Title: Halloween Sniffles
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Harry Potter, last year at Hogwarts
Characters/Pairings: Harry/Ron
Rating: G/PG
Warnings: pretty innocent
Disclaimer: These aren't my characters... I'm just using them and the characters have
not yet said stop.
Reason: to fulfill a challenge to the list
J I took the easy way out and picked a fandom where most of the elements are commonplace. The challenge: Elements: A jack-o-lantern, A ghost/someone dressed as a ghost, some sort of prank (you choose). Lines: "Are you wearing a dress?!", "What a haul!"

Summary: Harry catches the sniffles on Halloween night. Pretty short and plotless otherwise!




Halloween Sniffles


         "  ""What a haul!" Ron complained, dumping his books on the floor in front of his bed and dropping the materials in his arms to his bed. "I swear, those stairs get longer every day!" He wiped his sleeve cuff against his soft forehead. "Maybe I'm just getting too old for this place... or maybe the stairway is playing with me."


            His companion, Harry, was just as exhausted from the long day of classes. They had attended an extra lecture from a visiting professor wizard, a rare privilege which had been well worth it, even if it had extended their day by a good three hours. Harry had the extra addition of Quidditch practice from early in the morning as well. Without a word, he flopped onto his bed.


            "I'm still cold from the walk back," Ron continued, stripping off his robe and pulling on a green Weasley sweater his mother had made for Harry. They'd traded; Harry's idea. Ron always changed into it whenever the opportunity arose. "I could use a good cup of-- Harry?"


            Harry, spread out on the bed, was as asleep as could be. His face was pale with cold, cheeks flushed from wind. The weather was changing; it would soon be snowing outside. After pushing his stuff to the top of his bed, Ron pulled his blanket out and covered Harry with is. The young wizard had had a very long day.


            Harry stirred as the blanket was tucked around him. His first move was to raise a fist to his mouth as he was shaken forward. "Etchh! Tchoo!"


            Ron raised a red eyebrow. "Numbers seven and eight, I believe." He settled on the edge of Harry's bed and tucked the blanket back down around his friend.


            "No they're not," Harry grumbled, eyes closed to avoid extensive eye contact.


            "Yes they are. I've been counting since you woke up this morning." He paused and added, "In fact, you woke me up with one if I recall properly. So that's eight."


            "No," mumbled Harry, face sinking into the pillow.


            "Yes!" Ron giggled back.


            Frustrated by the topic of conversation, Harry turned away, his back to Ron, which readjusted the blanket instinctively. "It's been twenty-four if you insist on keeping count... with twenty-five on... its way..." His palm covered his nose and mouth both this time as he sneezed. "EkTchoo! Ehh-Cheshh!"


            That managed to quiet Ron for a moment. Concerned, he reached down and felt the man's forehead. "Harry, I think you might be sick."


            "Brilliant!" Harry muttered again. "What tipped you off? My detention after ducking out to the bathroom in the middle of Potions to blow my nose, or the uneaten food at lunch, or the way I fell asleep in the middle of Wizard Careers class?"


            Ron bit his lip, and though he felt guilty for not putting the pieces together sooner, he was still a little angry. "Well you don't have to be so snide about it."


            Sniffling, Harry turned back to Ron. One look into the young man's eyes made him melt. "Hey, I'm sorry. Guess I'm just not used to being sick." He patted the spot of bed just beside him and lifted the edge of blanket.


            Smiling, Ron moved over, but not under. He sat up against the backboard, his hand on Harry's shoulder. "How long have you been feeling under the weather?"


            A smile answer, and some nose rubbing was the reply, "Since last night."


            "Last night!" Ron exclaimed. "And you didn't bother to tell me until n--"


            "Ehhchh! Eptchhh!"


            Ron quieted. "Bless you, Harry." As Harry rubbed at his nose, Ron stole a glance at his watch.


            Snuffling, Harry nodded a thank you and noticed the move. He struggled to pull himself back into a sitting position. "Give me a moment then we'll go see how Hermione's costume is coming along." He brought his hand to his face once again. "Ehchshhh!" Sniffling wetly, he rolled forward just in time, opening the trunk at the foot of his bed and pulling out a small pack of tissues. After giving his nose a few thorough rubs, he was good to go. "So how many is that?"


            Ron shrugged. "As many as it takes to make you feel better." As they headed out towards the Gryffindor common room, Ron cast a sideways glance over, "I do want you to feel better."


            Harry nodded, stuffing the tissues into his pockets, under his robe. "I know."



*          *            *


            "Are you wearing a dress?!" Ron blurted out as soon as they had picked Hermione out of the mess of figures in costumes.


            She nodded, waving them over with a smile. "I thought I should look my best for the feast." And she did look her best, almost outdoing her appearance years back at the Tri-Wizard Tournament Dance. The dress was Gryffindor gold and maroon, strapless, cut low on her front and ending just above her knees.


            Ron was still staring. Something just didn't look right between the plain muggle clothes and the fact that Hermione was in a dress. "But that's your costume?"


            She nodded. "I'm dressing as a muggle. Nothing scarier to the Slytherins than that. Now," she twirled around, showing off the hem, brown hair streaming down over her bare shoulders. "Will one of you be a gentleman and zip me up?" Ron went to oblige as Harry took a seat on the edge of Hermione's bed beside the lump of orange fur that was taking a cat nap. But Ron had a few struggles with a zipper... as he'd never really seen one before... and Harry was forced up to unsnag the maroon velvet material and do the zipping. He then quickly took a seat, leaning up against a bedpost.


            "What did you both finally decide upon?" she asked. As she turned back around, she could be seen fastening the shiny Prefect badge just above one breast.


            Ron answered first. "A dragon hunter. Hagrid's lending me a net and Bill sent me a hat for last Christmas that works perfectly. I've got some face paint to make myself look really mean." After all, that was the idea. "And Harry--"


            The Potter in question sneezed again. "Ekshushh! Ehshhh!" He pulled a tissue out and dabbed at his nose. He fell back against the bed dramatically. "Harry's staying in bed sick." He gave a small cough. "Unless he can go as a hospital patient."


            Hermione exchanged a worried look with Ron, who explained. "He's coming down with a head cold."


            "Ohhh Harry!" cooed Hermione. "But you can't! This will be our last Halloween here!" What she meant to say, of course, was that it would be their last Halloween together. The Halloween Feast always went unmatched at Hogwarts, with decorations, food, competitions and surprises galore.


            "I agree, but my body has other ideas," he replied, rubbing his wrist against a tickling nose. "ehhh...Tchooo! Eh-Tshoo!" Snuffling, "I thik I deed to stay id bed." He blew his nose and cracked a smile as Ron and Hermione both helped him sit, then stand. "But no one will notice my absence with you in the room, Hermione. You look... gorgeous."


            She beamed. Even after all they had been through together, she knew it took a lot to make him say that. Even if he were blushing to say it. "Now I know you're sick," she giggled. "Feel better, Harry."


            He nodded, face stuck in pre-sneeze expression as Ron carted him away. As he cleared the door, the sneeze snuck out. "Ehhhh-Shhhhh!"


            There was a hint of hesitation in the air as Ron guided him back to bed and picked out some pajamas for him. "Ron, just say what's on your mind." He smiled, slipping his pants off. "Or I'll be forced to tickle you under the covers."


            Ron looked up from the base of Harry's bed. "Actually, that sounds pretty good right now--"


            "ehh... ehktushhhh! ehkkushh!" Harry sneezed weakly, curling into a ball instinctively after.


            "If you weren't sick of course." He sighed and pulled himself up, sitting beside Harry and stroking his arm gently. "I'll stay. Just say the word and I'll stay." Sentiment turned to rambling. "I'll get you some hot soup and hold you when you feel bad. I'll--"


            Finishing for him, "You'll go to the feast and enjoy yourself."


            His gentlemanly offer rebutted, he looked hurt. "But Harry..."


            Harry, rubbing a finger beneath his nose, shook his head. "I'll be fine after a little..." he paused as Ron pulled a shirt over his head "... sleep. I'll call Dobby to get me a glass of juice or something later if I need anything. All right?"


            Appeased, Ron cast a wary glace around, then leaned in and kissed Harry. A soft, gentle kiss. On the lips. The sort of kiss that's not so much short and sweet but tender and leaves one wanting more.


            Harry, who closed his eyes for the kiss, opened them back up as a smile crossed his face. "Now, go change into your costume so I can help you with the face paint and the details, ok?"


            Nodding, Ron scampered off to his own bed.


*          *            *


            "Too bad Harry couldn't be here," Hermione commented softly as she and Ron entered the great hall, freshly and extensively decorated for the celebration. Tables were covered in orange and black tablecloths, which were themselves covered in glittery sparkles. The grand chandelier was dark, so the only light came from the centerpieces for each table, which were pumpkins carved to be jack-o-lanterns. Each bore a unique expression, and each had a burning candle inside. But most noticeable was that each jack-o-lantern looked to be alive and was talking, chatting with the sitters at the tables. They had a whole range of expressions, from angry to terrified to worried to surprised. One at a Hufflepuff table was sobbing and complaining that it hurt to be pulled out of the ground. While another at a Slytherin table looked to be rather uneasy and kept asking to be moved to a table where people wore less scary costumes.


            Costumes were a new thing this year, announced only a few weeks prior. Most of the first and second years had to scrounge around for pieces, using their magic to conjure up rudimentary appearances. But others were quite extravagant. Professor McGonagal was dressed as a Scottish lass, authentic down to a sprig of heather in a bonnet. Dumbledore was a Peacock, feathers fully unfurled and towering a good four feet over his head. They moved as he moved, as if they were a natural part of his body. There were a variety of costumes, from animals to characters. There were a good number of dragons, including Hagrid who was a rather large one with a slender green tail.


            Ron nudged Hermione. "Look at Malfoy."  Draco Malfoy was passing by a few feet off the floor on a broomstick.


            "Ah, it's the Pitiful Potterless  Trio... what are you both supposed to be? Poor war vet and a simply uncreative girl?"


            Ron narrowed his eyes. "You're not allowed to fly indoors. If the professors see you--"


            "Snape talked with Dumbledore and I've been allowed. It's part of my costume. I'm a world class Quidditch player. Slightly more creative and less... revealing," Draco commented, stealing a look down Hermione's cleavage from above.


            Hermione, feeling a little naked at the look, stepped back, shutting her mouth. But Ron was quick to defend. "Pity this is the closest you'll get to being a professional anything, Malfoy." And he quickly pulled Hermione over to a table to sit.


            "I shouldn't have worn this," she whispered, elbows on the table, her hands covering her face. "Maybe I should go change--"


            "Don't mind him," Ron said, doing the minding for both of them. "Look how flustered he is. I'm sure he didn't count on you looking so..." he grinned, borrowing the word from Harry so he wouldn't have to come up with his own and be accused of noticing, which was impossible to avoid, of course. "Gorgeous."


            She smiled, cheeks returning to their normal colors. "Thanks, Ron."


            The candelabra above burst into brilliant white light, filling the room. More glitter came raining down as the celebration started.


*          *            *


            "What a party!" Ron laughed as he escorted Hermione back. She had been the talk of the table as far as costumes, and had won an authenticity ribbon which mirrored the badge by hanging over her other breast. She had also been asked to dance by practically every boy at the school, much to Draco's displeasure. But Ron had been reserved the walk back... and he took the job very seriously.


            "I wish Harry hadn't missed it," Hermione returned. "But it was so much fun."


            Ron had been trying not to say that all night, though the young boy who had lived had been on his mind the whole night. "We'll tell him all about it when we get... back..." the troop of Gryffindors had stopped half a hallway short of the portrait of the fat lady in the pink dress which guarded the entrance to the Gryffindor dormitory. "Why have they stopped, Hermione? No one's going in."


            She shook her head and dropped Ron's arm. "Coming through!" she shouted, as students parted the way for her to get to the front of the line. Ron followed just behind. He flashed back to their first night ever at Hogwarts, how tired he had been, how his brother Percy had stepped to the front and given the password and led them all to their new home.


            The passageway was closed, all right. But the portrait of the fat lady in the pink dress was very much missing. Without her, or some other picture in her place, they would not be allowed access to the dormitories. All that was there was a large stone wall. "Someone find McGonagal or Dumbledore now." A few students in the front of the group pushed their way back. "Everyone else remain calm. We'll get this figured out," Hermione announced. Then as a side to Ron, "Snape said he needed to speak to both of them just as we were all leaving. Chances are, he was doing the distraction while someone took off with the painting. I'll give you three guesses."


            Ron's hand clenched into a fist. "I only need one, and it won't be Peeves." Peeves, the resident prankster poltergeist would never break such rules. Not even on Halloween.


            Hermione leaned forward to inspect the stone. It was hard, strong, certainly not a magical misleading image covering up what should have been a hole left by the absent painting. And the stone was cold, the sort of cold that matched the stones on the wall of the rest of the hallway. The stairwell was almost always warm. Whatever had happened, had happened a while before.


            Meanwhile, Ron and a few others questioned paintings lining the hall. Most were devoid of inhabitants, and the ones there claimed many were off at a Halloween party in the carnival painting on the second floor. None there had seen anything, but insisted, as paintings whispered down the line to each other, that her painting was not elsewhere in the castle. Least helpful of all was a jester who was just three paintings down. He, as the others, insisted she had not been taken from her position, but he refused to reveal the culprit. On the other hand, he did find the prank highly amusing and his contagious laughter spread through the group of tired, homeless Gryffindors. Hermione marched right over and turned his painting around, which quieted everyone once again.


            Pulling a still giggling Ron over to the spot where the entrance wasn't, she pointed at the stone. "Ron, look here." She ran a finger down a long, spidery crack. "Look familiar to you?"


            In awe, and confusion, he nodded. "There's a crack that looks just like that on the other side of the door. And those marks at the bottom," he squatted down, "are from Fred and George's exploding rocket prank... you don't suppose..."


            "That's exactly what I suppose," she answered, clearing her voice to announce the password, "Butterrummore!" Nothing at all happened. "If this is the back, then the lady in the pink dress' portrait might be on the other side, and she can't hear me through the stone." Without even thinking, Ron and Hermione both counted to three and together shouted out, "BUTTERRUMMORE!"


            This time, something happened. But instead of the passageway opening to give them access, the stone that faced them began glowing a faint green. The glow was concentrated in one area in the middle, and Hermione narrowed her eyes suspiciously at the shape that might be forming. "Butterrummore?" she said again, and the stone glowed more intensely, forming the shape of a snake, which was in the shape of the letter S.


            "Draco Malfoy, this is not funny!" piped up Neville Longbottom, looking around angrily but still rather timidly.


            Hermione sighed but set to work trying to figure it all out. After pulling her wand out from a hidden spot on her person, she spelled the password out in letters. The letters shot out from the end of her wand and glowed, hanging neatly in mid air in front of her. Then she waved her want and uttered, "Revseria!" The letters glowed and danced in circles, rearranging themselves until they were in reverse order. "Say it with me Ron?"


            Ron nodded, squinting a moment at the glowing letters to be sure he had it right. "Erommurrettub!"


            The snake on the stone wriggled and stuck its tongue out at them all.


            Frustrated, Hermione waved the wand once more. "Reveria incontumo!" A very general spell reversal spell.


            The snake S glowed then disappeared. The whole group lurched forward and cheared loudly... a sound which died down an instant later when writing appeared on the wall in its place. It read:

                                    Tisk, tisk, Hermione! Such an unoriginal

            Spell against such a brilliant prank. A

            Prefect should know better.            ~S


            Speaking through clenched teeth, "When I find Malfoy, I'm going to--"


            "Hey now! What's all the commotion here?"


            They looked up to see Nearly-Headless-Nick, the Griffindor's ghost, circling round above them.


            "The Slytherins turned the entryway inside-out and we can't get past," Neville whined.


            "Mmmmm, yes. Well, I'll just go in and have a look. I'll talk it over with our fair lady in the pink dress then." He sailed right through the wall, as he could, being a ghost. But as soon as he had disappeared within, he sailed right back out again, looking quite startled and confused.             "My word!" He tried again, floating back out an instant later. "It won't let me pass through. Keeps sending me back to this side!" Once more he tired, but very slowly this time. When he vanished in, he left his rear sticking out, and his head came back through as well. So they all had a view of the poor ghost with his head literally in his rear. Many laughed but he sailed out confused, not embarrassed. "The chambers are sealed from elsewhere. Magic protects you from any of us sailing right in. I'm afraid I'll be of no help. But I'll go speak to Dumbledore." In a flash of white-blue light, he was over their heads and down the corridor.


            There was only one thing left to do, Ron decided. He stood against the wall, pounding a fist against it and yelling out, "Harry?! Harry, we can't get in. Harry!" Failing all, Hermione joined him in the effort, and a few others did the same, making so much noise that most of the portraits complained. There was, however, no response from the boy who had lived. The walls were thick and enchanted. There was no way he normally could have heard from all the way up in the dormitory room, and the staircase was longer every day, after all. But now they really had no hope of contacting him. And no way they could see of getting in. And they were all growing in need of a good bed this late at night.


*          *            *


            Harry sat up in bed with a few harsh coughs and "ehhshuhh! Ihhtushoo!" weak sneezes. He twirled his wand, replicating a tissue rather than going through the trouble of making it to the bathroom to get another box of tissues. The spell did take a moment, however, his magic slower from his cold. His head felt full, his nose tickled, his throat itched, his forehead burned. "Ehchoo! Hechuhh! Ehhctshh!" And he certainly had the sniffles.


            He'd managed to get just a bit of sleep, though he'd been woken up many times by congestion. Unable to breathe through his nose, he snored- not loudly, but unusually, and the loud sounds had woken him up. When he woke, he was rather startled and on edge, for his dreams were about Voldemort and hi felt as though someone were holding a pillow over his face, suffocating him. The feeling either lasted just a moment, or went away completely after a few good blows of his nose. While consciously, he never gave Voldemort a single thought now that he was absolutely gone for good. But it seemed that whenever he was sick or hurt, his dreams always strayed to that realm.


            "Chishhh! Hehshhh!" Harry was thrown forward with each, rocking him in bed. The covers kept him warm in just pajamas, but he could only stay half under then at the rate he was going. It was difficult to breathe when he lay down, even with both pillows under his head. He shivered and closed his eyes as he blew his nose again. When he closed his eyes now, he saw not Voldemort but Ron. Ron looking desperate. Ron in trouble.




            His eyes shot open, expecting to see him friend. But he was still alone. Ron. It had been Ron's voice. Where was he now? "Ron?" Hiding? "Ron?" No response.


            Silence. Only silence. Very scary silence. Something was wrong. Harry was certain of that. He grabbed a few tissues and his wand, tore out of bed, and hurried out the dormitory and down the stairs.


            What he found waiting for him at the bottom was the portrait of the fat lady in the pink dress.


            She seemed rather confused but quite glad to see him. "Well hello, hello!" she greeted him with relief in her voice. "Can you put me right? Some of those boys turned his whole wall right around and I seem to be stuck as it were."


            Harry, dabbing a tissue to his nose as the cold passage made it run terribly, nodded. "Draco," he mumbled. "I'll do what I can. Are there people on the outside trying to get in?"


            She simply shrugged. "These walls are so thick that they're sound proof. Can't hear a thing."


            Harry smiled. He was sure Ron was there. "Let me try the password from this side then." He cleared his throat. "Butterrubbore!"


            She squinted at him and did nothing else.


            He snuffled into the tissue. "I'b sorry. I..." he blushed. "I have a cold."


            She nodded and attempted to move the wall. It shook and the fat lady's face flushed to pink to match the color of her dress, then to red. Finally, she gave up with a  sigh. "It's no use. I can't pull it open."


            The door and painting were supposed to swing outwards, but everything was reversed now. If she were only able to pull, perhaps they needed to try to push. "I'll push and we'll try to bake it go the other way, all right?"


            She agreed and she tried again. Harry rammed himself up against the door, pushing. In but a few seconds it swung right open into the hallway. And Harry, clutching a tissue, Harry wearing pajamas, Harry in a complete state of disarray, stumbled out to find himself face to face with almost every one of his fellow Gryffindors. With a sniffle and a wide smile, he asked calmly, "You guys needed sub help?"


            "Harry!" Ron and Hermione both shouted above a cheering crowd. They embraced him warmly in thank you.


            Pulling back, the relief on Hermione's face was great. "We weren't sure you'd hear us from all the way up there."


            Rubbing his hand on the back of his neck, not wanting to immediately explain, he shook his head. "I didn't." To change the subject, he held up his hands and quieted the Gryffindors. "Cub on up to bed. Little ones first," he patted the head of Rhyers, a young first-year who had become a good friend in the few months there. The boy was young, dozing off as he stood, leaning on Ginny Weasley for support.


            Harry stood, holding the door to the passage open for fear of it closing on them again. And as they all passed, they would call out to Harry. Sentiments were varied, but they were mostly either "Thank you, Harry!" or "Feel better, Harry!"


            When the lasts were heading through, Professor McGonagal hurried over to them, led by two Gryffindors who were pleased to see the passage open. "I just heard." She examined the door. "What a nuisance."


"It was the Slytherins," Ron piped up.


            "The note on the outside wall had a snake and an 'S'" She did not, however, mention the direct insult to her that the note contained.


            "We have Malfoy and cohorts in detention with Albus right now. They refuse to admit anything but their wands I'm afraid have different notions. I'm glad you were resourceful and clever enough to solve it." She winked, and they all knew what that meant- points for Gryffindor towards the cup! "But Dumbledore will make that announcement tomorrow." She waved her wand at the wall and muttered, "Ignomi reverso sequoto!" and the wall shifted back around and into place.


            Harry, who had been doing his very best to keep his nose quiet and behaved, took the opportunity to let go, now that there was a distraction. He turned, cupping tissues and his hand over his mouth and nose, and bending at the waist, "ehhshhh! ehhTchoo! Tshooo!"


            The others turned toward him, McGonagal eyeing him. "It is late. You should all get to bed now."


            Not quite finished yet, Harry tried to nod and sneeze at the same time. "EhhShishhh! ehhEshhh!"


            With a bit of concern, "Harry, are you all right?" the professor asked.


            He shook his head no, miserably as his friends answered for him.


            "He's a little under the weather," said Ron.


            "He's just got the sniffles or a head cold," said Hermione.


            To which Harry added, "But after a good night in bed I'll be fine." Sniffling and rubbing his nose, he hoped what he had just said were true.


            Professor McGonagal reached over and felt Harry's forehead lightly. She was feeling for warmth, clearly, but her hand lingered a moment on the scar, just a faint, raised mark of what it used to be. "If you feel any worse, go see Madam Pomfrey about it, all right?"


            Obediently, he nodded, though he really had no intention to complaining to the nurse about this.


            "Goodnight then Ms.Granger, Mr.Potter, Mr.Weasley."


            "Goodnight Professor McGonagal," they pretty well chanted in unison, barring Harry's pronunciation of 'BcGonigal'.


            With Ron's arm around his waist, Harry climbed back up the stairs to bed. But this time, he would not be alone, nor in so much discomfort or cold. Ron changed into pajamas and joined Harry in bed, brining with him blankets and Ron's two pillows. With the four, Harry was able to lie a bit more upright in a position where he was able to breathe much easier. Harry was curled halfway into a ball, lying on his side. Ron, under the covers, snuggled up to him from behind. He nuzzled Harry affectionately and wrapped his arm around his friend. "Can I get you anything more?"


            Harry shook his head. He felt under his pillow for his wand and beside his pillow for the tissue box. Then he felt the comforting squeeze of warm, strong arms around him. "I've got everything I need right here in bed with be." He snuffled into his pillow.


            They were quiet a moment, listening to the others in the room shuffle around their beds, getting together their things, slipping off to sleep. And they were quiet, thinking their own thoughts about the evening, about each other. But it was Ron who spoke, in but a whisper to Harry's ear, "How'd you know that we needed you to open the door for us, Harry?"


            Under the covers, Harry shrugged. "I didn't. Sniff, sniff. I just knew you were in trouble." He paused, rubbing a little at his nose, then grabbing a tissue just in time. "ehhhTechhh! ehhChishooo!"


            Ron gently caressed the side of his face. "Bless you." Then he continued on the line of reasoning, "But... you didn't hear us calling?"


            "No, not even when I was down on the last step. The walls are sound proof."


            Confused, "Then--?"


            "I heard you, Ron." He didn't know how to explain it. He didn't know why it had happened at all, really. "I was just lying here sniffle, and I heard you and knew I had to help." With a sigh, "Baybe it's bagic, we are albost wizards..."


            Ron shook his head. "It's not magic, Harry. It's us. You and me." He strained to move and kiss the young man's cheek, then snuggled back into place behind. "Feel better, Harry. I'll stay up until you fall asleep."


            Harry nodded, closing his eyes, feeling safe and secure and sure that his dreams now would be pleasant ones.