A strong, muscular arm wrapped around my shoulders as I fought the urge to vomit on the seafood platter before me, tempting as it was. Painfully turning my head, I caught a glimpse of James’ worried face peering at mine. Each breath I took tore at my lungs, a fiery pain burning throughout my chest.
“When’s the full moon?” James’ voice sounded in my left ear.
“Tomorrow night,” I gasped, clutching at an increasingly sharp stabbing pain on my side. Those two words were all I could manage. My knees gave way, and I would have collapsed if James had not seized me, wrapping my arm around his shoulders and supporting the majority of my weight. I could hear blood pounding in my ears as James shifted slightly to make up for our height difference.
“Let’s get you to the hospital wing,” James said, his words dripping in fake optimism. I knew he was trying to remain enthusiastic for my sake. My palms began to sweat and my stomach churned as James half-carried, half-dragged me out of the Great Hall. A rattling sound escaped my lips each time I drew a breath.
“You’re in pretty bad shape,” James commented, glancing down at my face, which was twisted in agony, my forehead, no doubt, gleaming with sweat.
James came to an abrupt halt, causing my head to jerk up, despite my body’s protests. The tall silhouette of Lucius Malfoy swam in my vision. I could just barely make out his blurry, raised eyebrow and familiar scowl.
“And where, might I ask, are the pair of you going?” Malfoy drawled, his piercing, gray eyes resting on me.
***The Lovely Lucius Malfoy***
All of my encounters with Lucius Malfoy have typically resulted in pain, humiliation, or a combination of both, even since the first time I set foot on Platform 9 and ľ.
“We’re on our way to a tea party with Moaning Myrtle. We would prefer not to be late, as we might miss our opportunity to have our heads shoved down the toilet, so if you will excuse us,” James said calmly, attempting to push past him.
“A likely story,” Malfoy countered, easily blocking our path. “What happened to you?” he asked, nodding in my direction. His expression was one of disgust, to say the least.
“Too much to drink,” I choked, praying he would believe the falsehood. I hadn’t downed so much as pumpkin juice, let alone firewhiskey. It would have made a very fast reappearance.
“That’s strange, because I could have sworn I overheard you just yesterday telling those friends of yours that you didn’t consume alcoholic beverages,” Malfoy retorted with a smirk.
“He unknowingly drank one of those veela concoctions,” James said, not skipping a beat. “Those bluish drinks in the glasses with the Hogwarts crest on them. You know how it is with veela beverages: one minute you’ll be drinking a butterbeer, and the next, you’ll be running naked down Tottingham Court road with antlers protruding from your head and a tail on your bottom. Not,” he added, “that I have ever had the pleasure of such an experience.”
“How believable,” Lucius drawled, his eyes darting suspiciously from James to myself.
At that moment, the doors to the Great Hall burst open behind us. My vision was blurry to the extent of preventing me from identifying the figure standing in the doorway. The voice that accompanied the individual, however, was one I immediately recognized.
“Lucius,” Narcissa called, her voice slightly higher pitched than usual, swaying slightly, clutching the door for support. All tell-tale signs that she had been drinking this evening. Heavily. “You promised you would be back in five minutes. That was an hour ago,” she giggled. Of course. The two Slytherin lovers who seemed incapable of keeping their relationship to themselves. Instead, they had to share it with the entire school.
“I’ll be there in a minute,” Lucius replied, agitation filling his voice.
“Fine, I’ll go dance with Avery, then,” Narcissa shot back, beginning to retreat back into the Great Hall.
“No, baby, I’m coming right now,” Lucius said, shooting us a death glare as he swept past us. His footsteps retreated and cut off abruptly after the oak door slammed shut behind him.
With relief, I sagged slightly, leaning more heavily on James. The only audible sounds were two pairs of footsteps and my labored breathing as James dragged me toward the hospital wing. Pain seared my lungs with every breath as I literally gasped for air. My stomach churned and my vision clouded. My palms were clenched into fists, covered with sweat.
“Almost there,” James said as we rounded a corner. The doors to the hospital wing were now visible, a light at the end of the tunnel. My head pounded and my vision began to fill with black spots. The ground seemed to undulate beneath my feet as we crossed the threshold. Madam Pomfrey’s back was turned toward us when we entered.
“Madam Pomfrey,” James said loudly, announcing our arrival.
The matron turned wearily, her eyes immediately meeting mine. “Oh, Mr. Lupin, I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow,” she said, as something – perhaps shock – crossed her face.
“What’s happened to him?” she asked, hurrying to my side and helping James support my thin frame. I was grateful that she directed her questions to James. Any answers I provided would most likely be an incomprehensible blur of consonants.
“Nothing,” James replied as I was assisted to my usual bed. “He was fine all evening and then almost keeled over on the dance floor.”
“Did he have anything to eat or drink at the ball?” she asked, using several pillows to prop my head up.
“Not that I know of.” Their voices sounded distant and muffled. The lights overhead seemed abnormally bright, nearly blinding me.
“Has the illness typically struck this early?” Madam Pomfrey questioned as I felt the prick of a catheter being inserted into my left forearm.
“Never,” James shook his head, running a hand through his already untidy mop of hair.
Madam Pomfrey placed a hand on my forehead. “He’s burning up,” she commented, writing something on a clipboard. “He’ll have to stay here for the night, I suppose, at least until his fever breaks.”
“Drink this,” she instructed me, handing me a blue, foamy liquid. It was a potion I recognized well. “It’ll ease the pain and perhaps help you get some rest,” she finished, helping me raise the vial to my lips. I could only manage to gulp down one mouthful of the sickeningly sweet substance before I began coughing once more.
“Mr. Potter, get him out of his dress robes and into these,” she directed James, handing him a pair of striped, red pajamas.
James nodded as Madam Pomfrey stepped away, pulling the curtains shut behind her. The last thing I remember was James slipping the cotton shirt over my head before my vision went dark.
***A Typical Night in the Hospital Wing***
Sleeping through the night was a nearly impossible feat, due to the constant commotion caused by sickly students who decided a trip to the hospital wing could not wait until some more reasonable hour the following morning. I have absolutely no idea how Madam Pomfrey managed to get a wink of sleep.
I woke up countless times that night to the sounds of creaking floorboards as Madam Pomfrey shuffled past, a window sliding open, the doors swinging shut on their rusty hinges, which were in desperate need of oiling, and the dry coughs of someone in a nearby bed who seemed determined to regurgitate a hairball. He wasn’t having any success, by the sounds of it. Each time I awoke, I was soon pulled back under a dreamless, drug-induced sleep. Sleeping was an escape from the pain. I embraced what few minutes I managed to get.
When I finally awoke from a rather feverish slumber, my eyes immediately fell upon Sirius, who was lounging in a nearby chair, scanning this morning’s prophet. The curtains were still closed tightly around my bed, giving me a small amount of privacy, which I was grateful for. I struggled into a crumpled, but technically upright position, the minimal movement draining me of my strength.
“You look fantastic,” Sirius said, glancing up from his Prophet.
“Why don’t you walk off the Astronomy Tower and we’ll see how you look afterward,” I retorted with exhaustion.
“Still feeling well enough to sling sarcastic remarks at your caring companion who has willingly given up four hours of sleep on a Sunday morning to sit by your sickbed.”
“And who tries to keep your sorry ass out of trouble?” I asked, wincing as I attempted a small grin.
Sirius snorted, followed by a rather exaggerated eye roll. “I don’t even know why I waste a sickle each morning to get this useless garbage,” Sirius muttered, crumpling his paper into a ball and tossing it carelessly over his shoulder.
“What’s wrong with it today?” I asked, not particularly interested in whatever answer might follow.
***A Brief Explanation of Sirius Black’s Aversion to the Daily Prophet***
On a daily basis, Sirius found an article, picture, or extraneous detail to his disliking and never failed to point it out. Every day, he insisted that he was cancelling his subscription, but would never end up getting around to it.
“Three different articles published about some guy killing a group of Muggles. Voldy-something. Sounds kinda shifty if you ask me,” he responded.
“You should write them a letter and complain about their lack of appealing and realistic articles, then. Where’s James?” I asked, noticing his absence for the first time.
“In old Minnie’s office booking the Quidditch pitch for the next week,” Sirius said with a groan. “Madam Pomfrey kicked him out last night after he decided he would try playing golf. That went well,” he said, glancing pointedly toward a golf-ball shaped hole in the window beside my bed.
“Is Mr. Lupin awake?” Madam Pomfrey’s steadily approaching voice called.
“No, I have merely taken to conversing with myself,” Sirius shot back with a lazy grin as the curtains snapped open.
“Unfortunately, I do not have the funds to open a ward for the mentally challenged, such as yourself. However, I can refer you to St. Mungo’s,” she said curtly. “How are you feeling this morning, Mr. Lupin?” she asked, pouring me a glass of water from the pitcher on my bedside table.
“Excellent,” I replied. “I should probably start heading to charms,” I said, ignoring a stabbing pain in my side as I pushed myself up further.
Madam Pomfrey’s gentle, but firm hand on my shoulder pushed me back down. “Nice try,” she said, picking up the clipboard hanging at the foot of my bed. A flourish of her wand caused the glowing digits: 101.3 to appear in the air before me. “You’ve still got quite a fever,” she noted, scribbling my temperature down on the clipboard.
My entire body shook as I was struck by a fit of coughing, blood splattering the starched, white sheets below me. My chest burned as I struggled for air, continuing to cough. An alarmed expression crossed Madam Pomfrey’s face before the world went black.
***A Note From the Author***
First of all, I wanted to say thank you for the +1400 reads and the amazing reviews. To be honest, I wouldn’t have made it this far without any of my readers or reviewers. All of you have provided both encouragement and constructive criticism, which has helped me improve as a writer. I apologize. This chapter was a bit shorter than the others and, to be honest, was mostly filler. Please, please, please leave a review! They mean the world to me. And lastly, I would greatly appreciate it if you could support me by nominating this story for the 2012 Dobbys, which are currently taking place. Thank you so much!
***My Furry Little Problem: A Sneak Peak***
My limbs felt heavy as I struggled to unbutton my shirt. My fingers were numb, hindering my process as I fumbled with the buttons. Eventually, I gave up, realizing that my feeble attempts were futile. Instead, I let my head sink into the pillow, which had a faint metallic aroma, which could be attributed to the large patch of a dried, dark red substance. My eyes watered and my head throbbed. Swallowing became difficult as my heart began to race.
Between forced, shallow breaths, I could hear hushed voices from the first floor. A door thudded closed and three pairs of footsteps began ascending the stairs, each step creaking beneath their feet.
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