Title: Crying Wolf
Fandom: Harry Potter (Marauder era- beginning of year five)
Pairings: none (pre-Sirius/Remus)
Rating: PG13 (language)
Disclaimer: I'm borrowing illegally but I mean no harm and make no profit!
Summary: Sirius learns a few lessons about crying wolf. Incidentally, so do the others.
Notes: Thanks much to Patti for being my conceptual-beta and helping choose which version to go with as well as providing some much needed opinions and analysis. Thank you!
Feedback: Please :-)
"Oooohhhhh... ohhhhhh my stomach," Sirius cried, writhing around on his bed in what was obviously excruciating pain.
"Mr. Black, please hold still so I can get a look at you," Professor McGonagall insisted crossly. Wincing and moaning, Sirius slowed his movements and let her check his eyes and throat. "He hasn't eaten anything out of the ordinary, has he?" she asked James, Remus, and Peter as they stood patiently to the side, looking on worriedly.
"No Ma'am," Remus answered, ruling out food poisoning. People believed Remus when he answered. "Hasn't eaten anything all day, actually."
"And that's really saying something," James added, running his hand through his hair, messing it up further. Professor McGonagall gave him a look. James shrugged innocently. "Well, you've seen how he eats usually."
"He doesn't usually sweat this much, though," Peter said, popping into the conversation, then quickly backing out again and stepping closer to James as McGonagall's stare penetrated him.
After a few moments more of watching Sirius, Professor McGonagall, however, nodded. "Well, he does look terribly sick. I don't suppose it's out of the question that he could have some sort of stomach bug." She put her hand on Sirius' forehead for a few moments. "Mr. Black, you're running a fever. Can you tell me what else is wrong?"
"My stomach!" he moaned, and coughed dryly.
"Yes, I got that much," she replied shortly with a roll of her eyes. "Can you tell me what else?"
He acted as though he hadn't really heard and rolled over onto his side, his arms wrapped around his stomach. "My stomach... my stomach hurts." Then he went on. "I hurt all over. And I'm soooooo cold and tired."
Professor McGonagall nodded and pulled his bathrobe from the hook on his bedpost. "All right then. I want you to come down to the hospital wing with me so Poppy can get a proper look at you. She's got a good stomach-soothing potion that tastes like peppermint. Can you get up?"
Sirius nodded, then blanched. Dramatically, he clapped his hand over his mouth and bolted out of the dormitory for the bathroom. The sounds they could hear him making along the way were not pretty. Professor McGonagall froze for a moment, then she looked around at the three remaining boys. "Well don't just stand there, Lads. Go after him and make sure he's all right!" Obediently, James, Remus and Peter headed out. "And I don't want to see Mr. Black leave this tower until he is feeling perfectly well again!" she called after them. Sirius stuck his head out of the bathroom and grinned as his friends hurried up to meet him before they could burst out laughing.
"So what do these plants do in the winter to keep from freezing to death? Anybody?" Professor Sprout looked around the greenhouse, deciding who to call upon. Her eyes fell on a student in the back of the room. "How about Mr. Black, who seems to find flirting with the lady beside him more interesting than the lesson?"
Sirius looked up, an expression of hurt in his eyes. When he spoke, his mouth moved but no sound came out.
"I'm sorry. What was that?" Professor Sprout said, narrowing her eyes and leaning forward as though to hear better.
Sirius tried again to explain, but his words were noiseless, and his hand motions were frantic and quite unidentifiable.
Coming to his friend's aid, James raised his hand. "Ah, excuse me, Professor?" James glanced over at Sirius as he waved his hands around, gesturing at his throat and around him in some unrecognizable pattern. Professor Sprout nodded towards James. "He lost his voice, Ma'am." Professor Sprout's eyes widened.
Remus spoke up. "We were practicing all the different variations of silencing charms in Charms class and... and something went a little wrong." He looked over at Peter, who buried his head in his arms on the table, his face bright red. "Apparently he'll be all right in a few days when it wears off. But until then..."
Sirius gestured emphatically, trying to confirm the story only using hand movements.
Professor Sprout sighed deeply and her hand came up, massaging her temples. "All right, then. It looks like Mr. Black won't be answering. So does anybody know the answer to my question about the hibernation habits of this plant?"
Perhaps because she sounded so frustrated, a Ravenclaw girl across the greenhouse raised her hand and launched into a perfect answer. Relieved, James shook hands under the table with Sirius, and Remus patted Peter's back. They all exchanged knowing looks.
"Did you bring the Augurey feathers?" Remus whispered. Peter nodded and held them out. Sirius snatched them and buried his face in them for a few moments, taking deep breaths until they made his nostrils twitch and tickle. Then he lifted his face with a nod and Peter tucked the feathers away. James pulled the heated cloth from Sirius' head, and rumpled his hair for him.
"Do I look all right, then?" Sirius asked, wrinkling his robes a bit.
"You look awful, Mate," James assured him, with a pat on his back. "Go get her."
Sirius winkled his nose and rubbed a finger under it. "It's... starting already," he chuckled, and cupped a hand over his nose. "ehhh... ehhh-HIHKshhhh!" He grinned and wobbled into the hospital ward with a moan. "Susan," he cried, "I don't feel so good. Heh-hehIhhhshhh!"
A young medi-witch raced over to him, putting a hand on the small of his back and pressing her cheek to his forehead. Sirius' eyes grew wide for a moment, then snapped shut quickly. He had barely the time to lift his hands to his face. "ihhhCHUH! ehhhSHUHH! Ehhh... ihhhChuhhhh!" The sneezes bent him in half, and he straightened, looking as miserable as possible. "I think I'm coming down with something," he said.
She nodded and turned, her dark brown hair flying over her shoulder as though blown by the wind. "Well, Madam Pomfrey's away still, so it looks like it'll just be you and me for a little while. Why don't you sit right down here..." She directed him to one of the beds and sat down beside him. She set to work massaging his shoulders as she looked at his eyes and ears and nose. When she got up to get him some Pepper-up, Sirius flashed a grin towards the door, where the others were watching with mirrored expressions.
After she'd returned, it wasn't long before he was lying with his head in her lap and her hand raking through his hair comfortingly. Her other hand held a tissue box, and she offered them over every few minutes as needed. "There, now. Feeling better are you?"
Sirius shrugged and snuffled into a tissue. "I guess. Sniff! Sniff! Maybe a little."
She petted him softly. "Well, not to worry. A handsome, strong boy like you will get over this in no time. Just lie here until you do. I'll take care of you." He looked up at her dreamily, coughed, then snuggled closer.
"Honestly, Professor. I don't know why it still hurts so much."
Professor McGonagall looked from Sirius to the school nurse, then back again. "I'm as baffled as you are, Minerva," Madam Pomfrey said with a shrug. "By all accounts, it should be healed, but he still complains of pain in his arm when he tries to use it."
"I'm all right," said Sirius, putting on a brave face. He pulled his wand out with his other hand and placed it in his favored one. Gritting his teeth, he tried a switch and flick. While he just managed to hang onto his wand, and he did suppress most of a cry of pain, the spell he'd attempted did not work. Instead, the tin of shortbread on Professor McGonagall's desk toppled over, spilling the contents over a document she had been working on.
Looking mildly irritated, she took a deep breath and overlooked it. "Well, Mr.Black, it looks like you won't be doing much of that any time soon. I will excuse you from all practical lessons so long as this pain continues. And I don't want to see you so much as practicing a first year spell until you're mended. Is that understood?"
"But, Professor," Sirius protested. "It's not that bad. Just a little sharp, stabbing pain whenever I move my arm. I can live with it. See?" He tried to swing his wand again, and the lamp on the corner of her desk toppled over onto the shortbread-covered parchment. "Or, um, I can still write," he went to grab the quill to show her, but knocked over the ink bottle in the process.
"That is enough!" she snapped sternly, snatching his wand and sticking it back into his pocket for him. "No more strenuous activity until it's healed properly. You could do serious damage otherwise." And given the state of her desk, he was in danger of not simply damaging his arm. "I will excuse you from writing exams and homework as well." Sirius gave a frustrated sigh, but agreed. Slumping and looking depressed he turned. "This should teach you an important lesson now, Mr.Black," she said as he was on his way out. "Don't go practicing on the Quidditch Pitch with James Potter and the bludgers unless there's a faculty member to supervise." Sirius nodded and, cradling his arm, left quickly. He restrained his shout of triumph all the way up the stairs and only released it when he'd made it safely back in his dormitory room.
There were textbooks as far as the eye could see in the Gryffindor common room. Students were divided off into groups, working on their assignments, talking loudly. It was growing late, and Sirius could no longer see the full moon out of the window, even after craning his neck. He knew Remus was out there, as a wolf, alone and hurting, missing all the excitement here. Sirius rolled his eyes with a sigh. Calling paper after paper, assignment after assignment excitement was a stretch even for him. Even the practical learning seemed more trouble than it was worth tonight. Sirius threw his wand down on the table he, James and Peter had seized. "I'm never going to get this bloody charm. I give up!" He said it perhaps a little more loudly than he should have, and saw Lily Evans across the room with her group of girl friends grin. With a swish and flick of her wand, all the items on their table obediently flipped over. Sirius grumbled again and made a face at her, crossing his arms over his chest.
Missing this give-and-take but picking up on Sirius' frustration, James rolled his eyes. "That's what you say about every charm, Mate. And with just a bit of effort you get them all easily enough in the end."
This was true. For Sirius Black, all sorts of magic seemed to come naturally. Even the things that seemed hard at first ended up just slipping out of him without much effort at all. Still, even a little bit of effort was more than he was willing to give at the moment. Sirius gave James the same face he'd given to Lily. "Well, I don't feel like putting in the effort tonight." He shoved his still right-side-up books to the center of the table as well. "Don't feel like doing that paper for Potions either."
"Fine," said James, taking a fatherly approach and pushing another set of books to him. "We've got mounds of homework to do. Just pick something else. Do that History of Magic essay. Peter's gone through and marked up all the pages we need."
Sirius shook his head. He picked up those books and piled them on top of the others. His ear caught the sound of laughter, and he looked over to see his fellow fifth year girls again sniggering at him. With a wave of her wand, one of the prettier girls made their books jump into a pile. Sirius grumbled and shot them an annoyed look. Then he leaned forward, elbow on the table, his hand up at the side of his face to block him from seeing them again. While there, his hand massaged his temple where an ache had been building all afternoon. "It's not just Potions. I don't feel like doing any homework," said Sirius to James pointedly.
James sighed and pushed the books back. "Think any of us do? The profs are already hounding us about O.W.L.s and it's weeks until winter break. We can't just whip out a paper before class like we used to. Got to put at least a little bit of work in at night." Peter, who didn't like to get in the middle of arguments between Sirius and James and who had never been able to whip out a paper quickly before class either, still nodded, not looking up from his essay which had so many things scribbled out that he would need to recopy it the moment he finished it.
"Fuck the homework," said Sirius, closing his eyes. His head hurt terribly, so badly that it made his stomach hurt. And he felt the need to talk more loudly so that he could hear himself over the pounding of his head. "I don't feel good, and I don't want to do it!" The volume of his voice had increased, so that everyone in the room practically could hear him, though they all pretended not to be able to. When Sirius opened his eyes, they locked on James'. As James opened his mouth to scold him and tell him to be more respectful to people who actually cared about making grades, Peter coughed. Sirius and James did not move.
"Hey," Peter said, as the cough had not been enough to draw their attention. "Which one of you took down the notes today for Remus? I need the ones from Transfiguration for this essay."
Sirius shrugged, running his thumb across the bottom of his book, feeling the way the pages sat together, perfectly straight, stacked and bound. He eased the cover up with his thumb, then let it flop down onto the papers.
James rolled his eyes again. "Not much of an answer from Sirius, but I didn't take them," he said. "I took all the notes last time. Whose turn was it this time around?"
"You were just doing it last time to pay me back because I took them that month you broke your wrist," Peter pointed out. "Were you supposed to do it again this time in the rotation?"
Sirius couldn't even remember half of what had gone on in classes that day. The headache didn't help. Maybe it was supposed to have been James, or maybe it was supposed to have been him. He didn't have the faintest idea. He certainly hadn't taken any notes, though.
"I knew we should have come up with a better system," James said, grabbing his notebook and leafing through it, hoping the notes might magically appear. They had worked out a brilliant schedule, though, that rotated around the three of them, but allowed them not to have to take notes in the same subjects back-to-back, lest their professors catch on that something was out of the ordinary. So they rotated on classes as well, and usually it wasn't hard to keep straight, but this was only the third full moon this term so they hadn't gotten into the routine quite yet. "Great," grumbled James. "Now we're just going to have to ask one of the girls for their notes or something. You sure you didn't take notes, Siri?"
Sirius nodded and snapped back, "I would know if I had. Stop hounding me about it. I don't even care about doing my own work right now, let alone Remus'." They had each taken a couple of subjects to do the work in, that way they could all copy from each other and cut down on the work load, as well as get Remus' work done while he was away so no one suspected he was anywhere other than in the hospital ward. As he was always watched closely by the Slytherins in Potions class, this was especially important.
"Well, you'd better start caring, or we're going to make you do all your work yourself!" James retorted, and Peter nodded emphatically.
Sirius rose, avoiding looking at anyone. Lily and the girls were probably still laughing, and James and Peter were angry. "Well I really don't care. And I'm going to bed." Leaving his books but grabbing his wand from the table, he spun around and stormed off towards the stairs.
"Sod off then!" James shouted after him. But a moment later, when he looked back at the pile of work, he sighed. There was no chance of he and Peter getting through it alone, and it was already late.
"It's all right," Peter said, trying to be comforting about the whole thing. "He's so smart, it's hard when things don't come easily for him on the first try, you know? He'll be back once he cools down."
But Sirius wasn't back in that night, and James and Peter used his books and carried them all up to their room afterwards. Sirius was asleep, the covers pulled up over his head, the curtains of his bed drawn. This didn't stop James from dumping the books onto his bed. Sirius grunted in reaction, the movement of his bed helping to send stabbing pain into his temples. He coughed, and pushed the offending books away. James sighed. "You could have at least done something useful like worked on the animagi transformation while we were out there doing your work for you."
With another cough, Sirius sat up and instead of pushing the books further away, he banished them across the room with a flick of his wand. That particular charm, it seemed, he could manage just fine. "Didn't feel like it. 'Sides, no one asked you to do my work," he mumbled, then laid down, pulling the covers back up and burying his head beneath a pillow.
James sighed. "Course we did your work. Just like we do Remus'." Silence followed this, which only increased James' anger. "Don't say thank you, will you?"
"Thank you!" grumbled Sirius with sarcasm overflowing, his words muffled by the pillow. "Now go away and let me sleep, you goody-two-shoes."
"What's gotten into you tonight?" James asked, narrowing his eyes. "You've never acted like this big of a jerk before."
"Maybe that's because you've never given me reason to before?" Sirius replied. But even this wasn't good enough to make James leave him alone. With his head splitting painfully, so much so that everything around him seemed a bit of a blur, all he wanted was to try and sleep it off. He'd tried insults, and he'd tried yelling, but James hadn't seemed moved by either. Frustrated and not knowing what else to try, Sirius turned to whining. "How many times must I tell you to go away? Please, Jamie, I don't feel up to arguing."
But this approach seemed even less effective. "For someone not 'up to arguing' you sure are doing a right good job of--"
Sirius pulled himself up yet again, glaring at James. "Well here I am ending it. Go bugger off and leave me be!" He gave James such a stern look that James refused to argue any further. Sirius was obviously much too irrational. James tugged the curtains closed in a huff and stormed off to bed with a look to Peter to convey his frustration. Peter nodded sympathetically and climbed into bed as well.
* * *
James wrapped a towel around his waist as he came out of the shower the next morning, noticing with a glance that Sirius wasn't in the shower stall beside him as usual. He dressed, brushed his teeth, and attempted to comb his hair, sending anxious glances towards the door to the bathroom. With still no Sirius there, James told Peter to go down to breakfast first and that he'd catch up in a bit. Wondering, perhaps, if Sirius was doing some last minute work or practice on the charm he was having difficulties with the night before, he popped back into their bedroom.
However, Sirius was still lying beneath his covers, head still buried under a pillow. His breathing was quick and shallow which indicated he was awake. "Oy, good morning there!" James exclaimed, jumping onto the bed with enthusiasm, all arguments from the night before forgotten. It was a new day, after all, and James didn't hold those sorts of grudges overnight. Especially not when it came to his friends. "You getting up?"
"No," mumbled Sirius. "I don't want to get up today."
"Course you don't want to," James laughed. "If we all did what we wanted to... well..." Images of Gryffindors snapping their fingers to make the Slytherins' faces turn colors came to his mind. "But you have to get up. Breakfast has started already. You've only got half an hour to shower and eat if you want to make it to class on time."
Sirius coughed into his pillow. "James, I told you I don't want to go to class."
Sirius pulled himself out from beneath the covers. The brightness of the room caught him, and he squinted as his eyes slowly adjusted. The sudden change seemed to have gone to his head, however. It made his head thump painfully and made him wish he'd stayed under the blankets and pillows. The sooner he could return, the better. "James," he replied, this time speaking clearly and plainly so James was sure to understand. "I'm sick. And I'm not getting up today."
James rolled his eyes. "You're not sick," he said, looking his friend over. If last night's little show had been for anything, it had clearly been to wind James up. "You're just trying to have a go at me. But I'm too smart to get tricked like that. Now you've had your fun but it's time to end it."
Sirius stared at him a moment, eyes wide, hurting. Then his head snapped down with a sneeze. "ihhkushhhhhh!" Expecting James to have changed his tune, Sirius looked up, sniffling, rubbing a finger under his nose.
But James just rolled his eyes again. "Oh, come on. That's the best you can do? One sneeze and I'm supposed to believe you're too sick to go to classes? It wasn't even a good fake sneeze, Sirius. At least get some feathers or something if you want it to sound convincing."
Frustrated, Sirius dove back beneath the pillows and pulled the blankets up. In desperation, he resorted again to anger and insults. "Fine, don't believe me. Just go away, then you git!"
"Sirius," he sighed. James was swiftly losing what little patience he had for his friend. "It's getting late."
"Then you'd better get down to breakfast," mumbled Sirius. "But I am sick and I am staying in bed." His voice was strong with resolve. Nothing, absolutely nothing, would move him from bed this morning.
James sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. He could pull Sirius out; that was certainly one option. Or he could pull down the covers and dump the entire pitcher of ice water onto him, which would have been much more fun. But he opted to just ignore him and turned away in a huff. "Not very Marauder-like of you, Sirius. Very bad form." James' voice was cold with anger as he walked from the room.
Sirius did not answer, simply coughed and snuggled into his blankets, hoping that he could get back to sleep quickly and without too much effort. To do anything else seemed too painful to even consider.
Not long after, however, Peter came up to check on Sirius. He stood beside the bed, rocking on the balls of his feet. "Sirius. Breakfast's over. But I snuck you a biscuit and jam. You want it?"
Sirius coughed and shook his head without lifting it from his pillow. Far from thanking Peter for the generous gesture and peace offering, Sirius mumbled, "Eat it yourself. I'm not hungry." He gave a strong yawn, wishing it meant he was ready to fall back to sleep. But his headache was excruciating, and besides the pain, the thumping in his head was too loud to let him sleep.
"Course you are," said Peter with a laugh. "You're always hungry. Now get up. It's time for classes. James wanted me to make sure you got there on time."
Sirius stirred and lifted his head. "What, is it beneath him to come himself? He's got to send you now?" He rubbed a finger under his nose and coughed. "Well my answer's the same. I don't feel good and I'm not getting up today."
Peter laughed lightly. "All right. We know you're having a bit of fun at our expense, but we know you're not sick. You're never really sick. So come on, get up."
"I don't need you to tell me what to do," Sirius grumbled, and coughed. "And I am sick, for your information. Probably very sick." He was on a roll now, and didn't want to stop, no matter how absurd he was starting to sound. "I'll probably get even worse. I'll probably die by the end of classes, and then you lot'll be sorry." He looked up, hoping he'd at least shocked Peter into believing him.
But Peter was not moved. He rolled his eyes, and threw back his head, flipping blond bangs back. Then he sighed and leaned forward against Sirius' bed, holding onto one of the bedposts to steady himself. "Come on, Sirius. I'm supposed to bring you down. James'll kill me if I show up without you."
"Then I'll send your parents my condolences."
Peter squeaked nervously. "Sirius..."
"Get out of here, Peter!" Sirius said, swiping and missing the young man. "I'm sick and I'm not going to class and that's that." The effort of yelling and moving had drained him of energy, and he finished his statement rather weakly. He flopped back against the bed, tired and worn out.
Peter knew better than to mess with Sirius in such a state, and took off quickly, trying to figure out what to say to James when he arrived without Sirius for lessons in just a few.
Sirius, on the other hand, grumbled and swore at being disturbed. His head was practically killing him now, throbbing hard in his temples. He shut his eyes tightly to keep it from hurting quite so much and put his head back down on the pillow. After being disturbed earlier that morning, he hadn't been able to get much sleep, and now it seemed he was incapable of falling back to sleep again. "Damn it. It's one thing if they don't believe me and leave me alone, but repeatedly bothering me like this is where I draw the line." He coughed and pulled the blankets up over his head.
* * *
James was still in a mood about Sirius when he and Peter sat down to lunch in the great hall after a morning full of Sirius-less classes. "I mean... what sort of game's he playing at?" James asked, gesturing so much with his sandwich in hand that a bit of the lettuce and ham fell out unnoticed. "It's not right to do this to a fellow Marauder, even if it is a good joke. Makes us stay up late to do his homework for him, then acts like he doesn't even care." James continued through a mouthful of chips and ketchup. "That's bloody brilliant and all, but to not even show up to class, and to keep pressing on with the joke past the point where it's funny...?" he waved his goblet of juice and some spilled onto the table in the process. "Well, that's just not right. The wanker." James sighed and washed his lunch down with a few large gulps of whatever was left in the goblet. "That's it, you know? Probably lying in bed having a go at himself right now, in fact."
Peter contained his laughter until James made a rude hand gesture to demonstrate Sirius' supposed conduct, and then he snorted and laughed. He managed to keep from choking and spitting out his food, but only just. The rest of the hall, as usual, was too preoccupied to notice them.
"Who's a wanker now, James?" Remus Lupin descended upon the table, looking pale and worn. He'd said the transformations were getting worse lately, though as the seasons grew colder it was always exceedingly more painful for him. Remus bit his lip, knowing he was being closely inspected. "Wait, let me guess. Sirius?"
James nodded at Remus, who sat down in the empty spot beside James.
"He says he's sick," Peter reported. "Won't get out of bed. Started as a joke, but we think he's doing it just to spite James now."
"He's up there right now laughing at me," James said, grumbling. "Having a toss and laughing at me."
Remus smiled and rubbed his hand across James' shoulders in the back to calm him. "You're just upset and jealous that you didn't think of it first."
James gave a firm nod, his wild black hair swaying in the motion. "You bet I am. Upstairs in a warm bed sleeping all day instead of going to class?" James sighed. "The wanker."
A fierce yawn suddenly escaped Remus, and he clapped a hand to his mouth to cover it just in time. "Sorry."
"Rough night?" asked Peter as he pushed a tray of sandwiches towards Remus.
"Bloody awful, really," Remus replied. "And too long at that. Barely got a wink of sleep."
James handed him a fresh goblet of juice. "So are you going back to the hospital wing to sleep or are you thinking of trying to make it through afternoon classes?"
Remus shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck. Glancing towards the staff table, he caught Madam Pomfrey's eye and quickly pulled his hand back down to his lap. He knew well which she would choose for him. But she had also said that this year he was old enough to decide for himself. "I haven't decided yet, but..." he broke off, cupping his hand to his mouth to hide another strong yawn. He sighed afterwards and rested his head on James' shoulder.
"Methinks sleep?" James laughed, rubbing his hand against Remus' back in a circular motion.
Remus nodded. "I think I'd better." He lifted his head for a bite of food and a few sips of his drink. While he had not been able to sleep this morning, Madam Promfrey had seen fit to stuff him with enough food to last him the day. So though the lunch looked good, and his friends were wonderfully helpful, he simply wasn't too hungry.
"Can't blame you," said Peter, yawning as well. "Up all night doing our homework we were. I'd be asleep right now, too, if I could manage it."
"I think they should institute after-lunch naps," James suggested, nodding.
"They already have those," Peter said, grinning. It's called History of Magic with Binns."
James laughed. "How right you are! They really shouldn't schedule Binns after lunch and expect us to stay awake." He mimed a yawn and an accompanying dramatic stretch, as though already getting ready to drift off to sleep the moment they got to class.
"But you will take notes for me, right?" asked Remus, poking in him the side. "Right? Use a quick quotes quill if you have to, all right?"
James and Peter gave him Marauder promises that they would, and sent him out with a few snack cakes. Chocolate ones at that. They knew him too well.
Whether it was the sugar from the cakes that woke him up, or the nagging feeling that he would do better in class learning rather than sleeping under the school nurse's overly protective watch, Remus decided to scrap the idea of a nap. Halfway to the hospital wing, he turned on his heels and headed upstairs to grab his books and notebooks instead.
As he bounded up the stairs to the dormitory, he heard a harsh wave of coughing. Remus smirked and pushed open the door. "It's just me, not James," Remus called. "You don't need to put on pretenses." There was no answer from Sirius, but the coughing quieted, then stopped.
Remus walked over to his bed, which was furthest from the window, closest to the door, and grabbed his bag. He paused, checking to be sure all the necessary books were there. In the process, he caught a glimpse of Sirius, who was over in his bed just across the room. The curtains were pulled back on the side facing James' bed, and partially at the foot of the bed. Sirius was not the happy picture Remus had been expecting. Sirius was not having a wank as James had predicted. But he wasn't napping peacefully either. He was lying on his side, buried beneath blankets, tissues literally covering the bed, and looking right miserable. He certainly had done a brilliant job at looking the part. To say he seemed to be sick would hardly do him justice. Leave it to Sirius to get everything perfect, right down to the last detail.
"Hey, Remus," Sirius said, making eye contact across the room, his voice tired and slightly deeper than normal. "You bumped into James on your way up, I take it?"
"Mmm," he confirmed. Remus slung his bag over his shoulder. It bumped against him a few times and came to a rest against his side. "He's pretty angry at you for faking sick today. He thinks you're taking this prank of yours much too far." He broke off, having to yawn into his shoulder. For a moment, he reconsidered staying for a nap, but shook off the feeling quickly. He'd missed classes the day before, after all, and the least he could do was go to half a day's worth.
"James can..." Sirius spent a moment searching for an appropriate insult. "James can go kiss a Chimaera for all I care. Forget him." He made an indignant sound somewhere between a grunt and a growl, and absentmindedly sorted through the tissues that were sharing his bed. Suddenly frustrated, he swiped his arm across the covers, knocking most to the floor so he wouldn't have to look at them.
While it was difficult to think of a good response, Remus tried to reason with him. "Come on, Sirius. I know you don't mean that. You're just annoyed that James won't play along that you're sick."
"But I am sick!" Sirius insisted, to which Remus only smirked and shook his head. "Forget you, too!" He grumbled, looking away from Remus.
"Well, you've got to admit that you do take jokes too far sometimes. And we always promised to be fair to each other as Marauders--"
"Oh hang all this Marauder talk!" Sirius exclaimed, slapping his hand against the blanket. His frustration grew. "First James, then Peter, and now you. I thought Marauders were supposed to look after each other. I through they were supposed to be loyal. I thought we were supposed to be friends until the end. I thought... oh... ah..." Quickly he grabbed one of the few remaining balled-up tissues and half-unfolded it before lifting it to his nose. "heh-IhhhKufshhhh!"
Remus smiled and rested both hands on the strap of his bag, as though leaning on it. "I must say, though, you're being awfully convincing this time around."
Sirius glared at Remus over the tissue. Their eyes met for a brief moment. Then he drew a deep breath and snapped forward again. "huh-Kuffchhhh!" He sniffled wetly, then grabbed another balled-up tissue. This one he grimaced at and tossed away, before selecting another and blew his nose into some semblance of the two in his cupped hands. It was a repulsive, gurgling sort of blow that Sirius made a face at. He ended it quickly and tossed the now very used tissues over the side of the bed in his displeasure. Remus, on the other hand, crossed the room, looking suspicious.
"Sirius?" he whispered, through his voice was filled with purpose. "Could you sit up for a moment, please?"
With considerable effort and not without wincing a few times, Sirius sat up, leaning back against the pillows and headboard. Remus gripped his jaw with a gentle touch and forced his mouth open. Remus peered in. Then he felt the sides of Sirius' face. His hand then slid up and touched Sirius' forehead. At that, his hand retracted swiftly and his bag slid off his shoulder, landing on the floor with a heavy thump. He did not move to recover it. "Sirius!" said Remus rather breathlessly. "You're sick!"
Sirius nodded miserably at the pronouncement. "Thanks for noticing. That's what I've been trying to tell people all morning." He rubbed his finger beneath his nose, then grabbed a tissue from the box on the nightstand, which was within reach now that he was sitting up. "huh... h'kehshhhh!" He froze, expecting a second. He wasn't wrong, and it came swiftly with his next breath. "IhhhKchuhhh!" Not wanting to go through all the embarrassment of blowing his nose again, he sniffled into the tissue and rubbed it hard against his nose to hide all visual cues that his nose was running.
Remus took a look at him, sniffling and coughing from congestion. Then he grabbed the tissue box and pulled out several, shoving them at Sirius. "Go on, then. Blow your nose."
Sirius looked skeptical as he sniffled into the handful of tissues. Remus nodded, prodding him onwards with a nudge and another tissue. With a deep breath, Sirius blew his nose as many times as the tissues would allow. After that handful of tissues came another from Remus, and another, and yet another, until the blows went from gurgling to dry and honking. When he was all finished, Sirius sighed and lowered his head.
Looking on in amazement the whole while, Remus waited for him to be quite thoroughly finished before striking up the conversation again. Thus time, however, he spoke more softly, and lightly. "Did James and Peter hear how stuffed you were?" he asked, taking the used tissues and pitching them into the trash can on the far side of Sirius' nightstand. He squatted and began clearing away the ones Sirius had dumped on the floor.
"Is it possible to listen to me and not hear how stuffed I am?" He coughed a few times, an act which seemed to pain him. In reaction, he slid down beneath the covers, hugging them to his chest in comfort.
"No, I don't suppose it is," Remus said, straightening up and brushing himself off. "You sound awfully miserable."
"I am," Sirius said in a whine and coughed again, wincing at the pain it caused him.
He looked awfully miserable, too. Remus paused a moment, looking again over Sirius' pale face and tired eyes. Then he sat down on the side of the bed, doubling over with laughter. "Oh, Sirius!" he laughed. "Sirius, Sirius, Sirius!" He cupped a hand over his mouth to hide the extent of his amusement. "I hate to say it, but this is what you get for crying wolf."
Sirius rubbed a finger against his nose as it twitched with oncoming tickles. He looked up, slightly confused, wanting more.
"Well, not exactly literally," Remus said with another laugh. His fingertips brushed lightly over his own chest in memory of his night as a wolf. "I meant all the times you've faked sick over the last few years and now that you are actually sick, we don't realize it."
At this, Sirius looked affronted. "What other times?"
"Oh, I dunno..." Remus rubbed Sirius' thigh through the covers. "When you pretended you had the stomach flu in order to scythe off lessons for almost a week last year. Or when you pretended to have laryngitis and had to communicate in hand gestures so none of the professors would call on you in class to answer questions. Or the time you pretended to have a bad cold just so Susan Roberts could nurse you back to health. Or when you said you sprained your wrist during Quidditch practice with James and got out of all practical lessons for a whole week and two detentions. Or--"
Instead of laughing along, or declaring that Remus was right, Sirius looked even more insulted and spoke coldly. "When did I ever try to fool you three, though?" Sirius asked. He reached over for a new tissue, just to have it for the next time he needed to sneeze- which, if his nose rubbings were any indication, would be soon. "I'd never trick a fellow Marauder. At least not like this. Not this seriously. Not for this long."
Remus nodded towards Sirius and his hurt expression. "I'm sorry, Mate. I should have known better." Remus stuck out his hand in apology, as though cleaning Sirius' used tissues off the floor wasn't apology enough.
"Yeah, you should have." Sirius took his hand, squeezed and shook it, then pulled his hand back quickly. Sirius' weak smile faded. He sniffled and raised the tissue. "hah... heh-Heh-Ekkkshhhh! Ihkushhhh!" He sniffled wetly and rubbed the tissue beneath his nose. When he relaxed, this time it was Sirius who looked apologetic.
"Bless-" Remus broke it off to yawn. "Bless you." He pried the tissue from Sirius' hand, and tossed it away as well.
"Rough night, last?"
Remus nodded. That was an understatement if he'd ever heard one.
"Yeah," sighed Sirius, rolling over. Simply, he added, "Me, too."
Looking sympathetic, Remus rubbed his side through the blankets. "When did you start feeling sick, then? It wasn't just this morning?"
He shrugged, the covers sneaking down a little in the process. He tugged them back up. "I dunno. Last night I thought I might be coming down with something. I could sort of feel it coming on, in the way that you do. My head hurt pretty badly but I thought maybe I just needed sleep. When I woke in the morning, though, I felt infinitely worse. Not just the headache but everything else."
Remus nodded again. "I know how you feel." He rubbed his hand up and down Sirius' back and sighed. No matter how bad his night of transformation was, the morning after was always much worse. It was this that made him want to go to class to distract himself, rather than lie in bed determining which of his many new cuts and bruises hurt most. "Well, I'd best be off." He double-checked with his watch and finally picked up his bag.
"What? Classes?" Remus nodded yet again and stood up to leave, but Sirius grabbed hold of his arm. "Wait!" he cried.
With a sigh, Remus tried to pull his arm free, but Sirius clung on tightly. "Come on, Sirius. I need to go to class."
Sirius shook his head. Speaking quickly, searching for the right words to convince, "Please don't. Stay here with me instead? I'm so lonely here all by myself." He coughed once. Once turned into twice, and then into a whole fit of coughing which turned his face red. Suddenly he found he couldn't stop.
Remus set his bag down and quickly darted over to the windowsill. He returned in a moment with a glass of ice water and the pitcher. "Here. Your throat is terribly red. I should have gotten you some earlier." He helped Sirius sit up, then patted him gently on the back until the coughing subsided. Sirius winced at the first few swallows of water, but it got easier very quickly and he drained it. "There. Better?"
Sirius nodded and held the glass out for a refill. Then he grabbed Remus' arm again. "So will you stay?" He coughed and looked up at Remus with sad puppy dog eyes and a pout. "It's so lonely and boring here. I hate being sick. I just lie here all morning, coughing and sneezing. I can't read because my head and eyes hurt. And I can't sleep because of all the sneezing. I was so miserable and bored. Can't you just stay here with me?"
Chuckling, "You actually want me to stay?"
"Well, you're tired and you've got a damn good excuse. But I really just need someone to be here with me. You could make sure my fever doesn't get higher, and get me water like this and make sure I don't get any worse."
"So basically you want me to stay here and entertain you so you're not bored and wait on you hand and foot until you start feeling better?"
Sirius shook his head. "Nah, nothing of the sort really. I think you should sleep if you're so tired. Sniff, sniff!" He rubbed at his nose, and Remus handed him a fresh tissue for that. "I wish I could sleep a little. But I just want someone here. Just in case. I feel so much worse being up here alone." He took Remus' hand. "I'd just feel better to know you were around. Even if you were only asleep across the room."
Remus smiled and squeezed his hand. "Goodness, Sirius. You do get clingy and needy when you're not feeling well, don't you?" Sirius looked away, but nodded. "Well, I'm not sure how good I'll be for company if I'm asleep... but I'll stay." Sirius sighed deeply and turned his head against the pillow restfully. He squeezed Remus' hand back and let it go, confident Remus would not retract his word and bolt.
After depositing his bag on the trunk at the foot of his bed, Remus changed into his pajamas which were a blue flannel and quite warm. He pulled down his covers and climbed into bed. He couldn't ignore the fact that lying down in bed felt wonderful. It was his own bed, comfortable and cozy, unlike those in the hospital wing. And it was certainly more favorable than sitting through classes, even if his mind did occasionally stray back to his injuries. As his head hit his pillow, Remus looked over at Sirius in the bed across the room. "You need anything before I..." he yawned again, "Before I fall asleep?" Sirius shook his head and coughed. "Right then." He smiled pleasantly and settled in to sleep the afternoon away. With his curtains pulled back, the sunlight streamed into the room and onto his bed, warming him. It was a soothing, comforting feeling, and with his eyes closed, he felt himself easily slipping away into sleep.
"HehKufchhhh! ehhhChuhhh! IhhhKuhshhh!"
But even so comfortable and tired, the sound of Sirius' suffering was hard to ignore. Remus opened his eyes to see Sirius sniffling and littering his bed with more tissues. He noticed Remus looking at him, and gave a weak smile. Then he turned his head into his pillow and started coughing again without stop. Remus sighed and pushed off his covers. He started back across the room with a blanket and pillow in his arms. When he got there, he threw the blanket over the bed, and set the pillow down beside the one Sirius was using. Then he went for the water, pouring another glass and seeing to it that Sirius sipped a little. The coughing ended abruptly with that, though Sirius drank a little more to soothe the itch in his throat. Then he put his head back down against the pillows, looking up at Remus with those same hurting, pouting sort of eyes.
Remus shook his head and smiled. "Well, now that that's taken care of. Come on, scootch over," he said with a nudge to Sirius. Sirius looked up with a question in his eye. "Well it's obvious I can't look after you from across the room so well. And it's kind of cold in here. And I know Peter crawls in with you when there's a storm and I've seen how you and James stay up all night in bed scheming. So would you mind terribly if I were to jump in with you?"
Shaking his head, Sirius pulled back the covers with a grin. "Won't be so lonely this way, even if you do fall asleep." Remus climbed in, feeling the warmth overtake him almost at once. It took the two of them a long while to get comfortable. Sirius explained about how he couldn't lie down on his side as his nose got stuffed up terribly on one side or the other. Then when lying on his back he coughed too badly. So he settled for partially on his side and partially on his back, facing Remus.
The next time he coughed, Remus passed over water and propped him up on the pillow to help him breathe more easily. Sirius handed the glass back, then motioned for a tissue, his nose tickling. Remus obliged with several. "ihhKshhh! ehhhHefschhhh!" Remus waited for him to blow his nose, then pulled the tissues away so Sirius wouldn't have to deal with them. Sirius did not miss the sacrifice and kindness that came with Remus' attention. "Thank you for believing me. Thank you for looking after me," he whispered.
"We're Marauders," smiled Remus. "This is what friends do, right?" He got but a nod in answer and handed Sirius another tissue quickly as Sirius' jaw dropped.
"Hehshuhhhh!" Sirius sniffled miserably.
"Hey," said Remus, trying to read Sirius' expression. He seemed bored again. "I know you said you haven't been able to sleep. So how would you like it if I read to you? You said your eyes hurt, but this way you can just listen."
Sirius thought it over for a moment, then shook his head. "Nah. Just keep me warm and keep me company?" He looked over hopefully. "Just in case... well... maybe if you slept my body might get the hint? And then we can just nap together?"
Remus smiled and put his arm around Sirius, pulling him close. "It's worth a shot. I think I can manage that." He directed a yawn into his shoulder and snuggled against Sirius, closing his eyes and holding the tissue box between them. "Too bad that pretty medi-witch Susan isn't here to look after you, huh?"
Looking back at Remus' face, and seeing how tired he was made Sirius feel the same. As though yawns were contagious, his mouth stretched with one, and when his tired eyes closed, they stayed closed. "Wouldn't bother with her," Sirius mumbled. He rubbed a tissue under his nose to keep the tickles away long enough to let himself fall asleep for a few moments. The afternoon sun had moved over to the other side of the room now, leaving the only warmth now the young man in bed next to him. Instinctively, he scooted closer. "I'm all right now just with you."
At the words, Remus opened an eye, peeking at Sirius. But Sirius was snuggling close against him shamelessly, drawn into his gentle touch. Remus tightened his hold with a hugging sort of squeeze and shut his eye. Not moments after, he heard the stuffy, grunting breaths leading up to snores and knew Sirius had fallen asleep. Remus hated to admit it, but Sirius did look like he'd needed it. Though it took a bit longer for Remus to fall asleep with the noise of the snores against his chest, their presence was symbolic and reassuring to Remus, and he was rather glad for them.
* * *
James snickered as Peter elbowed him in the side. Even after all his complaining and miserable-ness, Sirius had fallen asleep in no time at all, somehow comforted greatly just from having Remus beside him. He lay on his side, his cheek pressed into Remus' shoulder, and Remus' cheek against the top of his head. Remus' arm was still around Sirius protectively in a hug. And Sirius' variety of deep, resonating snores were quite amusing to James and Peter. "Look at 'em. Sleeping when they should have been in class like we were."
Peter nodded. "Well, Remus said he was tired, remember? He's got a good excuse at least."
Remus stirred, smacking his lips and yawning. "Actually..." He rubbed his eyes and groggily looked up. "Actually, Siri's got an even better excuse than I do."
James rolled his eyes. "Oh, Rem, you're so easy. What'd he say to trick you this time? Or were you in on the joke from the start?"
Remus propped himself up on an elbow. "For your information, he didn't have to say anything special. I just had to believe him for a change." He glanced over at Sirius and, recognizing his friend's expression, quickly pulled a tissue from the box and stuffed it into Sirius' hand.
Sirius' breath quickened and his eyes, which were already shut, squinted closed even more tightly. "heh-hehKUFchhhhh!" He sniffled and nuzzled into a warm nest of blankets, Remus' arm, and Remus' chest. "Make those gits leave me alone, Rem? I finally just got to sleep a moment ago."
As Sirius coughed, Remus pulled the covers up to Sirius' chin and tucked it around him more closely. "It's been hours, actually. Just go back to sleep now. Don't worry." Sirius buried his face in Remus' side to block out the light and the sight of his friends laughing.
James and Peter were indeed still laughing, but Remus knew better and stared them down until they gave up and left. Remus shook his head and felt Sirius' forehead with the back of his hand to be sure the fever hadn't gotten any worse. As it turned out, it hadn't. But it hadn't gotten much better either.
"Remy?" Sirius whispered, his voice muffled in Remus' thick pajama top. "Thanks for believing me." He coughed a few times, the sound deep and raspy. He sighed and cleared his throat. "I feel so sick."
"I know." Sympathetically, Remus pushed his bangs back from his face, touching his forehead again. "Complain all you need to. I'll listen."
Sirius nuzzled closer, clutching Remus' shirt as his body tensed quickly. "heh'KTChhhhhhh!" He sneezed into Remus' side, then pulled back with a wet sniffle. "I'm sorry," he said, looking up, eyes full of apology. "You- sniff, sniff! You listen to me and you lie here and help me sleep and I..."
Remus waved it off and handed him a tissue. "You're sick," Remus stated, waiting until Sirius had rubbed his nose thoroughly, then taking the tissue and pitching it over the bed and into the trashcan for him. "It's all right to sneeze. And it's all right to feel miserable. Hard to avoid it, really, with those blokes around laughing like idiots." This elicited a smile from Sirius, soft but genuine and much needed. He felt his eyes close again and did not stop them. "But they'll figure out soon enough how sick you are, and then they'll feel as terrible as I did and jump to help you feel better. Just mark my words." Remus smiled down at Sirius to see that he was already asleep.
"ehh... ehhh-KUFChhhhh! ehhhShushhhh!" Sirius fell back on the pillows, snuffling and coughing into a tissue. "Ugh..." he groaned. "I'm sick."
"Yes," said James, making a face as he rubbed Sirius' nose for him. "I know."
His head throbbed and felt full. He coughed from the congestion and struggled to sit up. Peter slid a pillow behind his back and plumped it, while James held a fresh handful of tissues up for Sirius to blow his nose into. Sirius sighed, leaning back against the pillows afterwards. With what looked like considerable effort, he looked over at Peter. "I'm sick," he complained.
"Yes, I know," Peter echoed.
Sirius looked from one to the other, then his breath caught again. He held out a hand, shaking it a little in desperation. "Can I get another tissue?" James, being closer, supplied it. Sirius pulled back with a sharp intake of breath, but fell forward with the force of the sneezes. "ehhhKufchhhh! ehhhKushhhhhh! Keshushhhh!" He blew his nose again and sighed. "I hate being sick."
Sirius coughed and reached for his glass, finding it empty but for a few drops that hardly wetted his tongue. "Can you get me some more juice?" he asked, his pale eyes pleading desperately towards Peter, then James.
"Sure," Peter sighed, grabbing the glass from Sirius' hand and turning to go for some.
"Hang on," said Sirius, holding up a finger. "Oy, Remy?" he called across the room. Remus was lying on his stomach on top of his bed, reading, but looked up at Sirius' call, trying to hide his sheer amusement with a look of innocence. "You want anything? Juice?"
Remus smiled. "Juice sound great. Thanks." He caught sight of Peter's look of annoyance and ducked his head back down behind the book so they wouldn't see him laughing.
Just as amused, Sirius' miserable cold helped him hide it better. He turned to James. "And can you get me another box of tissues?" Sirius asked, holding out his current one. "This one's practically empty." He sniffled very wetly for show. "I'd get up but my head hurts and my body hurts and everything else hurts." He paused for dramatic effect before admitting, "I'm sick, you know."
James and Peter both made faces. "We know!" they chanted in unison and headed out of the dormitory together.
As they walked, Peter elbowed James. "How long do you reckon we need to keep this up?"
James sighed. "I dunno." He looked back to see Sirius not gloating, but coughing and curling up, hugging the blankets to his chest. "But he's pretty miserable. We'll give it another couple hours. He's a Marauder after all. But if he keeps this up after he starts feeling better, I say we teach him a lesson." James chuckled and wiggled his fingers in a tickling sort of way. Laughing, Peter nodded and set off down the stairs towards the kitchens while James took the stairs up towards the bathroom.