hot ice and wonderous strange snow
by Victoria P.

Sirius is rarely sick. He claims it's simply his superior will that keeps him healthy, because he cannot claim it's superior breeding (he's never understood his mother's obsession with bloodlines), though he has always secretly believed himself better than almost everyone.

One by one, the students and teachers around him fall victim to the latest flu, but he remains in perfect health. The hospital wing is overrun, and Madam Pomfrey recruits the just-getting-healthy to help handle the just- getting-sick. Even healing magic has its limits, after all; potions must be brewed and administered, and Pomfrey is only one person, as she keeps reminding Dumbledore when he stops by to visit.

Sirius, with his now-encyclopedic knowledge of healing spells and potions (all learned for Remus, for mornings after full moon nights, though they never speak of it), and his apparent immunity to every bug that comes along, has been assigned to help her. His work in the hospital wing is a replacement for the detentions he can't serve while so many of the staff are sick, detentions that, for once, he has not protested, because he knows no punishment is sufficient for what he did last full moon.

And it's certainly better than the false camaraderie of the common room, followed by the cold silence of the sixth year boys' dormitory.

Everything appears to have gone back to normal in the weeks since he sent Snape to the Shack, but Sirius feels it, the wariness, the measured friendliness with which Remus treats him when their paths cross. It reminds him of their first year, when everyone suspected him of being some sort of Slytherin viper in the Gryffindor nest. Peter quivered, James mocked and Remus went about with a wary look in his eyes, pale and worn and quiet.

It had taken him months to accustom himself to his unexpected status, and months more to win them over.

And now his own stupidity has set him back almost to the beginning, at least with Remus.

He'd thought himself immune to rejection after years of it from the family, but this isn't his mother, this is Remus, and it hurts much more than he expected.

In the fortnight during which over three-quarters of the school is sick, he manages to spend most of his free time either in the hospital wing or the Potions classroom and falls into bed exhausted, so he doesn't have to see his friends. He's come to hate James's concerned looks, Peter's anxious eyes, and Remus's carefully neutral ('false,' Sirius thinks) smiles.

All the prefects are assigned shifts in the hospital wing, as well, but Remus has a knack of being there whenever Sirius isn't. Sirius is not yet willing to force the issue with him, though he doesn't know how much longer he can take being frozen out of Remus's life.

Each of his friends comes down with the flu, but by that point, Sirius is too exhausted to treat them differently, and they are too sick to care.

After two weeks of unrelenting illness, Hogwarts slowly returns to normalcy.

Of course, that's when Sirius gets sick. And the fact that he's sick so rarely makes him even more unbearable when it happens.

He refuses, at first, to head to the hospital wing. He's spent enough time there and anyway, it's the full moon tomorrow night, and he doesn't want to leave Remus alone. Especially not since Remus is actually looking at him instead of through him, and talking to him instead of around him, and acting concerned about him, rather than coolly disinterested. He is not coming down with the flu, he tells himself as he huddles in bed, too hot and achy to sleep. Blacks don't get sick and he is still, despite everything, a Black.

In the morning, when he groans and says he can't be bothered with breakfast, James eyes him warily, tells him he looks green around the gills, but otherwise doesn't question him.

He makes it through Transfiguration and Charms, but lunch nearly does him in with the greasy, heavy smell of fried food, the cacophony of the Great Hall full of students, the chill in the air. He escapes back to Gryffindor Tower after ten minutes, shivering so violently his teeth chatter. He's digging through his chest of drawers for a jumper to pull on over his shirt when James, Remus and Peter appear.

"Let's go," Remus says, the harshness of his tone offset by the concern in his eyes, the gentleness of his hand on Sirius's arm, the warm brush of his fingers across Sirius's forehead. "You're burning up."

"I-I'm f-f-fine," he says, chills making him stutter.

"Of course you are," Remus says agreeably, but he doesn't let go.

"I'm n-n-never s-s-sick."

"Of course not," James says. "Come on, Sirius. Let's get you down to Pomfrey."

"I'll do it," Remus says. "You all go on. Kettleburn won't take points if I'm late."

Peter is already at the door, but James hesitates. "Are you sure?"

"Positive." He frowns down at the Prefect's badge on his robe.

"We'll come to see you later," James says and Sirius nods, which makes his stomach churn unpleasantly.

Remus pulls Sirius's arm across his shoulder, wraps his arm around Sirius's waist and leads him down to the hospital wing, heedless of Sirius's continued protests that he's fine and it's just a chill from Flitwick's classroom.

Sirius is finding it even harder to breathe with Remus so close, smelling of books and ink and chocolate, the combination of which screams Remus to him, even in the state he's in.

He's sure he's not going to make it, because even the brush of air in the corridors makes his skin hurt, but if he can die with Remus pressed up against him, it will be okay. He knows he should probably be alarmed at the turn his thoughts are taking, but his head hurts too much to keep on with the lies he's been telling himself lately.

And then Pomfrey is clucking at him. "Mr. Black, I was afraid of this. Let's get you to bed."

"Why, Madam Pomfrey, I'm not that kind of boy," he whispers, attempting his usual flirtatiousness; talking feels like swallowing large chunks of jagged glass.

She smiles at him indulgently. "None of your nonsense now, Mr. Black. To bed with you, chop chop."

"Have Care of Magical Creatures now."

"Not in this weather," she says, bustling over to one of the free beds and waving him to follow. He clings to Remus, who, he notices happily, hasn't let go.

"Window," he manages, as the floor begins to roll beneath his feet and his stomach with it. "Near the window." He tightens his arm around Remus's shoulders and says, "Want to see the moon." Remus looks startled for a moment, then his mouth quirks in a half-grin.

Pomfrey tsks but complies, patting a bed on the end of the row, by the big window that looks out at the grounds; the Whomping Willow's limbs are slowed by the heavy fall of December snow swirling around outside.

Remus deposits him on the bed and pulls the blankets over him. He presses a warm hand to Sirius's forehead again and frowns. "I can stay if you need help- -" he begins, but the matron shakes her head.

"I'll see you later, Mr. Lupin," she says, and her tone brooks no argument.

Remus sighs and brushes a hand through his hair. "Get some rest, Sirius," he says finally.

Sirius, huddling under the blankets and shivering, tries to smile. "Yeah."

Remus leaves, but Sirius thinks things have just improved immeasurably, even if he can no longer breathe through his nose.

Pomfrey doses him with willowbark tea and something that tastes much, much worse, and he drifts off to sleep.

He dreams of rushing down the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack, frantic to get to Remus. He cannot remember the cause of this urgency, but he runs and stumbles, unable to change into Padfoot, and the tunnel stretches out endlessly ahead of him, dark and smelling of blood and fear.

Sirius wakes with a start, coughing so hard his eyes begin to stream. A fifth- year Hufflepuff he recalls vaguely hurries over and hands him a glass of water; she bounces nervously on the balls of her feet as he drinks, and he thinks he may be sick if she doesn't stop.

"Where--" he starts, and he sounds as if his vocal cords have been ripped out. He thinks of the jaws of the wolf at his throat, and notices the odd, orangey light filtering into the room. The sun is setting, reflecting off clouds and snow.

The Hufflepuff backs away as he pushes himself to a sitting position and leans towards the window.

The snow has been churned grey by hundreds of booted feet, but it's packed flat now and fades to pristine white beneath the wide sweeps of the Willow's flailing limbs. Two figures are heading toward the truculent tree. Madam Pomfrey wears a deep red cloak that looks like blood against the snow; her hair is dark and pulled back into a bun, topped by a matching red beret. Remus's black wool coat is a startling blank amid the white, an absence where his body, lanky and outgrowing his clothes, should be. He is taller and slimmer than Pomfrey, and hatless, his hair turned golden brown in the fading winter sunlight. He walks with sure steps, his hand at Pomfrey's waist to keep her from slipping on any hidden ice.

Sirius has heard the teachers murmuring about him sometimes, 'Always such a polite boy, that Remus Lupin...' as if they are surprised. It angers Sirius that even the most learned people he knows, the few people he respects, believe the lies they are taught about werewolves. It upsets him that sometimes Remus himself believes them, and has to live with them forever hanging over his head. And it shames him that he has made it worse when all he's ever wanted to do for Remus is make things better.

Sirius shakes his head as they disappear from view, and whimpers as if he were Padfoot. He should be there tonight. Remus needs him.

He drags himself out of bed and stumbles toward the nearest chair.

"Hey!" the Hufflepuff says. "You're meant to stay in bed."

Sirius pulls himself upright on the back of the chair. "Remus needs--"

"Mr. Lupin is beyond your reach for the evening, Mr. Black."

He looks up to see Professor Dumbledore striding across the infirmary.


"You're very ill, young man, and ought to stay in bed."

There is no way to argue with the headmaster, even if he were feeling well, without giving away his secret. Their secret. And he's done enough of that already. It was a near-run thing last month with Snape, and Sirius is still smarting from the wounds inflicted by Dumbledore's lecture about responsibility and basic human decency, two things that, as a Black, have never quite come naturally to him.

Two things that make Remus a better person than Sirius will ever be.

Dumbledore helps him back to his bed, eyes twinkling gravely, if such a thing is possible. "Lemon drop? Good for sore throats, you know," he offers, but Sirius is already sinking back into sleep; the effort he's expended just to get up and back to bed has exhausted him.

He dreams again, of the wolf howling his loneliness and pain in the night, of darkness and fear and the scent of blood. The next morning, Sirius wakes slowly, head still stuffy, skin hot with fever. He turns to look at the boy in the next bed over, covered in thin cotton pajamas and bandages already stained rust-brown with blood. Despite his exhaustion, Remus is sleeping fitfully, throwing off his covers and making soft, choking sounds Sirius recognizes as sobs.

The sounds tear at him, make his chest hurt in a way that has nothing to do with the congestion in his lungs. He has made it his goal to keep this from happening to Remus, and he has failed again.

He does the only thing he can, under the circumstances. Even though he's feverish and probably contagious, Sirius crawls into bed beside Remus.

Madam Pomfrey bustles about in the background, oblivious.

Remus doesn't wake as Sirius pulls the blankets around them, taking care not to touch any of the bandaged areas on Remus's body. Sirius knows the wounds will be gone by lunchtime, healed by charms and potions, leaving only residual aches and a few new scars for Remus to hide, because he feels ashamed.

Sirius has surreptitiously studied those scars, learned them, wants to map them with hands and lips, and oh god, he knows it's not the fever talking now. The fever is the only thing keeping him from having a freak-out at the thought; what would seem scary and queer under normal conditions just seems right and true now.

Remus curls against him, seeking warmth, and Sirius wraps his arms around his whippet thin body, almost in tears himself at the way they fit together, and how good it feels, even against the dull ache of his fevered skin.

Remus sighs; his eyes flutter open, and he stares dazedly up at Sirius, who sniffs and smiles awkwardly. They stay that way for an infinite moment that ends far too quickly for Sirius. Remus's eyelids droop and his breathing evens out as he wriggles closer to Sirius, until they are pressed together so tightly Sirius cannot tell anymore where Remus ends and he begins. Sirius sighs in relief, and is lulled to sleep by the steady rhythm of their hearts beating together.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix