Title: Deadly Medicine

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter

Rating: PG

Parings: Sirius/Remus (minor smarm only)

Spoilers: Read the third and fourth books... there's not much point to this otherwise

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter. I write this only in fun and mean no harm. Well, maybe a little harm, but it's only a temporary cold. Nothing lasting.

Summary: This is inspired by Gayle's wonderful suggestion, not my own genius! *G* Sirius is staying with Remus the summer after book 4, and comes down with a little cold. With Remus away, Dumbledore asks Snape to look after Sirius.


Chapter 1- Saying Goodbye

Chapter 2- Roasting Marshmallows

Chapter 3- Caring Reluctantly

Chapter 4- First Attempt

Chapter 5- Dinner Time

Chapter 6- Midnight Memories

Chapter 7- Feverish Fits

Chapter 8- Second Attempt

Chapter 9- Not-so-fond Remembrances

Chapter 10- Baby Steps

Chapter 11- Third Attempt

Chapter 12- One Big Happy Family



Chapter 1- Saying Goodbye


     "I've got ten minutes," Remus muttered, tucking his father's gold pocket watch back into his robes.


     "Are you sure you packed everything you need?" Sirius asked softly, standing, pacing over, wrapping his arms around Remus from behind. "You don't want to look silly having to apparate back for your toothbrush."


     Remus chuckled. "I've got all of that." He turned, twisting in Sirius' arms. "I just wish I could take you with me as well." He ran his hand through Sirius' hair on one side, the cupped his hand around Sirius' chin, ushering it towards his own. He turned his head, closed his eyes, and planted a soft, closed-mouth kiss on Sirius.


     Sirius pulled back, sniffling. "I don't want you getting sick," he said sheepishly, letting Remus go, turning his head away as he rubbed hard at his tickling nose.


     Remus' eyes widened and his eyebrows raised. "Are you sure you will be all right while I'm gone?"


     With a nod and smile, Sirius waved his hand to dismiss the worry. "It's just a bit of a sniffle. The least of our problems, I promise." He paused, raising the dismissive hand to his face. "uhhChhooo! ehhChahh!"


     "Blesses," Remus leaned in and kissed Sirius' cheek. "Just a sniffle?" he inquired, looking worried.


     "And a few sneezes... they come with the sniffles," he said, forcing a smile. "Package deal." How silly this goodbye sounded. He wished they could just start over again. Without the mention of his head cold, perhaps. He sniffled and Remus took a tissue from his pocket. Remus wiped at Sirius' nose, and then kissed it tenderly. Sirius tried his best to think of something wonderful to say as Remus tended to him. But all he could manage was, "Take care of yourself, Remus." He wanted to go with, as a lover, as a friend, as a dog, it didn't matter.


     The tight grip on his arm told Remus so much. He could feel the man's pain, his need, his desire to do as much for Remus as for the cause. His voice was soft as he carefully pried Sirius' fingers from his arm and linked hands. Trembling hands. "Take care of yourself, too," he answered, closing his eyes and wetting his lips. Sirius' met his in a moment in a soft kiss which ended much too soon. "I'll send an owl when it's safe. Contact Dumbledore if there are problems. He'll know how to reach me."


     "ehhhChehhh! EhhChoo!" He cupped his hand over mouth and nose, looking slightly embarrassed, his eyes darting around the room for a tissue box though they both knew the only two in the house were both located in the bedroom. With a few heavy sniffles, a throat clearing, and a swipe of his hand against his slacks, Sirius spoke, "Goodbye, Remus. I'll see you in about a week." Then, sniffling with the back of his hand pressed to his nose. "Don't worry about me. I'll be all right. You just come home to me safe and sound." He gave his nose a fierce rubbing and sniffed again wetly.


     Remus looked skeptical, but in the end he went on time and as planned, leaving Sirius very alone for the first time since he was on the run. Of course, he still had Buckbeak, but the hippogriff was out in the back shed and it wasn't really the same. "heh-EhhhChuhhhh! uhhhCheeew!" Still sniffling madly, he headed into the bedroom for the warmth of the covers and to sooth his nose with the tissues waiting for him.




Chapter 2- Roasting Marshmallows


     The firelight crackled brightly that night in Dumbledore's study. Its light danced merrily about the many glass-paneled display cases. Shadows of the strange and wonderful items showcased hopped about as though in tune to the soothing cracks and hisses of the flames. And though it was the middle of summer and terribly hot and balmy out, the fire still looked welcoming and alluring as though it were a lone light in the middle of winter. And Dumbledore sat in front, leaning forward, his back to the door, though he was quite well aware of his new visitor. "Do come in, Severus," he called.


     Snape shut the door behind and proceeded to the armchair by the fire and beside Dumbledore. Only now could he see Dumbledore clearly and only now noticed the absurdity which presently accented the rather eccentric wizard. "You called for me, Headmaster?"


     Dumbledore nodded, holding up a wand with two marshmallows skewered at one end. "I did indeed. I'm sorry, would you like one?"


     "No. Thank you, I'll pass." Snape narrowed his eyes. "That cannot possibly be any good for your wand," he said as Dumbledore moved it towards the fire.


     But Dumbledore only smiled. "It is one of Fred and George Weasley's fake wands. Observe." He flicked the wand as if to cast a spell, and the end shot towards the fire, extending so that the marshmallows were just above the flame though he remained a safe distance away. "Perfect for this sort of use, wouldn't you say?"


     "Ah," Snape said uncomfortably, pulling a face slightly at the thought of the Weasley twins. It was bad enough putting up with the two in class during the school year; he wanted simply to forget about them while on holiday. Then, coldly, thinking of all the things he could be doing just then, "You said it was an urgent matter of utmost importance Headmaster?"


     The elderly wizard gave a nod. "Yes, I'm rather afraid it is." He sighed and pulled the marshmallows back with another jerk of the wand. Slowly, he slid the first off, eating it in one mouthful. He offered the second to Snape, who refused again. Dumbledore ate the second in a few bites, off the wand. Then, suddenly, he began with explanation. "A friend of mine is suffering from a slight affliction and could use a good batch of Pepperup Potion. As Poppy Pomfrey is currently away on an assignment for me, I wish to enlist you for the job. You are the most skilled at potions, and while it has simple affects, it is a quite complicated and time consuming mixture."


     "I'll get right on it," Snape said with a nod and a smile at the comment about his skills.


     "I'm afraid, that isn't all I must ask," Dumbledore continued after the last bite of the golden-brown marshmallow. "This friend is currently alone, and in need of some care. I would do so myself, but I cannot spare the time from other very pressing projects. And as there are only a few people who know of his current whereabouts and existence for that matter... I would be most grateful if you would stay with him at least until the potion is ready and administered." To Snape's uncertain look, "It would be a personal favor. I am very worried about him."


     Snape shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The desperation in Dumbledore's voice was enough to make his head nod. "Of course, Headmaster. I understand. I will do all that I can." Then, he cleared his throat. "Might I inquire as to who this friend is?"


     "You might," Dumbledore spoke, taking another marshmallow out of the bag and offering it to Snape, who again refused, before eating it without roasting. It seemed he was waiting for something, and he did not have to wait long.


     "hehhUhshhh! EhhChushhhh!" The sound echoed through the quiet office at once, and Snape stiffened at it, and the resulting sniffles and coughs. They sounded almost familiar.


     He stood, turned towards the actual office portion of the office where Dumbledore's desk sat surrounded by shelves of books, telescopes, and a number of other magical devices. Sitting in the squashy chair in front of the desk was a tall man with ragged black hair. Then man turned, his face caught in the firelight, and sniffled.


     Snape breathed out heavily as the look of recognition passed over his face. "You!" he exclaimed, then shot a distressed look at Dumbledore. A promise was a promise, but how could be possibly be expected to keep this one when it was this man? "Not Black! But he--"


     "Remus Lupin and the others are away on a mission for me for a week at least. You are the only one I trust to make the potion properly, and I have complete confidence you will manage as well with it as with the Wolfsbane last year. You are only one of a handful who know about Sirius. Sirius sent me an owl this morning requesting my services. And in his present situation, I could not refuse." His services as Headmaster included all that were at his disposal, and that certainly included Snape.


     "Yes, but Headmaster, it is Black." Before Dumbledore even tried to respond to that obvious statement, Snape continued, agitated, "Headmaster, you cannot possibly be serious in this request. Sirius Black tried to kill me!"


     Dumbledore nodded calmly, "And had he tried harder and succeeded you would not be here to provide this favor and kindness to him today."


     Snape gritted his teeth. He was stuck, bound by his word. "The favor was not made to him," he spat, "but to you."


     With another nod, "It is so noted." He stood with a crack and light groan of fatigue. "Now, as the hospital wing is currently under magical renovation this month, you cannot stay there. As I see things, you have two options. First, Sirius can stay in your room Severus, in your bed, until the potion is administered and he is feeling well again."


     Snape's eyes flashed with rage. "No. That most certainly not an option; not even a remote possibility." He certainly did not want Sirius Black anywhere near his office, let alone sleeping in his bed.


     "uhhhChuhhhh! ehhhCHooo! uhhChewww!" Snape looked back at Sirius, annoyed and frustrated and holding back his rage. How dare he catch cold! Who caught cold in the middle of summer, anyway? He wouldn't have thought it possible to hate Sirius Black any more than he already did, but suddenly, here it was. His hand, hidden by the folds of his robes, clenched into a tight fist.


     "Bless you, Sirius," Dumbledore called, his voice still calm and almost monotonous. "The other option is for you both to go back to Remus' cabin."


     Snape's lip twitched. "I'll sleep on the floor before I lower myself to stay in the bed he and Remus share."


     Sirius laughed, coughed, and laughed some more. "Don't fool yourself, Severus. He and I shag on the floor just as much."


     "That's it!" Snape called, snapping to his feet and raising the tightly clenched fist in anger.


     "Gentlemen," Dumbledore said, standing as well, holding hands up to silence them both, though both their expressions showed they were about to explode. "This will be an excellent chance for the two of you to put your hostilities towards each other behind you. It was a long, long time ago since the two of you were students in this school. Perhaps this will help you see that it is better to live with our faults and forgiveness than not to live at all." Snape resisted the urge to roll his eyes though Sirius, who was far enough away, did not resist doing just that.


*                      *                      *


     For a few brief moments at the beginning of their journey out of the castle, Snape thought about simply doing Sirius in. But the moments were so fleeting and overwhelmed by his promise to Dumbledore that though they walked in silence, they left each other alive. And that, they both knew, was a start. Sirius went as a dog, of course, as they headed out through Hogsmede and beyond to a safe point where they could apparate to Remus' cabin unseen.


     "Ihshhh! Ehshhhhh!" Sirius the dog sneezed, stopping in his tracks as they reached the safe point and turning his head down at the force.


     Snape shivered in disgust and gritted his teeth. "Couldn't you have the decency to cover your nose at least?"


     The dog looked up at him with big black eyes and growled rather viciously. It gave a glance around to be sure they were alone and well hidden. In a flash, he turned back into a man, glaring at him with the same expression. "I know your idea of common sense is a bit off, but how many times have you seen a dog use a handkerchief?"


     Snape turned, staring him down as well, dark eyes flashing venomously. "So long as you use one when you're around me."


     Sirius leaned forward, so his nose, a little pinked at the nostrils, nearly touched Snape's obnoxiously large one. Slowly, he warned, "Careful, Severus. Or you might *catch something*." He sniffed pointedly, and began to grin when Snape pulled back, instinctively startled.


     Realizing he was in no danger, Snape leaned back in to make himself look as superior as he felt. "Try it, Black, and I'll have you on your back."


     A wide grin spread over Sirius' face. "You should be so lucky." His eyes shot down to Snape's crotch and then back up again with the sexual implication. Then he vanished.


     Snape gave an angry groan of frustration, followed Sirius' example, and apparated to Remus' place.





Chapter 3- Caring Reluctantly


     "Severus?" Sirius stumbled into the kitchen where Snape was hard at work over a cauldron, surrounded by a dozen little bottles and tins of things.


     The greasy-haired wizard turned, eyes narrowing. "What do you want?"


     Sirius clung to the doorframe for support, shivering in his t-shirt and flannel pants. "I'm feeling kind of cold."


     The Slytherin rolled his eyes. "I'm not surprised, you're not even wearing socks and you're running a fever. Now get back under the covers where it's warm and stop pestering me." He waved a ladle towards Sirius in a 'go away' sort of gesture.


     Sirius shivered again, his fingers tensing against the wood as a few droplets of whatever Snape was working on splattered on Remus' otherwise extraordinarily clean kitchen floor. But instead of going, he sniffled and coughed. His throat was rough and raw, his nose hurt when he rubbed at it, and the fever was making him do things he wouldn't have normally considered. Such as asking Severus Snape for something. So he took a deep breath. "Can you make me a cup of hot tea?"


     Snape looked as though such a thing was beneath a great potions master like himself. He thought of telling Black to make it himself. But after a few moments of silence, he nodded. "Fine," he growled. "At least then you'll stay out of my kitchen."


     Remus' kitchen. His fingers tightened again, then relaxed as his head swam. Maybe it was the fever, or maybe it was just the present company. "That's the idea," Sirius replied, looking very much as though he had no intention to stay in the same room as Snape. Snape ushered him back to bed, keeping his distance but being insistent. Sirius had the urge to call something out like 'Thank you' but bit his tongue before the words could get out fully, so the result was a bit of a "Th-" cut off by some coughing afterwards. And when the coughing was over and he had snuggled back under the covers, he was very glad not to have said it.


     His throat was raw and hurt when he swallowed. That had been the first sign of the cold the day before. The second sign had been Remus shaking him awake to stop his snores, then looking into his mouth with the wand light and giving that little frown he always wore when things were too serious to talk about. Sirius sighed, rolling over onto his back with another cough and sneezes. "uhhhChishhh! uhhhCheww! EhhChuhhh!" He rubbed at his nose, sniffling terribly.


     "Here," Snape said upon his return, forcing the cup of steaming hot tea at him.


     A bit sloshed over the rim, burning Sirius' hand and he pulled back with a yelp. At that moment, Snape let go of the cup, assuming Sirius already had it in hand. The tea spilled and Sirius yelled, rolling off the bed, the cup shattering into pieces beneath him on the floor. "Are you trying to kill me?" Sirius asked, picking himself up, wincing at the pain.


     Snape grinned. "Why, if I'd known it was so easy, I would have tried that earlier." Sirius swore. Snape pulled out his wand. "Let me heal that," he suggested.


     "No!" Sirius jumped up, bringing the wet blanket with him for cover. "Don't you aim that bloody thing at me for any reason!" He pulled out his own wand and shot a spell at himself. An area of his chest glowed white, then the burning vanished altogether. It still tingled with heat, but it certainly felt much better. With a sigh, he relaxed back onto the edge of his bed with the blanket.


     Still Snape held his wand up, aimed towards Sirius. He opened his mouth, and Sirius dove again for cover on the ground, beneath the blanket. But all Snape did was utter a spell to reassemble the cup. Then, he nearly doubled up in laughter as he picked the cup up from the floor, watching Sirius start to relax. "You thought I was going to do you in, didn't you?" He laughed, hand on his chest.


     Sirius swore again as he settled back down into the bed, covering himself with the covers. They were tangled and sideways and Sirius fought to right them. He felt cold, but was sweating terribly as he struggled weakly.


     "Oh, stop being such a baby." Shaking his head in frustration at the sight, Snape reached down and untangled them with a shake from the corner onward. The blankets fell over Sirius fully, warmly. He started to head back to the kitchen.


     "ehhChew! Chooo! Cheshooo!" He paused, hand hovering in front of his face as his head bobbed up and down slightly with heavy breaths. "HEHchhhh!" he sneezed finally. He wiped his hand off on the blanket and called out to the retreating back. "Severus?"


     Snape stopped and looked back, over his shoulder.


     "Could you get be sobe bore tea?"


     One side of Snape's lip curled. But he nodded, as though agreeing in words would be detrimental.


     "With lebod," Sirius snuffled, calling after him.


     Snape looked back again. "Excuse me?" he sneered, making fun of Sirius' congestion.


     "Lebod," Sirius repeated to no avail. "hehUhshhhh! uhhChushhhh!" He pulled a wrinkled wad of handkerchief out and gave his nose a honk. "Lemon," he tired again. "And honey, too."


     Snape flinched as though the word 'honey' were somehow morally offensive to him. But he nodded again and left quickly before there could be any further requests. This time, when he returned, he was careful to hold onto the mug until Sirius gripped it tightly and nodded.


     Sirius took a sip and coughed. "The flavor is a bit stronger than Remus makes it."


     Snape sighed and rolled his eyes. "Well, I'm not Remus, am I?"


     "Good thing," Sirius replied with a smile of his own. "I wouldn't go to bed with you for... a million.... galleons... uhhCheeew! uhhChushhhh! Chhhuhhh!"


     Snape snorted. He opened his mouth to say one of any hundred snazzy come-backs to that, then he thought twice. Instead, he simply smiled and shook his head. "You must be sick if that's the best you can do." He headed for the door, calling back, "Finish your tea and go to bed. I don't want you bothering me for a long time." He strode from the room, black robes billowing behind as he went.


     Despite his hatred for the man, the words did make sense. He drank the tea down as quickly as possible for its temperature, then snuggled up in the blankets and pillows that smelled like Remus even to his stuffy nose, and fell to sleep.


*                      *                      *


     "Severus?" Sirius woke several hours later. "Severus?" Sirius called from his bed where he had tucked himself securely beneath the covers in a little pocket of warmth. When no footsteps announced the wizard's approach, he lifted his head, sniffling with a finger rubbing beneath his nose, and called again. "Severus?"


     Snape appeared in the doorway, spoon in hand. "If you do not stop calling for me like a helpless invalid, I just won't bother to make this potion for you." Sirius knew it was an empty threat and waited while rubbing his finger against his nose still. Truth was, the first unexpected call had made Snape accidentally drop an owl pellet in prematurely. The whole potion has turned a sickly olive color, burbled, then sat on the low grade fire, ruined and useless. He would need to start over completely. "What do you need?" Snape asked, looking down at him with a look of repulsion.


     He looked back with pouting puppy dog eyes. "By dose is ruddig. Could you get be adother hadkerchief?"


     Snape sighed, gesturing towards the dresser. "There's a fresh stack right there."


     Sirius snuggled deeper into the blankets, sniffling. "Could you get ode for be? I'b feelig a little dizzy."


     Narrowing his eyes, Snape pulled the blankets down a little. "Come off it, Black. You're not dizzy, you're just lazy and you want to see me jump through your little hoops. Now go get one yourself."


     Sirius tightened into himself and shook with shivers. "heh-UhhChhhhhh! Ihhchhhooo! ehhChuhhhh!" His body shook weakly with the sneezes he only barely managed to cover. He sniffled wetly and ran his hand beneath his nose. "Severus... I really deed a hakey... blease..." He closed his eyes and turned his face into the pillow more as if in pain.


     Snape sighed heavily and retrieved one, tossing it at him. "There. Now stop calling me or I'll never get this potion done. And the sooner I get it done, the sooner I am out of here." Where Snape's priorities lay were quite easy to identify. Of course the problem was that the potion would take at least a day including the simmering, and that was if it worked properly the first time.


     Sirius said nothing as he blew his nose into the fresh cloth and pulled the blankets back up again. It was cold alone there in the bed, and he felt perfectly miserable all around. Snape wasn't making it any better; that was for certain.






Chapter 4- First Attempt


     Snape entered the bedroom a while later and kicked the bed. "Oy! Wake up. I need you to try this."


     Sirius woke slowly, looking around the room. He expected to be able to breathe clearly. He expected Remus to be lying beside him. His eyes focused on Snape and he groaned. "I'd almost forgotten." He sniffled and eyed the cup of frothy, bubbly liquid. "What's that supposed to be?"


     "A first attempt at Pepperup," Snape replied, looking slightly put out that Sirius had to ask. "It's not perfect yet, but it's getting there. Now drink up and we'll see what happens."


     "And we'll see what..." he repeated breathlessly. Sirius stared back in incredulous fear. "Are you absolutely daft?" He sniffed at the cup through his stuffy nose. "It's not even the right color, and it smells all wrong. What are you trying to do? Poison me?" And did he even need to ask that? It was Snape, after all.


      "I'm *trying* to make you feel better. I can't do that if you don't do your part and drink this." He handed it over and took a step back out of caution as much as preference.


     Sirius shook his head and tried to hand the cup back. "Not a chance. I'm not... drinking... any... hehhhh..." he looked as though he were trying quite hard not to sneeze, wiggling his nose, flaring his nostrils, rubbing an index finger beneath his nose. But the immense effor didn't seem to be working. "ehhhUhchhoo! AhhhChushhhhh! ihhhChushhhhh!" Tossing him forward in bed, spilling a bit of the potion. "uhhChxxtt!" Sirius stifled the last sneeze into his wrist, then dragged his arm beneath his nose. Sniffling, congested, miserable, he looked up at Snape's cold dark eyes. "I'b dot drikig this udtil it looks add sbells like the right thig." He sniffed hard, getting pretty much nowhere. "Add I deed adother hadky."


     Snape snatched the cup back. "Get it yourself, then." He stormed from the room.


     "Wait!" Sirius called, propping himself up with an elbow.


     Snape stopped in his tracks and looked back, blinking impatiently. He even tapped his foot. "Yes? Do you want to try this now?"


     Sirius shook his head, eyes half open, breath shallow. "Uh, doe. I just... uhhhh... hold... od sec... ehhhhHuchhhhhh! ehhhChew! ehhhChooo!" He sniffled strongly wiped his nose against his sleeve. He thought for a moment about blowing his nose, but didn't want to endure any insults from Snape about that. So he simply sniffed and continued. "I thought I heard ad owl... did Rebus... have you heard frob hib at all? Did he sed word to be?"


     He paused, then shook his head. "No," Snape half lied. "Now go get a handkerchief and blow your nose," he shuddered at the thought. There was a reason he was a potions professor and not a mediwizard.


     "ehhhChuhhh! uhhhCheshhhh! uhhhChooo!" Sirius wheezed with congestion and dissolved into coughs and sniffles directed into the crook of his arm.


     Snape shuddered again and looked away, up at the ceiling. Truth was, Remus had sent an owl, but the letter had not been addressed to Sirius, but Severus. It had been a short but threatening letter insisting that Snape do everything in his power to make Sirius feel better or Snape would have to answer to him after Dumbledore was finished scolding. And the wrath of a werewolf was not worth the risk. With a deep sigh, he crossed the small bedroom in three strides, snatched a handkerchief off the dresser and threw it at Sirius' face. "Stop sneezing so much," he hissed angrily. Then he tossed the whole stack over.


     They fell across the bed and Sirius made no effort to pick them up, though he did take the one that had hit his face. Sirius glared at him over the folds of the handkerchief as he blew his nose to great relief. "I'll stop sneezing when I've had some proper Pepperup. Not that... whatever that is..." he said, eyeing the cup Snape still held though it had stopped bubbling by now.


     Snape looked down at the cup and nodded. It wasn't proper, and he knew it. But he had wanted to test what he'd managed to get done and it wouldn't have done any permanent damage. "All right, Black. But in the meantime, try not to sneeze as much. And stop calling me every time you need a bloody handkerchief." He turned to leave again.


     "Severus?" Snape stopped. "You'll let me know if Remus writes me?"


     Snape looked back and nodded.


     "And... how late is it?" There were no windows in the bedroom and without Remus' handy pocket watch, he was a little lost.


     "It's only early afternoon," Snape replied rather civilly. "If we're lucky, I'll be done by dinner tomorrow and we'll be rid of each other again."


     "Fantastic," Sirius said, pulling up his blankets with one hand while he rubbed at his nose through a handkerchief with the other. "Though if we were lucky, we wouldn't be stuck with each other right now in the first place."


     Slowly, a smile spread across Snape's face. "You know, Black. I think that's the first intelligent thing you've said all day." Sirius nodded to this, looking as though he expected to sneeze soon again.


     So Snape headed out again, hearing the sneezes behind him. "ehhHuchhhh! uhhhChuhhh!" He cringed, glad to be retreating back to the safety of his kitchen.




Chapter 5- Dinner Time


     Sirius lay in bed, sniffling into a balled-up handkerchief. His nose wouldn't stop running, and he had grown tired of blowing it constantly. His nose seemed tired of it, too, feeling a little chapped and raw. Plus with all the constant sneezing and sniffling and blowing, he had gotten very little sleep. But with the heavy congestion which had settled in his nose and head, he wasn't going to sleep even without the sneezing. He simply did not feel well, and there was nothing he could do about it until the potion was ready.


     "Good, you're awake," Snape said, startling Sirius, who had not heard him enter.


     He turned over onto his back, sniffling more as the stuffiness in his nose adjusted to the change. "I haved't had ady sleeb all afterdood. By dose is botherig be too buch... hehhh..." he tightened his grasp on the handkerchief and pushed it harder against his nostrils as he took a deep breath. "uhhh-Chihhhhh!" Wearily, he blew his nose and re-crumpled the handkerchief so a dryer portion rubbed against his nose. "What do you wadt?" he asked with irritation, staring up at Snape.


     "Brought you dinner, but maybe I shouldn't have bothered?" he replied snidely.


     "You should't have," Sirius groaned and rolled back over with his back to Snape. "I'b dot hugry."


     Snape rolled his eyes. "You're such a liar. Of course you're hungry. You're always hungry. All that food you used to scarf down every day in the great hall... you had three breakfasts every morning. And for dinner--"


     "I was a growig boy back thed." He raised his eyebrows. "Why do you rebeber how buch I ate fifteed years ago addyway? Why'd you eved dotice back thed?"


     "Why do you think?" Tired of balancing the dinner, Snape set the bowl of soup down on the bed stand, pushing a few used handkerchiefs onto the floor in the process. He still held a cup of tea and a plate with a sandwich on it. "Keep asking questions like that and I'll think twice before making you soup again."


     It was another empty threat, but Sirius wasn't in the mood. "I dod't wadt your soub," Sirius said, turning away again, his head into the pillow. He tensed up and drew a deep breath. "huuhhhChew! uhhhChooo! ehhChuhh!" Then, muffled a few more sneezes into the pillow, "uhhhChumphh! Chemphh!" With a sigh, he rubbed at his nose and sat up. He coughed, blew his nose, and looked up at Snape. "Still here edjoyig by bisery?"


     "No, just waiting for you to eat your dinner." He held out the sandwich. "At least a few bites. Lupin will have my head if you don't eat."


     Sirius slowly grinned. "That's just bore reasod for be dot to eat, thed. Sniff, sniff, sniff! You'd look better without a head. Easier to talk to at least."


     Snape groaned inwardly. "Look, Black, I don't care how you feel about me, you're hungry and you're going to eat some dinner if I have to force it down your throat myself." He was angry now; it showed in his eyes. Sirius knew that look all too well.


     But the truth remained, "Actually, I'b really dot hugry." He coughed into the handkerchief. "Really."


     Snape's eyes widened in shock. "Merlin's beard... you really aren't hungry." He pulled the plate back, staring curiously. "Why aren't you hungry?"


     He shrugged, sniffling. "I haved't beed hugry sidce I cabe dowd with this cold."


     "Are you running a fever?" he asked, concerned, narrowing his eyes. "You were cold earlier--"


     "I'b bloody cold right dow," Sirius snapped, hugging the blankets closer. "It's just because it's freezig id here."


     Snape spoke softly. "No, Black, it's not. It's normal room temperature." Without thinking about it, he sat down on the edge of the bed, set the plate and tea on the bed stand as well, and reached over to touch Sirius' forehead. Sirius pulled away evasively, snuggling further beneath the covers. "What? I'm not allowed to touch you?"


     "Hell doe!" Sirius replied, scooting away with a shiver. "Add get off by bed!" He pulled the blankets closer and buried his face in the pillow. "Add go away while you're... at... it..." He sneezed wetly into the pillow. "eehChhhhphh! uhhhShhhphh!"


     Snape stood, looking him over for a moment. He did go, but went over to the bathroom. He returned a minute later, shaking a thermometer in hand. "I should have guessed Lupin would have one of these." Lupin constantly looked weak and ill, and came down sick after his transformations more times than not. Snape bent over Sirius in bed. "If you won't let me touch you, at least let me take your temperature with this."


     Sirius growled and turned over again, showing his back to Snape once more. "Why do you eved care what by teberature is?"


     "Because I'm supposed to be taking care of you!" Snape snapped back as he moved around the bed to see Sirius' face again. "I gave my word to Dumbledore *and* to Remus."


     Sirius' face twitched. "You wrote to hib?"


     A nod. "He wrote to me and I replied."


     Propping himself up on his elbow to look at Snape more closely for any hint of worry. "Is he all right?"


     Snape wasn't sure. Remus hadn't mentioned. But he nodded anyway. "Just fine." After all, how badly off could Remus be in if he could spare the time to write a threatening letter to him which obviously went through a few drafts in order for him to get the wording perfectly horrible. "But he wants me to make sure you come out of this fine, too. And right now, that includes taking your temperature." He words were slow and logical, but edged with anger and frustration.


     Sirius reached up and took the thermometer, placed it under his tongue and closed his mouth. Quickly, he pulled it back out again and buried his face in another handkerchief. "Cheshhh! uhhChushhhh!" He gave a very liquid sniff and blew his nose furiously. For a moment, he looked slightly embarrassed, then seemed to remember this was his bed and his home now. Comforted slightly, he slid the thermometer back into his mouth.


     Snape smiled. "Good. I'll be back in a few minutes to check on you. I'm going to go put the food away, unless you're suddenly hungrier along with slightly more cooperative?"


     Sirius winced and shook his head, looking sickly at the food and inching back under the covers a little as though to hide himself from it. He didn't want the food, and he certainly didn't want to be cooperative. Snape got the message and removed it from sight, though he left the tea. Sirius' nose tickled with impending sneezes the moment Snape left, and he rubbed at it boyishly with the palm of his hand, trying to scrub the sneezes out. When that did no good, he pinched his nose shut and tried to hold his breath but that only lasted a few moments before he was forced to cough and had to bite down on the thermometer to keep it in. Even with a handkerchief pressed to his nose, it ran terribly, tickling, urging him to sneeze.


     It was almost a relief to see Snape return. Almost. The wizard bent down and removed the thermometer, turned, and inspected it.


     "IHHHShhhhh! uhhhChushhhhh! Chishhhhh!" He shook weakly and shivered violently. The sneezes were getting worse, and he was losing the energy to fight them or even bother covering them up.


     "I was right," he said with the superiority of being right. "You've got a fever." A rather high fever, in fact, but he didn't mention this out loud. Whatever bug Sirius had caught, it wasn't just a simple head cold. He pulled the blankets up to Sirius' neck kindly, though wiped the hand he used on the side of his leg as he walked to the bathroom to quickly get rid of the germ-infested thermometer. When he returned, he forced the hot cup of tea into Sirius' hands. "Drink it and you'll feel warmer."


     Sirius looked at it skeptically.


     "Go ahead and drink it, for Merlin's sake! It's just tea."


     Or was it? Whatever it was, it was from Snape and that simply wouldn't do. "I dod't wadt it," he said, handing it back. "I dod't wadt your food add I dod't wadt you aroud takig by teberature ady bore. I just wadt to be left alode." He pulled the covers up further, up to his nose, where he still held a crumpled handkerchief to soothe his sniffles. "If I'd dowd Dubledore was goig to sed you over here, I would't have asked for helb," he mumbled in indignation.


     "Sirius," Snape sighed as though he meant to say something kind but stopped himself. "Fine. I'll go back into the kitchen and clean up. I'm sleeping out on the couch, okay?"


     "Well you're dot sleebig here with be, that's for bloody sure," Sirius snuffled. "I dod't care where else you sleeb as log as you stay away frob be." He turned his head back towards the pillow and clutched the blankets closer. "heh-Ihhshhhh! uhhCheshhhh! Chiiiishhh!" He paused, feeling one more. "ehhhChushhhh!" He looked up at Snape with a look that inquired angrily as to why Snape was still there.


     Snape got this hint as well, and started to leave. But, as though expecting to be called back as he had nearly every time that afternoon, he turned back around. It was a wise move, as Sirius was just calling him again. "Hey!" Snape raised his eyebrows, waiting. "Why *were* you watchig how buch I ate whed we were back id school?"


     Snape smiled and shook his head. "Same reason you and your little gang were always watching me," he replied. "For opportunity and ammunition."


     He gave Sirius a wink and turned back to leave.




     He turned back around, his arms folded across his chest. "What?" he snapped.


     "Rebeber that tibe id fifth year, right before the Quidditch batch?" Sirius asked. "How was that for obbortudity add abuditiod?"


     Severus Snape narrowed his eyes and furiously snarled, "Go to sleep." He turned and left in a blur.


     Sirius sniffed hard and smiled maliciously. "He rebebers," he whispered and snuggled beneath the covers, hugging Remus' pillow to his stomach. He wished he could smell Remus' scent on it still, but his nose was too clogged. His head pounded with congestion. But he wasn't tired and the sniffling and running weren't going to let him sleep anyway. He stayed awake for hours, thinking and sneezing and trying to remember every lovely detail of that particular prank.





Chapter 6- Midnight Memories

     Sirius checked the time on his way back from the bathroom by way of the clock on the fireplace mantle. It was just past midnight, and he hadn't been able to fall asleep yet. Snape, on the other hand, was fast asleep, sprawled out on his back on the couch, his robes over him as a blanket. Sirius had the impulse to get him another blanket, but thought better of it as he eyed the mess that had been made of Remus' usually neat and tidy kitchen. Shivering, he headed back to his bed as quickly as possible.


     He snuggled beneath the covers once again, sniffling. Since Snape's arrival, he hadn't felt any better. If anything, he'd felt worse. He was sure that his fever was much higher than Snape had let on. But on top of his sneezes and sore throat, and on top of his heavy congestion and chills, he had had Snape and only Snape for company. That alone was enough to make him eternally miserable. Insulting him one minute then wanting to feel his forehead the next. Trying to poison him with some imperfect potion one minute then insisting the tea was fine the next.


     Expectantly, he cupped another handkerchief to his nose and mouth, panting into it. His sneezes had not backed off any since nightfall. In fact, they seemed worse. But perhaps that was only because now the cabin and surrounding woods were otherwise silent. There was nothing to distract him, and nothing to cover the sounds of his nose. "uhhhChhfff! Ehh-Chumphh!" He muffled the sneezes in the cloth, not wanting Snape to wake, and succeeding in that. 'Though,' he thought as he rubbed at his nose, 'If my sneezes were as forceful as his, the whole forest would be awake by now.'


     Turning back over in bed, he closed his eyes and tried to think back to before that Quidditch match in their fifth year. James had been a superb chaser, he a beater, and Gryffindor had been scheduled to play against Slytherin later that morning for the Quidditch Cup...




     If you weren't watching, you might have missed seeing the small but plump little rat leaving the building and skittering amidst the grass to the edge of the trees. In a flash of light and the blink of an eye, the rat became the small, plump, fifth year boy Peter Pettigrew. And he was smiling.


     "Mission accomplished?" James asked, taking Peter in a warm hug of appreciation. The whole prank had started out as James' idea, but had snowballed into something much bigger and hopefully much more embarrassing for their targets.


     Peter nodded. "They're green now, but they'll all be maroon and gold, down to the last thread. And I did the rest, just like you said, James."


     Sirius and Remus dissolved into laughter, hanging off each other for support as they shook. James and Peter laughed a bit, too. They all shook hands and congratulated each other, as they knew there would be no time for that later. Besides, they wouldn't do so or it would give themselves away. "You two had better get changed," Remus said, catching his breath and looking from Sirius to James. "They'll be coming out from breakfast soon." Remus gave Sirius a short kiss on the cheek for good luck as was routine before match, though they both knew the match would most likely be called off.


     Sirius and James agreed, trying to hold their laughter back, and headed to the Gryffindor locker room straight away. Remus and Peter headed to the stands to save a seat for Lily, trying to contain their anticipation. They sat in one of the few ground stands for a better view of the locker rooms rather than the game.


     The Gryffindor locker room was empty as Sirius and James changed into their Quidditch robes. "It's delayed right?" James inquired, poking his head out briefly to see a few of the Slytherin players enter the locker room beside theirs. "Because I want to see the look on their faces right up close."


     Sirius laughed. "Yep. It should happen just as we go out onto the field." They were soon joined by the rest of the Gryffindor team. James gave a very short pre-game talk. There wasn't much question about who would win, even if they were going to play which, James and Sirius knew, they weren't. Sirius squirmed in his seat on the bench, his heart raced and pounded in his chest, his sweaty palms were wiped on his robes. James finished the talk quickly and gestured for everyone to go out onto the field.


     "Is that all, James?" asked Gavin, the small but lean seeker, looking a bit disappointed. He was new to the team this year, but bloody brilliant and one of the reasons they were going to win the cup this year for sure.


     James couldn't resist showing a fierce grin. "For now." He winked at Sirius.


     Sirius patted Gavin on the back. "Don't worry, Mate. You'll get a proper pep-talk another time."


     He looked confused. "But it's the last game of the season. What--"


     Sirius put his finger over Gavin's mouth. "Hush, laddie. You'll see in due time."


     The Gryffindor team went out to tumultuous applause. They were the favored, without question, and even their Slytherin opponents seemed to know that. Sirius and James both glimpsed Remus and Peter amidst the crowd, seeing their forced smiles on tense faces. But they didn't need to be the least bit nervous because seconds later, the Slytherins came out of their locker rooms, one-by-one, already looking a bit defeated but smiling as their house at least cheered over the boo's from the rest of the spectators.


     Sirius and James did their best to react like the rest of their teammates, with shock and surprise and only *then* laughter when it happened, and it happened in an instant. The medium green tone of the Slytherin robes began to change into a deep, royal maroon. The silver trim and buttons flashed into gold. And before they could even react, their whole team was sporting their support for Gryffindor as well.


     Oh, the irony. And oh, the faces of the Slytherin players! Snape especially looked horrified and tried to strip his off, but then realized that the uniforms had magically bound themselves on. The Slytherins dropped their brooms and tried to yank hard on the buttons or the sleeves to extricate themselves from their opponent's colors. The two beaters tried pulling at each other's. But it was no use. The team which had already nearly admitted defeat was now defeated in a much different way. Above the roars of laughter, one of them yelled "Back into the locker room!" and the whole team sprinted in.


     The Gryffindors, Sirius and James in the lead, went to the door, leaning against it to hear what was going on inside. Sirius looked around at the stands to see the hundreds of students laughing. Across the field and up at the teacher's section, he saw a concerned Madam Hootch talking to Professor Flitwick and Professor Embers, who was head of Slytherin house. All three started down to go over, but they were quite far away. Good, that would give enough time. He leaned close and listened.


     "Bloody robes won't come off!" complained one of the Slytherins, sounding as if he were close to tears.


     "Cambire Colorus!" another was chanting, trying to charm his robes back to their original colors. But that had been taken into account too, and Sirius knew it hadn't worked. If anything, it had the opposite result. "Arahhh!" came a strangled yell, which seemed to confirm that. His robes now glowed brightly in awesome maroon and glittery gold. Sirius looked back at the stands at Remus and gave him a knowing look. That had been Remus' idea. Remus, the werewolf, had never been one for silver anyway.


     "Shut up! All of you!" Sirius heard Snape shout. "Bring me a bucket of water. And see if you can find some of that powder we use on the broomsticks. A simple base solution should return the colors to normal."


     Sirius looked up at James, who had a hand clapped over his mouth. Leave it to Snape to answer everything with a potion, even a makeshift one. He listened hard as he heard some more complaining and rummaging. Then he heard Snape call out, "Look! It's working!"


     "It's slow, but it's changing!" called out another of the players. "Pass me some!"


     "And me!" yelled another; he sounded like the one who had inadvertently charmed his uniform to be brighter. "I can't stand these colors one more second."


           Sirius snorted. He expected more, and strained to hear it. It happened in less than a minute, and it started with Snape. A sudden strong, startling sneeze. "hah-ITCHH!"


     There were a few bless you's directed towards him, but seconds later, there came another from another player. "hehChoo!"


     And a second from Snape, "hah-IHCHH!" And then the entire locker room was filled with the musical sound of every Slytherin on their team having a fantastic, non-stop sneezing fit. That, Sirius thought as he grinned, had been his own idea.


     The Gryffindor team, who were the only ones close enough to hear, doubled up in more laughter. Sirius wasn't sure he could take much more of it, in fact. The helpless sounds of alarm from within were much too comical.


     "I cad't... eeh-CHISHH! Chishhh! Cheshh! stob! ehhChoo!" called out one.


     "Subode-hah-IHTSHH! IHCHH! tabered with this... this... Hah-IHSHH! IHCHH! this bottle!" sneezed Snape, trying to clear himself of the responsibility of causing this latest problem.


     "hetchoo! Hahtchooo! But there's doe way hihxtt! Doe studedts could have gotted id here! hehIhxxtt!"


     "Adybody got ihhChoo! Ehh-Chooo! ehhChoo! a hadkerchief? Sniff, sniff! ihhChooo!"


     James doubled up in laughter. Sirius was hanging onto the doorframe to keep from falling over. But what happened next sent him to the ground in a laughing fit.


     "Here, hehChufff! Hab sub hahChuff! toilet baber!"


     The professors had reached their end of the field by this time, and parted the laughing Gryffindor team. "Coming through, coming through, excuse us."


     "hah-IHSHH! hah-IDSHH! Bloody hell!" Snape again. "Look at our... godda... sdeeze..." he announced. "hah-IHCHH! Sniff, sniff! Look at our robes!" They had, in fact, begun to change back into the maroon though now the previously silver snake, which had become a golden snake, was turning into a golden griffin.


     "Add the toilet baber!" Yelled another. "It's hahChufff! hahCHooo! It's stuck!"


     From outside the locker room, the professors all exchanged looks, then marched right in. Madam Hootch gave a stern look of annoyance to the whole Gryffindor team. Professor Embers grunted as she stepped over Sirius, who was rolling around on the grass with his arms around his belly. And little Professor Flitwick jumped over Sirius completely, hurrying after the other two into the locker room.


     There were shouts, yells, complaints, and sneezes so many that none of the Gryffindors could really make out what was happening inside. But after a few minutes, still sneezing madly and still wearing maroon robes, the Slytherins were marched out of their locker room. Each one was trying to hide behind another as they sneezed continually. The toilet paper, which had seemed a good idea at the time to allow them to blow their noses, was now stuck to their noses in pieces. Some had pieces stuck to their hands, and were trying to shake them off to no success. That had been Peter's idea. The boy could certainly be devious when he wanted to be.


     The griffins on the fronts of their uniforms were all looking embarrassed at their owners. Some hid their faces with their paws, others were shaking their heads and rolling their eyes. And the crowds erupted into laughter once more at the sight of the Slytherins sneezing miserably, unable to stop.


     And Snape was there on the side, closest to Sirius, who was being pulled to his feet by both Gavin and James. "heh-EHSHH!" A hand cupped around his abnormally large nose, sniffling, a piece of toilet paper stuck on the end of his nose. Sirius was laughing with his own hand over his mouth to hide it. Snape looked accusingly at him, then over at James, who was smirking. "Hah-IHTSHH! IHTCHHH! EHTCHHH!" All he could do was sneeze, greasy black hair flying back and forth as his head bobbed helplessly with the force. "I'll get you... hah-IHTCHHH! ITCHH! Odce I stop... HAH-IHHSHH! Stop sdeezig..." he finally managed to mumble, sniffling wetly.


     Sirius snorted and coughed to keep from laughing. "Why, bless you, Severus," he said quite innocently. He looked around at the stands, which had begun to empty, spilling their classmates out onto the field. "Maybe someone has a handkerchief you can borrow?" Snape looked daggers at him, and sneezed again. "Oh, and you know, you've got something right here," Sirius pointed out, pointing to his own nose to indicate a spot where a little piece of paper was stuck.


     Several of Snape's sneezing teammates had to restrain him from leaping at Sirius and starting a full-out brawl. The team was led away back to the school and straight to the hospital wing. And the match was rescheduled for the following weekend.





Chapter 7- Feverish Fits




     Severus Snape woke sometime in the middle of the night to loud, muffled sounds emanating from the bedroom. The cabin was so small that even though he was exhausted, they were loud enough to keep him awake. "Shut up!" he called, rolling over with the couch cushion over his head.


     "Ennh! Emmph!"


     Snape sat up, rubbing at his eyes. He looked over the back of the couch into the bedroom. He saw some movement on the bed, blankets shuffling, a bare arm was flung from one side to another.


     With a frustrated grunt, Snape stood, stretched and headed into the bedroom. He usually wore less to bed, but hadn't felt quite right doing so in Remus' home. He wore a loose-fitted pajama top, only half buttoned up, and boxers. It was the summer, after all. As he walked into the bedroom, he pulled on matching pajama pants, hopping on one leg then the other, leaning against the doorframe for balance as he yawned and tugged them all the way up. "What is it?" Snape slurred with a yawn, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'll have you know, you woke me up from a perfectly good dream."


     Sirius did not answer. His eyes were closed tightly and he wore an expression of pain. His breathing was shallow but hard, and raspy with congestion. He shook, pushing his blankets down as though they had offended him. "Mmmphh!"


     The sudden, violent movement startled Snape, who took a step back. "Hey. Black. What is it? What's wrong?" He spoke coldly, but as though he simply wanted the problem quickly so he could go about solving it and then getting back to sleep and the dream about... damn it all... the dream had already left his head. He yawned again.


     But still, Sirius did not answer. He thrashed about, sniffling, moaning, his eyes tightly shut. He twisted one way, then the other. Small beads of sweat trickled down the sides of his face but he shook with fierce chills.


     Snape's eyes widened in sudden understanding and panic. It was the fever. "Oh bloody hell!" he muttered, looking down. "Black?" he said cautiously, moving closer. The man looked pained, troubled, and delirious with fever. Despite his thrashing and moaning, he was obviously unconscious and completely out of it. This was not good. In fact, what it was was dangerous. People could die of high fevers, couldn't they? Or what if Sirius slipped into a coma or some other vegetative state? Dumbledore and Remus would both kill him, that was what.


     "Sirius, wake up this instant," he commanded, giving the bed a bit of a shake with his knee. It did no good at all, though Snape hadn't really thought it would. He leaned over, biting his lip, and put his palm against Sirius' forehead. Snape looked up with a sigh. It was beyond warm, beyond hot, even. The fever was almost too high to estimate the severity. It would have to be lowered. There was no choice in the matter.


     Snape looked back down and let out an unrestrained "Yeh-ha!" in distressing surprise to see Sirius' two pale eyes staring back at him. He pulled his hand away at once and jumped away, his back against the wall. His heart raced, his breathing was fast, his hands shook. "I-I thought... you were asleep," he stammered, feeling his face grow hot. Sirius' eyes seemed to bore into him. "I'm sor..." he stopped short, wiping sweaty palms on his pants, as he realized that the eyes were not looking at him in the least. He moved to the side, but they stayed fixed on the spot a foot to his left. They had seen him, but had not seen him at the same time.


     With a deep sigh, Snape stepped closer to the bed again. Sirius closed his eyes and turned to his side with another strangled-sounding "Emmmphh!" His hand a bit more steady now, Snape reached down to pat Sirius' head. Sirius' hair, thick and black, was soaked with sweat. So were his sheets, Snape noted, feeling those as well. This certainly wasn't the sort of healthy cold sweat that signaled the end of a fever. It was the other kind.


     "Well, then," he whispered to Sirius, who was turning back his way, grasping one piece of a blanket tightly in his fist. "Looks like you're not going to be left alone tonight after all." Snape sighed. "And it looks like I'm not going to be getting any more sleep."


     Sirius whimpered again and turned back onto his other side. Even unconscious, he seemed to respond as he normally would to Snape, who simply smirked and shook his head. Snape disappeared for a few minutes, and returned with a small bowl of ice water, a wash cloth, and a chair from the kitchen table.


     Sirius had been sleeping with his shirt off, which made things a bit easier on the 'cooling down' level and a bit harder for Snape on the 'having to get near him' level. Snape made room on the bedside table for the water basin and dipped the washcloth in. "Well, here goes nothing," he whispered to himself, ringing out the washcloth. He turned in his seat towards Sirius and pressed the washcloth gently against the man's forehead. Sirius whimpered and shook with chill, but Snape was already pulling two blankets up to cover him loosely but warmly. He dabbed the washcloth at Sirius' cheeks, then his chin, his neck, and then his forehead again, before rewetting it. Apart from the chills and whimpering like a dog, the unconscious Sirius seemed to behave pretty well.


     Time seemed to pass more slowly than ever, and Snape was tempted to allow himself to nod off a few times. But any time the cool washcloth left Sirius' body, the man began to toss and turn again. Sometimes his eyes would open, sometimes he would try to speak but only moan. And he grew hotter and hotter by the minute, which worried Snape quite a bit. "Don't you *dare* die on me, you git," he muttered as he returned from the kitchen with a fresh bowl of cold water to see Sirius looking very badly off, his face full of pain. It seemed very much like something Sirius would do on purpose, just to get Snape in trouble again. Well, this time the Marauder wouldn't succeed. No. "I'm going to get you through this whether you like it or not," Snape hissed as he wiped the man's forehead with the cool cloth. "And it'll serve you right to be in my debt for this one," he said, grinning. After a few minutes, Snape was brave enough to start dabbing the man's upper chest, though he looked away disgusted as he did, and Sirius calmed down completely.


     Glad no one was there to see him, Snape sighed in relief. He had been worried that it might not help at all, and then what was he supposed to do? As a professor at a boarding school he had been through a very basic medical training course, but the solution to most of the problems had been 'take the student to Madam Pomfrey'. And there was no Madam Pomfrey to help him out this time; there was no one, actually. Even if he had been able to move Sirius, he couldn't take the man to St. Mungo's as he was still a wanted escape convict. And chances were Mrs. Figg and the others were off with Remus doing whatever Dumbledore had in store. He shuddered, thinking of his own missions for Dumbledore.


     Snape looked down at Sirius, lying there motionless, dead pale apart from a violent flush in his cheeks. "You'd better live through this, Black," Snape said with annoyance, wringing out the washcloth and reapplying it to Sirius' forehead. "Because I want the opportunity to get you back for making me do this." Sirius made no reply.


*                      *                      *


     The breaking dawn shined beams through the lush foliage of the forest. Bits hit the cabin, shining through the windows of the kitchen and the front door. The windowless bedroom remained dark, but the sort of dark where you could still make out the contents thanks to the light in the rooms it opened up to. Snape had fallen asleep, utterly exhausted from repetitive movement and worry, just an hour prior. His arm was bent with elbow resting on the headboard, his head was bent and resting on his hand.


     Sirius woke to the sound of birds, the same sound that had awoken him every morning since he'd gone to stay with Remus. It was a soft, comforting sort of way to wake up. He opened his eyes, expecting to see his lover lying beside him. Instead, he saw his mortal enemy. Snape had fallen asleep upright in a chair, one hand reaching out and pressing a washcloth to Sirius' forehead. "Ugh!" Sirius groaned in revulsion, pulling away and letting Snape's hand fall against nothing. Snape fell forward, off balance, and woke, catching himself before he fell out of the chair completely. Sirius realized he was half naked and snatched up a blanket to cover his chest. "Ughh!" he exclaimed again, realizing everything was completely soaked, including himself. His hair dripped, his chest was damp, and his sheets and blankets were wet as well. "What's all this?" he asked, pulling himself to his feet, still holding the blanket up in front of him.


     Rubbing his eyes free of sleep, he flexed his hand, stiff from resting on the washcloth and Sirius' forehead so long without moving. His fingers were slightly pruned, but he pressed his palm to his mouth to politely cover a yawn. He answered without spite, without coldness, for he was too tired to bother with anything but logic until he'd had a morning coffee at least. Another few hours of sleep would have been preferable. "You had a bad fever. It broke just a little while ago."


     Sirius looked himself over self-consciously. "I'b all wet."


     "You were sweating." He stood up and stretched, waving Sirius towards the bathroom. "I'll change the sheets. You go take a shower. It will do you good."


     Sirius blinked, sniffling. "You sat ub with be all dight?"


     Snape nodded, pushing the blankets to the floor and striping the top and bottom sheet from the bed, balling them up. Then he started on the pillowcases. What he felt like answering was 'Don't flatter yourself, I was doing it to save my own skin as much as yours' but he wasn't about to admit that to Sirius. So instead, he replied, "You came very close to dying. And I thought, what better way to pay you back for all those pranks back at school than saving your miserable little life? Now," he swung a thumb out towards the bathroom. "Take a shower. I'm sick to death of being here with you."


     "uhhChihshhh! ehhChuhshhh!" he sneezed freely, then rubbed his hand beneath his nose.


     For a moment, it looked as if Snape were going to bless him. His mouth opened quickly, instinctively. But then it closed again. He pulled off the pillowcases and collected them with the sheets in his arms.


     Sirius dropped the blanket into the pile on the way out of the room to the bathroom. Once inside, he took a look at himself in the mirror. Worn and tired was how he looked. Pale and sickly... very sickly. He coughed into a fist then rubbed his knuckles under his nose. Maybe Snape was right for once. Maybe a shower would do him good. He pushed away the shower curtain and turned the tap on. The loud hiss of the water from the faucet made him jump back, a bit startled and scared. It was like something out of a dream, a feverish dream to be exact. He put his hand to his forehead, but couldn't tell how hot he was. An unnatural sound, a snakish sound. He poked his head out of the bathroom to be sure Snape was nowhere around, and he was not. Sirius closed and locked the door behind before striping down and stepping into the warm spray.


     The water was a delight against his skin, though it tingled a bit oddly. He was wary of it, already on edge, but it didn't seem to be doing any other damage. So he stayed in, washing himself and shampooing his hair. He felt slightly dizzy, but stayed upright. When done washing, he simply stood under the spray, hands pressed flat against the tiled wall in front of him so that the water hit just below his neck and ran down his back. That was how Remus stood when he showered, and Sirius would come up from behind and surprise him.


     There was a loud bang, which made Sirius jump with a much less pleasant surprise. He nearly slipped in the tub, but caught himself and clung to the shower curtain. "Snape?" he called, but there was no answer. His heart beat fast and he turned off the water at once, listening. There were no other sounds to be heard.


     "uhhChihshh! ehhhChuhhhh! Huh-Chuhh!" The warmth of the shower had made his nose run terribly, and the steam in the fogged bathroom now made it tickle. "ehhUhshhh! Chishhh!" He reached for the roll of toilet paper to blow his nose, then thought twice about it. He sniffed hard and rubbed at his nose. It could wait until he got back to bed and his nice, safe handkerchiefs. Assuming Snape hadn't done anything to them. "uhhIhshhhh! CHEHshhh!"


     Sirius wrapped a towel around his waist, kicked his dirty clothes towards the hamper in the corner, and headed back. Snape had put new sheets on the bed, and tucked the blankets under at the foot. Sirius stood there for a moment, staring as he watched Snape smooth out the wrinkles for him. He felt a little dizzy, and frankly glad to be back near his bed. Then he sneezed. "huh-Uhchuhh!"


Snape jumped, his hand at his chest. "Merlin!" he panted. Apparently he was a bit jumpy that morning as well. "I didn't hear you finish." He turned and gestured towards the bed to indicate it was ready. Sirius simply stood and stared at it a moment more. "Well?" Snape asked finally. "Is there something wrong with it?"


     Sirius shook his head. "No, it's just, the blue sheets."


     Snape looked down at the bed. "Yes? So? What's wrong with them?" He pulled back the blanket to inspect. They had been folded and put away with another set, and he'd assumed they were clean and all right to use.


     "Dothig," Sirius replied, moving to the bed and patting the pillow. "They're by favorite is all." His hand moved to the bedside table where he'd put the extra handkerchiefs, and took one now. He only needed one hand to catch a sneeze, but he used two to blow his nose, and he needed to do the later now. He blew his nose a number of times, going through two handkerchiefs and starting a third before the sneezes struck again. "uhhChushhh! ehhChuhh! ehhChew!" They were wet, forceful, and made him shiver as they shook him. "ehh-Uhshhoo!" With both his hands busy, and at the toss forward from the last sneeze, the towel around his waist fell to the floor. He lowered a hand to make a grab at it, but wasn't fast enough.


     Quickly, he bent and recovered it, then turned back to look at Snape. The red in his cheeks was not from fever this time. Snape was smirking, his hand over the lower part of his face. "I'll, ah, leave you to get dressed." He started to leave, but looked back, seeing Sirius sway.


     Sirius put his hand to his head. "Sev... I suddedly dod't feel so..." The man's legs shook unsteadily, and his head fell backwards. "Whoa!" he whimpered as his knees buckled. Snape raced over, managing to catch the naked man before he hit the hardwood floors. Grimacing, he pulled Sirius back up to his feet, then set him down on the bed with a bounce. He put his hand over his eyes and felt around on the floor, finally locating the towel, and throwing it to Sirius.


     "Thaks," Sirius said unsteadily, pressing his hand to his forehead. "I suddedly felt really dizzy..."


     "Exhaustion," Snape replied, still shielding his eyes with his hand so he didn't have to see Sirius. "Be glad you did not do that in the shower. You stay there, I'll get you some... clothes..." his voice died in his throat as he thought of rooting around in Sirius' dresser for clothes, let alone underwear. He shuddered. "You can get your own bloody clothes, but don't you dare pass out," he threatened, as though that would make any difference. "Then get into bed. I'll be right back." And quickly he took his leave.


     Sirius waited until Snape was all the way in the kitchen before standing up again. He leaned on the dresser for support as he pulled out a fresh pair of pajamas. Back in bed, he pulled them on, then got beneath the covers. The sheets were cold at first, but warmed to him quite quickly. So quickly that he was a bit too warm and pushed down the top layer of his comforter. He pulled another handkerchief under the covers with him, sniffling into it as his head spun from so much movement. "huhhUhshhh! ehhChooo! ehhhChew!" And the sneezes were taking quite a lot out of him as well. Snape had said he was exhausted. He had no trouble at all believing that. Just moving his arm was full of tired aching. "huhUhchooo! ehhChoo!" But until his sneezes went away, he didn't think he'd be getting much sleep. "uhhChew! uhhhChishew!



     "Good," Snape said, coming back in to see Sirius clothed and under the covers this time. "How are you feeling?" he asked, going around the side to be able to talk to Sirius face-to-face.


     "Sniff, sniff! Why would you care?" he snuffled, rubbing a handkerchief at his tender nose.


     Snape rolled his eyes. "Oh, don't start that again."


     Obeying not out of submission but because of the lack of energy, Sirius replied. "I'b dever... hold... od... heh-Chuhhh! uhhhChuhhh! uhhChew!" He blew his nose and wiped it, then started over. "I'b dever goig to get to sleeb if I keep sdeezig sniff, sniff, sniff, so buch."


     Snape nodded and held out another cup of tea for him. "Drink this, it's warm and soothing."


     Sirius eyed it as he had the one the night before. It was one thing when he asked for tea and Snape got it to him in a minute, but he really didn't trust when Snape took the time to make new batches on his own. Not after Snape had tried to force some early variation of Pepperup on him that might have stopped his heart for all he knew. "This isd't adother attebt at a Bebberub Botiod, is it?" he asked skeptically.


     Shaking his head, Snape thrust the cup into Sirius' hands. "Go on, then."


     Sirius had to admit that the warmth was nice, even if he was feeling warmer now that his fever was falling. "All right," he finally agreed, taking a sip. He let the taste sit in his mouth, though the cold had impaired his taste buds, then swallowed it. It felt delightfully soothing against his raw throat. He quickly drained the cup, feeling thirsty still, and was about to ask for some water or juice when another spell of dizziness overtook him. But this time it wasn't from standing upright or moving around too much. No, this time it felt much different and was clearly from the drink. His head bobbed around in a circle as his eyes fought to focus on Snape. The mug slipped from his fingers and Snape caught it, expecting as much. Sirius clutched his pillow tightly to keep himself from spinning along with the room as he looked up at Snape accusingly. "You bloody bastard," he managed before passing out.


     "It's not polite to call names," Snape muttered, pulling the blankets up to a now sleeping Sirius' shoulders. Snape reached over and patted Sirius' head once. The man's hair was damp from the shower this time. "Meet my friend Bella Donna," he whispered. "She should help you sleep despite the sneezing. And you do need sleep." He gave a yawn as he headed back to the couch to crash. "And so do I." A morning nap seemed just the thing right now.




Chapter 8- Second Attempt


     It was nearly noon when Snape woke from his nap, still wearing his pajamas from last night and feeling in desperate need of a shower and some food. He checked on Sirius, who was snoring so loudly Snape wondered how he had ever stayed asleep so long.


     Before he headed to the showers or made breakfast-slash-lunch he checked on the potion. There were three separate cauldrons of the brew in different forms and stages, as well as a few other pots of boiling things in case something went wrong. Sirius' outright refusal to test some the day before had caused Snape some worry in preparation, but after creating a few different variations, he felt confident that at least one would work eventually. But it would require a test. Of course, he wasn't exactly sure how to do that, especially after slipping the sleeping draft into Sirius' tea just that morning. Snape sighed, shaking his head, and headed off to shower, hoping some great epiphany would strike him there. Unfortunately, it did not.


     As his luck had it however, Sirius did not wake until after lunch time, though he wasn't sure of exactly when because the man was awake when he went in to check, a cup of potion in his hand. "I didn't know you were up already," he said, sitting down on the chair he'd left beside the bed.


     "Do I have to tell you every tibe I wake up dow?" he snuffled, but sounded slightly less congested. The Bella Donna had apparently helped with that as well. "Well, I won't or you'll just drug be agaid." He eyed the mug in Snape's hand.


     "You needed the rest. You were exhausted. You don't feel so dizzy or tired any more, do you?" Snape pointed out.


     And though Sirius was inclined to agree, he didn't want to say so. He sniffled and reached for a fresh handkerchief. His supply was running dangerously low and he certainly wasn't about to ask Snape to do his laundry for him. He looked up at Snape, debating what to say, when his eyes squinted and shut tightly. His body tightened with a sharp breath. "ehh-Chuhshh! huhChew! uhhChew!"


     Snape pursed his lips.


     "Ha!" Sirius exclaimed after wiping his nose dry. "You did't dedy it!"


     Snape was rapidly losing what little patience he had left for the man. "Didn't deny what?" he asked through gritted teeth.


     "That you'd drug be agaid." Sirius looked rather pleased with himself.


     Snape felt ready to hit his head against the wall repeatedly. He thrust the mug at Sirius. "If you don't try this before it cools, it will have no chance at working." Assuming he'd made it right at all, which was not necessarily a good assumption considering he had not been able to test it out on his first attempt. It wasn't perfect yet, and he knew it, but this was as close as it would be without adding the final bits that would depend on his reaction to this.


     Sirius, however, did not seem either as frustrated to be talking with Snape or pleased to see the potion. "Is that ad adbittadce of guilt?" he asked, skeptically eyeing the mug.


     "The only thing," Snape said slowly, "that I'm guilty of is not doing you in when I had the chance. Now, drink this right now or next time I'll find something more powerful than a simple sleeping sedative to slip you." The last bit was whispered in a slow but nonetheless fierce hiss.


     Sniffling, rubbing at his nose, Sirius stared straight at Snape for a moment. Then, decidedly, "Doe." He coughed and rolled over in bed, his head buried in the pillow, his back to Snape, his eyes closed.


     "No?!" Snape exclaimed. "Did I hear you right? No?"


     "Doe!" Sirius repeated, pulling the blanket up to cover most of his head. "huh... uhhh-Ihchew! uhhChooo!"


     Snape was nearly panting from the effort of restraining himself. "I don't think you quite understand. I'm not giving you a choice, Black. I need you to drink this so that I can see if it's close enough to add the final ingredients or if I need to do something else entirely to it." Sirius did not reply. "There are millions of cold viruses out there. I can't be expected to make a potion that works unless I know what the one you have is like." Still nothing from Sirius. "So roll over and take your medicine. *NOW!*"


     Sirius' immediate response was to snort. But the action apparently tickled his nose, and he sneezed again, the sound muffled by the blankets over him. "huhhChhhh! Ihhchuhhh! uhhchhooo!"  He pulled them closer around himself when he finished. "Go away add let be die id beace!" he complained. As Snape circled round him to the other side of the bed, he turned over again, sniffling.


     "You wouldn't be dying if you just tried some of this. I'm supposed to be making this potion for you. But if you don't cooperate, I can't do that." He sighed and tried to pull the blankets down, but Sirius clung on tighter, yanking them back.


     "Why is it so hard for you to udderstad that I just wadt to be left alode ride dow?" His eyes peaked out from beneath the blanket to look up at Snape. "I wadt to be biserable without you here forcig boisods add drugs odd be." He sniffed, eyes fluttering closed, then open again. "Dow go. Get out of here before I... sdeeze... od... od you..." His hand came up to meet his nose, and his whole head ducked back beneath the blankets. "huhEhshhhh! hihChuhhh! hehChoo!"


     Snape paused to think. This wasn't the first time this had happened, and he had a good feeling that it would not be the last by any stretch of the imagination. He was growing tired of Sirius' self-pitying moments. Tired of his constant complaining and sniffling, all of which could be helped if he'd just take a few swallows of the nearly-complete potion. He looked down at the lump beneath the blankets shake with coughs. No, he simply could not go through this another hundred times. "I don't care if you do sneeze on me," he said, cringing, glad Sirius could not see his facial expression from under the covers. "I'm not leaving this room until you drink a little of this and tell me if it makes you feel any better."


     Sirius peaked out again, staring hard, apparently thinking hard as well. He pushed the covers down to his neck, sniffling. For a moment, Snape thought Sirius was about to sneeze on him. Nervously, he took a step back but otherwise stayed firm in his decision. "You're dot goig to leave this roob udless I drig that?"


     "I'm not going to leave *until* you drink this," Snape corrected with a sly smile. He held the cup out to Sirius. "So drink up, Black, and then I'll leave you alone as you've requested I do *so* many times now."


     Sirius looked hopeful, and inched out from beneath the blankets a little more. "Is that a brobise?" he snuffled, the back of his hand pressed against his nose.


     "Yes, it's a promise!" Snape sighed deeply with the cup still extended. Anything to get him to drink the potion.


     "Good." Sirius said with a grin. In one quick movement he gathered a few of the blankets in his arms, rose, and headed out of the room.


     "Black!" Snape shouted. "Where are you going?!"


     "Well, you said you'd be id here so I'b goig to go tage a dab id the livig roob. Have a good tibe waitig, Severus." His eyes sparkled with laughter though his throat seemed incapable of much of it currently. Without looking back at the absolutely livid Snape, he went into the living room.


     Snape's things were spread out on the floor and the couch, and Sirius didn't feel much like moving them. So he wrapped the blankets around his shoulder and climbed into Remus' ratty old arm chair. It looked tiny, but it was actually more like cozy once in it. He pulled his legs up onto the chair as well and retreated under the blankets as much as possible, except for his head which leaned back and rested on the pillowed headrest that seemed to have adjusted to his height and position perfectly.


     The armchair was a hand-me-down from Remus' uncle. A professor type as well, though Remus failed to see the similarities. Or, perhaps, did not want to admit them to himself. Remus' gift for instruction came from that uncle, the tender friendliness with his students, the desire to inspire and pass on knowledge. Perhaps it was Remus' inability to hold a steady job as a professor now that made him want to forget his uncle. Regardless, he had retained the chair and sat in it most often when he was alone or thought Sirius was elsewhere and not paying attention to him. Like the pillow in the bedroom, it too smelled of Remus, which was comforting to Sirius.


     His cold made him sniffle and he realized suddenly that he had left his handkerchiefs in the bedroom. He looked up, his eyes making contact with Snape's. For a moment, neither moved or even twitched, then Sirius put on a wide grin of satisfaction and snuggled into the blankets more to indicate he was quite comfortable. Snape looked away with an angry huff that Sirius could not hear from the living room.


     Mean trick or not, Sirius had achieved a nap away from Snape, and that was enough to make him relax and feel slightly better. Perhaps this had been Dumbledore's plan all along. Torture him with Snape's presence so much that the lack of it would make him feel considerably better. "uhhhChushhh! Huh-huhEhshushhhh!" Even sneezing without a handkerchief didn't seem to bring him down from this. And he rubbed his nose on the edge of the blanket, closed his eyes, and fell right to sleep with the smile still on his face.



*                      *                      *


     "Doe... blease... I'b iddocedt!" Sirius called out, cringing in pain, clutching the blankets so tightly that his knuckles were white. "Dot Harry... dod't hurt Harry..." Then he seemed to be struggling against the blankets as if they were trying to do him in.


     "Wake up," growled Snape, shaking the man hard. He had a terrible feeling what he'd gone through last night was not the last feverish fit he would have to help Sirius through, but he was holding out a little longer in hopes of proving himself wrong. "Wake up you sick little--"


     "Exbectro... exbecto batrodub..." Sirius wheezed, moving about feverishly, but not waking. Repeatedly his eyes flickered open and closed again, but did not seem to focus on anything.


     Snape felt his forehead, but it wasn't nearly as warm as it had been. That was a good sign.


     But there were also bad signs, evident as Sirius jerked around, pushing the blankets to the floor but holding his arms as though to fight off new attackers. "Doe!" he screamed, and Snape put his hand to his own ear.


     "Don't *do* that!" Snape snapped angrily, stepping back, breathing heavily to stem the pain. He kicked the armchair hard in frustrated anger and doubled over to clutch his foot and swear fervently at the resulting intense pain. He looked down at Sirius, thrashing about, looking as if he were in just as much pain, though scared to death at the same moment. Then he shook his head. "Fine," he said, blacking away. "Fine, I just won't bother. I've had it. Promise or not, I was sent here to work on a potion not be your damn babysitter. Fight your Dementors without my help."


     Sirius whimpered, looking pained. "Doe!" he called out again. Snape had raised both hands to his ears in time, though the call had been much less than a scream this time. "Dod't... Blease..."


     And in some very odd way, Snape froze, feeling that somehow Sirius had been talking directly to him. He knew the man was feverish and did not know what he was saying. But at the same time, the hurt in his voice was so real. The sort of hurt he had heard many times before. The sort of hurt he had felt himself. The sort of hurt he had inflicted upon others while still in the service of the Dark Lord. Snape's body went all cold with a frightening chill, as though a Dementor were upon him, making him remember those wrongdoings first hand.


     "Sirius," he whispered, almost hoarsely. "You must wake up now." But Sirius did not wake or even react, save to grip the fabric which served as the backing of the chair and pull at it. There were small tears all over the chair already, but this made one just a bit bigger. He looked utterly desperate for help. A single tear ran from his eye, and Snape nearly made to wipe it away on instinct, but stopped himself, remembering who this was. The tear could be ignored, but the feverish moaning and thrashing about could not. Snape thought for a moment, then reached out and gave him a hard slap on the cheek.


     The sound echoed throughout the otherwise empty cabin, but it did its job to jolt Sirius back to reality. Sirius' eyes flew open, then closed again immediately as he sneezed. "HAHshhhhh! huhChushhhh!"


     "Ugh! You idiot!" Snape pulled his hand back. His good deed had been rewarded by Sirius sneezing on him. "Why do I even bother?" With a frustrated groan, he walked swiftly over to the kitchen, or as swiftly as possible with his foot still hurting, and ran his hand beneath the water. He was *not* about to catch this cold, whatever happened. He limped back cursing himself for having even tried to wake Sirius in the first place.


     "I thought you bromised to stay id the bedroob?" Sirius asked with a rude tone to his otherwise congested voice, picking the blankets up off the floor and hugging them to his chest. "Could't eved keeb a sible brobise?"


     "You were in need of waking," Snape explained plainly. "Would you have preferred me to leave you here to your Dementors?"


     Sirius twitched, clutching the blankets tighter as though to protect himself. "How did you dow?" He bent his head into the blankets. "huh-Uhshhhhh! Ihh-Chushhhh!" He sniffled quite wetly but left his head there for a moment. "huh-Kutchhhh!"


     Snape cringed, stepping back, far out of reach of the sneezes even though they had been covered. "You talk in your sleep when you're delirious," Snape replied. He rubbed at his ear. "And rather loudly, at that."


     "I... I do?" he asked, snuffling, rubbing at his nose which was running from the sneeze. "What... sniff, sniff... what did I say?"


     "You, uh..." As much as Snape delighted in watching Sirius suffer, he decided that this wasn't exactly the time. He pulled out his own handkerchief and handed it over. Sirius took it gratefully, sniffling and rubbing his nose thoroughly. "Nothing much. The important thing is that the dream's over." He almost gave a smile of comfort. Almost. "Now would you give this potion a try? I'm not going to be able to do anything else with it until you try it out." Sirius did not reply. "Unless you want me around for another week as you wait for the cold to pass on its own?"


     Sirius, clutching Snape's pale green handkerchief, nodded. "Helb be back to bed add I'll have a few sips."


     Snape narrowed his eyes. Was this another trick? "You got yourself out here. You can get back--"


     He sniffled into the handkerchief, then folded it in half and looked up at Snape. "I feel a bit worse dow thad I did whed I got byself out here."


     "Well, that's obvious. It's been a whole, what, five minutes since you last insulted me?" He waved a hand to direct Sirius to stand up, then put an arm roughly around the man's waist. "Come on, then."


     Sirius swayed a bit, but stayed on his feet this time, holding the blankets with one arm, grasping Snape's arm for support with his other. They took a few steps towards it, slow, with Snape limping still. "What habbed to your foot?" Sirius asked, starting to put a bit more weight on Snape as his head spun.


     "Nothing," he said, wincing slightly as he put pressure on it, just a bit more than there had been the last time.


     "You look like you're id baid," Sirius commented, starting to feel dizzy again.


     "The pain will pass," he replied coldly.




     "It will pass," Snape repeated. He looked over at Sirius just in time to catch the man from fainting again and hitting the floor. "Hey!" he said, shaking him, setting him down on the floor, blankets under his head. "Don't you do this to me again. Do you hear me? I'm getting damn tired of it!"


     Sirius' eyes rolled, but he regained consciousness very quickly. "S-sorry. I did't realize I felt quite that badly."


     Snape nodded and helped him up, blankets and all. Limping, he pulled Sirius forward. "Back to bed with you now."


     Sirius sniffled and fell onto the bed with a relieved sigh. Snape covered him with the blankets and retrieved another cup of potion from the kitchen while Sirius got comfortable in bed once again. Sirius traded the green handkerchief for a fresh white one, feeling significantly better with it. Like a security blanket... a security blanket that smelled like Remus. Remus always did the laundry. "hehUhshhhh! Huhtchooo! Hetchew!"


     "Here. Drink this," Snape said, holding out the cup. Warningly, "don't make me ask again."


      Sirius blew his nose and then took the cup. He held his breath and swallowed a mouthful. Then they both waited. There was no steam from his ears, but there wasn't much of anything else, either. At least, not immediately. After a long ten seconds of waiting, however, Sirius' nose began to tingle madly. He put down the cup and cupped the handkerchief to his face. "hehh... ehhhh...heh..." His eyes closed, his mouth hung half open, his body rocked back and forth with pre-sneeze pants. "It wod't... ehhh... wod't cub... heh... cub out... eh-hehh... ihhh!" He opened his eyes long enough to glare at Snape, who was looking a bit uneasy. Waving his hand in desperation, he tried to will the sneezes out. "heh-ihhhh... huh..." but the sneeze would not come.


     But Snape had anticipated this possibility. "Right," he said, and quickly limped out of the room. He was back in a few seconds with another cup. "Drink this, then."


     Sirius, face scrunched with a pre-sneeze face, took the cup immediately and swallowed between gasps. At once he dropped the cup and with it the remaining potion to cup his hands over his nose and mouth. "heh-UHHSHH! hetCHOO! CHEW! CHUSHEW!" He reached for the handkerchief as he caught his breath. "heh-IHHSHH! ehhShooo! ehhTchuhhh! uhhhChew! uhhhShushhh!" He rubbed his nose and sniffled strongly, then gave a sigh.


     "Done?" asked Snape, eyebrows raised.


     Sirius shook his head no, his mouth hanging open. "heh-EHHshuhhh!" He blew his nose copiously. "Dow I'b dode." He looked up at Snape with a bit of anger. "If you're tryig to codvidce be that you're dot goig to kill be, thed you're dot doig a very good job."


     Snape scowled. If Sirius had just tested the potion out the previous day as he had requested, they wouldn't be having this problem now. But as it was, he was in no mood to argue yet again, especially now that Sirius had finally cooperated a bit at least.


     There were still a few sneezes lurking in Sirius' nose, but the normal kind this time. "heh-Ihhshhh! ehhhShooo!" He sniffled, testing his nose. "Better." Then he smiled. "It's dice to feel sick agaid like dorbal."


     Snape chuckled and recovered the cup, then mopped up the spill with an extra handkerchief.


     "How are *you* feelig?" Sirius asked, sniffling.


     "What?" Snape laughed again. "Why do you ask?"


     Sirius shrugged. "It's beed five bidutes sidce you last idsulted be."


     Snape laughed and nodded. "Good point. You're a filthy, cruel, dishonest git who I shouldn't even be bothering with." He stepped back from the bed, still smiling. "Now if you need me, I'll be in the kitchen working on the rest of this potion." He headed off, but not without a glance back at Sirius, who was blowing his nose again miserably. He *was* a filthy, cruel, dishonest git... and another hundred things Snape could have mentioned if he'd had the energy... but he was also sick, and hurt. And somewhere, deep down very very deep down, Snape did have a smidgen of sympathy for him. After all Snape had been sick once or twice, himself.




Chapter 9- Not-so-fond Remembrances


     It was dinnertime, and Sirius had already fallen to sleep, refusing food of any sort. Snape had tired everything, but Sirius just hadn't been hungry and he hadn't wanted to force anything for fear that the fever might make the man's stomach feel upset. And that was certainly the last thing he wanted to add to the list. Besides, if he couldn't keep the Pepperup Potion down, there wasn't much chance of it working, now was there?


     Snape cooked a small meal for himself of whatever he could find in the freezer. Basically it consisted of a pork chop and some veggies. It wasn't much fun eating by himself, something he rather missed about being away from Hogwarts, even in the summer. But he could remember less fond memories of mealtimes at Hogwarts...




     The mashed potatoes were too lumpy. The gravy was too salty. The steak, though already partially cut into six or seven pieces was too tough. And the peas were too soft and runny. He had gone through a few glasses of cold pumpkin juice, but even it didn't taste exactly to specifications.


     "Hah-IHTSHH! IHTchhhh!" With the back of his wrist pressed to the bottom of his nose, he gave a wet sniffle. He tried not to look at any of his Slytherin companions at the table, but they were all staring at him too hard to ignore.


     "Snape," he heard a familiar voice call him.


     He dropped his hand to his lap and turned, trying to look all right. "Yes, Malfoy?"


     The blond young man seemed to command respect even without speaking, and he now gave Severus a look that said everything. Everyone around Severus seemed to shrink away at the sight of it.


     Severus nodded, pushed back from the table, and headed out of dinner, straight to the hospital wing. He caught a glimpse of the Gryffindor table on his way out. Little Peter Pettigrew was helping himself to seconds, and bloody James Potter held hands across the table with red-haired Lily Evans. A shiver ran through Severus, and he hurriedly continued out.


     Once on his way, the corridors were filled with less and less students, until he was alone. With a sigh, he leaned on a wall and pulled out his handkerchief, a pale green one that had been a Christmas present from his parents some years ago. "huhEHSHH! hehYIHTCHH!" His nose buried in the folds, he blew, then looked around to be sure that he was still alone. And he was.


     He continued on, sniffling. Truth was that he hadn't wanted to go to the hospital wing in the first place despite really feeling sick enough to need to go. He had been suffering through classes all day. A whole day and a half of sniffling, blowing his nose, and going through handkerchiefs with sneezes. But no one had inquired as to why he had not yet sought treatment, and no one asked how he felt. The boys in his dormitory room had not mentioned his ailment either. A few times, Lucius Malfoy had raised an eyebrow or patted his back, but had not told him what to do either. But this time, Severus didn't want to go back to his bed and disturb them all by sneezing all night long the way he had been during dinner. It was time for drastic action, and to face the hospital wing again.


     "Why, Mr.Snape," Madam Pomfrey said as soon as he'd entered, hanging by the doorway to survey the contents of the ward. "I haven't seen you in here in ages. What's the matter tonight?"


     He sniffled and cleared his throat. "I haven't been feeling so well."


     "You do sound a bit congested. Come with me, dear." She put an arm around his shoulders and led him to a bed to examine him. He took off his robes and loosened his green and silver-striped tie. The hospital beds were soft, as though enchanted to be just the perfect support system for its user. He was feeling sleepy, having not been able to sleep much the night before thanks to the sneezing. So he found himself struggling to stay awake as she asked him questions about his symptoms and looked into his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.


     "Open your mouth and say 'Ah' please."


     Severus, straining to keep his eyes open, obeyed. "Ahhhhh..." he said for as long as the tongue depressor depressed his tongue. When it was gone, he turned and coughed into his fist. It was a harsh, moist cough that didn't sound at all good, and he felt a bit embarrassed to hear it coming from himself.


     Madam Pomfrey gave him a disapproving look as she scrutinized. "Well, Mr.Snape, it looks like you've just caught a very bad cold." She stood, taking her few instruments with her. "As it is the spring, I do not have any Pepperup prepared and at hand. So I'd like you to spend the night here at least until I can administer some and you are no longer contagious. I can't have you running about infecting the whole school now, can I?"


     Severus shook his head wearily, looking down, ashamed. If he had been feeling any better, he would certainly have snapped back that he certainly had no intentions of running about the school and would have been under the covers of his bed feeling sick if he had to be anywhere else. But he coughed again and realized that really there was no argument to be made.


     "Shall I have someone bring up your toothbrush and pajamas or--"


     "No thank you," he said, sniffling and reaching past her to take the box of tissues from the bedside table. He couldn't really think of anyone who would be willing to do that for him. The Slytherins were all well and good, and moved in packs especially when exacting revenge or plotting to do so, but they weren't really the sort of close friends who would root through your trunk to bring your pajamas to you when you caught a cold and had to spend the night in hospital.


     "I'll get you some of the hospital pajamas then," she offered, standing.


     He nodded, plucking out a tissue and breathing hard into it. "heh-KIHSHHH! IHSHHH! EHTCHHH!"


     "My goodness!" Madam Pomfrey exclaimed, nearly jumping at the sound. "You have quite a large sneeze there!"


     He nodded again, blowing his nose. Large nose, large sneeze. Having the school nurse startled by one's sneezes wasn't the most comforting thing to hear right now, however.


     Madam Pomfrey seemed to realize this and patted his head gently. "Don't you worry. You'll be right as rain by this time tomorrow."


     Somehow he doubted that. He always seemed to come down with the worst colds imaginable, the sort that didn't seem to get much better with Pepperup, or with juice and tea and ice cream and rest. The only thing he managed to do most times was to wait it out and try not to draw much attention to himself. Which of course was difficult with his sneezes being the sort they were.


     He changed and climbed under the blankets. Madam Pomfrey had brought a few extra blankets, black with crests of Hogwarts all over them. The blankets were thick and warm, and he even had to push the top one down to keep from being too hot. "Here's some water for you, too. Just give me a call if you start to feel any worse or need something else. All right?"


     Severus nodded, resting his head on the pillows, plumping them so they were a little higher, and then putting his head back down again. Madam Pomfrey drew the curtains around his bed for privacy. They didn't make him feel much better, really. Anyone there could still hear him sniffling away, and simple curtains didn't do much to hide the sounds of his sneezing or coughing either. Still, it was a little better than another night with the other sixth year Slytherins giving him disapproving looks every time he woke them up.


     He curled up beneath the blankets, sniffling into a handful of tissues. "heh-YIHSHH! IHSHUHH!" This was going to be a long night. Rubbing at his nose with the back of his hand, he sat up and took a drink of water. It was cold and wonderful at the back of his throat and he found himself drinking the whole glass in one take. Severus' nose twitched and tickled again, but he had several tissues at hand to take care of it. "hih-IHTCHH! Hetchhhh! Ehtshhhh! ehh-IHTSHHH!" He blew his nose and sniffled. Miserable. That's how he felt. And not much he could do about it. He could continue to sniffle and tend to his nose, and the water had at least helped his throat. That was a good start. Throwing off the covers, he picked up the empty glass and tucked the tissue box under his arm to prepare for the long walk across the hospital wing to where the pitcher of water sat.


     He started across, in between the rows of beds. Most were empty, in fact, it looked like they all were. He peaked behind a few curtains to find empty beds that looked as though they simply had not been stripped down and had new linens yet. He leaned against the foot of one as he felt another sneeze coming on. His eyes closed and mouth opened. "heh-EHSHHH! YIHSHHH!" He sneezed into his hand then pulled out a few more tissues and rubbed them against his nose. Instinctively, he looked around again to be sure that he was still alone. He was. The ward was dead silent. He continued on.


     With the tissue box under his arm, he filled his glass with ice water and emptied it down his throat. After drinking another few glasses, he filled it again and headed back. The call of the warm blankets was getting louder and seemed much more attractive now that he was far away from the bed. He walked faster, heading back, stopping a few times to take out another tissue or two and cover his sneezes, which took some concentration in not spilling the water or dropping the box. "heh-IHSHHHH! Ehh-IHTCHH! IHSHH!" Luckily, he was virtually alone.


     But apparently not completely alone. There was sudden movement behind one of the curtains which made his heart pound fast. A soft spell was uttered to pull it back. Severus groaned inwardly at the sight.


     Sirius Black, in his tight black leather pants and no shirt, knelt on the thighs of Remus Lupin who lay on his back on the small bed. They were both looking at Severus, taking in everything from the blush in his cheeks to the red in his nose. "Why I *thought* I recognized those sneezes," Black said, his eyes point towards the tissues in Snape's hand. "Did you have another problem with a base solution, Snivellus?" he asked in a mocking tone that made them all remember that Quidditch match last year. Last year... it felt like so much longer ago. Back before when Snape was still adamant to find out Remus' secret... back before the incident in the tunnel between the willow and the shack.


     "Siri!" hissed Remus softly with a laugh, hitting Sirius' thigh. "That wasn't very nice!"


     Severus' eyes caught the window to his side, seeing the bright moon just clearing the tops of the trees. It shown with such brightness that he was almost tricked into thinking it was a full moon. For that split second, he tensed up in anticipation to sprint for the door. But then logic overpowered his cold-clouded head and he realized the moon was simply on the wane. But given the pale, weak Remus lying in bed, he could tell it had only just started doing so. Had he remembered what time of month it was, he never would have even thought about the hospital wing. "'Sjust a head cold," Severus replied, not being able to think of anything very witty to respond with. "Thanks for the concern." Sarcasm always seemed to work well with Sirius Black. He rubbed at his nose with the tissues, the flush in his cheeks deepening. His nose was tickling again, but he was hoping not to sneeze in front of them... at least not again.


     "What makes you think we were concerned?" Sirius said with a snort.


     Obviously, even the subtle art of sarcasm was lost on Sirius. The building tickle was too strong, and though he tried to fight it, he pulled out another tissue just in time. "heh-KISHHH! IHTCHH!"


     Black snickered openly and Remus looked as though he were trying to contain laughter behind his smile. Black made a derisive noise. "Just be sure to point that obnoxious nose of yours away from us when you sneeze." He did not look back at Remus yet, but did run a hand down the young man's body, stopping at the crotch. Remus gasped and closed his eyes with a grin.


     "I'll try to keep it down," replied Severus flatly, feeling a bit repulsed at the sight of the still partially clothed boys. He knew they were lovers. Hell, the whole bloody school knew that much. Severus simply wasn't interested in watching them prove it. He reached over and pulled the curtain closed.


     From behind the curtain, Sirius called out in mock sweetness, "Not a bother, Sevvy. We won't be sleeping..."


     Severus cringed, rubbed at his nose to keep the tickles back, but managed to reply, "I was talking about my supper." He smiled, then buried his nose in the tissues balled in his hand. "huh-IHSHHH! heh-EHHshhhh! IHTSHH!" He heard some giggling from Remus' bed and wasn't sure if that was in response to his sneezes or to something else. Quickly, he hurried back to bed, climbed in, and pulled the covers over his head so his sniffling and sneezes were muffled. Not to mention the fact that now he could not hear the sounds that were emanating from Remus' bed. "heh-IHHSHH! EHSHH!" Correction: this was going to be a *very* long night.


*                      *                      *


     Sometime during the night, Severus Snape had wriggled out from beneath the covers for fresh air. In fact, he had pushed most of the blankets to the floor, probably something he hadn't meant to do as now he lay curled and shivering in the thin pajamas that weren't even his own. He sensed the shadow moving past him, though, and woke from his light sleep to make a grab for it.


     What he found was Remus' arm, clutched tightly in his hand "Lupin! What are you doing here?" he hissed in a hoarse whisper, startled to find his voice so deep and harsh.


     Remus' hand dropped its contents, which was an unopened box of tissues, onto the bedside table. "I saw you were running low on tissues, so I thought I'd bring another box over." He made a face and tried to pull his arm free. "May I have my arm back?" Severus noticed Remus was wearing his own pajamas.


     Severus' eyes glared with anger, and light fever. "Not until you give me a real reason for... for..." His eyes narrowed. He retracted his hand and brought both to his nose and mouth. "huhh-CHESHH! IHHSHH! ehh-ETCHHH!" He reached for the old tissue box and took out the last two tissues to wipe his hands and nose. "So you were just walking around inspecting things? Or... watching me as I... as..." He raised the tissues to his nose again. "huh-ITCHUHH! IHSHHH!"


     Remus stepped back a little to give Severus some room. "I can't sleep at night after..." he looked up at the window. "The moon is too bright. I usually end up studying or just walking up and down the isle here." Prowling. That was called prowling. And it certainly did not make Severus feel any better.


     "So you were so bored you thought you'd do something nice for the sick little Slytherin in bed five, huh?" He raised his eyebrows in inquiry.


     "Well, yes, frankly," he answered.


     "Bollocks!" Severus stared down the box as though it, too, were telling him lies. "What did you all do to it? Will they stick to my face again? Or maybe they'll be laced with acid and eat through my skin? Or maybe they'll make me sneeze uncontrollably, or not be able to breathe or..." He turned and covered his nose again. "heh-IHHSHHH!"


     "I didn't do anything to them," Remus said, reaching over to open the box and take out a tissue. "And it looks like you need them even more than I thought."


     Severus shook his head. "Oh, I get it. I tage ode add thed the rest of your little gadg jubs out frub the woodworg to laugh at be." He pulled back, turned his head, and drew another sharp breath. "hut-CHUHH! IHTCHHH! uhh-IHCHH!" He sniffled wetly a few times and rubbed his hand against the leg of his pajamas, shivering a little with chill.


     Remus reached down and recovered the blankets. He draped them over Severus, instinctively tucking the young man in before he could stop himself. Severus pushed him away, curling into a tighter ball on his pillow, smushed against the headboard to get as far away from Remus as possible. "Go away!" Severus exclaimed, sniffling again and rubbing his nose on his cuff. Then, looking around, "All of you!"


     Remus shook his head. "They're not here, Severus. It's past curfew."


     "Oh, add sidce whed has your little gadg followed the rules?" He shivered again and tugged one of the blankets up over his lap, clutching it to his chest. He held a hand up to his face quickly. "ahh...uhh-HITCHH! Yihh-ETCHH!" He sniffled several times quite miserably.


     Remus sighed, shaking his head. "Since I sent Sirius upstairs and made him swear not to tell the others you were sick." He added quickly, "And don't think it's something, because it's not. It's definitely not. It's just... the hospital wing is safe. Like... holy ground."


     Severus narrowed his eyes. "I thought dark creatures stayed away frub holy groud."


     Remus didn't look pleased, but ignored the spite. His earliest memory was of the wolf that bit him, and his second earliest of St.Mungo's and the needles and tubes. The bloodletting, the charms, the remedies. Nothing had worked. In and out of hospitals all childhood. And now even away from school he was in one several days after the full moon. "This place is sacred to me. It's sanctuary." He sighed and sat down on the very edge of Snape's bed. "So while you're in here feeling sick... truce." And he held out his hand for a shake.


     Severus stared at him a moment, finding something in his eyes that made him finally extend his hand and shake. Hand held tightly, Remus pulled him back down off his pillows and tucked him in again. He handed over a few tissues. "I promise they're safe." He took one himself and blew his nose to demonstrate. "See? Not covered in flesh-eating slug slime or made from spontaneous combusting paper."


     Severus hesitated, then blew his nose, to great relief. Several times. He opened his mouth, but caught himself before actually giving the thanks.


     Remus nodded as if he had said it, though, and gave a partial smile.


     "ehhh..." But the relief was short-lived. "uhh-YIHSHH! IHHSHH! heh-IHCHH-uhh!" He blew his nose again and gave a very soft moan as he wheezed and tried to regain his breathing through the congestion.


     "How are you feeling?" Remus asked sympathetically, gently pushing Severus' slick, long, black hair back out of his face where it had fallen haphazardly from the sneeze.


     It was a question Severus could not remember being asked. Nor being treated so nicely. And from Remus? Still, it did feel a bit comforting. "I feel absolutely dreadful," Severus complained weakly, as though he were close to a breakdown, clutching the blankets closer.


     Remus nodded in understanding. He patted Severus' head as he stood. "Madam Pomfrey sleeps pretty heavily between three and four in the morning, but otherwise she'll hear you if you call with need." He gave a soft smile. "You'll feel a little better tomorrow after you have some Pepperup Potion. But in the meantime, try and sleep as much as possible. That will help you feel better." Without anything further, he headed back to his own bed.


     Severus nodded back and closed his eyes, feeling the heaviness of the blankets and warmth and his fatigue and aches all overtake him at once. With a wide yawn and a few tissues clutched in his hand just in case, he drifted off to sleep.





Chapter 10- Baby Steps


     "Are you up?" asked Snape for perhaps the tenth time that morning, poking his head into the bedroom. Sirius had been fast asleep all morning and Snape was beginning to wonder if he'd ever be waking up.


     But this time, it seemed, he had. "Yeah, I'b awake," he replied, going straight for a fresh handkerchief. "uhh-Hitchhhh! Ehh-Chushhh! ihh-Chuhhh!" He sniffled and rubbed at his nose. "Why?"


     "Would you like something to eat?" Snape countered. "Breakfast? It's nearly lunchtime. I could make you a milkshake or something."


     Sirius shook his head. He sniffled and brought a pillow to his chest, curling around it, his head on it and arms hugging it. It seemed even having just woken up, he was tired again. His whole body ached whenever he tried to think about getting up and out of the bed. "I'b still dot hudgry."


     Snape expected as much and sighed. Trying to reason with him, "You've got to eat something." Sirius looked doubtful. "You need to keep your strength up."


     Shaking his head, he coughed. "What's it to you?"


     Snape sighed. "It will help you feel better."


     With a snort, Sirius rolled over and pulled the covers up over his head. "Says you."


     "Yes. And says Remus." Snape held up a small letter with a smile.


     The covers came back down, with a curious expression on Sirius' face. The expression grew to excitement as he spotted the letter. "He sedt ad owl?" Sirius sat up and leaned forward, making a grab for it. Snape put a hand on the man's chest to hold him up from falling but held the letter back, out of reach.


     "Ah-ah. Not until you agree to try and eat something. I don't want your stomach upset, but you can't take the Pepperup Potion on an empty stomach either." He pushed Sirius back down onto the bed, holding the letter back but keeping it visible as a temptation.


     Sirius sniffled, rubbing at his nose. "Fide. I agree. As lodg as it's sobethig sball. A bilkshake." Snape nodded at the decision, and handed over the letter, which Sirius tore open at once. It was a short letter, purposely so in case it fell into the wrong hands. But it was sweet nonetheless. It told him to behave himself, to take care of himself, to eat and sleep enough, and not to let Snape make him feel badly no matter what. It also said that Remus was all right and would be home in less than a week.  He read it through three times with a great smile on his face. Snape returned at the end of the third reading with milkshakes for both Sirius and himself. And Sirius took it without any protest and drank.


     Snape settled down in the chair beside the bed and drank his. It was good to see Sirius cooperating so willingly lately. With luck, he would have no problem getting Sirius to drink the final Pepperup Potion, and then things would come to a very quick end. "Why have you been so cooperative lately?" Snape asked with a smile as Sirius finished reading the letter a fourth time.


     Sirius shrugged. He sniffled and his face fell immediately, feeling a sneeze coming on. "I..." he stopped, unable to answer the question or explain why. He lifted his hand to his mouth, closing his eyes, and found a handkerchief there, brandished by Snape. He pulled his eyes open long enough to look thankfully up at the man, then shut them quickly, taking the handkerchief and burying his nose into it. "ehhUHshhhhh! ehhCHISHH! uhhCHOO! ehhShhhhh!" he breathed heavily and rubbed at his nose before trying to speak again. "I dod't dow... why have you beed so dice lately?"


     Snape shrugged back. He knew of course, he just needed to ease into the answer. "You know I was thinking last night--"


     A snort, and Sirius nearly choked on his drink.


     Rolling his eyes, "I suppose I walked right into that one," he said with a sigh.


     "You did," Sirius said coughing, but recovering. "You're bakig it too... easy... ehhh-Huhshhhh! Chuhhh!" He rubbed his nose again.


     "Well," Snape continued, "I suppose it's a sort of thank you. Do you remember that time in sixth year when I came down with that cold and spent the night in the hospital wing? And I caught you and Remus, uh..." he paused, searching for the right words.


     "About to shag our braids out?" Sirius offered helpfully.


     Snape rolled his eyes again, looking disgusted. "Please, I'm trying to keep this milkshake down, same as you." Sirius shrugged innocently but smiled.


     A smile which quickly faded thanks to a tickling nose. Snape took the drink back to it wouldn't spill, careful to tell the two apart, and waited for the man to finish sneezes. "uhh-Chuhhh! Ehhh-CHuhhh! HihSchhhh!" Sirius blew his nose as hard as possible, trying to free it of the congestion. But too much attention seemed to make it tickle worse. "huh-EHshhhh! ihhShhhh! Ehh-uhh-Chushhh! heh-Chew!" And this time he blew his nose just enough. He took the milkshake back, looking a bit embarrassed. It felt like this cold was never going to get better. He sniffled after a few more sips. "You were talkig about that dight id the hosbital widg."


     He nodded. And in a few seconds, Snape was a sixth year boy all over again, young and naive and hurting. Speaking quickly, and in a low tone, off-handishly, "Anyway, you didn't tell Potter, did you?"


     Confused, "What would I have told Harry about that?"


     "Not *Harry*!" And he spoke the name as though it were his least favorite in the world. "I meant *James*." The speaking of James' name sounded even worse. "You didn't tell him I was sick."


     Sirius shrugged, sipping some more of the milkshake. "Well, it wasd't because of you. I bade a brobise to Rebus."


     "I knew that," Snape said with a nod.


     Sirius sighed, looking down at his lap, playing with the edge of the blanket where it was unraveling. "He, uh, always called hosbitals sadctuaries. I subbose the dubber of tibes he's beed id theb. Go id sick, cube out well. They're sbecial blaces to hib." He gave a small smile. "But you'd be surbrised how little he cares about his owd health whed there are others sufferig." Then he looked up at Snape. "It was a brobise to hib, dot to you. Otherwise, believe be, we would have had the berfect target. Asleeb, udbrotected id a blace where we already had a guy od the idside. Oh the thigs we could have done..."


     Snape nodded, standing. As he remembered that night, the tissues, the soft touches, the sympathy... only now did he realize how very much Remus had really done for him. Remus had protected Snape from his friends. And now Remus, even from afar, was able to protect Sirius from Snape with a simple warning. He collected Sirius' empty cup and headed for the door. "Well, I'm here on a promise to Dumbledore, not to you." Then, calling back over his shoulder, "Try and get some more sleep. I'll be brining the potion over in just a little bit. It needs another hour of stirring." He looked over at the stove where a large spoon was doing laps on its own in the largest of the three cauldrons. Then he looked back over his shoulder to see Sirius snuggling under the blankets, slipping Remus' letter under his pillow for safety, but keeping it clutched tightly in his hand while he fell asleep. 





Chapter 11- Third Attempt


     "Black, wake up." Snape nudged the bed with his knee. "Black?" He set the mug down on the bedside table and leaned over Sirius. Was the man asleep or had he passed out from fever? Cautiously he reached out and felt Sirius' forehead- warm but not hot.


     Sirius woke at the touch, looking up at Snape looking back down at him. Both men jumped back in surprise, Sirius pushing Snape's hand away in disgust, Snape pulling his hand back in equal revulsion. "I've got to stob wakig ub like this," he groaned, rubbing his hand beneath his nose.


     "Soon enough," said Snape, holding out a cup for him. "It's ready."


     Taking it, and sniffing it suspiciously, Sirius pulled a face. "It does'd sbell right."


     "That's because you're so stuffed up. I promise, it will work."


     Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Add I'b subbosed to believe you about that?"


     "I don't care what you believe. The truth is that the potion is perfect." Snape sat down in the chair by the bed, propping his feet up on the side of the bed. "Go on, drink it. The sooner you drink it, the sooner you start to get better and the sooner I get out of here and back to my own life."


     But satisfying Snape was clearly not on Sirius' list of reasons to drink a potentially fatal potion. He set it down on his lap, still staring at it. "I dod't thik I wadt to. It's dot eved the right color."


     "And how would *you* know?" Snape hissed through clenched teeth. "You've never made a proper complex potion in your life."


     "I dod't have to brew ode to dow what color they're subbosed to be. Greed, browd, black, eved bustered yellow... just dot burble!"


     "Purple is the right color for this, I assure you. There are a number of factors that go into making a potion like this one successful. Given your fever, the duration of your ailment thus far, the other symptoms--" He would have been most happy to continue to describe his precise process, but Sirius had other ideas.


     "But it's burble!" Sirius made another face and looked away. He directed another sneeze into his shoulder. "hehh...ehhh-CHUHshhhh!" He grabbed a nearby balled up handkerchief that looked not to be completely used up and rubbed it roughly against his nose. He discarded it again, sniffling. "I've decided," he said, rubbing his cheek into his pillow, "I'b dot goig to dridk it. I'b goig to stay sick add let the cold bass od its owd. It's safer thad drikig boisod."


     Snape sighed deeply, shaking his head, which he held one hand up to. "You're absolutely pathetic, do you know that?" He stood up, fists clenched tightly. "I was asked to do a job, and this is the result. And you're to drink it. Now it's not my fault if you don't trust it--"


     "I do't trust *you*!" He coughed and closed his eyes. "I'd rather suffer with this cold thad die frub whatever this is." He swirled the liquid around in the cup. It made a hissing noise Sirius was not fond about, and bubbles rose to pop on its surface.


     "It's not poison!" Snape exclaimed, waving a hand towards the mug. "It will work just fine!"


     But Sirius shook his head. "The last ode you gave be did't. Add the ode before that." His eyes widened with understanding. "You've beed tryig to kill be this whole... tibe..." He looked over at the pile of used handkerchiefs, and instead leaned over, grabbing a new one. "hehChushhh! hehChishooo! huhCHooo!" He folded it and blew his nose. Then quickly found another dry spot. "huh-Shuhhh! uhhhChew!" He took a deep, congested breath and coughed from it all. Closing his eyes, he simply wished this all to be over.


     "Bless you."


     His eyes shot open and he glared hard at Snape. "Shut ub. Add go away. It's bad edough I'b sick without you sittig there sbilig at by bisery." Snape was indeed smiling, though out of amusement of the current situation. Here he was, finally finished after all this, and Sirius refused to even try the treatment. Well now, Snape wasn't going to have his potion ruined just because the patient wouldn't drink it. His smile turned into a grin. Slowly, reveling in the drama, he pulled out his wand. Sirius' angry look gave way to a bit of fear. "W-what do you thidk you're doig?" He scooted to the far side of the bed beneath the covers still, leaving the potion on the bedside table.


     Snape's grin, if anything, increased. His stare intensified and he sat up straighter in his seat. His voice was strong, insistent, "You will take this potion willingly, or I will make you."


     Sirius laughed. "What are you goig to do? Iberius be?" A gleam in his eye told Snape that he wasn't above reporting the use of an unforgivable curse like Imperius to Dumbledore or the officials.


     "I hadn't thought of that. Why, would you like me to?" He swished his wand eagerly.


     Sirius held his hand up, palm out, sliding to the very edge of the bed. "Dow!" He was not going to beg, but he certainly was not going to be cursed, either.


     Severus laughed. "Actually, I had something a bit different in mind. Last chance to drink it on your own." He raised a black eyebrow curiously, eyes flickering to where Sirius cowered, pulling a blanket up to his neck, coughing a bit weakly. The man did not have the strength to push himself out of bed, let alone run for it. And Sirius shook his head no with determination. "Suit yourself," Snape replied with a shrug.  He quickly flicked his wand, announcing loudly, "Petrificus Totalus!" Sirius, in the middle of yelling in protest, stiffened and froze. Severus laughed again. He grabbed the cup and rounded the bed, black robes billowing. Dramatic was his middle name, and his smile confirmed that. After pushing a few pillows under Sirius' upper back, neck, and head, the man was propped up enough to drink.


     Sirius could move nothing but his eyes, which glared back in pure anger. Snape lifted the cup to his mouth. "I thank you for yelling at me just then. Your mouth is already open which makes the job much easier." Very slowly, he poured a bit of the potion down Sirius' throat. The man's eyes burned with anger, but he could not resist in any way. The potion went down smoothly, as though Severus had done such a thing before. And though petrified and unable to make noise to cough, Sirius did not choke on the potion. Steam billowed thickly from his ears.


     Snape finished and straightened. "And there we have it. What a very good patient you are." He could not resist patting a frozen Sirius on the head. Even the man's hair seemed stiff at the spell. Snape had a look of intense triumph on his face as he turned to go. But then he stopped and turned back. "Do not bother to let me know when you have regained all of your faculties. I am sure the flood of obscenities pouring from the bedroom will be enough to alert me." And with that same triumphant grin on his face, he strode out of the room with the empty mug in hand.


*                      *                      *


     Sirius came stumbling into the kitchen around dinnertime, in pajamas, a handkerchief in one hand. Severus looked up from the dinner he was preparing on the counter. "Well, well, well." He raised an eyebrow and waved a spoon as though to wave hello. "Look who's finally left his bedroom. Feeling better are we?"


     With a shrug and a cough, Sirius came closer. "I guess. Maybe a little."


     "You don't sound as congested as you did before," Snape observed with a proud smile. He scooped a spoonful of mashed potatoes onto a plate to compliment the peas, biscuit, and chicken breast, and shoved it into Sirius' hands. "Dinner is served."


     Sirius sniffled wetly. Thanks to the potion, the stuffiness in his nose had made way for a runniness. He had been sneezing virtually nonstop since having taken the potion.


     He made to put his plate down on the table, but Snape held him back with a hand on his shoulder. "Ah-ah. I don't think so. Back to bed with you."


     "But... you said I sounded better. I can... " His eyes narrowed and he sniffled, putting the plate down. Into the handkerchief, he buried his nose swiftly. "huhChooo! ihhhChuhhh! ehhhChooo!" He shook his head back and forth, rubbing his nose against the handkerchief. "I can handle eating out here."


     "I said back to bed." Snape picked up the plate and put his hand on Sirius' back, pushing him towards the bedroom.


     Sniffling weakly, Sirius let himself be forced back to bed. But he had to admit that the trip across the cabin had tired him, and the warm blankets and pillows of the bed were welcoming. He snuggled halfway beneath the covers and Snape handed him his plate.


     "Now, I want you to stay in bed and rest or the potion won't have done any good at all and I'll have to start all over again." And neither of them wanted that, to be sure. Sirius looked up at him angrily. But Snape pulled out his wand, aiming it at Sirius. "You're going to stay in bed, right?" Thinking about the many spells Snape could conceivably use to keep him there, Sirius nodded reluctantly, looking down at the plate. Admittedly he was rather hungry as well and the meal looked fantastic. "Good. Call me if you need anything."


     The food tasted as excellent as it looked, and Sirius noticed suddenly that his sense of taste, though still a bit hindered, had returned. Grinning, he scooted over in bed to see out the doorway and to the table. He waited for Snape to put some things away and then take a seat at the table. Snape was just picking up his fork when Sirius called out to him, "Severus?!"


     Snape sighed, put down the fork, and headed into to the bedroom, stopping at the foot of Sirius' bed. "What is it?"


     "You forgot to get me a drink with my meal." Sirius said, pantomiming the act of drinking from a glass so as to be sure Snape got the message.


     Snape rolled his eyes and tore away, returning with a glass of water.


     Sirius made a face. "Actually, I was hoping for orange juice..."


     With heavy, deliberate sigh, he stormed out and returned with a cup of juice. He thrust it into Sirius' hand. "There, happy now?"


     Sirius put the cup down on the bed stand and snatched up his last clean handkerchief. "heh..." his breath was warm as he brought it to his nose and mouth, heaving. "heh-UhShoooo! EhhhChoooo! IhhhChuhhhh!" After blowing his nose a little, Sirius shrugged. "I guess so." He watched Snape return to the table, and sit back down. As the potions master took up a fork-load of peas, Sirius called out again, "Severus?"


     Severus dropped his fork this time with a clang against the plate and returned to the bedroom. "Yes?"


     Sirius was rubbing again at his runny nose, trying to look as miserable as possible. Apart from the sneezing, he was actually feeling much better. "Actually, I could use some more handkerchiefs. I'm almost out." Smiling, he let the sneezes speak for him. "hehChuhhh! hehChahhh! Heh-IhhhShhooo!" He sniffled and rubbed his nose through the folds of the hanky. "I really do need more. You wouldn't want me accidentally sneezing on you now, would you?"


     Snape cringed and squinted, taking out his wand and levitating the pile of used handkerchiefs out of the room and into a basket outside the bathroom. He wasn't about to touch them or anything crazy like that, but he'd figure something out. At Sirius' look of current satisfaction, Snape rejoined his dinner. This time, he found he did not have to blow on the food before lifting it to his mouth. He was just about to take his first bite when...




     Snape dropped the fork, pushed the plate angrily, and apparated to the foot of the bed. "What?" he spat, trying to keep his composure. "And don't you dare call me that again!"


     Sirius, sniffling, looked up at him innocently. "I could use just a little more butter on these mashed potatoes." Snape turned towards the door. "Oh, and some salt and pepper." Snape managed a single step away. "And some more sauce for this chicken." Snape managed another few steps away, paused as though waiting for more. But more did not come and Sirius merely smiled, waiting for response.


     He looked over his shoulder. "So thoughtful of you to combine it all in one order this time. Are you sure that's everything?" Sirius nodded. Snape seemed doubtful


     When he came back, he dumped the aforementioned items onto the bed roughly, then spun on his feet all in the same movement. In a second he was back to the door again but heard "Severus?" He stopped, tightening his hands into fists. "Could you get me some more juice?" Snape could not restrain an angry sigh of annoyance at this. After three more trips for juice and another to get him a napkin, Snape was more than aggravated by this arrangement. He had of course wanted Sirius to stay in bed and out of his way, but this was starting to get out of hand.


     By the time Snape finally sat down again at the table, Sirius was nearly done with his dinner, and Snape's was getting cold. Sirius let the man have a few bites, but then he grinned. After finishing the orange juice, which felt delightful to his throat, he cocked his head and calculatingly requested, "Severus?" Severus came into the room. Sirius looked up at him and before the potions master could say anything, "My throat's starting to hurt again."


     Snape stared back. Cold. Vicious. Incredibly annoyed. His lip curled. His tightly fisted hand went for his wand.


     "You did say I was to stay in bed, didn't you?" Sirius asked, sniffling. "And you did tell me to call you if I needed anything, didn't you?" He blinked, trying to make himself look sweet and helpless.


     "I did," Snape sighed. "So what is it?"


     "Could you get me some tea?" He grinned sweetly. "Pleeeeease, Sevvy?"


     Snape grabbed his wand, aiming it towards Sirius. "I said, do no call--"


     "hehUhchhhhh! ihhhChuhhhh! ehhhCheshh!" Sirius put aside his nearly empty plate and curled up. He had barely enough time to halfway clear his nose before he began to cough, loud and harsh.


     "All right, all right," Snape sighed, shaking his head. He went back into the kitchen muttering, "Absolutely pathetic," under his breath.


     Sirius coughed, watching him go with one eye open. When Snape was all the way back in the kitchen, he sighed, lying back in bed with a stretch. This was the life. And this would teach Snape not to raise a wand in his direction again any time soon.


*                      *                      *


     "Severus?" Sirius called from bed, sitting up and rubbing a finger beneath his nose. "Sev..." he closed his eyes, trying not to sneeze. The urge was intense, but he pushed it back. "Severus?" Snape was still nowhere in sight, and Sirius could wait no longer. He snatched up his last handkerchief again and sniffled. His nose was stuffed again, and he was starting to feel much worse. Admittedly, he could have used another drink of the potion. "heh-Uhtchhhhh! hehShooo! huhChooo!"


     "You called?" Snape asked, poking his head into the room and tossing a few clean handkerchiefs onto the bed.


     Sirius took one and blew his nose, welcoming the dry, soft touch of the cloth. "Yeah," he said with a weak smile. "I've got to use the bathroom." He thought briefly of all the glasses of orange juice he had requested and winced. "And I'm feeling faint again."


     Snape snorted. "Right. And two hours ago you wanted free run of the cabin. I'm tired of your games, Black." All this living with a werewolf had made him cry wolf a bit too much for Snape's taste. He returned to the kitchen after a few waves of his wand, which levitated the handkerchiefs to the bedside table and then threw the blankets down and off Sirius. "If you want something, you can get it yourself."


     Sirius growled to himself and collected a fresh handkerchief just in time. "heh-UHHshhooo! ehhhShahhh! ehhChuhhh!" For a moment, his head spun, but it calmed right down again. He craned his neck to look out of the room. Snape sat at the table, reading The Evening Profit and picking at what remained of his apparently reheated dinner. Fine. Well, Sirius didn't really need him anyway.


     With a sigh, Sirius stood. Apart from a bit of a head rush and the familiar congestion, he felt fine. He headed to the bathroom, past Snape without looking over at him. No sweat, everything was fine. As usual, he didn't look at himself in the mirror. Despite Remus' care and attention, the twelve years in prison had not done much for his looks. Nor had this cold. Of course, he was his own worst judge. He sniffled and headed back, feeling bad again. He needed more sleep badly and all he could think about was getting back to bed for it. Halfway back, his head spun again. He leaned against the wall quickly, but in mere seconds he was out.



     Sirius woke to find himself back in bed, under the covers with a cold compress on his forehead. He opened his eyes slowly to see Snape pacing back and forth at the foot of his bed, looking irritated and muttering to himself. His black hair fanned out to the side as his black robes did when he spun to change direction, and the look in his eyes made Sirius sink back into the pillows. While Sirius couldn't catch any of the muttered words, he had a pretty good idea of what they might be. A tickle in his nose made him lift his hand to his face, as the sneeze made him known. "heh-EHHHshooo!"


     Stopping cold in his tracks, Snape's head snapped to the side. He opened his mouth to speak, but then stopped. Instead, he walked to the side of the bed and leaned over. One hand was on Sirius' chest, the other on the bed; he leaned his weight forward onto both. "There is a very fine line between your needing my help and your abusing me. This time you have a bump on your head to show for crossing it. Next time, I assure you, you will not be so lucky." He leaned in closer, now nose-to-nose with Sirius'. "Do I make myself clear?"


     Sirius nodded weakly, and Snape pulled back with a grunt of suppressed rage. He tossed a handkerchief and Sirius, not caring that it landed a bit out of Sirius' immediate reach on the bed. He tore from the room, calling back, "I'll get you a cup of Pepperup. You're due for another dose anyway. And it will help your congestion long enough to allow you to sleep for the night."


     "ehhhShuhhh! uhhShahhh! ehhhSHooo!" Sirius took the handkerchief, noticing that it had been ironed, and smiled as he rubbed his nose. "Thanks, Severus," Sirius called back softly. Snape paused a moment in his step as he heard the words, as though he might make a reply, then continued on in silence. But the fact that he would never say it did not mean that Sirius did not know what would have been said. With a sigh and a broader smile, he pulled the blankets more tightly around him, rubbed his nose, and awaited Snape's return.






Chapter 12- One Big Happy Family


     Sirius sat, shivering a bit in the cold room. The temperature itself was not too bad, but his nerves were more to worry about than anything else. His leg bounced up and down on instinct and he shoved his hands in his pockets to keep from cracking his knuckles or biting his fingernails.


     Remus reached over and placed a hand heavily on Sirius' knee to keep it still. "We are early, Sirius. I'm sure Dumbledore will be here soon."


     Biting his lip to make up for the lack of leg jiggling, Sirius shrugged. "Yes, but what does he want us for? You just returned home a few days ago..." his hand left a pocket, snaked its way down his leg, and picked up Remus'. "And I just started to feel better. I'd like to enjoy a few minutes together before running off to do another chore for Dumbledore."


     Remus grinned, squeezing his hand back and stroking his thumb against the inside of Sirius' palm. It made the man shiver, laugh with tickle, and smile at the secret touch. He remembered back in their days when Remus used to do that to him during classes. It always made the classes seem so much more thrilling. "I am sure Dumbledore would not have called us all the way out here suddenly with bags of clothes packed if it were something unimportant."


     Sirius nodded back, trying to believe it. He stood, meaning to pace across the man's study, or perhaps go down to the lower level and light the fire. But before he could take a step, the door opened and the gray of a beard could be seen poking out from behind it. Sirius quickly reclaimed his seat and tried to look as though he were not squirming to find out what they had been called for. Patience had never been Sirius' greatest virtue, but Remus seemed to have enough for both of them, evident as Remus reached over to freeze Sirius' jiggling leg once more. "Hello Headmaster," Remus said with a smile.


     Sirius nodded. "Headmaster," he echoed reverently, and absentmindedly bit down on his lower lip once again.


     "I'm glad you both could come at such short notice," Dumbledore said, walking past them to sit behind his desk. They both followed him with their gazes and moved in their chairs as well.


     "You said you have a project for us?" Sirius blurted out. He felt Remus' hand squeeze his knee hard in reaction, and he knew he could have been more patient. But he had just regained his energy after the cold and a caged dog released from his cage... well...


     "It is all right to ask, time *is* precious right now. I find that I must leave Hogwarts for a few days on business of my own, which presents me with a bit of a problem as I must do something about what I am leaving behind."


     Sirius and Remus exchanged a look.


     "Yes, that is what I would like you for. It is a project of great personal importance to me. But it is also a private matter, requiring secrecy and seriousness." He smiled as only Dumbledore could. "No pun intended." Sirius rolled his eyes. Of course not, but if he had a galleon for every time that had been used... Dumbledore continued with that same smile, "Naturally, I thought of you two right away. You would be doing me a great favor in this."


     Sirius started to speak, but Remus spoke up first. "Of course, Headmaster. We are glad to assist you in any way we can." Sirius gave Remus a look to indicate he should be cautious, but it seemed answer enough had been given. Remus punched Sirius' upper arm hard and flicked his gaze to Dumbledore and back, indicating that Sirius should go along with it. Reluctantly, Sirius nodded.


     "I thank you both very much for this." He stood and ushered them both towards the door, indicating they should follow him. Remus collected his bag in one hand and took Sirius' hand with the other. After hesitating a moment, a slight tug from Remus made him go. Sirius, feeling that they should not have agreed so quickly, but as though he could handle anything at the moment with Remus at his side, went along willingly.


     They were led through the familiar halls of Hogwarts, past closed classroom doors and paintings in which the occupants grinned roguishly at them. In their days at school, they had most of the paintings in the school eating out of their hands, else their exploits might have been revealed from time to time. Remus seemed intent on determining what the project was, following loyally behind Dumbledore's dark navy robes as they dragged on the floor.


     Something even more familiar caught Sirius' attention. It was the entrance to a secret passage which led to his very favorite spot in the castle. The entrance was nothing fancy, and impossible to notice if one did not already know where it was. To open it, you had to pull on the earlobe of a bust of Merlin, then speak some words into his ear, then run one's finger down an invisible line in the wall. It usually took a few attempts to get the correct position, but then the wall split in two, just wide enough for a man to slip through sideways. It was a straight climb up a ladder, which made one's legs and arms ache by the end of it. It led into an abandoned tower which afforded an excellent view of the grounds as well as a wonderfully private place to get away to.


     It was only as he began to think about where it led that he realized where he was being led to. That coupled with the fact that Dumbledore still had not explained what was wrong, made his head ache with realization. He stopped in his tracks, looking down the hallway apprehensively. Remus did not notice at first, though they still held hands so he was snapped to a halt as well a few seconds later. "Siri!" he hissed, tugging to go forward. "Come on." He turned to watch Dumbledore continue on. "We should catch up."


     Sirius shook his head. "No, I don't want to do this."


     Remus narrowed his eyes. "We've agreed to help. He obviously thinks we are the best for the job and can do this."


     Closing his eyes, he allowed Remus to pull him along, "It is not that I think we cannot do this... it's that I don't want to," he muttered as they went. As Sirius had suspected, they were led down to the dungeons. Not to the storage rooms, not to a classroom, not to any of the wondrous mysteries the Marauders had stumbled upon there years ago. But, instead, to the dungeons, and to a professor's office. He knew the owner much too well. Shaking his head, he watched Dumbledore open the door and go in first.


     The office was cluttered but meticulously arranged, with potion ingredients clearly marked and ordered first by type then by alphabet. Remus understood now as well, and glanced at Sirius, whose eyes were closed again, apparently to keep himself from having to face what was about to come. Dumbledore crossed the office and opened the door to the bedroom, which was already cracked open. The room was dim and sparse compared to his office, consisting of a small bed, a chair, and a table normally, but now held two metal cots as well. "How are you feeling, Severus?"


     Snape was in bed, on his side, covers pulled up to his cheeks. He managed to look up briefly to see Dumbledore before his eyes snapped shut. "ihhh-YIHshhh! ihYeshhh!" A hand and handkerchief poked out from beneath the covers to rub at his nose. The rub was hard, pushing the end of his formidable nose from one side then the other. With a wet sniffle, he opened his eyes again. "A little better, Headmaster," he lied.


     "At least you agreed to remain in bed," Dumbledore replied, overlooking the lie for the moment. "Though I'm afraid I cannot remain here to make certain you do so."


     Snape nodded, sniffling, and rubbed his nose again. "I understand." He looked back up at Dumbledore, then past him, and his eyes opened wide with shock. "Lupin? Black?!" He sat up in bed, which looked as though it took much effort to do, and waved a hand back and forth in front of him. "No, I don't need this. I'll be..." he pulled his hand back, putting it against his forehead as his eyes rolled and head spun. "I'll be fine."


     Dumbledore went to him, settling in a chair beside the bed. With hands on his shoulders, Dumbledore eased an apparently dizzy Snape back down against the bed. "You will not be fine if you try that again. Now rest." He patted Snape gently on the head, and though the man looked as though he might hit Dumbledore for doing so, he made no such movement. "I've asked them to look after you while I'm away, and I don't want you to fight me on this. After all, both you and Sirius gave me wonderful reports of how well you two got along while he was ill."


     It was Remus' turn to look shocked. He squeezed Sirius' upper arm with his free hand. "But you told me that--"


     "Quiet!" Sirius hissed, bouncing to his toes and back down again, dropping Remus' hand in order to clamp his own over Remus' mouth.


     Dumbledore turned to look at them and seemed to overlook this, though Snape shot them both a disapproving look. His eyes motioned to Dumbledore, who had his back to Snape, then to Sirius. With exaggeration, he mouthed the words, 'Get out of this.'


     Sirius, looking hurt and feeling trapped, could only shrug back. Dumbledore spoke again, "I am sure the two of you will be able to take as good care of him as if I were still here." That seemed to be such a heavily weighted statement, coming from the man, who raised his eyebrows to stress his meaning.


     Reluctantly, Sirius nodded, and Remus of course followed suit.


     Snape shot him a look of contempt.


     Dumbledore's face lightened. "Good!" he said cheerfully, reaching out and patting one shoulder of each with a hand. "I will be back two days short of a week, or else I shall send an owl with my excuse." He turned back to Severus, bending over and sweeping his hand over the man's forehead. "Feel better?"


     Snape nodded weakly as though a young boy, and retreated beneath his blankets a moment. They shook with each sneeze, as did his whole rickety metal bed. "ihhh-YIHchhhh! IHHHshhhh! IHHTChhhh!" He resurfaced after a few wet blows.


     Dumbledore left with a few goodbye nods, and a warning look to Sirius that only he caught. They waited in silence for a few moments, listening to Dumbledore's footsteps across the office then up the stairs and away. Snape sighed deeply, shaking his head. "He treats me like an infant."


     "He treats you like a son," Remus said, looking down at Snape sympathetically from over Sirius' shoulder. He wrapped his arms around Sirius from behind and rested his chin on his lover's shoulder.


     Snape coughed and made a face. "You two do not have to stay. I will be fine," he said, dragging a hand beneath his nose.


     "We promised Dumbledore," Remus said, tightening his hold around Sirius and trying to ease the man towards the bed. "And I owe you for taking care of Siri." Sirius stiffened at the sound of those words, and Remus whispered into his ear so that only he could hear, "If it gets too bad, we can always sneak away through that passage to the tower and be alone for a little while." Trusting Remus, he relaxed a bit at the thought.


     "You..." Snape's voice faded and he pulled out his handkerchief again. "ihh-EHHSHHH! Ihhh-IHHshuhhh!" He blew his nose and covered his mouth with the handkerchief as he coughed. He barely had the energy to lift his head to command them to leave. "You can go. There are still a few house elves around and... and I'm not that... ill..." he brought the handkerchief to his face once more. "uhhh-IHHHchhh! Ihhh-YIHshhhhh! Heh-YIHhhshhhhh!" He blew his nose again, weakly.


     Sirius stood, looking uncomfortable for a moment or two, as though considering what to do. Then, quite unexpectedly, he broke away from Remus and crossed the room in a few strides. He leapt onto the bed beside Sirius, putting his arm around the man's shoulders, ruffling the man's greasy hair. Playing it up for all it was worth, he said in his sweetest, sing-songy voice, "Hello Sevvy. Sorry to hear you're not well." Sorry seemed like the last thing he was, to judge by his mad grin.


     Severus tried to push him away. But though Sirius lounged on the edge of the bed, one leg was off, still on the ground, giving himself leverage and keeping him in place. "It's your fault. I caught this from you," Snape muttered, trying to pull away from Sirius. But he was weak and Sirius strong, and Sirius managed to keep him in the sort of hug.


           Sirius shrugged, "Awww, I guessed you'd be the cranky type." He rubbed his hand against Snape's head once more, messing the hair. Snape again tried to pull away but Sirius had him in a tight hug of a hold. "Don't you worry; I'll take just as good care of you as you did me."


     The two exchanged knowing looks, and Severus sunk deeper into his blankets with worry about what that actually meant. "Great," he said under his breath. "I'll be dead by morning."


     "Nah!" Sirius partially rose, grabbed Remus by the hand, and pulled the man over to the chair. He stretched his other arm out to put it around Remus' shoulder. Then he gave both men a squeeze. "Don't worry, I'll protect you from too much of Remus' tender loving care. Only the right amount of chicken soup and tea, and just enough sleep. And in turn I'm sure you'll be a very good patient, Sev." He grinned mischievously, using the same wording Snape had used on him.


     Severus rolled his eyes, rubbed his nose hard against his handkerchief, and sighed. "As long as you don't try to... to poison me..." the corners of his mouth turned down and his large nostrils flared. He took a deep breath and tried to hold the sneezes back. "ihhh... ehhh..." it seemed to work, and he scrubbed furiously at he nose with a clean portion of his handkerchief.


     Sirius squeezed them both closer to him. "Well, this is going to be an exciting week isn't it, Mates?"


     "I'm not your... ihhh... your mate..." This time, the tickles were too hard to resist. "ihhh-YIHSHHH! YITCHHH!" Snape sneezed.


     Remus pulled out his own handkerchief and offered it over as Snape's was looking a little used. Snape glared at him and used his own instead to blow his nose. Sirius shook his head with a smile and a sigh. "One big happy family."


     "Dumbledore's big happy dysfunctional family," Remus elaborated with a laugh, kissing Sirius' cheek. "You've gotta love his sense of humor, throwing the three of us together like this."


     "ihhh-HIHSHHH! Ihhh-YESHHUHH!" Snape reluctantly took the offered handkerchief this time, grabbing it away with a snap and a wet sniffle. "If I... make it through this... remind me to... put a dung bomb in his office." His speech was slow, broken by hard rubs to the nose.


     Remus and Sirius both laughed. "I'll go put some tea on," Remus said, shaking his head with disbelief. "You need anything else while I'm up?" he asked, stretching, and pacing over to the small fireplace in the corner of the bedroom.


     Snape did not look as though he wanted to answer, whether he needed something or not. He coughed harshly into the handkerchief and rubbed at his nose. Then he managed to pull away from Sirius and slide beneath the covers more, with just his eyes and top of head poking out. His eyes closed immediately as he took another deep breath. "hihhYIHshhh! Ehhshhuhhhh! IHHHshuhhh!"


     "Bless you." Sirius raised his hand in response to Remus' question. "Actually, I could really go for a burger and some chips. And maybe a glass of orange juice. Oh, and--"


     "Oh shut up!" Snape exclaimed with a mixture of annoyance and amusement, and managed to hit Sirius had with one of his pillows. Startled at Snape's sudden burst of energy, Sirius toppled off the bed and onto the hard stone floor with a shout.


     Turning his head at the sound and commotion, Remus started to laugh. He poured the hot water into three cups, then added tea bags, sugar and honey. As he brought them over, "Sorry, Siri, but I think you deserved that." Snape smiled at Remus in thank you for the agreement. Sirius pulled himself up onto the chair and Remus onto his lap. He nibbled at his lover's ear in warning, nearly making a still laughing Remus spill the tea. Perhaps the next week wasn't going to be quite so bad after all.


     Snape coughed and turned in bed to lie on his other side, nearly spilling his tea in the process. But the sneezes came swiftly, before he could do anything to prevent them. "ihhh-YIHSHHH! Ihhh-YEH-Shuhhh!" This time, he did spill the tea, and yelled as it burned.


     Immediately Remus stood, handing his cup to Sirius. He put a soft hand on Snape's side. "How badly are you hurt?" he took up the handkerchief and dabbed it against Snape's hand. The burn did not look too terrible, but he had a difficult time seeing it clearly.


     Snape pulled his hand away with another yell. "Get off, Lupin! If you want to help, go get some... aloe..." he pressed the back of his wrist to his nose. "heh-IhhhSHHH! ihhh-YAHHTCHH!" He cringed and curled up more, a mess of blankets, appendages, a cup, a handkerchief, and a bad burn. "Ow..." he buried his face in his pillow.


     Remus rolled his eyes and mouthed 'Baby' to Sirius.


     Sirius covered his mouth to contain laughter and then replied with a silent, 'I was worse'.


     Remus nodded with a broad smile and headed into Snape's office to find an aloe plant, hoping he could find one there rather than go all the way over to the greenhouses. The place looked so cluttered that he was worried, but he managed to locate a small potted one in no time, amongst other healing plants and right beside the Angelica.Remus grabbed it and turned, finding Sirius standing in front of him. "Now he wants a glass of orange juice." As Sirius had proclaimed this with some annoyance Remus narrowed his eyes in confusion, but Sirius leaned forward and gave him a strong kiss. "Don't ask. But just in case, you get to be the one to take him to the bathroom in half an hour."


     Remus stared, open-mouthed at him as he headed out of the office and towards the kitchens. "Why me?" he called after Sirius.


     Sirius stuck his head back in with a grin, "Because you're the one who believes in calling truces when people are sick." Remus stuck his tongue out, but Sirius countered with blowing a kiss and disappeared down the hallway in search of orange juice he doubted Snape would even drink.




                                                            ~the end~