.


     Looking up at the solid grey clouds, Remus saw that it was beginning to snow again. He shivered at the realization and shoved his hands back into his pockets. From Snape's direction, he heard another noise, and looked over. But Snape had turned and the source of the sound was a mystery. It could have been a sharp wind shaking snow from the branches of the trees, but he could see flakes drifting down past Snape. "Better get back inside," Remus suggested. Snape narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "I think it's starting to snow."


     His face white apart from his cheeks, Snape gave a light cough and nodded. Though he could always stand having a bit more color, the scarlet flush in his cheeks did not become him any more than any of the other house colors would. And when he spoke, his tone was that of the typical Slytherin. "Wouldn't want your cold getting any worse." But his words... somehow they were more. For just a moment, it sounded again like Severus Snape actually cared. "Then I'd be forced to see you for an even longer time."


     "Of course," Remus nodded. "I think I've had enough of a walk for today." He reached out and patted Snape's back heartily as they turned and headed back to the castle. Snape stiffened at the touch but they walked in silence.


     The snow was falling quite steadily by the time they stepped inside. While Remus paused and shook the snow off himself, Snape continued onward, letting the snow melt upon him and drip behind. Halfway down the hall, as Remus was still stomping snow from his boots and rubbing his hands together, Snape stopped and turned. "Didn't you even want to ask what *I* was doing out there?"


     Remus shook his head and cleared his throat. "Not really." He tried to keep the thought of Sirius from his mind. Even he knew well what many skills Snape possessed, and mind reading was certainly one. He absolutely refused to let Snape know what he'd been out there for, especially as Snape already suspected. "I mean, you've made it quite clear you don't care about me or my health. So it cannot possibly have been out of concern for me. And unless you were purposely tailing me, because you are under orders, it must have simply been a coincidence and you weren't able to resist a chance to make me feel guilty about going out in the snow while sick."


     Snape was quiet following this, studying Remus' face.


     "Well then, see you tomorrow..." Remus said. Snape still looked slightly confused. "For the potion." Snape nodded and turned back away with a hard shiver. "Severus? Are you all right?"


     Snape took off down the hall, leaving Remus behind. "Get back to bed and finish the book," he growled.







Day 7


     Remus woke the next morning to see more snow falling to form a fresh layer upon the ground. The sky seemed clearer, however, and the severity of the storm seemed to have passed. Likewise, he felt much better. His nose hardly tickled at all as he headed for a warm morning shower. A few coughs were all he suffered from as he organized the work on his desk. Remus always believed it best to go into the transformation as organized as possible when there was still work to be done, because he came out of it in such a mess.


     As the morning went on, he spent much of it lounging in bed. He finished the novel finally and did a bit of grading. He wrapped a few Christmas presents, intending to leave them with Dumbledore that night before his transformation so they wouldn't be harmed. He took lunch in the great hall at the staff table with some of the other professors. He had stocked his pockets with handkerchiefs and dressed warmly, but he felt neither chilled nor sneezy throughout the meal. A few sniffles here and there were expected, but he managed an almost symptom-free meal otherwise.


     "Feeling much better, yes Headmaster," Remus nodded as he passed the butter down the table. Much better now, perhaps, but when he woke the next morning he was sure he would be far worse for his transformation. It always left him tired and weak, no matter how strong he was going into it. And he was afraid with his recent sighting of Sirius Black that he would be worried in addition. If Sirius Black was still as clever as Remus remembered him to be, he would strike during the full moon when Remus wouldn't be around to help protect Harry. "Enjoying the relaxed pace of the holidays," he lied.


     Though it was the student body who complained most at end of term exams and projects, the truth was that the teachers were equally stressed. They spent most of their holiday grading and planning lessons that would take them all the way through the end of term in May. Luckily, the Easter holiday gave them a chance to work on the end of year exams, to add things they were able to cover and take out things they didn't. Otherwise, everything had to be planned during the winter holiday break.


     Suddenly feeling very stressed, Remus finished off his lunch and started back to his room. He knew he would be spending the next few days recovering from his transformation. The best thing he could do to make that easier was to work hard today to make up for the lost time.


     "Oh, my! Professor Lupin?"


     Remus froze in his tracks. He cringed, then put on as charming a smile as he could. He had never been very good at trying to cover his true feelings, but he knew he could't afford not to just now. He turned, smiled, and nodded. "Good afternoon, Sibyll."


     Sibyll Trelawney stood in the corridor, gazing at him sympathetically through her large, thick glasses. He had not seen much of her this year, apart from staff meetings and the occasional meal, and had never before met up with her when walking around in the corridors like this. "Your aura is cloudy today, Professor Lupin," she said, her voice soft and ethereal. "I have not seen you in a while but I sense you are troubled about something."


     He rubbed the back of his neck where a pain like a headache was starting again. "I... I've had a cold this last week, and I am afraid the symptoms have not yet passed completely."


     She nodded slowly in understanding. "Ah, yes. But I fear there is more to it than just that. I would be happy to gaze into my crystal ball on your behalf if you would care to accompany me upstairs."


     Remus took a step back cautiously. Like most of the school's occupants, he had very little confidence in her divination skills. Yet he knew Dumbledore always had reasons for appointing certain people to places within the school. If Sibyll did read him and just so happened to see the incident the day before, or any of the similar incidents from his time at Hogwarts... Remus simply could not take the risk of letting her glimpse some of his connections to Sirius Black. Keeping secrets hidden was too much a part of him to even consider slipping up.


     Wishing he could draw out a sneeze on command to use as an excuse, he instead put a hand to his head. "I'm sorry, Sibyll. Suddenly I am feeling ill again. I need to go back to my room at once."


     She cocked her head at him, nodding. "Perhaps some other time, then."


     He started walking away, trying to look casual instead of as though he were fleeing. "I am not entirely sure I will have the time. But thank you for the generous offer." Quickly he walked down the corridor and turned the corner. Remus fell against the wall to catch his breath and shake his head. He would really need to think up a better excuse for the next time she tried this. "huh'Chhhhhh!" He rubbed at his nose, sniffling. "Oh thanks. Now it starts tickling again. Brill... huh-Chooo! Sniff! Brilliant." He looked around the corner to be sure Sibyll was gone.


     She had. At the moment he was safe and able to return to his room. As he sank into his desk chair, he decided he did not feel too badly about the brush-off considering that his head really had begun to hurt again. The thought of going back to bed was far less pleasant without a novel to keep him company. He almost felt sad for so quickly finishing the one Snape had brought him. He decided to get a cool compress for his forehead and continue doing work for the remainder of the afternoon.


     The time passed more quickly than Remus wished, and soon he was staring expectantly at the door, waiting for his last dose of the wolfsbane potion before he could sweep all his possessions into his office and lock himself in his bedroom.


     However, the usual time for Snape to stop by with the potion came and went, and Snape had not honored Remus with his presence. Remus moved his things from bedroom to office to save time afterwards, but Snape had not yet arrived by the time Remus finished. Starting to feel a bit nervous, Remus went over to the fire and threw in a dash of floo powder. "Severus Snape's office." He spoke clearly, glad his congestion was gone else there was no telling where it might connect him.


     Remus stuck his head into the green flames to look about. But his head smacked into a cauldron. Remus swore and pulled back immediately, rubbing at it, before he'd been able to get a look around. "And I thought it hurt before," he groaned. He wouldn't be able to take anything for it, especially not with his transformation tonight.


     With a sigh, Remus stood up. It was possible Snape was on his way over and they would miss each other by taking different routes. But Remus was tired of just sitting around and waiting. It was too late for that. Remus picked up a book and, with his fingers crossed again, headed over to Snape's office.


     Though he kept his eyes open in the hallways, there was no sign of Snape anywhere. After several corridors and staircases, Remus was navigating his way through the cold and dark dungeon. It was definitely his least favorite place in all of Hogwarts. He was certainly glad he hadn't been sorted into Slytherin when he went to school there.


     Remus found his way to Snape's office and knocked on the door. There was no answer. But when he tried the doorknob he found it unlocked. He knocked again, then let himself in when there was no response.


     At first he saw nothing. Unlike his own office on a normal day with magical creatures in cages and aquariums, there was no movement at all in Snape's office. Remus sighed and was about to try somewhere else when he noticed a pair of feet beneath the desk. Remus walked to the side and peered around a stack of books to see Snape seated at his desk. One arm was bent on the desk and his head rested upon that. By the way his body slowly rose and fell, it looked like he was asleep and from the snores it sounded as though he had been for some time.


     Remus cleared his throat, but Snape did not stir. So he quietly backed up and opened the door. He knocked loudly and repeatedly until Snape woke with a start. He raised his head, eyes widening as he saw Remus. "Severus," Remus said with a nod. "Your door was open."


     Snape ran a hand through his hair and coughed. "And so you decided just to let yourself in, Lupin?" His voice was unmistakably rough.


     "I'm very sorry to disturb you, Severus," Remus said, closing the door behind him in case some students might be near enough to overhear.


     "Then why are you here?" Snape snapped, straightening even more in his seat.


     Remus paused a moment. There was no way to answer this without making Snape even more angry or annoyed. He tried to make his voice sound soft and used the gentlest approach he could. "I was feeling better so I thought I would come by here to save you having to walk up to my room."


     Snape looked confused for a moment. He rubbed the side of his hand discretely against his nose.


     "Because I'm sure you wouldn't have forgotten about my potion for tonight," he clarified.


     Snape's eyes widened again. "Of course I wouldn't have forgotten," he replied quickly, sounding insulted, just as Remus suspected he would have.


     "That's what I said," Remus nodded.


     "I was planning on bringing it by later this afternoon just as I do every day," Snape spat indignantly.


     "I know," Remus lied with a nod. "But it is nearing sunset already, so time is growing a bit short."


     Alarmed, Snape's head whipped to the side. As the dungeon rooms had no windows, Remus assumed the man must have been looking to the clock on his mantle above the fire. Once he saw what it read, he sprang from his seat. He collected a few ingredients and took them to the kettle simmering in the fireplace. Remus hoped that his hitting his head on it earlier had not affected the potion brewing inside it. Snape began measuring, adding, stirring feverishly.


     "I am sorry to have woken you," Remus said, trying to shift the blame back onto himself. "I know you have your schedule perfectly timed. But I was nearby and did not want to inconvenience you another day when I was perfectly capable of going to you instead of the other way around."


     "Would you please be silent, Lupin? I don't want to make a mistake because of your incessant yammering." Snape asked, holding something in a jar up to the light and squinting. He added a pinch of it to the cauldron and stood back for a moment as everything boiled together.


     Remus thought mentioning how Severus Snape never made mistakes might get him on the man's good side. But he didn't want to disturb him, either. And, clearly, Snape had fallen asleep and lost track of time. He did not need to be reminded of that.


     Snape ladled some of the concoction into a goblet. Then he crossed the room and handed it over. "Careful, it's still hot," he said.


     Remus smiled appreciatively at the warning and the potion, and took a big breath before gulping it down. As he drank, breathing hard through his nose so as not to need to stop in the middle, he heard Snape cough. And, as he drank the last few drops, he heard Snape sneeze.




     Remus looked up to see Snape rubbing his hand at his nose again. Remus did not want to risk asking Snape if he needed a handkerchief. "Thank you for the potion," Remus said, trying not to sound judgmental concerning the sneeze. He set the empty goblet down on the very edge of Snape's desk, not wanting to get too close. The desk seemed to be a suitable buffer between them, however.


     Snape sniffed hard, then nodded. "So, ah, if that is everything, Lupin. Feel free to let yourself out. I have business to attend to here." He waited for Remus to look away before rubbing his nose yet again. But Remus recognized the movement when he saw it out of the corner of his eye.


     "Actually, there is something more I wanted to mention," Remus piped up quickly, looking. He could see the surprise in Snape's face as his hand snapped down as though Remus hadn't seen it. Clearly since he'd been so eager to leave Remus' office, he assumed Remus would feel the same way. "Very well," he practically growled. "Get on with it. I don't have all day." He looked over at the clock. "And neither do you."


     Remus nodded. "Yes, I realize that." He held up the book he'd brought with him. "I wanted to return your book."


     Snape glared at him. "I told you that I did not want it back after you... after... ah..." He closed his eyes tightly and pinched his nose, trying to head off the sneeze. "ahhh'Schhhh! EpShhhh!" He went to rub his nose but realized Remus was watching. He swiped a handkerchief off his desk where it had been hiding behind a stack of books, and tended to the sniffles in his nose. "I'm not ill," he said coldly, his eyes fixed upon Remus in a no-nonsense sort of way.


     "Of course not," Remus agreed. "You do not forget things, and you do not catch colds."


     Snape stiffened, then nodded. "That's right." He sniffed, coughed, and cleared his throat. "Now if that is quite all--"


     "I know you said you did not need it back, but I wanted to return it because it's the first book in the series." Snape's stare went from cold to curious. He sniffed again. "I got to inspecting the book more closely this morning and noticed that it is the first in a series."


     Shrugging carelessly, Snape sat back down at his desk and pulled a book and stack of papers to him. "And this is reason to give it to me because...? You expect me to read the whole series?" Snape wiped the handkerchief at his nose once, then again more heavily.


     Remus smiled, crossing his arms over his chest. He tapped the book with a finger. "Actually, I suspect you already have." Snape looked angry, but did not lift his head or meet Remus' gaze. "You see, I remember something you said about the book. That the witch tried her hand at getting into bed with a prince. But that never happened in this book." Remus saw Snape shift uncomfortably in his seat. "I'm feeling much better today, so I stopped by the library and found out that she doesn't go after the prince until the third book in the series."


     "Lucky guess," he said coldly.


     Remus took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, gaining the little extra bit of confidence he needed to say, "Frankly, Severus Snape, you aren't that lucky."


     Snape's head snapped upward. There was a fire in his eyes, which seemed to mirror that in his head. He was sweating and pale. But his nose tickled again before he could reply, and he was careful to catch the sneezes in his handkerchief. "hehhh'TChhhh! Ehhh'Hshhhh! Sniff! Snuff!" He took an equally deep breath and blew his nose hard. He refolded the handkerchief a few times, blowing into it after each fold. But soon there was no more folding to be done, and he still sounded sniffly.


     Remus cleared his throat and pulled out a clean handkerchief. Even though he'd been feeling better, he had been sure to stock up before leaving his room. Braving Snape's wrath, Remus approached his desk almost like a timid student except he did not act timidly and he towered over the sniffling professor who still sat at his desk. He expected Snape to jump up and stare him down, but Snape did not look like he wanted Remus to see his nose running.


     Holding out the handkerchief, Remus put on a kind smile. "The house elves are still leaving stacks of these by my bedside."


     Snape ignored the proffered hanky. "I dod't deed your charity."




     "Or your sybathy. I deed to be left aloh... alode... uhhh'Hshhhhh!" He fell forward again, his face obscured by his shoulder-length hair. He was bent forward so much his nose nearly hit the desk. "ehhh'Fshh! ihhPhshh!" Snape was clearly trying to restrain them, but failing against their strength.


     "What you need is a clean hanky and a night in bed with a cup of Pepper-Up," Remus said, shaking the handkerchief open and brushing Snape's hand with it. "I'll have Madam Pomfrey send some."


     Snape waited a few moments, breathing heavily and stuffily into his over-damp handkerchief, before snatching the one from Remus' hand and burying his nose in it with a terribly wet blow. Remus winced at the sound and saw Snape do likewise.


     Knowing when it was time to leave, Remus set the book down on Snape's desk. "It should be with the rest of the series, in the private collection of Severus Snape." He tapped the book affectionately. "I performed a few disinfecting charms, though I see now I should not have bothered as you've come down with this cold anyway."


     Snape was too busy keeping his nose at bay to comment, but from the way he swayed as he breathed, Remus could tell he did not like being labeled as sick.


     "I like when things are complete," Remus admitted. "I like completion. I like resolutions. And, though I know I complain enough," his hand moved towards the empty goblet he had put down on Snape's desk, "I like cures." His mouth held a hint of a smile for a moment, feeling quite grateful to have someone who could brew it properly for him. That alone, was enough. A visit, a few moments of conversation, and a book were all icing.


     "So I am returning your book so you may keep your set complete. Because I think that is important," Remus said, returning to his original topic. "Can you believe I spared a Charlotte Bronte novel from being tossed out once and my instincts made me go up and round up practically every book in the genre?"


     Snape gave a cough, but whether it was from surprise or that he believed it and found the idea absurd, Remus did not know.


     "I do not need an order from Dumbledore to ask you whether you require anything from me," Remus said. Snape immediately began shaking his head. "But if ever you think of anything, let me know. Though I'm afraid I won't be of much use until the sun rises tomorrow morning." He sighed and back away. "However, before I am lost to the moon tonight, I will advise the other members of the faculty and staff to stay clear and leave you alone."


     For the first time that evening, and most likely the first time in his life, Snape's face shone with gratefulness towards Remus Lupin. "Thadk you," Snape said softly in appreciation.


     Remus nodded back and ended his visit with Snape, locking the office door on his way out.