Title: Gift for Carolee

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter, year six

Pairing: Harry/Ron

Rating: PG13

Disclaimer: These characters and their world are as not mine as they could possibly get.

Summary: Harry and Ron have different ways of dealing with illness and it gets in the way of their relationship... for a little while at least

Notes: Written for Carolee for the winter holidays, 2004



Gift for Carolee


     Ever since lunchtime, Harry Potter had not been in the best of moods. This was somewhat surprising considering that lunch was when Professor Snape had been sneezing so very badly from his head cold that he had needed to excuse himself halfway through the meal. A good deal of the great hall had erupted in laughter at the sight of Snape's repetitive, uncontrollable sneezes and his furious glances in between each and every one. He had stormed out in a huff, still sneezing every few seconds, and trailed by concerned-looking Madam Pomfrey and Professor Dumbledore.


     On a normal day, seeing Snape in such a condition would have been enough to brighten Harry Potter's week, let alone day. However, lunch was also the point in time when it had become abysmally clear that Harry had undoubtedly contracted whatever it was Snape had. This was evident by Harry nearly sneezing upon a platter of burgers being passed in front of him. The fact that he had caught Snape's ailment was bad enough, but then there were everyone's speculations that he had been intimate with Snape and that was why he was the one sick now when no one else appeared to be. As Harry wanted as few people as possible to know about his most recent detention from the potions master and as he did not feel up for a fight, Harry gave up trying to formulate an excuse and just stuck to drinking pumpkin juice while Ron and Hermione urged him to just ignore the taunts.


     His day proceeded to go worse, as his condition was not only pointed out by Professor McGonagall but reason for his removal from her Transfiguration class in front of everyone. And while missing a class or two was not cause for great distress, it did mean he was equally unable to attend Quidditch practice later in the day. "I'm truly sorry, Potter," Professor McGonagall had said as she saw him out of her room. And considering her investment in the Gryffindor House Quidditch Team, she sounded as though she understood the ramifications. "But classes and practices out in the cold snow are the last thing you need right now. Up to bed with you," she commanded as though he were ten. He had obeyed merely because of how rotten he felt, and used what little energy he had in him to grumble incessantly as he climbed the stairs towards the tower and his bed.


     All of this prompted him to stay in bed for the rest of the day with a hefty supply of handkerchiefs and the hangings drawn shut. He skipped dinner, unable to face the rest of the school even though he was a little hungry, and pretended to be asleep whenever anyone poked his or her head in to check on him.


     "I know you're not asleep, Harry," Ron said, not just poking his head in but climbing in through the part in the dark scarlet curtains. "I know how your breathing sounds when you're asleep and that isn't it."


     It was, in actuality, precisely how his breath sounded when he was trying to hold off a sneeze. Harry clamped a handkerchief to his nose and looked up to be sure the hangings had been pulled closed before giving in to his tickling nose. "HahhShooo! AhhhChooshh!" He coughed a few good times thanks to the congestion and avoided Ron's eyes.


     "Bless you," Ron said sympathetically. "Look, Harry--" he began, but Harry cut him off.


     "Ron, don't," he said, shaking his head.


     Ron sighed. "We're not going to have to go through all this again, are we?" Ron asked, sounding slightly annoyed. This was not the first cold Harry had ever had during the school year, even if it was the first one since he and Ron had become something of an item. But every time before had been the same: Harry secluding himself in his bed until it was all over and Ron wishing he could do something to make Harry feel better. And whenever Ron actually tried to do something to help, Harry would push him away, at least with words. This time, however, Ron wasn't just a friend but a lover. It gave him just that one bit of added leverage that he knew he would need in order to get Harry to open up to him. Ron bent over and gently kissed Harry's forehead, and then his cheek.


     Harry pulled away after the second kiss, his breath hitching. "AhhhChoo! ahhhChoo!" He shook his head, sniffling. "It's just that I don't want you fussing over me when I'm sick." Ron tucked the blankets around him more tightly anyway. "When I was growing up--"


     "You're not with the Dursleys any more," Ron pointed out. "You're here at Hogwarts... and you're with me. There's no reason to hide or to not accept my help now."


     Harry wasn't especially convinced of this. "Don't want you to catch this from me," he said, turning from his side, with his back to Ron, onto his stomach with his face in the pillow. "So you should probably sleep in your own bed until I get better." As Ron had been in Snape's detention with him, he supposed Ron could just as easily have caught the cold from Snape. But he still didn't want to take the chance of sharing his germs with Ron. Besides, there wasn't much to be done apart from sleep and wait the cold out.


     "HahhShphhh! AhhhSHHphhhh!" Harry coughed at the congestion settling in his head. He reached up to the top of the pillow beside him and located one of the clean, pressed handkerchiefs stacked there. He squeezed it in between his face and the pillow and snuffled muffled snuffles into it. Then his shoulders rose and he tensed up again. "AhhhChoooshh! AhhhhShooo!" Harry rubbed at his nose, then reached back, pulling the blanket over his head. "Go away, Rod. I dod wad you gettig sig."


     If he really wanted to stay, he was bigger and stronger and could pin Harry down. Ron sighed but refused to give up on Harry completely. "Fine. I'm going, but only to get some dinner. I'll bring you back something to eat and some tea. Mum says that tea's as good as medicine."


     Harry said nothing, but he blew his nose noisily until Ron left. Then he pushed down the blanket, flipped over in bed onto his back, and sighed deeply. Mrs. Weasley was, Harry was absolutely certain, the reason Ron hovered and fussed over him so much when he was sick. Ron was used to that sort of care and attention when sick, whereas Harry had been used to being shoved in his cupboard with an extra blanket and a box of tissues. This was only one of the many differences between their childhoods, and while these differences sometimes made for awkward moments in which one didn't understand the other's reference to something magical or muggle, the differences never got in the way of anything. With the exception of their needs when sick, which seemed almost impossible to get over at times. Harry very much wanted Ron to care for him the way Ron clearly wanted to... he just wasn't sure how to go about accepting that care when he was so used to being invisible when sick.


     "Ah-AhhSHHHHHH!" Harry sneezed quickly, freely. He paused a moment before the second one struck. "AhhhKShooo!" He sighed and shook his head. The only thing that made this even slightly less embarrassing and painful was that tomorrow was the start of the Christmas holidays and, in fact, Christmas Eve. Fewer people around and more room to spread out should help matters. And hopefully Ron would be able to leave him alone long enough for him to get some sleep and feel better.


     Coughing, Harry rolled back onto his side and pulled the blankets up to his chin. In mere minutes, he was asleep and slept soundly despite Ron trying to wake him for tea and then popping over to say goodnight.


     Whether it was the cold or the fact that the professors were overworking everyone in preparation for sixth year exams which, though it seemed impossible, were supposed to be worse than fifth year ones, Harry slept right through most of the next day. He vaguely registered someone, most likely Ron, bringing a tray of food for breakfast and then just a cup of tea for lunch. It seemed whoever it was, and Harry suspected it was Ron, lowered his expectations of Harry eating anything. Whoever the someone was, and he really hoped it was Ron, had caressed his forehead and kissed his cheek.


     The house elves came and went, clearing away the used handkerchiefs and bringing new ones. Madam Pomfrey came in and touched his forehead to be sure he wasn't feverish. Harry didn't feel feverish, just tired. Very, very tired.


     "Budge over, Mate."


     Harry's eyes flew open as he realized someone, and if it turned out not to be Ron someone was about to be hexed, was nuzzling into his neck and snuggling into his back. A strong, long arm was wrapped around him, hugging tightly. "Rod?" he asked, blinking and trying to look back over his shoulder. He caught a flash of red hair and a glimpse of a freckled cheek. Pretty sure now that it wasn't Ginny, Harry sighed. The sighing made him cough, and he raised a handkerchief to his nose to alleviate some of the congestion.


     Before he could, he sneezed again. "AhhhShoo! HahhShoo!" He paused, his nose still tickling. He only ever sneezed in doubles when sick, but his breath was hitching as though a third was on the way. He frowned and tightened his grip on the handkerchief. "ahhh... Ahhhh-Choo! AhhhShooshhh!" He blew his nose again and called back. "Rod, I thought I said you should stay away. I've got a cold."


     "Yeah, I know," Ron said, nuzzling into the back of Harry's neck and head. "It's Christmas Eve, Harry." Harry looked down to see Ron's fingers softly stroking his chest.


     Harry was well aware of the date. "If you wadt be to be well edough to sbed Christbas day with you, you'd better let be sleeb." He drew a deep breath and then shook with coughs, squeezing his eyes shut. "Add if you wadt to be well od Christbas day, you'd better go."


     Ron chuckled and sniffed at Harry's ear. Harry froze at the sound of it. "I've been feeling a bit peaky since last night. Looks like I caught that cold from Snape after all."


     Tensing, Harry turned over on his back and looked at Ron. "You're sig?"


     Ron nodded.


     "You're dot jusd sayig that to ged idto bed with be?"


     Ron shook his head. "Never needed an excuse to before."


     Harry studied Ron's face. He did look a bit more pale than normal. Ron sniffed again, then rubbed a finger beneath his nose. "How do you dow you caught this frob hib add dot frob be?"


     Ron shrugged. "Dunno... I'm just guessing since you wouldn't let me even kiss you before." Harry's eyebrows raised. "No, I didn't kiss Snape either," Ron laughed. But his smile faded a moment later and he turned his head. "hehShihhh!" Harry passed over a handkerchief and Ron took it appreciatively, wiping his nose with it. "Sorry," he said softly. "I'm feeling kinda rotten." He sniffed again, harder. "Do you mind if I snuggle up with you in bed?" he asked, tilting his head and trying to look sad. "I could really use some looking after."


     Harry slipped his arm around Ron's broad shoulders and pulled the young man closer. Ron snuggled into Harry's side to warm himself up and found himself warmed in more ways than one. Blushing, he started to pull back.


     "It's all right," Harry whispered reassuringly. He turned his head and craned his neck in order to kiss Ron on the lips. They shared the same cold now and there was no reason he could think of not to kiss. While Harry still preferred to be left alone, he knew very well that Ron liked to be fussed over and taken care of when sick. And this was as good an excuse as any for Harry to enjoy the comforting feel of Ron in his arms.


     Harry's nose tickled again, and he raised his handkerchief to his face instinctively. His grip on Ron loosened but Ron stayed put, rubbing a finger at his nose again. "ahhh-Hah-Shooshhh! ahhhChoshhhh!" Harry sneezed. Ron reached an arm out and draped it over Harry's front, hugging comfortingly and Harry didn't push it away for a change. Instead, he smiled at the touch and gave Ron's shoulders a tight squeeze. And when he blew his nose, following the sneezes, Ron did not flinch at all at the sound.


     Harry's eye caught the face of his wristwatch as he lowered the handkerchief, letting it and his hand rest on the side of his chest so it was at the ready. His other hand left Ron's shoulder and began massaging Ron's head through the shaggy red hair. "Habby Christbas, Rod," he whispered, smiling.


     Ron lifted his head. "Really?" Harry nodded. It was only just past midnight, but that definitely counted. "Then Happy Christmas to you, too..." said Ron, his voice dying down a little at the end. Quickly, he snatched Harry's hanky and held it about an inch from his face. "ehhhh-ehh-HIHTChhhh! HehhGshhhh! ehhhTchhh!" Ron groaned, folded the handkerchief and blew his nose. "Not much of a happy start to Christmas, this," he said, waving his hand as though somehow gesturing to their colds.


     Harry took the handkerchief from Ron and placed it on his nightstand along with other used ones. Then, from the freshly laundered pile, he took one for Ron and another for himself. "I dod't dow about that," Harry said, shrugging. "I get to sbed the begiddig of it id bed all warb add sduggly with you. That bakes be bretty habby." He kissed Ron again on the lips, letting the kiss go on far longer than was needed to prove his point, mostly because he'd missed kissing Ron like that for the last few days.


     Ron smiled when, at last, they pulled out of the kiss, and made absolutely no attempt at hiding his hardness which pressed into the side of Harry's thigh. "You're right," Ron agreed, turning his head to kiss Harry's cheek, then jawbone. "Should be very happy." He kissed Harry's chin, then neck. "Think I'd better show you how happy." He kissed the nape of Harry's neck, and the black-haired boy sighed deeply as pleasure shot through him from that. "Want to give you your first Christmas present," Ron told him.


     Harry turned in bed again, this time rolling over so that he was lying on top of Ron, straddling him. "So lodg as you dod't wear yourself out." The back of one hand caressed Ron's temple and cheek. Ron nodded and tilted his head into the touch. Harry noticed that Ron was gripping the handkerchief in his hand tightly in anticipation just as he was doing the same to his own. So Harry reached back a moment and pulled the blankets up over both their heads with a light laugh at how they wouldn't be doing any of this now if it hadn't been for Snape and their detention for ruining half the school's store of bollyhig fangs due to accidentally dropping a vial beside the cupboards. "Okay, thed," Harry said. He kissed Ron one more time on the mouth before his hand slid down the taller boy's body towards the waistband of his pajamas.