Title: Reception

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter

Rating: PG13

Warnings: This is a more general hurt/comfort with some, er, that v-word. If it squicks you (as it does me) stop reading when you hit the shower scene and you'll miss all the v-ing but won't miss any of the sneezing

Pairings: Sirius/Remus, James/Lily, implied-Hooch/Pomfrey

Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own these lovely characters or their world. Consequentially, I make no money off of fics about these lovely characters or their world.

Summary: The wedding reception doesn't sit particularly well with Remus but his friends look after him through it and problems.

Notes: This story makes slight reference to two of my currently unfinished stories, both of which are still untitled. Neither story needs to be read first in order to understand anything that goes on here.

Feedback: I'd love some





     Remus felt a hand rubbing up and down his back but he still didn't have the energy to lift his head and pretend to be merry. It was hot and dark in the nest he'd made with his crossed arms over the surface of the table and its thick white tablecloth. Though he'd had his head down for a very long time, he was certain he hadn't fallen asleep yet and knew it wasn't even close to time to leave. But the hand was gentle, sympathetic, and familiar. "Go dadce with the bride or subthig, Sirius. I'b id doe coditiod to talk with you right dow."


     "Yeah, I know," Sirius said, settling into the empty chair on one side of Remus. The one on the other side still had Peter in it, as though the young man were glued to it. No one ever asked Peter to dance. "That's why I managed to procure something for you. Had to use my wiles and cunning, but you know how I get when one of my friends needs me."


     Remus knew. Half the time he used it to his advantage to show off and the other times he hardly noticed. This, it seemed, was the former rather than the later. Still, he wasn't really sure it was worth exerting all that energy to lift his head for. "Worbtail?" he asked, his voice muffled against the sleeve of his suit jacket. "Is it worth it?"


     He heard some rustling on the side Sirius was on, then some movement on Peter's side. "Yeah, Moony. I think it is," came Peter's honest answer.


     "Come on," Sirius coaxed, rubbing a hand up and down Remus' back. "Sit up for me?"


     "Just for you," he answered weakly and raised his head. The moment he did, blood rushed from it and fresh air hit him in the face. They had been assigned a table right near the front which, amazingly enough, happened to be furthest away from the back. The back was where the honeysuckle bushes stood. Still, their scent could be detected by Remus up at the front. It didn't matter much, however, as the nearby carnations, roses, and lilies were enough to get to him anyway and all these scents came at him when he lifted his head. No sooner had he taken a single breath than he cupped a hand to his nose and mouth and snapped forward. "HIHShhh! Ihhshh! Yihshhh! ehhShhh! Hihshhh! Heh-Yihhshhh! EhShhh! Kchhhh! ehhhKshhh!" Mercifully the sneezes were quiet, and hardly heard tables away above the music of the live band. They still attracted a few looks, however, and Remus groaned. He cared less about being a spectacle and more about his own health now, though.


     When he opened his eyes, sniffling and rubbing a couple fingers at his still tickling nose, he saw Sirius brandishing a small box and Peter pushing forward his own water glass. "Whad's this?" Remus asked, squinting and sniffling.


     "They're called antihimayonnaise, I think," Sirius said, bumbling through the mispronunciation but beaming with pride at being able to present them.


     "Antihistamines," Peter corrected him knowledgably. "It's muggle allergy medication," he explained.


     "Allergy bedicide?" Remus snuffled, suddenly looking hopeful. "You bead, to keeb be frob sdeezig so... heh... so buch?" He cupped his hand to his face again. "ehh-IHHShhh! hehKshhh! ihhShhhh! Kishhh! Kschhh! Sniff, sniff, SNIFF!"


     "Yeah," said Sirius. "I know you can't take regular magical medicines due to your condition, but you might be safe with these timid muggle ones. Got 'em off one of Lily's muggle friends. Don't ask what I had to go through to get them."


     Remus lifted a tired hand and waved it. "Dod't tell be. Sniff! Sniff! I dod't wadt to dow." He eyed the box for a second, then took it from Sirius. It seemed innocent enough, as did the pills inside, sitting individually wrapped in their little tray.


     He paused a moment, raising his hand again. "ehh... hehIhhhhh..." The first few sneezes always seemed to play with him, but then the rest barreled out of him, as though he were unable to stop them. Once the tickle in his nose started, Remus just wanted the fit to be over as soon as possible. "hehKIHShhhh! ihhhShuhhh! Kishhuhh! TChuhhh! IhShhhh! Ihhhh-HIHShhhh! KShhhh!" He sniffed hard and rubbed his nose. Then he rubbed at his eyes and forced a cough. His whole head felt hot and stuffy, and Remus wondered whether putting his head down again for the rest of the reception might not be a bad solution.


     Wearily, he pulled out his handkerchief, well used by now, and blew his nose. The sensation made his ears hurt from the pressure and in turn his throat itched a little. He cleared it a few times, but that only seemed to make it feel worse. Desperately, he grabbed Sirius' water and gulped it down in one. He sighed and shook his head apologetically for the display.


     "It's all right, Remus," Sirius soothed him. "What do you think about the antihis-whatever-mines?"


     Remus blinked his itchy eyes, determined not to rub them and make them itch more, and looked back at the box. The front of the package claimed to relieve symptoms due to allergies including runny nose, sneezing, itchy nose or throat, and itchy, watery eyes. Remus cocked his head to the side, staring at the package. Well, seeing as he had every single symptom listed there, this seemed just the thing to take. Maybe Sirius had scored a winner in this.


     "Looks... hah... looks okay... Sniff!" he managed, before burying his nose in his handkerchief. "huhhh-shfff! Ihshffff! Kufff! Kshffff! Ihhshff! Sniff! Sniff!" He rubbed his nose and cleared his throat again with a sigh.


     He'd been sneezing since just before the wedding, and had held back most of his sneezes during the ceremony or sneezed them into the crook of his arm when processional music was playing and would cover the sound. Most of the others in attendance had all looked back at him once or twice but he didn't manage to distract most from enjoying the beautiful ceremony.


     The reception, however, was another story altogether. The room was closed on three sides, and open on the fourth, facing a row of tall honeysuckle bushes that bordered the path to and from the reception area. With the close confinement with the flowers, and inability to escape, Remus' allergies had gone on a rampage from which he hadn't been able to recover. He'd sneezed through the announcements and buffet, though Sirius had fetched him a few plates. And it had been all he could do to keep them to a minimum as the first dance was played and everyone watched. Following that, his allergies had grown steadily worse. Finally he gave up and just put his head down, determined to just wait it out.


     Remus held the box up and read the contents on the back. Triprolidine Hydrochloride, Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride, Hydroxpropyl Methylcellulose, Magnesium Stearate, Titaniam Dioxide, Hydroxypropyl Cellulose, Lactose, Stearic Acid, Silica Gel, Starch... well, he knew what starch was... or at least, he thought he did. Maybe muggles called something different by the same name. His eyes blurred over the next three lines of active and inactive ingredients without any more recognition. Being halfblood, he felt he should know this, but he'd been young when living with his parents and things like this had never entered into his childhood. "I've dever heard of ady of these herbs," Remus admitted. He knew he hadn't been great shakes at potions, or Herbology for that matter, especially with his allergies. But usually he had some knowledge of basic ingredients.  


     "They're all muggle stuff," Sirius explained with a shrug. "But I'm told it works well to clear you up. And I think you're supposed to swallow two."


     "That's what the box says," Remus agreed. He was, after all, an adult and/or child aged 12 years or over. He slid the foil tray out of the box and popped two tiny pills out. He fumbled at the first before he got the hang of the packaging. Wizard remedies always came in easy-to-handle goblets or bottles. But he paused before taking the pills. "How cad I be sure I cad take these?" he asked, looking skeptically from Sirius to Peter then back to Sirius again.


     "They're weak little muggle things," Sirius insisted. "See how tiny they are? They won't bother you. They just work on your nose is all. Help it stop tickling and running." Sirius reached over and tapped Remus' nose gently.


     But in his leaning close, Remus had gotten a strong whiff of Sirius' boutonniere, a bright pink rose that matched the maid of honor's dress and Lily's bridal bouquet. Remus pulled back, cupping his hand to his face again. "hehhIHHShhh! YihShhh! YehShhh! huhKshhh! ihShhh! ehhShhh! Uhshhh!" He sniffed miserably, his head spinning for a moment as his nose burned and tickled and ran. He scratched at it, and debated stifling the next round of sneezes, but knew that might only make things worse. "ehhh... heh-IHHShhh! ehhShhh! ihhKshhh! ehhKshuhhh! hehKshhh!" When Remus lifted his head, sniffling, his head full of congestion, Peter and Sirius were talking about him.


     "I'm all for it. But it's true we don't know for sure they won't hurt him," Peter pointed out.


     "We don't know they will," Sirius replied. "And look at the state he's in. He needs something. This reception's supposed to go on for another three hours. They haven't even done the cake yet. And I have to stay at least until I make my toast."


     "I dod't wadt to leave early," Remus put in, but Peter and Sirius were talking about him and around him, and did not hear him try to join into the conversation.


     "Sometimes muggle drugs have side effects," Peter said. "And sometimes they take a while to work."


     "And sometimes you can be a real stick in the mud, Wormtail," Sirius snapped at him. "Look, I'm just trying to make Remus feel a little better. You know he can't take wizard remedies due to his... condition. What would you have him do, sneeze his handsome head off all night long?"


     "Of course not" Peter squeaked. "The poor guy's obviously miserable."


     Remus rolled his eyes. This was going nowhere. It was true he wasn't exactly familiar with the medicine, but it was just a muggle remedy. It was only the magical things that he knew he had reactions to, due to his lycanthropy. This seemed harmless. But if it worked to clear his head even just a little bit, it would be well worth it in his opinion. And when it all came down to it, Peter was right. He felt downright miserable. "Well, adythig's better thad sdeezig by head off," he said with a shrug and popped both pills into his mouth. Then he grabbed the water glass and emptied it with hard gulps until he'd managed to get the pills down his throat without gagging and coughing them back up. Then he reached out hands and put them on Peter's and Sirius' shoulder. "Shut ub, both of you. It's over. I've already taked it."


     Peter and Sirius both quieted, though Sirius had a smile and a most triumphant look on his face over the matter while Peter looked glad but sulked a little. He had only been trying to protect Remus, and he had after all seemed glad to see the medicine when it first made its appearance.


     "heh..." Remus cupped his hand to his face again, tiredly. "ehhIHHShhh! IhhShh! Yihshhh! ihhKshhh! ihhTchhh!" He sniffed hard. "It's dot workig," Remus noted.


     "Give it time," said Sirius. Lily's friend said it takes at least fifteen minutes to start working.


     "Oh great." Remus rolled his eyes. "What do I do id the beadtibe?"


     "You could dance with be?" Sirius suggested, smiling, holding out his hand. "Take your mind off the sneezing for a while? We'll go over to that side, away from the centerpieces."


     Remus had strongly declined every invitation to dance up to this point, but by now he was losing all ability to fight. Weakly he bobbed his head up and down in agreement. He took Sirius' hand, then grabbed for Sirius' boutonniere. He unpinned it and laid it down upon the startlingly white tablecloth. Even if this allergy medication was going to help, he didn't want to risk it. Peter could look after it anyway in case Sirius was forced to wear it when he made his toast as best man. Remus only hoped he'd stop sneezing by then so he wouldn't interrupt his lover's passionate speech. Sirius had been working hard on it almost since the day of the proposal, or even before then.


     The current song was a fast one, but it ended just as Remus as Sirius made it to the dance floor in the area Sirius had pointed out, as far away from the large mass of flowers as they could get, though it was still too close as far as Remus' tickling and itching nose was concerned. A slow song began, and Remus felt Sirius pull him close. He gave a deep sigh as he relaxed against his lover, head on shoulder, arms around each other. Sirius held him tightly as they began to rock back and forth and turn slowly as they did so. "I miss going out dancing with you," Sirius whispered, resting his head against Remus'.


     Little things like dancing were easily abandoned in the middle of a war. This wedding was James' way of coping with it. One last moment of happiness before both he and Lily dedicated their lives to the fight. "I do, too," Remus agreed. He could feel eyes upon them as they danced, and he had to admit to a certain amount of guilty pleasure at dancing with the most handsome man in the room. Everyone wanted Sirius. Boy, girl, it didn't matter. But he belonged to Remus, and neither wanted anyone else.


     Remus took a deep breath and sighed, then tensed up again. "Oh doe, dot agaid," he said, burying his face in Sirius' shoulder instinctively. Then, remembering the tuxedo was a rental, pulled back again. He had to sneeze. His eyes were watering, his nose itching madly, and the urge was building in his nose. He slid one hand from the small of Sirius' back to his slacks, feeling his way to Sirius' left back pocket, and withdrawing a pocket square. Remus pressed it to his face to muffle the sneezes. "Ihsmphh! Chumphh! Shfff! Ihshhfff! Kshimmm Kshmmmff!"


     "Bless you," Sirius said softly, his voice deep and soothing. Remus felt that Sirius could make anything better just by talking and closed his eyes to take it in. "My poor sniffley little wolfie," he cooed, rubbing his cheek back and forth against Remus' forehead. "I wish I could do more to make you feel better."


     Remus knew that. Sirius didn't have to say it. He'd risked severe punishment and possibly even death to do the animagus charm, just so he could be with Remus during transformations and make him feel better. He'd kissed every single one of Remus' scars better, sometimes doing so for hours before they made love, just worshipping Remus' body and all the imperfections that made Remus a little self-conscious but that Sirius still loved. And he'd done who knew what to get Remus that allergy medication tonight just in hopes of it helping even a little.


     Remus nodded, gesturing in thank you towards the handkerchief. Sirius nodded back. "I am certain the medicine will start working soon. It has to." He kissed the top of Remus' head and smoothed his hair gently along the part Remus had put in it.


     "I hobe so," Remus said, nodding. In truth he felt no different at all, except a little cooler now that he was up and about not sitting with his head buried in his arms. "I dod't wadt to ruid their sbecial day."


     "Leave it to Remus Lupin to put others' happiness above his own suffering." Sirius said, ginning and holding Remus close. "It was a beautiful wedding though, don'tcha think? I mean I know it was small, but it was sweet."


     Remus nodded and rubbed the handkerchief beneath his nose. It was running again. Only a matter of time before he had to sneeze again.


     "Ever think we should have a ceremony like this?" Sirius asked. Remus looked up, realizing that Sirius was being absolutely serious. "Invite all our friends and your family. Spend a week thinking up every defense and concealment charm for the location to keep everyone safe. And then we could show everyone how much we love each other."


     Refolding the handkerchief to get it ready, Remus fingered the gold ring on his hand, knowing Sirius had an identical one. "Dod't thig we deed ode," Remus snuffled. "All the beoble who care about us dow already. Eved Brofessor Dubledore. Besides, I dod't ever wadt to go through this agaid. I'b gettig so very tired of sdeezig."


     Sirius chuckled and wrapped his arms around the man in a hug as they swayed from side to side. "Oh, my Remus," he sighed happily. "I promise, no more flowers." Remus sighed happily and closed his eyes, well aware that people will still staring. Though, he was quite content just to let them stare.


     Not long after the song ended and another sweet, slow song started, Remus' nose began itching again. He scratched and rubbed at it, trying to relieve the tickle. But it was no good. It wasn't going away for anything. Those damn flowers' scents filled the room so strongly and refused to give him even a single song's worth of peace. As he struggled to keep the tickle back, he felt lips lightly graze the bridge of his nose. Remus pulled away at once, nostrils twitching. He looked up accusingly at Sirius, then snapped forward against the man, burying his face in the handkerchief. "YihhhChfff! hehShfff! K'Shmmmph! hehKShhff! HIHShhhfff!" He snuffled into the handkerchief, shaking his head into it rather than rubbing it at his face. "Why'd you have to go add do that, Siri?" complained Remus.


     "Aww, did I make your nose tickle?" Sirius asked. Remus nodded. "And it wasn't going to tickle at all without my interference?" Remus shrugged. "See? I didn't do anything but speed up the matter."


     "Oh, add that's so buch... heh... sniff! So buch better? Ach..." Remus had barely lowered the handkerchief when he raised it again. "huhCHIHH! ihhSHhh! yihShihhh! Huh-Shhhhh! Sniff!" He coughed and winced. "Cad we sit dowd agaid?" Remus asked. "By throat's killig be, add I've got to blow by dose."


     Sirius' hand swept over the back of his head with a gentle pet. "Of course, Love." With his arm around Remus, they walked back over to the table and Peter. Remus took his seat and hunched over in it, refolding the handkerchief to find a sufficiently dry spot into which to blow his nose. When he didn't find one, he gave up and blew his nose into the least offensive spot.


     "Doesn't sound any better yet," Peter observed. Sirius shot him a look not to mention it and gestured for Peter to go get some water for them all. Peter nodded. "James just passed by. They'll be cutting the cake soon."


     Remus sighed with relief. First cake, then after cake were the toasts. And after toasts he could politely retire to the extremely flowerless hotel room and sneeze as much as he needed to. After all, this was supposed to be a night for Lily and James, not another pity party for Remus. He didn't need Sirius and Peter hanging off him every moment. He wanted them to have fun, too.


     When Peter returned with the drinks, Remus gulped his down at once, then sucked on one of the ice cubes. It felt delightful against his itchy, raw throat and he closed his eyes, savoring it. When he opened them, he saw Lily and James approaching to talk. "Oh doe..." Remus breathed.


     "Going to sneeze again?" Sirius asked, rubbing his back.


     Remus shook his head. Well, of course he probably was going to sneeze again, and the probability was increased tenfold if James and Lily came over. He wanted to see them, of course. He wanted to hug them and kiss them and tell them he'd take care of them. And he wanted to sweep Lily off her feet and congratulate her for joining the pack. But that wasn't going to happen. The moment they came near him his eyes would start burning and his throat itching and his nose tickling.


     Lily stood at the opposite end of the table, leaning back against her now husband. One arm was around her, while the other raised and waved at his friends. Then, automatically, he unpinned his boutonniere. Lily was already in the process of removing the pins that held her brilliant red hair up in the garland of fresh flowers.


     Remus shook his head frantically. "Dod't!" he called over to them. "You look so dice. Your weddig photos wod't be codsistedt."


     "Hang the photos," James said, waving a hand dismissively and starting over to their side of the big round table. "If want to see my three best mates, the prospect of inconsistent wedding photos isn't going to stop me." He came over, giving Peter a strong, warm hug from behind. Then he ruffled the man's hair. Peter protested but laughed as he straightened his hair again. He knew James was just being is old affectionate self. James then went to Remus, bent, and wrapped his arms around the man with another big hug.


     Remus lifted an arm and hugged back, then gave James a soft kiss on the cheek. "Codgrats, Jabes. I'b so habby for you." Happy, he was, and not sneezing, too, which was even better. Then Lily came over, and after dispensing a hug and kiss on Peter, she kissed Remus' cheek. Remus' nose was still tickling a little, but it was hardly anything compared to if she had still worn the garland of large flowers. He kissed her back. "I'b so glad to have you as bart of our fabily dow, officially," he told her. Lily's green eyes twinkled with wetness and she threw herself against Remus, arms around him, burying her face against the collar of his suit. Luckily, it wasn't a rental. Tear marks would give it character. He rubbed his hand up and down her back soothingly as she clung on, crying with happiness. Then James put his arms around both in another hug. Sirius and Peter joined in at once, forming a many-armed, many-bodied hug. Their love and caring was so strong, Remus couldn't imagine anything disrupting it. He'd do anything for them, and he knew they felt the same way for him.


     When they all loosened their holds and backed out of the hug, Remus rubbed a little at his eyes, which were itching mildly still. Lily was still sniffling, too. He wanted to offer her a handkerchief to dry her face, but his own was used up, and Sirius' was equally messy. Peter gave her his and she took it with a grateful nod. "Time for the cake now?" Peter asked hopefully.


     Lily laughed as she dried her eyes. "For you, Pete," she said, kissing his forehead and grabbing her husband by the hand to drag him over to the table where the cake stood. James attempted to gather everyone's attention, and failed. The guests were still dancing, the music still playing, and many animated conversations seemed much more interesting than watching the two stuff cake in each other's faces.


     Sirius excused himself, a thing Remus was most surprised to see and had to feel his own forehead to be sure he wasn't feverish and hallucinating. Peter laughed. Sirius got up and strode to their side. For a moment, Remus was scared he might start barking, or whistle loudly to get everyone's attention and hurt Remus' ears terribly in the process. But instead he lifted up an empty wine glass and began tapping a spoon against it. According to tradition, James gave Lily a kiss, and the rest of the room quieted down at the sudden noise. "Cake," Sirius explained, shrugging. "Not that you all need more sugar, but I'm the one you all would have blamed if you'd missed out on it, so shut your mouths and watch the lovebirds, okay?" They all laughed. Making no apologies, Sirius took an empty seat at the closest table. Everyone watched as James stood behind Lily, reaching around her, their arms as one as they held the wand and cut with it.


     Remus smiled, his nose still tickling a bit. He pinched it shut, determined not to ruin this moment. He could hold the sensation off a little longer if need be. He watched as they licked icing off the symbolic thin wand, then crammed each other's mouth full of cake. Lily was gorgeous and glowing there in her white dress, forcing the sweet on James and laughing as she tried to eat her own mouthful. James was beside himself with happiness, simply beaming delightedly by her mere presence. Remus, arms crossed over the back of his chair and chin resting on them, sighed deeply.


     "Hard to imagine they fought like cats and dogs for six years now, isn't it?" Peter asked Remus in a whisper, as though reading his friend's mind. "Look almost as happy together as you and Sirius are."


     Remus nodded. "You'll fide sobeode, too," Remus assured him, as though reading Peter's mind.


     "Not likely," Peter said, shaking his head. "Who'd want to fall in love with a rat?"


     Remus shrugged, looking over at the young man. "Lots of beoble like rats." Though he couldn't really think of any women off the top of his head who weren't repulsed by them. A lot of noble mice came to mind, and the image of a snake swallowing a rat came to mind. He shuddered. "You'll fide sobeode," Remus repeated. "Add she'll be sbecial add just for you." He reached over and squeezed Peter's hand in reassurance. Peter didn't seem very reassured.


     Remus looked up, rubbing his nose with his other hand, to see Sirius helping to distribute the cake. He was carrying three plates down each of his forearms, balancing them carefully, and had the edge of one plate clenched between his teeth. He made his way right over to what they'd all been jokingly calling the staff table. He served Professors McGonagall, Madam Hooch and Madam Pomfrey first, being the gentleman he was. Then distributed the remaining four to the other professors, Flitwick, Kettleburn, Saphora, and of course Dumbledore. They were all dressed in their best robes, and seemed to be enjoying their time at the wedding. Lily and James, though they floated from table to table to talk with everyone, seemed particularly drawn to the staff table more often than not. Right now the progessors were giving Sirius a hard time about his call to attention, Remus could see. But McGonagall patted his arm and Dumbledore dove into his cake with a smile as soon as he got it. Madam Pomfrey seemed to be commenting about Sirius growing his hair out long since Sirius was absentmindedly fingering a lock of it.  


     Remus smiled. They'd gotten to know their professors well throughout Hogwarts. Many, many nights of detentions could do that, after all. But there was no denying their skills, either. James and Lily had been Head Boy and Girl, and Remus had been a prefect three years running. Among the misbehaving, academic records, and Quidditch victories, all the professors knew them well. Madam Pomfrey, Remus suspected, had been invited because of how well she'd cared for Remus, and kept their secret about sneaking down to see Remus in the hospital ward more than they were supposed to. And of course Dumbledore had personally asked them to become members of his order. As the noise grew again in the reception area, Remus felt it safe to sneeze again. "hehh... IhShfff! HihShhh! ehhShhh! Imfshhh! hehShhhh! ehhhHumphhh!" He had to admit, as he directed the fit of sneezes into the now well-used handkerchief, that his throat wasn't hurting quite as much as before... and his eyes were itching less. Even his nose seemed to be tickling a little less than usual. Maybe the allergy medication was finally starting to work.


     When Sirius had finished with them, he took three more pieces, one in each hand and the third in his mouth, and hurried back to Remus and Peter. "Thought that lot would never stop talking," Sirius commented, sitting down. He slid the piece with the most icing over to Peter, and the piece with the most chocolate over to Remus before picking up a fork and taking a bite of his own piece.


     "What, with you charming them? No way!" Peter chuckled around his own mouthful of cake. "You did everything short of asking Professor McGonagall if she'd take a spin on your motorbike with you."


     Sirius shrugged. "And how do you know I didn't?" he asked.


     "Because I can read lips with the best of them," Peter replied. "And all you said to her was how beautiful she looked in her tartan robes and with her hair down for a change."


     "Add thed she blushed and giggled," Remus added. "You bade *her* giggle!"


     Sirius shrugged again. "I can't help it if I've a way with women." Remus shot him a look. "And men," he added quickly. "And you, of course," He tacked onto the end, leaning over and putting his head on Remus' shoulder. "And speaking of you, how's your nose doing?"


     Remus sniffed stuffily through it to point out it wasn't completely better by a long shot. "I thig I bight be sdeezig a little less."


     Sirius looked hopeful about this, and turned to Peter, who agreed about this with a nod. "Great," Sirius said, grinning. "Then maybe I'll have an interruption-free toast."


     "Should have dowd that's what you'd be worried about," Remus groaned, but smiled, taking another bite of the cake.


     "Damn right!" Sirius laughed. But he slid an arm around Remus' back, giving him a squeeze and half hug, and Remus knew he hadn't really meant any of it. Well, maybe the part about being happy Remus was sneezing less, but not the rest of it.


     When everyone had finished their cake, including the people like Peter who had indulged with seconds, it was time for the toasts. As the best man, Sirius went first, but only after giving Remus one of his smoldering, looks of longing that always made Remus go all weak and warm inside. As happy as he knew James and Lily were, it was nothing compared to how happy Sirius made him.


     Peter leaned closer to Remus. "He looks happier than James does right now."


     Remus had to agree, though he understood why. "Lily add Jabes are just worried he'll say sobethig rude or terrible." Something characteristic of Sirius trying to take a joke a little too far. "Besides, the sbile is a bit of ad act. He's actually sad about losig his best fried as he knew hib."


     "Ahh," Peter nodded. Then they sat back to watch Sirius' toast.


     Sirius cleared his throat dramatically and took James in a rough hug at the shoulders. "I know you're all expecting something funny and brilliant from me, and I must admit the first hundred-something drafts of this were indeed along those lines. Of course I was only eleven at the time so I didn't know any better." There was a gentle hum of laughter in the room. Remus didn't laugh, but that was only because he was grinning wickedly at his mate. Sirius looked excellent in his tuxedo, holding James, the two of them together just as they had been when Remus met them all those years ago at Hogwarts. He looked on in pride, and a little nervousness. He wanted everything to go well for them all.


      "But now that I'm so much older and wiser..." Sirius paused appropriately, as the laughter rose an octave. "I wasn't able to find those same words. Instead my mind filled with words about Lily's kindness and beauty and spirit that drew James to her from the first time we all met at Hogwarts. And even after the fighting, and the arguing, and James storming over to my bed in the middle of the night declaring Evans a harpy, I knew he'd win her over in the end." Then, almost as an aside, he added, "Or they'd kill each other. Either way, they'd be happy together." There was more laughter.


     Remus' nose started to tickle halfway through the laughing. By the time it had built itself up to needing to sneeze, the laughter had died down and could not cover the sound. Remus sniffed lightly and pinched his nose, willing the sneeze away. "hehh... ehhh..." He pursed his lips and wrinkled his face up in concentration. Remus was determined not to sneeze through Sirius' speech. Anyone else's maybe, but not Sirius'. Slowly, the tickle died down. And when he opened his eyes only moments later, he saw Sirius giving him a soft look of sympathy and gratitude. Remus rubbed a finger beneath his nose. It had been well worth it.


     Then Sirius turned the tone solemn again. "It was a battle most worth the fight, in my opinion. Just like the one we're fighting now is." Given that there were muggles in the room, Sirius kindly kept it at that. Terror in the middle of a wedding reception didn't make the best impression. But everyone who did know about Voldemort had certainly not spent the night without thinking of him at least once.


     Sirius continued, "The naiveté of those days when Jamie and I were in diapers and tormenting our pre-school teacher with newts in her water glass, or rampaging through the hallowed halls of Hogwarts are over for us now. He's supposed to be calm and responsible now and settle down." He gave a deep sigh as though mourning the fact.


     "Except that's not how it is at all. And we wouldn't want it to be. Lily didn't fall in love with a completely calm, responsible boy. She fell in love with my best mate, the wild, troublesome albeit handsome and charming James Potter. And she of all people wouldn't want him to change." Lily beamed, smiling, nodding, and clutching James' arm tightly. Truth be told, she had looked just about as nervous over the speech as Remus was feeling, but now she seemed to be relaxed and enjoying it. This part of the ceremony was all about trust.


     "And so instead of James changing, it's the rest of us who are as we welcome our best friend's best girl into our pack. We promise to take care of you like we do our own. We promise to protect you and fight for you and yours. We promise to make sure you're happy and to keep James in line if you're not. And we promise to love you like we love each other... or as close as we can come to that, given that James will give us a good punch if we get too close." The whole room laughed hard at this, for James was already readying a fist and pushing Sirius back a little, standing between the two of them. "Welcome to our pack Lily," Sirius said softly, beneath the laughter, so that only they could hear. But Remus with his werewolf senses and Peter who was adept at reading lips, caught it too and knew why Lily was dabbing her eyes again with Peter's handkerchief. Sirius looked a bit teary-eyed as well, and had to clear his throat before raising his glass. "To Lily and James!" Then he quickly took a gulp of the champagne to close the sentiment.


     Everyone raised their glasses and echoed the sentiment, and the wedding photographer snapped photo after photo of it all. Grinning happily, Remus intended to ask for a copy of that photo. This was a memory he wanted to cherish forever. Sirius kissed Lily's cheek, then James', and caught them both in a strong hug before taking his seat beside Remus to make way for Albus Dumbledore to speak. "That was just beautiful, Siri," Remus said, cupping Sirius' chin to hold the man steady and giving him a firm kiss on the lips.


     Sirius smiled sheepishly and pulled Remus' chair close. Remus turned toward the front of the room to listen to Dumbledore, as Sirius draped his arms over from behind, holding him tightly and securely. After Dumbledore's equally moving speech, McGonagall had some words to say which were both touching and a bit stern. She left out details regarding specific pranks, but had enough reference to them that Sirius, Remus, and Peter all felt a mix of guilt and pride. The speeches went on for nearly an hour, as everyone wanted to take their turn at embarrassing and congratulating the new couple. Peter even said some words at the end, which was most surprising but most touching.


     Remus, however, stayed put and said nothing. The stuffiness had not left his nose, but he noticed, after an hour or so, that he hadn't been sneezing much at all. And he wasn't sure if it was the ample amounts of champagne that added up from drinks at each toast, or the medication, but he was feeling a bit drowsier than normal for it only being nine at night. He leaned back against Sirius, still sniffling a little. But he was warm, relaxed, and content in his lover's arms.


     When the toasts were over, he grabbed hold of Sirius' hand and pulled him up. "Dance with me?" he requested, putting on a pout until Sirius agreed. Remus led him over to the area beside the stage as the band stuck up a faster song.


     "You look like you're feeling better!" Sirius commented, over the noise of the music. "Don't sound as stuffed up." He tapped Remus' nose at the bridge.


     The man sniffed hard in response, but the look of needing to sneeze did not pass his face once. "I feel fabulous," Remus replied, grinning. "That medicine you got me really seems to be doing the trick. I don't feel allergic to anything right now!"


     Sirius grinned and hugged him as their bodies bumped and swayed in time to the music. Remus took his turn dancing with Lily next, and Sirius got James. When it was Sirius' turn with Lily, James and Remus headed over to Peter and forced him up and out of his seat. Remus walked him all the way over to the table where the now former Gryffindor girls sat along with some of Lily's muggle girl friends. Somehow Peter managed to work up the courage to ask if any of them would like to dance. As it turned out, two of them seemed to have a thing for short, chubby and self-conscious men and accepted his offer.


     By the time another slow dance came around, Remus was back in Sirius' arms, this time with no worries about accidentally sneezing on the rented tux. He held one of Sirius' hands as they swayed back and forth, trying to wear a hole in the floor as they turned slowly in place. They didn't talk much, but didn't need to. The night was winding down beautifully, and Remus was simply thankful he had been able to stick around to see it and hadn't needed to escape halfway through the toasts to the bathroom from a fit of sneezes.


     When the band moved on to its last song, Sirius looked down to find Remus almost dozing off against him. "Hey," he said softly, brushing Remus' hair from his face where it had fallen naturally. "You getting sleepy, Love?" Remus yawned and nodded, not wanting to lift his head from Sirius' chest for the world. "You're never tired this early. Must be the medicine." Remus nodded sleepily again. "Well, then, there's only one thing to do." He bent a little and reached down, then scooped the man up into his arms. Remus looked startled for a moment, then realized he was secure and Sirius was strong. Remus wrapped his arms around Sirius neck and snuggled close with a deep sigh of contentment.


     Sirius nodded goodnight to a dancing Peter, who had a girl on each arm and a head resting on each shoulder. Then he approached the happily married couple. Lily and James both gave him looks of understanding when they spotted Remus and how obviously worn out and tired he looked. James ruffled Remus' hair, then Sirius'. Sirius growled a little at it in fun. Then Sirius turned awkwardly to one side and bent his head back, able to kiss Lily without Remus getting in the way. He kissed James as well, and congratulated them both once more. He nodded goodnight on his way out to anyone and everyone else they knew, including the mass of professors who were leaving together, with the exception of Dumbledore and McGonagall who had already left together. Sirius carried Remus out of the reception room, past the honeysuckle, and up the path to the hotel.


     Their room was on the twelfth floor, and after a short lift ride up, and some fumbling with their room key, Sirius carried Remus in and set him down on the bed. "Mmmm..." Remus mumbled, finding the pillow and comforter and pawing at them sleepily in the dark.


     "Just a second," Sirius said. He eased Remus' dress shoes off, then loosened his tie and slipped that off as well. With a little more difficulty, off came the suit jacket, belt and pants, but Remus didn't seem to want to move enough for him to get the shirt off or any pajamas on. "Fine, fine," Sirius relented, pulling up the sheet and blanket and tucking them around Remus. Remus snuggled into the pillow and hugged the covers to his chest, not even bothering to open his eyes. Sirius bent over and kissed him gently, then pushed the hair back from his face. His fingertips paused against Remus' forehead, feeling an unusual amount of warmth. "Rem... are you all right?"


     He pressed the back of his hand to Remus' forehead. He hadn't been imagining it. Remus really was warm. Remus shrugged and coughed, eyes still closed, as he settled in to sleep for the night. Sirius pulled back. He knew Remus didn't like when he fussed too much over Remus' injuries and ailments. "I'm just going to get a shower and take this off before it gets any more wrinkled," Sirius told him. "I'll be back in a few. Keep the bed warm for me." Terribly sleepy, Remus still smiled and nodded.


     Sirius stripped down before going into the bathroom, leaving his shoes, bowtie, and cummerbund in the baggie they had arrived from the bridal shop in. He took off his jacket, shirt, and slacks, and hung them up in the otherwise empty closet. Socks, undershirt, and boxers were lost on the bathroom floor as the shower warmed up, filling the tiny room with steam.


     The shower, once he stepped into it, felt fantastic. Stuck in those confining clothes all day, he now felt free and comfortable. A little too free and comfortable, considering Remus wasn't in the mood for a shag. "Ah well," Sirius said, leaning against the wall as the hot water rushed over him. "Better take care of it myself then." He soaped up quickly, eager to get to the next stage of the shower but remarking to himself about how good it felt to be warm and clean. He almost did not hear the door to the bathroom open over the noise of the shower and the old metal fan that was automatically turned on when the light to the bathroom was. "Remus?" he called, rinsing off the last of the soap. "I was just about to have a wank. You want to come in and lend me a hand?"


     Silence immediately followed the offer, and Sirius pulled back the shower curtain to see Remus throwing back the lid of the toilet and getting sick. "Aw shite!" Sirius exclaimed. With one long, continuous movement, Sirius turned off the water and slid the shower curtain over to the side as he hopped out of the tub. Though dripping wet, and skidding on the tile floor, he sat down. Sirius wrapped an arm securely around Remus and petted the back of his head with his other hand.


     Remus, who was certainly no stranger to injury or illness, and who never got upset by either, was almost crying now from the pain flooding through his body. "Siri!" he gasped in between bouts of nausea, tears flowing from his eyes.


     "Hey, it's all right," Sirius said softly, stroking Remus soothingly. "I'm right here."


     Remus gulped back a sob as he bobbed his head. "I feel..." But he wasn't able to explain as he was sick again, his whole body shaking from his stomach's convulsions or his sobbing. Sirius spent the next half an hour flushing the toilet and holding Remus steady as his body moved without his authorization. He helped Remus wash his mouth out and blow his nose repeatedly into toilet paper, which was the nearest thing at hand. He took the washcloth he'd used for his own shower and rewet it with warm water before wiping Remus' face. Remus appreciated it, but could not manage to say so. Every time he opened his mouth, he got sick again. And every time Sirius held him close in a hug, trying to comfort and relax him, his stomach seized again and he had to pull away to get to the toilet in time.


     Sirius whispered reassuring sentiments throughout it all, telling Remus he was doing well, and that it would pass soon. But it didn't pass soon. His stomach continued to strain and pull at him, whether there was anything left in him or not. He shook with chills, leaning into Sirius for warmth, though naked and cold Sirius did not have much to give. Thinking quickly, Sirius pulled down one of the towels and draped it over him before wrapping his arms around again. "It's okay. It'll be all right," he whispered in time with his petting. "You just had a little too much to drink." Remus was the worst person he knew at holding his alcohol, Peter included. He thought that a glass or two of champagne hadn't really been all that much, but apparently Remus' body felt much differently.


     Remus shook his head, though. "Not... just... alcohol..." he managed, before coughing and gagging again, his stomach long since empty.


     Hours later, Remus was still at it. He outright refused to let Sirius go, clutching his hand or arm or whimpering as though in horrible pain every time Sirius made a move to go get something. "Don't leave me," he pleaded desperately, his hand squeezing Sirius' as his other steadied himself against the toilet. So Sirius stayed on the floor, naked and more than a little cold, holding Remus tightly for as long as it lasted. Every time he made a suggestion about going back to bed, Remus refused, clinging to the toilet for safety. Even when the bouts slowed, he shivered with chill and worry, and his very form demanded Sirius hug him close. Sirius, feeling awful for him, obliged, though continued to wipe his face and help him rinse his mouth.


     After a while, he leaned against Sirius completely, pulling away from the toilet. He shivered without stop until Sirius began rubbing a hand briskly up and down Remus' arm. "St-stay with me..." Remus insisted, closing his eyes weakly, still shivering a little. "Stay with me... Please, Siri."


     "I will," Sirius insisted again and again. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to take care of you." He stroked gently and pulled Remus close in a tight hug. Remus whimpered in pain to indicate Sirius' words were much easier said than done. Sirius could do nothing now but hug him tightly and hope for the best.


     "I think it might be over," he said finally, when Remus had not made a move toward the toilet for a good thirty minutes. "If I stay with you, would you like to go back to bed and get warm under the nice, cool covers?"


     Remus looked absolutely relieved at the suggestion, and nodded. Sirius helped him up. Remus' legs were shaky, and he had to lean against Sirius, but the first few steps seemed to be the worst. The next few were easier, and those after that easier still. Remus seemed to really fancy the idea of lying back down in bed, warm and restful. As he reached out for the bed, his whole body tensed up again. Sirius thought he might be getting sick to his stomach again, or even have to cough or sneezes. But, instead, Remus suddenly went limp in his arms. "Remus!" Sirius scooped him up and laid him on the bed, slapping the man's pale cheeks. "Remus, wake up!" But Remus did not stir. And his cheeks, along with his forehead, were now burning up.


     Sirius sniffed back tears. "Oh, come on. Not now, please! Not like this!" He shook Remus gently, not wanting to hurt him. They knew, working out in the front lines with Death Eaters, night after night, that at any time one of them could die. But this wasn't the way it was supposed to happen. And not tonight, not after things had just been going so well. "I just lost James to Lily, I don't want to lose you, too," he pleaded. "Just wake up, Baby?" But Remus did not stir and Sirius was really starting to panic. This wasn't just a faint. Remus wasn't waking up.


     Sirius did not know what to do. He looked around the room frantically, afraid to leave Remus alone but not knowing what else he could possibly do. Finally, his eyes fell on the muggle device he'd seen Remus use earlier that day to call Peter and arrange a time to meet downstairs as Sirius had to go down to the ceremony early to take care of James. Not that Peter would have any clue about what to do, but Sirius felt that if he could only talk with someone, anyone, they could figure out what to do. After all, they were much too far away from St. Mungo's, and Remus was in absolutely no condition to aparate anywhere, let alone over such a long distance. And if it was, as Remus claimed, not just the alcohol, Sirius couldn't imagine that a muggle hospital would be of much help either.


     Sirius picked up the telephone receiver, staring at it blankly. When he lifted it to his head, he could hear a sharp ring on one side. "Peter?" Peter was not there. Sirius stared down at the rest of the phone, he saw a series of buttons with numbers and letters. Sirius swore and wished he'd taken muggle studies. The only reason he hadn't was because he thought his parents might disown him if they caught wind of his grades and schedule. And in the end, they'd disowned him anyway. He glanced over at Remus. The man was still breathing, but taking shallow breaths. And his skin was hot to the touch. With a deep breath, Sirius pressed the buttons on the telephone to correspond with Peter's name. P-E-T-E- Before he could complete it, the ringing changed, and a woman's voice spoke to him through the receiver, telling him that he'd entered an invalid number and to press zero for help from the hotel operator. With another glance at Remus, he definitely felt help was called for. He pressed the zero key.


     The ringing changed again, and a woman answered cheerfully. "I need to talk with Peter Pettigrew! It's an emergency!" he blurted out, a little too loudly perhaps. In the silent and dark bedroom, light flooding out from the bathroom, it was hard to tell what was too loud. She said she would connect him, and the ringing sound changed yet again.


     "Who is this?" answered Peter, his voice deep and his speech slow. "I was asleep, I'll have you know."


     "Peter?" Sirius had never felt quite so relieved to hear Peter's voice. "Come quickly. Something's terribly wrong with Moony and I don't know what to do." He shut his eyes tightly, hoping Peter didn't think this was a prank of some sort.


     Sirius heard a cough, then, "Yeah, sure. I'll come right over. You want me to call Prongs?"


     Sirius shook his head, then understood Peter couldn't see him, only hear him. "No, I don't want to bother him tonight. It's his wedding night. I just need you. Now. Quick as you can."


     "Yeah, sure," Peter repeated. There was a click and yet another tone. Sirius put the phone back in its place.


     His heart was racing. He sat beside Remus, held his hand tightly and asking him over and over to wake up. Remus did not. There was a loud knock on the door that startled Sirius. He raced to it at once, throwing the door open to find Peter. "Okay, I'm here," Peter said, turning away with a deep yawn. "What's the- oh SIRIUS!" Peter clapped a hand over his eyes. "What, did you want me to watch you have sex or something kinky like that? I told you I wasn't into that." Sirius swore and ran for a bathrobe, pulling it on. "Okay, so there was that one time with you guys, but I didn't mean to make that a habit or anything."


     "No!" Sirius hissed, tying the robe closed and pointing at the bed. He crawled onto the bed, cradling Remus' head and shoulders in his arms and stroking the man's pale cheek. Remus lay there, weak and motionless, struggling to breathe. "He was sick to his stomach for hours, and then he just passed out. I haven't been able to get him to wake up."


     "Damn..." Peter whispered. He turned on the lamps in the room, then went to Remus' side, feeling his forehead, listening to his breathing. "He needs serious medical attention, Padfoot."


     Sirius nodded anxiously, his hands shaking. "Didn't know how to call the healers. Didn't know what to do. I'm going out of my mind here, Wormtail."


     Understanding, and looking equally worried, Peter suggested, "How about sending an emergency owl to the hospital? They could send some healers over right away."


     "Don't have an owl," Sirius replied. "Remy's allergic to... them." His eyes grew wide. "Do you think it could have something to do with that allergy medicine?"


     "I wouldn't rule it out," Peter replied, suddenly looking much paler as well. Sirius seemed beyond tears, beyond anger. He curled himself around Remus, breath coming in short, panicked gasps. Not liking the scene before him, Peter headed over to the phone. "I'll call Prongs--"


     "No!" Sirius cried, raising his head at once. "He's got Lily now. I want him to enjoy himself tonight. I don't want him worrying about Remus. If you and I can't do anything, he can't either."


     "He'd want to know," Peter argued. "And so would Lily."


     "This is the only honeymoon they're getting," Sirius snapped back. "Let them enjoy this one night. We don't need to tell them right away. There's got to be something we can do." His eyes grew wide again with realization. "Where are the profs staying? Did they just aparate in for the wedding or do they have rooms here like us?"


     Peter shrugged, not quite understanding. "I think Dumbledore and McGonagall just aparated over. I don't know about the--"


     "Madam Pomfrey," Sirius explained, speaking more quickly than he could remember ever doing before. "If she's still here, she'd know what to do. Show me how to use the phone, then go send an emergency owl off to St. Mungo's, all right?" Peter obeyed. He rang the front desk and found Poppy Pomfrey was indeed staying at the hotel. When the call was patched through, Peter handed it off to Sirius and ran back up to his own room. "Madam Pomfrey?" Sirius inquired when the ringing stopped and a click followed.


     "No, this is Hooch..." Apparently she still recognized the voice, though. "Sirius Black, is this one of your pranks? Because if it is--"


     "It's Remus," Sirius blurted out. "He's sick and passed out and won't wake up and I need Madam Pomfrey. We're contacting the healers but I don't know if he can wait. I don't know what's wrong with him." A year out of Hogwarts and he felt as though he were a first year again, running to the teachers and school nurse for help.


     Sirius could hear a rustling and a murmuring of voices on the phone. Then Madam Pomfrey's voice, "I'll come at once. What room are you in, Lad?"


     "Ah, twelve-forty-two," Sirius answered. The resulting click and tone told him to hang up the phone again. Sirius threw the door open and propped it in place with the wastebasket so he wouldn't have to get up to let Madam Pomfrey in. Then he jumped back onto the bed, taking Remus; limp body in his arms and cuddling him close. "Oh Remy, I'm so sorry. I should have taken you to the healers the second you started getting sick tonight." He hugged tighter. He knew Remus wouldn't have wanted to budge from his spot on the bathroom floor then, or let Sirius leave him, be Sirius really should have known then it wasn't just the alcohol. "I'd do anything to make you feel better. You know that, don't you?" Remus did not answer, and he did not move.


     Close to tears, Sirius looked up to see Madam Pomfrey's arrival. "Xio went up on the roof with her broom to meet the healers and direct them down here as quickly and subtly as possible." Sirius didn't care about the concealment of magic right now. He didn't care if the whole bloody muggle hotel knew about magic so long as Remus got better. "Now, tell me what happened," Madam Pomfrey said, as she inspected the unconscious Remus Lupin. Sirius explained in as much detail as he could remember, as Madam Pomfrey tested him for fever, and felt his pulse, which was apparently racing at an abnormally fast rate. She, too, suggested letting James and Lily know, but respected Sirius' desire to keep them happily oblivious for at least the night. And she did not believe there was anything they could do for Remus, anyway. "I think it was probably the medicine you gave him," she said, shaking her head. "But I'm afraid I don't know much about muggle medicine and wouldn't want to try to treat him and make him worse. But there are specialists at St. Mungo's who might have a better idea. Though I'm afraid very little research is done when it comes to werewolf-specific ailments." She shook her head sadly, and Sirius knew she was referring to the Ministry's latest stance on stricter werewolf registrations and regulations.


     "Can't we do something?" Sirius begged, rubbing his hand against Remus' cheek softly. "Lower his fever or... I don't know what?"


     Madam Pomfrey shook her head. "The fever is probably his body's way of trying to cope with the medicine. I wouldn't want to interfere with that. Really, Lad, there's nothing we can do until the professionals get here and take him to the hospital. But I promise you they'll do everything they can for him."


     Sirius wasn't sure whether he could believe such a promise. He felt helpless again, wishing he knew what to do, wishing he hadn't found those pills for Remus to take. If Remus wasn't all right, he'd never forgive himself. Never.


     Remus stirred not minutes later, and Sirius jumped in surprise. "Remy? Can you hear me, Love?"


     Remus' eyes fluttered open, and he stared up at Sirius blankly, not knowing who he was. "Sirius," he croaked. "I want Sirius."


     Sirius' heart fell. "I'm right here," he said, squeezing Remus' hand so tightly he was sure he could be doing injury to it. "Right here. I'm not going anywhere." Remus coughed harshly, and Sirius turned him onto his side in case it turned into more than just coughing. After the strong bout, he closed his eyes, and promptly passed out again. "Remus?" Sirius pleaded. "Open your eyes again, please?" But Remus didn't. With tears in his own eyes, he looked up at Madam Pomfrey. "What does that mean?"


     She put her hand to his chest, finding the heartbeat had quickened even more. "Sometimes people regain consciousness just before they..." She couldn't say it, and Sirius didn't want her to. He bent over Remus' body, hugging him tightly.


     He refused to let go even when the healers arrived, with Peter and Madam Hooch in tow. "We need room to work here, Son," one of them said, squeezing between Sirius and Remus as they carried him through the corridors, taking his vitals. Remus kept a tight grip on Remus' hand anyway, absolutely refusing to go separately to St. Mungo's. In the end, they let Sirius come along only after Madam Pomfrey promised to look after him and that he wouldn't be in the way. They filed into the emergency vehicle with its invisibility converter. Able to fly above trees and buildings, it was much faster than the bus or even broomsticks and made it to the hospital quite quickly.


     By the time Peter and Madam Hooch arrived separately, Remus had already been rushed down a hallway into the emergency ward and Sirius had not been allowed to follow. He had yelled and protested, but in the end, he had been told to wait outside. Being a fully qualified nurse, however, Madam Pomfrey had been allowed in, and Sirius made her promise to look after Remus. Having taken care of the boy for seven long years as well as having intimate knowledge of his condition, Madam Pomfrey agreed. She had a soft spot when it came to Remus Lupin. Peter and Madam Hooch found Sirius in the waiting area, legs spread, elbows on his knees, head hung and in his hands.


     "I'll get some coffee," Madam Hooch said, patting Peter's shoulder, then disappearing down the hallway.


     Peter approached cautiously, taking the empty seat beside Sirius and putting an arm around his back. Then he coughed and nudged one of Sirius' knees to move over and meet the other. In their haste to leave, Sirius had not dressed, and the bathrobe he wore was rather short. Peter took off his cloak and draped it over Sirius' front to hide his lack of robes, and his manhood. Sirius looked up, sniveling, then buried his head on Peter's shoulder, wrapping his arms around the man. Awkwardly, Peter patted Sirius' back. "I can still owl Prongs if you like," Peter offered. Sirius only shook his head in reply, but the message was clear enough.


     Sirius refused the coffee when Madam Hooch returned, and told her she didn't have to stay. "Nonsense!" she replied curtly and forced the coffee on him. He had to admit he felt a bit better after drinking a little of it. She'd loaded it with sugar the way Remus did in the mornings to get him to wake up.


     In the stillness of the waiting room at night, Sirius' mind strayed. The guilt was so overpowering he felt he might be sick to his stomach as well. He thought of what he'd say when he had to owl Remus' parents and tell them what had happen to their only son. He thought of the last things he'd talked about with Remus that night, the last moments they might ever share. And he thought about what the pack would be like without its alpha male. They'd fall apart, Sirius knew. It wouldn't be pretty and it wouldn't be fair. But they couldn't do it without Remus. And Sirius didn't think he could handle doing anything without Remus.


     Unable to contain himself sitting still, he got up and started pacing. He tried several times to get down the hallway to the room they'd taken Remus to, but was stopped on each occasion by an attendant, and begging did not seem to have any result each time he tried it. He felt that if he could just watch, just make sure Remus wasn't dead or being neglected because he was a werewolf, then Sirius would be all right. And so he paced, back and forth, across the long room.


     There were several rows of chairs on each side of the room, and a few chairs scattered here and there beside small side tables that held books for waiters to read. Most of the books looked as though they had never been opened. The room was quiet, almost silent in fact, as though white noise was being piped in somehow to drown out any possibility of overhearing what was happening down the hall with the patients. The lights were bright and surreal for the late hours of the night, making Sirius feel sick. His body needed rest, needed sleep, needed some way to calm itself. But there was nothing he could do for it. The coffee churned in his stomach and he wished he hadn't been forced to drink it.


     The waiting room was virtually empty for this time of night. In the emergency ward, patients were sent back immediately for healing, and there were usually few family or friends accompanying them. There was a woman with a child who stuck around for an hour, until the kid fell asleep and she carried him out. She returned alone a few hours later to check with the attendant and was let back. There was a man who was only there waiting for a few minutes before he was allowed back, and he left about an hour after that. There was a man rushed in with what looked like a manticore bite, but no one came accompanying him. "Slow night," the witch at the desk who oversaw the waiting area told Sirius, who didn't really care much. He was watching the doors that led to the hallway very intently, as though at any moment they might spring open with news of Remus.


     Sirius couldn't stand the wait. The unknown was worse than anything else. He began thinking of schemes so he could weasel his way inside. But without James and Remus to help him with ideas, he was at a loss. Sirius felt helpless and incomplete, unable to keep his stomach calm and his hands from shaking. Remus could die at any minute and he wouldn't be there, wouldn't know. Remus had made him promise to stay by his side. And now he might never wake up again to be mad at Sirius for leaving.


     Several times Peter suggested Sirius sit back down, as pacing wasn't going to help anything. But Sirius refused. He had too much nervous energy. When he sat, his legs jiggled up and down, itching to carry him down the hall to Remus. And when he tried to relax, the guilt churned in his stomach. He sat down only when his legs grew too weak to support him and his body shook from fear. But when that passed, he was right back up again to resume pacing.


     Sometime in the middle of the night, Madam Pomfrey returned to give an update. Peter was asleep in his seat, his head in Sirius' lap. Madam Hooch had taken over for Sirius in pacing for what seemed like hours on end. Remus, it seemed, was very badly off. Not that Sirius needed her to tell him that. Apparently not only had the medicine been toxic to him, but the alcohol on top of it had aggravated the condition. Alcohol and the medication were not supposed to be combined in extreme amounts, but in Remus' body it might prove fatal. Remus' whole system had not known how to cope. His body had attempted to remove the irritant first, throwing his digestive track off. But so much had already been absorbed. So, failing that, his temperature had risen and his heart started working twice as hard to deal with the problem. They were trying hard now to lower his fever, now that they knew what was wrong and that it would help. Right now they had him on some sort of potion that was supposed to help flush the toxins out, but his heart was still racing and he wasn't fighting it as hard as he needed to be. The strain on his body might do damage if he didn't pull through soon. "The next few hours will be critical," she told him. Then she turned with a yawn. "Do you want me to go back in again, Dear?"


     Sirius shook his head and mumbled something about not needing to. This news did not sit well with Sirius at all. Passing Peter off to Madam Hooch, he raced for the bathroom. Madam Pomfrey had said there was no way he could have known. But Sirius knew he should have studied the package first. He shouldn't have been so quick to find Remus a solution. The man was unable to take wizard remedies; even Pepper-up potion was no good. How could he possibly have thought muddle medicine would agree with him? The least he could have done was to ask Madam Pomfrey. She'd only been a few tables away and could have anticipated the problems. But, no, he had to insist they'd do Remus good. And it seemed they had for a time. But now they might kill him.


     "Sirius?" came a timid voice.


     Sitting on the bathroom floor, legs curled up to his chest, Sirius did not move. "Go away, Wormtail," Sirius replied, burying his head in his knees to avoid having to look at Peter. He could hear his friend's footsteps growing nearer.


     Then Peter sat down beside him and kissed the side of his head. "It's okay to be scared," Peter said, his voice trembling a little. "I know all about being scared. You might say I'm a professional at it. And it's okay. Because Remus is a professional at being strong. He was turned into a werewolf when he was just a little kid, and if he could fight that then, he can surely fight this now. He'll come out of it all right. And you've got the rest of us to be strong for you."


     Sirius lifted his head, angry tears in his eyes. Peter opened his arms and let Sirius fall against his chest, and there was a lot of chest for him to fall against. He wrapped his arms around Sirius comfortingly as the man began sobbing. "It will be okay," Peter soothed him.


     Sirius recalled only hours earlier that night when he had been sitting on the bathroom floor, holding Remus, whispering the same sorts of reassuring comments. Remus had believed him then because he had to. And now Sirius found he had no other choice but to believe Peter.


     When the tears had passed, not so much from calming but because he was dehydrated and simply couldn't cry any more, he let Peter take him back to the waiting area. He curled up on two of the seats. Madam Pomfrey and Madam Hooch had fallen asleep against each other a few seats down. But Peter sat next to Sirius, petting him gentle, soothingly, determined to stay awake a little longer if he could.


     Sirius fell asleep after a long while, but kept waking up with a jolt, scared that he might miss some vital piece of information. And because he didn't feel exactly comfortable sleeping in the middle of an open room. He could have used a fag pretty badly to calm his nerves, but refused to leave the area just in case word came and he wasn't there to hear it. He nodded off to sleep because his body told him he was exhausted. But he woke back up minutes, if not seconds, later because he didn't want to miss something. And because he really didn't feel as though he could relax, when Remus might be dying down the hallway. He wanted to be with him, and he refused to relax until he was by Remus' side, well or not.


     Early in the morning, Sirius woke to a healer hovering over him. Sirius saw that the others were still asleep and went when the healer beckoned him forth. "What's wrong? How's he doing? Is he still alive? When can I see him?" Sirius blurted out as they headed down the hall.


     "He'll make a full recovery," the healer said, once the questions had ceased. Sirius felt a weight lift off his chest, but wasn't completely ready to relax entirely at those words. "But he says he's not feeling so well still. And to tell you the truth, he should stay here for at least a week to be sure there's no problem--"


     Sirius grabbed the man by the robe, his eyes wide. "I'm sorry, did you say 'he says'?" The man nodded. "You mean he's awake?" Sirius' heart was fluttering. Not only awake, but able to talk and understand questions. This was more than he'd hoped for right off the bat.


     "He's still very tired, and we want to give him something to help him sleep more so his body can heal itself. But he keeps asking for you and I think it's best for his health if you're there."


     Sirius nodded and quickened his pace as they headed down the hallway. He could hear commotion from the last room off the hall, and recognized Remus' voice. "I told you. Don't want that until Sirius gets here!" came a loud yell. Sirius was nearly running by this time. He threw open the door to find Remus in bed, covers in tangles, and two healers standing around him, one with a smoking goblet in hand. Remus froze, looking into Sirius' eyes. "You said you were going to stay with me, Pads." Sirius felt the guilt rise up in him again, but then Remus smiled. "Guess I can forgive you, considering you helped save my life." His voice was terribly soft and weak now.


     Sirius rushed over to him, grabbing the man in a tight hug. "I'm so sorry," he sobbed, trying to restrain himself but not doing a very good job of it. There relief of Remus being alive and awake was too great. His body seized up, his arms around Remus hard as he shook a bit to release the tension. A bit winded, Remus coughed, and Sirius pulled away a little, though grabbing the man's hand. "Sorry about the pills. About the alcohol. About everything."


     Remus shook his head. He looked terribly pale and tired still, and was still rather warm to the touch. But if he could joke about this, things weren't quite as bad as they could have been. Still, Remus was the type to joke about how he felt rather than worry his friends about it. "Not your fault." His voice was firm, but very weak, as though it took him much energy just to form the words. He lifted his heavy hand and set it on Sirius' head, rubbing roughly to ruffle the man's hair. "I'm the one who took it. I'm the one who said anything was better than sneezing my head off." They could both easily agree now that sneezing was quite preferable to this.


     Sirius nuzzled him affectionately. "Oh, Remus. I thought you were going to leave me..."


     Remus shook his head. "Can't get rid of me that easily." He coughed heavily again. His whole body shook hard when he coughed, as though he had no strength at all to hold himself steady.


     Sirius held him close to keep him from shaking too much, and because he couldn't stand to be separated from Remus again. Just touching him again was as though magic was coursing between them. Relieved, he began rambling, "Promise I won't leave you again. I was going mad without you. How are you feeling? You look... I mean, you sound... actually..." He sounded terrible, and looked even worse.


     "I feel tired," Remus admitted. Each word he spoke seemed to take effort he was trying not to show Sirius. "And a bit shaky. A bit off everywhere, really. They say I could have died. Guess compared to that..." Sirius nodded with understanding. "They kept telling me they had to run more tests before you could come back here with me. I knew you would be going mad not knowing." Remus knew him too well.


     Sirius smiled in reply. "I was. We all were."


     Remus looked suddenly concerned. "James and Lily?"


     "No. Didn't want to disturb them tonight. Not until I knew one way or the other at least. I called Peter and then Madam Pomfrey and Madam Hooch."


     "Good," Remus sighed. Then he looked up at one of the healers. "Can you go tell them I'm all right?" The healer said he would and headed out right away to do so.


     "Oh, Remus. So glad you're all right," Sirius said, snuggling him close. His face nestled against Remus' cheek and neck, he took in the man's warmth and scent, cherishing it. Remus' mere presence was overwhelming now, when only minutes ago Sirius had thought it possible Remus might be dead. "Oh, my Remus..." Sirius felt a tear in his eye, and sniffled. He did not want to lift his head and show Remus his tears.


     "Now don't get sentimental and weepy on me again," Remus said softly, turning his head with all the strength he had to place a kiss on Sirius' face. "I promise I will get better soon. I know I don't sound or look it quite yet."


     Sirius shook his head. Remus did look awful. Bags under his eyes, bloodshot eyes, face so pale, cheeks flushed. He looked like it was paining him to just force his eyes to stay open. And yet, he'd never looked quite to good to Sirius' eyes. "You're so beautiful to me, Remus Lupin." He kissed back, tasting the residuals of some sort of minty medicine.


     Remus kissed back, then he pulled away again. His body shook with harsh coughs, then he gave a hard yawn.


     "Now will you please take this?" One of the healers asked, handing over the goblet. "It's just to help him relax and sleep while his body rests," the healer explained to Sirius.


     "I can stay with him, can't I?" Sirius asked concernedly. He felt Remus squeeze his hand tightly. Remus didn't seem like he would let go, no matter what the healers' answer was.


     "Of course you may," the first healer told him. Apparently they had realized the quickest way to making Remus feel better was through Sirius. And even though the man was well enough to make light of his situation, Sirius could tell he was really hurting much more than he let on. Sirius climbed up onto the hospital bed like he used to do in the hospital ward at Hogwarts the morning after Remus' transformations, and cuddled Remus to him. Remus drank down the potion, and was able to get a fleeting look into Sirius' eyes before falling asleep again, relaxing happily this time in Sirius' arms.


     The healers explained that he might have trouble moving for the next few days. His body had taken quite a hit and he might need help with basic things like feeding himself and walking. They said they would have to give him treatments every day to be sure the toxins were leaving him entirely. They said they'd need to come in every hour and check his heart rate and temperature. But they also said that Sirius could stay. And that was enough for Sirius. He knew Remus would be able to get through anything now, and he was going to make sure he did everything he could to help Remus recover. He fell asleep, exhausted and relieved, and finally able to sleep soundly.


     Sirius woke to a soft murmur of voices. He forced his eyes to open and saw James and Lily standing over him. Sirius quickly checked to be sure Remus was all right. He was still a bit warm, but breathing steadily. "What time is it?" Sirius asked sleepily, trying to wake himself up a little by talking.


     "Early yet," Lily replied. "Not quite eight-thirty."


     Sirius rolled his eyes. He hadn't been awake so early since his days at Hogwarts. He couldn't remember ever feeling quite so tired back in Hogwarts, either. Even after staying out all night under the full moon. His whole body ached for more sleep, and it was a struggle just to keep his eyes open.


     "How is he?" James asked nervously. "The healers wouldn't really tell us much and Peter didn't know much either."


     "He'll be fine," Sirius whispered, matching James' volume. He knew, with what they had given Remus, that the man was not going to wake any time soon. But he didn't want to risk it. Remus needed all the sleep he could get. "He's pretty weak still, and they say he'll have to stay here for at least a week in case his condition worsens. But Rem's a fighter. He'll pull through all right." James, who had one arm wrapped around Lily's waist, sighed with relief. Lily seemed equally relieved at the news. Sirius knew precisely how they felt. "Yeah, I... wait, what are you two doing here?" he asked, suddenly startled.


     "Peter owled us first thing this morning," James explained. "His letter said you told him not to owl us at night, so he waited until the morning."


     Sirius rolled his eyes again. "Cheeky bugger. I told him I didn't want to disturb you."


     "The letter said," James went on. "That you'd taken Remus to the hospital, that he might be dying, and to bring clothes if we decided to stop by." James held up a suitcase in each hand. It looked like he'd cleaned out their hotel room and brought everything along.


     Sirius smirked. Yes, that sounded like Peter, all right. "Well, the emergency medi-wizards took him to the hospital, actually. Turns out he came close to dying but he'll be all right. And thanks for the clothes. We do need them. We left in a sort of hurry."


     "You could have called us," James said. "You should have called us. Do you think we wouldn't have come with? We came over this morning the second we found out. Well, after we got your clothes and checked you out of the hotel and dropped the rental off at the store."


     Sirius smiled. He was ready to take back that statement he'd made the day before about James not being responsible. "Look, I wanted you two to enjoy your night together. And there was nothing you could have done for Remus. They wouldn't even let me back here most of the night. I just didn't want to worry you until we knew for sure... it was your honeymoon."


     James, looking slightly angry, started to protest, but Lily laid a hand on his chest. "James, would you go get us some coffee, please?" she asked so sweetly, that James sighed and nodded. He promptly left, but not before glaring at Sirius one last time. When he'd gone, Lily shut the room door behind him. "Don't worry about James," she said, walking over. "He was a little distraught when he found out this morning. I think he blamed himself."


     Sirius certainly knew that feeling intimately.


     "Now," she held up Sirius' suitcase. "How about getting into some clothes?" She handed him over some clothes. He pulled the boxers on under the bathrobe, then slipped on a clean shirt and jeans. He had to admit he felt much better afterwards as he lay back down on the bed and let Remus snuggle against him. Lily sighed, shaking her head. "Sirius, Sirius, Sirius..."


     "I didn't want to ruin your night with James," he insisted. "There's nothing you could have done for Remus anyway."


     "Maybe not," she said, walking over to the bed and combing through his hair with her hand. It hadn't been combed after he emerged from the shower, and a night of frantic running about and sleeping oddly made his hair sit every which way, much like James' only longer. "But we could have done things for you. We could have taken care of you and made sure you put on clothes. We could have helped you hound the healers for information. James could have got his invisibility cloak so you could sneak down the hall and watch over Remus for a little bit."


     Sirius looked up and into her beautiful green eyes. She was more of a Marauder than he thought. No wonder James fancied her so much. "But Lils--"


     She shook her head. "Sirius, when you gave that speech yesterday about welcoming me into your pack, it wasn't just nice words. It meant something."


     "Course it did," he agreed.


     "Well it's not just about you all accepting me and taking care of me, you know. Though I certainly do appreciate that. It's also about me being able to take care of you all, too. That's what a pack does, doesn't it? And if I'm one of you then you damn well better believe I wanted to be here last night with you and Peter doing everything I could to help." Sirius started to speak, but Lily cut him off again. "There are only a handful of people I would leave my marriage bed for. But you and Remus and Peter are three of them."


     Sirius flushed a little. "I'm sorry I didn't ring you, then. But I am still glad I didn't make you worry all night long when it turns out things will be all right." He lifted an arm in offering.


     Lily smiled and went to him, hugging him tightly. When she pulled back, she poked him in the stomach. "Well, Sirius Black. When I'm pregnant and going through labor I intend to make you sit out in the waiting room all day and night worrying until I deliver. So don't think twice about it next time, all right?"


     He nodded, grinning, and wondering if James and Lily had spent the night talking about having babies. He and Remus sometimes talked about it, and they couldn't even have children. So he assumed it might be a topic of conversation straight couples have on their wedding nights. "So there might be a little Jamie or Lils running around here in nine months?"


     Lily laughed and kissed his cheek. "Might be safer to say ten or eleven months."


     "Just give me a good heads-up so I can reserve a spot in the waiting room. That second row of chairs is much more comfortable than the first, I've found." He rubbed the back of his neck.


     Remus stirred and opened his eyes slowly. A smile crept onto his face when he opened them to find Sirius still lying beside him. "Morning," he whispered weakly.


     Sirius kissed his forehead hard, then smoothed his hair back from his face. "You look tired. Don't you want to go back to sleep?"


     Remus shook his head, though he did close his eyes and nuzzle his face into Sirius' chest. "Thirsty," he whispered.


     James returned just then with three coffees. Lily took them from him, then pushed him back out the door to get a cup of ice chips.


     Eyes closed, Remus smiled. "James and Lily are here. Heard their voices."


     "Mmmhmm," Sirius nodded, looking up at Lily, who slipped out of the door after James to give them a little privacy. "Peter owled them this morning."


     Remus seemed to understand. "Wanted them to have fun. But glad they came."


     "Course they did," he said, still smoothing out Remus' hair and then holding his hand to the man's forehead to help lower the fever.


     "You all right?" Remus asked concernedly.


     Sirius chuckled. "Yeah, Moony. I'm just fine." Sickly and pale, barely able to keep his eyes open, and yet Remus was still most concerned with Sirius' welfare.


     James brought the ice chips and a spoon, and Sirius carefully fed them to Remus, one by one. James stuck by Sirius' side more than Lily's, wanting to be helpful, wanting to be near him. Wanting to show that he wasn't going anywhere and was still Sirius best friend, marriage or not. Sirius appreciated it and held his hand for a while in support.


     Peter came in not long after to say Madam Pomfrey and Madam Hooch had left to catch the train to Hogsmede before classes started for the day. He carried with him the morning edition of The Daily Profit and he and Lily took turns reading the few stories they could find not attached to death and destruction or possible evil activity. Remus didn't make it through the first four before falling asleep against Sirius' chest, breathing normally once again.


     One of the healers or assistant healers popped in every hour like clockwork to check on Remus. One brought a few trays of breakfast, which amounted to rolls with jam and lots of tea. Remus was to be kept on a strictly liquid diet until his stomach could be trusted to hold down food, so no one woke him as they ate and remarked that it might be worth spending a week in hospital just for the breakfasts.


     No one talked much about what happened. Even James and Lily, who seemed eager to know the details, didn't ask about it. They knew Sirius wasn't ready to go through it again, and Peter seemed back to his normal scared and jumpy self when important things were concerned. Instead, James and Lily regaled them all with tales of some of the horrible wedding presents they'd received. Along with the standard gravy dish and picture frames were a set of matching purple wizard robes with hideous yellow polka dots, a giant door made out of faux glass from Moody, and a fake stuffed unicorn head that talked incessantly when you rubbed its horn. "Had to stuff one of the socks Dumbledore gave us in its mouth to make it quiet down," James added, which made them all laugh.


     Remus woke periodically, and requested more water. Several times he fell asleep before James or Peter could get back with water or ice. In the late morning, they were trying to convince Peter that it was all right for him to leave to clear out of his hotel room as well, when an attendant poked her head in, off schedule. "And how's everyone doing?" she asked, looking over the group. It was general policy not to have so many visitors for so long, but given that Remus seemed to be able to sleep more when they were there, none of the healers dared remove them quite yet. "You've had a number of well wishers send their regards, Mister Lupin," she told them. Remus smiled weakly. He hadn't expected anything of the sort, especially since the people he cared about most were already with him. His parents had said they would be by in the afternoon, which was the fastest they could get there from their vacation in Romania. The attendant brandished a whole stack of messages and a small vase of flowers someone had sent to cheer up Remus' room.


     They all looked at it for a second in horror before shouting "No!" James jumped up and intercepted it before it could get more than a foot into the room, and Lily began fanning the air to keep the fragrance back. By the time they'd managed to explain the problem to the attendant, they were all laughing again, Remus most of all.