The Sugar Quill
Author: Deborah Peters  Story: We Should Be There  Chapter: Chapter Two: Weakness
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Chapter Two: Weakness

Chapter Two:  Weakness

 

 

            The faint light of dawn coming through the window did very little to light the private, curtained-off area of the hospital wing; the glow from the hearth served not only to add warmth and light, but also to make the sterile atmosphere of the room seem less bleak.  The door suddenly opened, allowing a hushed woman’s voice to break the stillness.  “Only a few more feet, Remus.”

            A slight mumble was the only reply as Madam Pomfrey pushed the door all the way open and half-carried a ghostly figured wrapped in an old cloak.  “I’ve set you up in your usual bed, so we’ve only to cross the room, and you can rest,” she said with a cheerful lilt to her voice that just fell short of not sounding forced.  There was no response until the bed was reached and the specter laid upon it; only then did she pull the cloak away from the boy’s blood streaked face to hear a hoarsely whispered “Thank you.”

            “Of course you’re welcome, as always, dear,” she said softly.  “Let me bandage you, and then I’ll get the sleeping draft.”  Her hands worked deftly, swapping between clean, white cloth and a mahogany wand, and though it was obvious that she was concentrating on the work at hand, she also quietly talked to her charge.

            “This has been the worst in my recent memory, Remus.”

            Remus’s only response was a barely perceptible nod.

            “I had been hoping that the more mild transformations you’ve been having in the last couple of years would come to be the norm, and this sudden relapse worries me.”

            Remus didn’t answer; his eyes were shut tightly as she sealed a rather serious gash that ran the length of his forearm.

            “Do you have any idea why this one was so terrible?”

            Remus drew a haggard breath, answering her for the first time.  “I couldn’t tell you.”

            Madam Pomfrey was wrapping his blue, swollen ankle tightly in elastic cloth.  “I expect it’s just something we now know we’ll have to watch for.  Another mystery of Lycanthropy, I suppose.”

            “I suppose,” echoed Remus, as she finally laid his head back against the pillow, wiping the blood off of his face with a damp rag.

            “Try to clear your mind, and I’ll be right back with the draught.”  She turned and left through the door to her office.

            All was still for a moment, until the sudden sound of quick footsteps and a rustle of fabric.  There was a shimmer beside Remus’s bed, and then the sudden sight of Sirius Black pulling an iridescent cloak off of his shoulders.

            Remus blinked disbelievingly.  “S—Sirius?”

            Sirius nodded, and sat down gingerly on the edge of his friend’s bed.  “Yeah.”

            Remus blinked again, as if trying to clear the vision from his eyes.  “What are you doing here?” he said huskily.

            Sirius seemed to be gazing into the coals of the fire.  “I wanted to know how you were doing,” he said vaguely.

            “How long have you been here?” Remus asked him, puzzled.

            “Since about one o’clock in the morning, I guess.”

            Remus made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a heaving cough.  “Why?”

            “I wanted to know how you were doing,” Sirius repeated, turning to look down at him.  “You look awful.”

            Remus made the sound again.  “That happens, sometimes.”

            “Look,” said Sirius hesitantly, “I think—I think you should have let me and James go with you this time.”

            Remus sighed.  “I told you.  Not after what happened last month.”

            The door to Madam Pomfrey’s office suddenly opened, and Sirius flung himself off of the bed and against the wall, gathering James’s cloak around himself.  “I’m sorry, dear,” the nurse said, her face a rather flushed crimson, “but I seem to have run completely out of sleeping potion.  I’ll have to go see the Potions Master about some.”

            “It’s all right, Madam Pomfrey,” Remus said quietly but earnestly.

            “Well—just try and sleep without it, dear?” Madam Pomfrey said, looking quite concerned.  “Try not to dwell on the transformation, in any case.  You know it always makes it worse.”

            “Yes,” Remus said indistinctly.  “I know.”

            “I know you do.”  Madam Pomfrey continued to watch him for a few moments, before briskly adding, “Try to sleep, then,” and turning to leave the hospital wing.

            After only the briefest of pauses, Sirius had the cloak off again, this time flopping onto the chair beside Remus’s bed.  “I’ve never known her to be out of sleeping draft before,” he said, absent-mindedly stretching his arms above his head.

            “Yes, well, she didn’t know she’d be needing it.  I’m usually not this bad off at the end of a full moon,” Remus said in his tired, scratchy voice.

            Sirius abruptly sat up straight, pounding his hands into the arms of the chair.  “You see?” he exclaimed, “You see why we should have gone with you?  You’re even worse than you were before our fifth year!”

            “I realise that. I think it’s because I’m older now, so the Wolf is stronger.  Either that, or it’s just venting its frustration of not being completely let out in two years.”

            Sirius stood up, as if unable to contain his energy, and began to pace back and forth in front of the bed, running his hands through his hair.  “This is ridiculous.  It’s absolutely ridiculous.  You,” he said emphatically, turning to look at the thin, pale boy in the bed, “are absolutely ridiculous.”

            Remus’s pained expression was only partly due to the physical trauma he had just been through.  “Why am I ridiculous?”

            “Because!” Sirius shouted, “You’ve got three mates who are dying to help you out—“

            “I don’t want anybody dying for me, Sirius!” Remus interjected softly.

            “Don’t be stupid, you know what I meant!  You’ve got the three of us, and all you can think of to do is lie there in that hospital bed, playing the martyr, all cut up and—“ Sirius suddenly stopped raving and swallowed.  “That’s a lovely black eye you’re sporting, there.”

            Remus raised his left hand, the one less injured, to his face, and winced.  “Hadn’t realised I’d managed to bang up my face.  Usually it’s just my hands and back.”

            “And, this time, your ankle, it seems,” Sirius added, sitting lightly on the bed next to his friend, staring at the wounded appendage.  “A lovely purple color it’s becoming, did you see?”

            “My eye’s swollen shut, of course I didn’t.”

            Sirius looked down to see Remus’s thin lips formed into a weak smile.  “Your ankle’s nowhere near as bad as the cut running across your forehead and down your cheek, though.  When Madam Pomfrey brought you in here, I thought you were losing all of your blood.”

            “Is it still…?” Remus asked, rolling his eyes upward as if he could see the cut.

            “Of course not,” Sirius said.  “She made it stop bleeding straight away.  It’s sealed now, though it looks like—“ He lifted his fingers to gently touch Remus’s cheek.  “It looks,” he said softly, “like you’re going to have a rather faint scar.”

            Remus’s eyes remained locked on Sirius’s fingers.  “You never know,” he murmured.  “It might heal.”

            “It might,” Sirius echoed.  He blinked, running his thumb gently across the recently healed cut.  “Remus,” he said suddenly.

            Remus’s reply was to focus his gaze on Sirius’s eyes.  “Remus,” Sirius repeated, “You have to promise me you’ll never go through that transformation alone again.”

            “Alone?” Remus repeated, his eyes showing the confusion he felt.

            “Promise me,” said Sirius, leaning down towards him, “that you’ll never go through that transformation without me ever again.”

            “Without you?” Remus’s voice was even quieter than normal.

            “Promise me,” Sirius said, his face only six inches away from Remus’s.

            “I—I don’t—what exactly are you asking, Sirius?” Remus asked in a perplexed whisper.

            “I’m not sure,” Sirius confessed, and then he moved forward and kissed Remus gently on the cheek.

            It was a short kiss, just a slight connection, and when Sirius pulled away, Remus was left with an expression of extreme uncertainty in his eyes.  Sirius broke the silence with a sharp intake of breath.  “Remus, I hate that you have to go through this.  It hurts.”

            Remus didn’t answer, but Sirius continued his release of frank words.  “There’s so much I can do, Moony.  I can ride a broomstick, I can get top marks on exams, I can nick food from the kitchens.  I can write a magical map of the school.  I can become an Animagus.  I can turn into a big, black dog.  But I can’t,” he said dismally, dropping his head to his chest, “do anything to stop you from going through an absolute nightmare twelve times a year.  When it comes to that, I’m the weakest person in this room.”

            “Sirius…” Remus said softly.

            Sirius lifted his head.  “I hate that I’m weak.  I hate that I can’t do anything for you.”

            “You’re not weak,” Remus said, lifting a bandaged hand to rest heavily on Sirius’s arm.  “You’re not.”  With the last bit of strength he had left, Remus pulled himself into a sitting position, dropping his head on Sirius’ shoulder.  Sirius wrapped his arms around the exhausted young man, stroking the brown hair with his fingers, and that was how Madam Pomfrey found them when she re-entered the hospital wing.

            She managed not to drop the bottle of sleeping draught in her surprise; rather, she set the bottle down on a nightstand and strode purposefully across the room.  “What do you think you are doing, Sirius Black?” she demanded.

            Sirius didn’t turn around, for fear of the motion jarring Remus, but said simply, “I suppose you’d like me to leave, then?”

            “Get out of my hospital!” Madam Pomfrey exclaimed, pointing firmly to the exit.

Sirius gently laid Remus back in bed, stood, and grabbed James’s cloak off of the chair.  “If you want me to explain—“

“I don’t need anything explained,” Madam Pomfrey said firmly, “Just leave.  Honestly, don’t you want him to recover properly?”  When she made the clicking noises with her tongue, Sirius knew that he would be in no special trouble.  “It’s bad enough we have one boy up all night doing all sorts of terrible things to himself, then this one doesn’t seem to think it worth sleeping past dawn. Well, you’ll get no sympathy from me, Mr. Black.  Go down to breakfast immediately, if it’s even late enough for that yet—and don’t even think about coming back here until tomorrow!  I won’t have any of you lot disturbing Mr. Lupin today, do you understand?”

Sirius was already halfway across the room.  “Yes, Madam Pomfrey.”

“And if I catch you sneaking in here again, I’ll be having a talk with Professor McGonagall!”

“Yes, Madam Pomfrey,” Sirius said, his hand on the doorknob.  He left the room and had almost pulled the door behind himself, when a tired, hoarse voice called from inside the room, “Sirius?”

He leaned back inside.  “Yes?”

Remus was looking at him from the bed, an unreadable expression on his face as Madam Pomfrey poured sleeping draught into a goblet.  “I…” he began, then muttered, as if he could find no other words, “Thank you.”

Sirius looked at him for a moment, and then finally closed the door behind him.

 

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