Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairings: past Remus/Sirius
Warnings: brief mentions of v-----ing, large amounts of angst
Disclaimer: JKR owns the characters and their world. I'm just playing. Please don't sue me.
Summary/Notes: Written for the SBRL Yahoo Group Valentine's Day/Lupercalia Challenge. Prompt: 1983 – Remus is ill on Lupercalia
Author's Notes: First, thank you to my betas Tina and Kat_Leaf! Second, I've written a lot of ill!Remus so I thought I'd do something a little different with this one and take the challenge prompt quite literally.
Remus came awake with a jolt, and in that moment his whole body surged with overwhelming aches and pains. They had something to do with his illness, but also a lot to do with the fact that he had fallen asleep sitting upright with his head resting on the toilet seat. There was nothing worse than sleeping in the bathroom. The bright white of the paint, the cold tiles on the floor… it reminded him of the room he was forced into once a month at the Ministry, where he could safely lose his mind and body.
Remus smacked his lips and pulled a face at the awful taste in his mouth. Thankfully, all the worry had been for naught. Even though he'd spent a good portion of the night and the entire morning nauseated and in the bathroom, he had not been sick to his stomach. That was just about the only usual symptom that had not yet manifested, however. Well, that and the rash.
He'd been careful this time, though. With so many years of Lupercalias under his belt, he knew enough to avoid the usual suspects which would make his annual symptoms much worse. He'd cautiously avoided all milk products on Valentine's Day so they wouldn't be in his system after midnight. And he'd packed away all his wool blankets and clothes so they wouldn't irritate him. He'd performed silencing spells on the dingy little flat so the sounds of passersby in the hallway or birds outside the window would not bother him. And he'd stocked up on plenty of non-magical remedies for congestion and upset stomachs, because magic could not help him right now. Magic was actually the cause of his ailment today, not the solution.
Lifting his head, Remus felt his stiff neck crack in two places. He reached for the toilet paper, hanging on the roll, and he tore off several squares. He lifted it to his nose, intending to blow, but the change in position of his head made his stuffy nose tickle fiercely and he sneezed several times instead. He went through one bunch of toilet paper, then another and another until his nose was managed. Then he pulled himself up onto his feet and trudged in sick slow motion back to bed.
Long ago, the festival of Lupercalia had begun in Rome as a spring purification ritual and to keep the wild wolves out of the city. Legend had it that the celebration included making a sacrifice by the Lupercal cave. In some stories, it was a human sacrifice, but in others the early Romans sacrificed goats or dogs. The blood was wiped from the knife with wool soaked in milk, then smeared upon the foreheads of chosen, strapping, young men. After a spectacular feast, the young men would grab the skins and run naked around the city, beating and lashing those around them. Remus had never really understand exactly how it all came together to protect them from wolves or to honor the founders of Rome who had been raised by a she-wolf. But he thought it was a fascinating tradition nonetheless and Remus would certainly have been on board for the portion where the men ran around starkers.
Apparently, the wizards and witches of that time decided that it was equally important to guard against werewolves, and appropriated the holiday for their own uses. They developed a curse to warn werewolves not to harm people, and to impress upon then the power of magic. It was a curse that was still in place today, and Remus had the suspicion that if anyone at the Ministry had discovered how to lift it, that solution might have been conveniently misfiled.
Remus crushed the tissue box to his stomach as he was wracked by a volley of sneezes. His nose ran and burned as he followed the sneezes with blows. Then he burrowed under the blankets. He supposed the Lupercalia werewolf curse could have been worse than what it was- something between a cold and a stomach flu mixed with an allergic reaction. It could have been brightly-colored polka-dots all over a werewolf's face or maybe the complete loss of the use of his limbs. This illness was just enough of a misery to warn werewolves, while being ordinary enough to not expressly single out individuals. But with the way he felt right now, he couldn't blame werewolves for being angry with the magical community.
“Bugger!” It was bad enough that he turned into a monster once a month, but once a year he could actually plan on falling terribly ill. With little money and few job prospects, Remus felt completely pathetic.
It was no wonder that he hadn't been entrusted with little baby Harry after… after… Remus couldn't bring himself to think about the Potters' deaths any longer. He didn't like to remember James and Lily like that. By far, he preferred the happy moments.
If Lily were here now, she would have brewed him up the best batch of tea known to wizardkind. He remembered a time when he'd fallen ill just after Hogwarts. He'd been alone and miserable, his throat so raw that he hadn't even wanted to floo someone for a little conversation. And just when his fever had spiked, there was Lily with a cool compress for his forehead and a soothing cup of tea for his throat.
It was difficult not to love Lily, especially when she became 'one of them' and he didn't have to pretend to hate her for James' sake. Lily Potter was as clever and sweet as Lily Evans. The only difference was that they were part of a war instead of just prefects together at school. But when she had sat down on the edge of his bed and stroked his cheek, Remus stiffened with formality, not used to letting people in. “James had the same thing last week,” she'd told Remus, pulling another blanket up over him and re-charming the washcloth to keep it cool. “And there's no reason to try and be strong. I know how you men are all just babies when you're sick. So let me look after you until you're over the worst of it or until Sirius comes back home to take over.”
Remus' nostalgia stopped abruptly at that point. He refused to think about Sirius Black in any capacity. That bastard didn't deserve a single thought. Besides, it was difficult to reminisce properly when his nose was tickling again.
He sneezed and sneezed, going through half the tissue box, it seemed. He was otherwise comfortable in bed, but could not fall back to sleep for the life of him. Remus tossed and turned, pulling the covers up over his head to seal in the warmth. There, his breath and fever-wracked body made it lovely and warm, and the lack of proper oxygen should have made him feel sleepier than he was. But even when his shivering stopped and his nose only ran instead of tickled, he still did not drift off to sleep.
In the end, his stomach rumbled. Groaning at the aches coursing through him, he pulled himself out of bed and headed towards the kitchen. He wasn't sure what his stomach could handle, but if a bite to eat was what it took to allow him to sleep, Remus would take the risk.
If Peter were here now, he would have put together such a perfect spread for Remus. Peter was always doing little things like that for them. He was the one who could be counted on to go ahead and scout around to see if things were safe. He was always the one Remus had gone to for an emergency chocolate fix. He was the one happy to stay behind and keep watch for trouble. He was the one with a granola bar in his pocket that they'd split four ways on a night out when the rest of them had forgotten to bring food. Remus remembered a time after one of the full moons when Peter had managed to supply Remus with hot chocolate.
It was difficult not to love Peter, especially when Peter was doing his very best to please them. As a pudgy young kid, he'd have done just about anything to fit in and be accepted at Hogwarts. Remus could certainly understand that. Peter was no great shakes at magic, but he was clever enough to know who to make friends with and how to stay on their good sides so that he'd get by just fine. So he was conscious of the risk when he sneaked into the hospital wing with the thermos of hot chocolate nestled in his robes. “Drink it up quickly,” Peter had said. “Can't leave you with it, or Madam Pomfrey might see it.” The school nurse saw practically everything that happened in her ward. Remus had felt the drink warm him right down to his toes, soothing the pains in his body and comforting him better than anything else could. Except, of course for a few things that had been done by a certain someone Remus didn't want to acknowledge.
Shaking the memory out of his head before it could take hold, Remus set to work making himself a sandwich. He would have liked something hot and steaming, like soup or even a spicy curry. However, he was already leaning against the counter just to stay on his feet. He was reaching for napkins whenever a sniffle got out of hand. And he when coughs seized him, he slid into the only chair at the kitchen table with his chicken sandwich but without mayonnaise. He choked it down with some effort, then immediately darted back to the bathroom as his stomach churned.
Remus couldn't help but curse magic as he crumpled down beside the toilet again. There were so many wonderful things that magic could do, he knew that. But for Remus, it all came down to power. Magic could do good, but it also caused so much hurt. And the things that meant the most to him had nothing at all do with magic and everything in the world to do with love and friendship. Both of which had abandoned Remus because of the evil that magic could do.
If James were here now, he would have looked after him while bombarding Remus with jokes to keep the mood light. Remus remembered one time he'd returned from the hospital wing after a full moon, bandaged but sore. His werewolf-related injuries could not be magiced away entirely, and it had been James who offered an arm and helped him into the big canopy bed furthest from the window.
It was hard not to love James, especially when he had his charm turned on for your own good. James was the only person Remus knew who grew more humble as he grew more talented. When young, James had been a relentless showoff, calling attention to himself whenever possible. But it was those moments when he had no reason to boast that his true character showed through. “You know, mate,” he had begun, making himself at home in Remus' bed as he changed the dressing on the deep gash along Remus' left forearm. “I think we could come up with something much cleverer than an accident in the greenhouse to explain these injuries. Sorry, am I hurting you?” Remus had winced, and nodded truthfully as the gauze was peeled off the wound he'd made. James looked at him sympathetically and tried to hurry through the steps so at least it wouldn't hurt for quite so long. Then he'd put a reassuring arm around Remus' shoulders and they had brainstormed excuses Remus might use- everything from a potions explosion to Remus ending up in a duel. By the end, the only pain Remus had felt was from laughing so hard. James was the sort of person you couldn't help feeling drawn to. In fact, Remus' very first real crush as a boy had been on James. The second had been on the dashing, new assistant librarian. And, naturally, the third had been...
Remus swore and pushed away from the toilet. If the chicken sandwich hadn't made him sick to his stomach, that memory surely would. His stomach was still uncertain, but he was stronger than it was. His return to bed was something like defiance now. He was older and he could damn well take care of himself.
He might have been nursing his annual illness in a bed he once shared with Sirius Black, but he didn't need Sirius. He didn't need that reassuring hand rubbing his back as he bent over the toilet. He didn't need the sweet words of comfort whispered into his ear. He didn't need someone to wait on him hand and foot as he rested. He didn't need the warm snuggles and cuddles in bed. He didn't need any of that… though he would have liked it.
It was hard not to love Sirius, especially with the memories Remus could not get rid of, no matter how he tried. He remembered all the times Sirius had covered for him in school, even before Sirius knew about Remus' furry little problem. He remembered Sirius sneaking down to the kitchens in the middle of the night to get Remus tea and a snack. He remembered Sirius holding him tightly but tenderly on the floor of the shack in the mornings after a transformation, before Madam Pomfrey arrived. He remembered all the Christmases and all the birthdays. He remembered all the kisses and all the sex. And he remembered the last time he'd been sick, when Sirius had returned home early from a mission for the Order to look after Remus. “Can I get you anything else, love?” Sirius had whispered, gently stroking Remus' cheek. “I'll do anything to make you feel better, anything at all.” Remus had interrupted the sweet sentiment by sneezing. But Sirius had tissues ready for him, and had kissed him as though nothing were wrong.
Even with the war going on, Remus had never felt safer than when he was lying in bed, wrapped in Sirius' embrace. He had never trusted or loved anyone more than Sirius. But he had never had friends before Lily, Peter, and James, either. All the sweetness and comfort in the world couldn't make up for what Sirius had done.
Remus nuzzled into the pillows and pulled at the blankets, making the bed as comfortable as it could be. He scratched at a tiny itch on his arm and regretted it a moment later. The rash had finally appeared. “Bugger this,” Remus muttered, repeatedly raking his fingernails along his forearm. “I'm not going to let any of it keep me awake this year.”
Remus Lupin did eventually fall asleep again, allowing his body some much-needed time to heal itself. It was not without feverish dreams and much tossing and turning, but every moment he spent asleep was a moment he did not have to spend conscious of his illness. The minutes and hours crept by, the sun sinking behind mountains and trees to leave him alone in his bedroom.
When he woke, on the evening of his second Lupercalia since his life had been turned upside-down, he still reached out instinctively in a stretch, expecting to find Sirius in bed with him. As soon as realization dawned on him, Remus' stomach churned again and this time he was fairly certain he would lose the fight. He threw off the covers and, shaking with shivers and sniffles, he headed straight for the bathroom to spend another night there, losing his lunch and his mind.