Title: Bearing Gifts

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter, year 7

Rating: PG

Pairing: mild Harry/Neville

Disclaimer: Jo's characters and world. I'm just a fan who spends parts of paychecks buying lots of merchandise. So please don't sue. You already have much of my money. This fic is just for fun.

Summary: After a snowball fight, Harry catches a cold. He doesn't like admitting it, but he doesn't mind accepting a few kindnesses from his three friends who come bearing gifts.

Notes: Written for sneezefic weekly hatching of the plot bunnies week #25 (Harry is feeling a little under the weather after a snowball fight.)



Bearing Gifts


     Harry sat in one of the armchairs in front of the fire in the Gryffindor Common room. He was glad that most of the house was gone for holidays for now he could sit as long as he wanted without being disturbed. Leastways, not by visitors. The tickle in his nose that had been plaguing him all afternoon after the snowball fight had since developed into a small case of the sniffles.


     He had not been very hungry for dinner, and instead ate a few cakes he'd been given for Christmas and curled up by the fire to rest. On the floor between Harry and the fireplace were his clothes, which were far less wet and soggy now than they had been after the fight. He wore a flannel nightshirt and had dried out since the snow, but he hadn't really warmed up yet. Apart from the golden fire, the rest of the common room was dark, and that made Harry felt like drifting off at any moment.


     The sniffles, however, had other ideas. "ahhShuhhh! ahhhShooo! Urgh, this cold." He sniffled and rubbed a finger beneath and alongside his nose. The two sneezes were a sure sign that he was sick, and he did not mind admitting that to himself. It was the others he did not like saying it to. Even though they were smart enough to know already, saying it out loud was sort of the point of no return. And The Boy Who Lived wasn't supposed to have a silly little sniffle in his nose from being out in the snow too long. He should have known better.


     "You look cold."


     He was cold. Harry looked over to see Hermione standing beside the chair with a large, thick maroon comforter in her arms. He unfolded his legs and scooted over in the chair to make room for her. Accepting the offer, she sat down beside him and wrapped the blanket around both of them. He snuggled into it as she snuggled into his side affectionately.


     "Any better?" Hermione asked.


     "Less cold," he whispered.


     She rested her head on his shoulder and her bushy brown hair fell over his chest. She took his hands in hers and vigorously rubbed her hands against them. Harry knew they must feel like ice to the touch, but they felt much better with her touching him like that. She finished and draped an arm around his front in a small hug. "How about now?"


     He shrugged. "Just a little bit warmer."


     "Hmm," she murmured thoughtfully. Then she pulled out her wand and said a warming spell. She tapped the comforter and heat flowed from it into Harry. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes. She waited a few minutes for him to get used to the temperature. "And now?"


     "Nice and warm," Harry admitted. "Thank you."


     "You're welcome, Harry," she said softly, the sympathy weighing heavily in her voice.


     All too soon, he felt the need to sneeze again. He brought his hand out from beneath the blanket and cupped it to his face as he turned his whole head away from Hermione. He did not like the idea of sneezing in front of her, but the tickle in his nose was so great that he simply could not help it. "hahhh... ahhShooo! Ahhh-Shiii!" He sniffed hard and relaxed as Hermione brought the blanket around them more tightly, keeping cold air from sneaking in at their sides or by their feet.


     "Bless you," she said, trying to sound casual. He went a bit stiff at the sound of the words, but she did not press him to admit his illness and he was quite glad about that. Instead, she continued with the casual tone. "That snowball fight today was lots of fun, wasn't it?"


     Harry nodded. Even if it had left him with a case of the sniffles, it really had been lots of fun. He recalled vividly the feeling of snowballs smacking into him, and the lovely sound when one of his hit someone else. He'd thrown while Hermione used her wand to help direct the snowballs to their targets. Ginny had done the same for Ron, but no one seemed to have noticed when Hermione crawled out from behind the wall of snow they'd build as shelter and ambushed Ginny from behind. "I'm glad you could be convinced to leave your studies long enough for it," Harry told her.


     "It was a good break," Hermione admitted. "Though I've been knee deep in advanced Arithmancy proofs all evening to make up for it."


     Harry chuckled, though it strained his throat and made him cough a little.


     "Let me get you some water," she said, looking at him critically.


     Harry started to wave his hand and shake off the offer by telling her he was just fine. In truth, he did not want her to go anywhere now that he was finally warm again. But she merely sat up a little and looked over at the far side of the room. There was a water pitcher and glasses set out on one of the tables. Using her wand and a spell they'd learned in first year, she levitated the glass over to where they sat.


     He plucked the glass out of mid-air and took a liberal gulp. The water was ice cold. It felt good against his hot throat but made him feel a bit cold again. Seeming to understand that, Hermione snuggled close to him again. He didn't have to explain how nice the water was, and she didn't have to ask.


     He drank slowly, savoring the taste. The more he drank, the less his throat hurt. Of course he hadn't really noticed it hurting at all until he'd had some to drink. Until then, it had just been the sneezes. Though there had been quite a few of those.


     And more to come, it seemed. Every so often, Harry cupped a hand to his mouth and directed a pair of sneezes towards his shoulder. He did his best to keep them all away from Hermione.


     The evening wore on, and the same warmth and firelight that made Harry feel like dozing off had the same effect on Hermione. With a lack of conversation, she was falling asleep against him. They talked a little, but couldn't think of much to say. She did not want to point out Harry's illness, and Harry wouldn't admit it to her.


     "ahhh... AhShhhhh! AhhChoo!" The force of the sneezes shook him, and inadvertently shook Hermione beside him. She stirred and opened her eyes. "I'b sorry," he snuffled against his hand. Then he sniffed hard to clear his nose. "Sorry to disturb you. Go back to sleep."


     She shook her head and rubbed her eyes. "Sorry for falling asleep." She yawned. "I'm tired out today after the snowball fight. I think I'm going to go up to bed. Is that... I mean, are you okay with that?"


     Harry nodded. "That's just fine. Can I keep the..." he gestured towards the comforter.


     "Of course, Harry. But you're going up to bed soon, too, right?" He shrugged but tried to make his nod look convincing. "Goodnight, Harry!"


     "Goodnight," he called after her as she headed up the stairs to the girls' dormitories. Then he shivered and pulled the comforter around himself more tightly. The warming charm was still working, but he definitely noticed her absence beside him now.


     "ahhhh-Choo! AhChuhhh!" He sniffled wetly and resisted the urge to wipe his nose against the comforter. Instead, with another shiver, he pulled it up to his eyes to keep the lower half of his face warm.


     The portrait hole opened and closed, but nobody was there to step through. Harry sat up a little more, looking around. When he was just about to call out, there was a rustle of soft fabric as his own invisibility cloak was pulled off. Ron stood in the middle of the common room, smiling. "I nicked some hot chocolate and cookies from the kitchens."


     Harry's face brightened immediately. "Brilliant!" Even if it really couldn't be called stealing because of the generosity of the house elves, it was still the perfect thing to bring.


     Ron dragged one of the chairs over and pushed it right against Harry's. He climbed over the arm and settled into the chair with his feet on Harry's. Harry stretched out similarly and shared the large comforter with him. Then Ron carefully handed over one of the two mugs of hot chocolate and a couple of chocolate chip cookies.


     The hot chocolate was soothing. Harry could barely believe the water tasted so good now that he had this. He still wasn't very hungry but nibbled at the cookies after dunking them in the hot chocolate.


     "I was feeling in the mood for hot chocolate after that snowball fight, you know?" said Ron.


     Harry remembered all too well. The sensation of a snowball smacking into his neck and slush dripping down his collar. He shivered at the very thought. He remembered Hermione ambushing Ginny, which gave him enough time to pull Ron to the side unnoticed. The two slipped behind bushes where Neville had been stockpiling snowballs. Then, when the girls finally realized they were gone, all three boys jumped out to take them down in a near blizzard of snowballs.


     "Yeah," agreed Harry. "It's just the thing for a cold winter night. Tha... Thanks." Harry raised the back of his hand, which held the cookies, to his nose and rubbed at it. "ahhh... ahhh-Hahhh..." He turned his head and rubbed his nose into his upper arm. Then he grounded himself against the back of the armchair so he wouldn't spill too much when he sneezed. "ahh-Choo! AHShooo!" A few drops spilled out of the cup and down the back of his hand. He licked them off.


     Ron was looking at him critically, obviously realizing what his double sneezes meant. Harry was glad when he didn't say anything about it, though. Ron came as close as he could without mentioning the word 'sick' however. "Hey, Harry. Can I get you anything? I mean, if you're not going up to bed any time soon?"


     Harry shrugged. "Don't really feel like going upstairs just yet."


     "Don't blame you, Mate," Ron said, nodding towards the fire and the comfy armchairs. "Did Hermione bring you this comforter?" Harry nodded, suspecting that it probably smelled like the girls' dorm rooms. He couldn't smell much at the moment. "I could tell it was hers by the warming charm," Ron said, reading Harry's mind. Harry smiled.


     They drank again in silence for a little while, though Harry sniffled quite a bit. Ron ate his helping of cookies rather quickly, then drank his hot chocolate which had cooled enough by then to drink it right down.


     "heh... ahhShhoo! Chooo!" Harry rubbed at his nose and avoided Ron's eyes.


     Ron cleared his throat and quickly suggested, "How about I go for a deck of cards? Or my chess board?"


     Harry shook his head. "Thanks, but I'm a little too tired, actually."


     Nodding and finishing his drink. "Oh, right. Of course you are." He set the mug aside for the house elves to collect later. He eyed Harry, who was pressing the back of his hand into his nose as his breath caught.


     Harry swallowed hard and squeezed his eyes shut. "ahhhh-ahhhChihhh! ahhChooo!" This time he managed to keep from spilling even a drop of his hot chocolate. He smiled mildly at his accomplishment.


     Ron nonetheless noticed the double sneezes. "Are you... coming up to bed then?"


     "In a few minutes," Harry said. "Want to finish the hot chocolate first. And stay by the fire just a little longer." Harry took another sip of his drink and saw Ron lift a hand to his mouth to try to hide a yawn.  "But you're done now, and you're tired. Go on up. I'll see you later."


     Ron rose, but still looked skeptical. "You sure? I could stick around. I don't mind. Honestly."


     Harry gave Ron an encouraging smile. "Yeah, I'm sure." As much as he might have liked Ron to stay up with him all night, he would never have asked that of him. Ron looked tired, just as Hermione had, and after a day running around out in the snow he shouldn't wonder why. There was no reason either of them should miss out on their sleep because of him. Especially if the alternative was to sit here pretending Harry hadn't come down with a cold in his nose. "Go on upstairs and get some sleep. Goodnight."


     "Goodnight," Ron echoed, heading up.


     Because he wanted them all to be able to sleep, Harry had resigned himself to spend the night in the common room. He didn't want to wake anyone in the dormitory up with his coughing and sneezing. And he doubted very much that he would be able to get much sleep tonight anyway thanks to his cold.


     Not that he was ready to admit to anyone else that he had a cold, of course. He was glad Ron had better sense than to ask about it.


     Harry closed his eyes and sighed before finishing his hot chocolate. The cracks and hisses of the fire were quite soothing, and he soon found himself almost nodding off. He hardly registered the sound of footsteps, nor worked to identify who they might belong to.




     Harry's eyes flew open and a few feet away he spotted Neville, who jumped back a foot with his hand pressed to his chest. "I-I th-thought you were asleep!" Neville stammered.


     Harry shook his head. "Just resting. Sorry to startle you." Neville relaxed with a deep breath. "So what are you doing down here? It's getting late."


     Neville took a seat on the arm of the armchair Harry had selected. "Looking for you, actually," Neville answered. "And, apparently, finding you right here." His hand trembled slightly but he still reached down and petted Harry's head. "Why aren't you in bed?"


     With a shrug, "I'm fine here. The chair's kind of soft and the fire is... is... nice." He rubbed at his nose a little, but it still twitched when he lowered his hand to his lap. "Hermione brought me a blanket. Ron brought me some hot choc..." He faltered, frowning, closing his eyes, lifting his hand back up. "AhhhSHHH!" He tried restraining the sneeze, but it was too strong. So he let the second out fully. "AhhhhhShooooo!"


     "And Neville brought you a hanky," Neville said, handing one over. Though his hand was wet and his nose running, Harry did not quickly reach for it. Neville sighed. "Go on, Harry. You're allowed to catch a cold from time to time." He ignored the sharp and somewhat surprised look Harry gave him. "There's no shame in it unless you want to be all stubborn and make a big deal about it."


     Harry paused, considering this, and then took the handkerchief. He blew his nose and sighed. It felt good. "Thanks, Nev. You're right. I guess I haven't been feeling so well. And... and the reason I'm down here is because I didn't want to wake anyone up because of my sneezing." He lifted up part of the comforter and shivered as the cold night air snuck in. "So do you want to join me?"


     This time Neville paused as he considered. But he shook his head. "No. I want you to join me."


     Harry stared at him curiously and confusedly. He raised a hand to rub another tickle from his nose. "What?" It was rare for Neville to show such initiative or such courage in the matter of their relationship. Rare and curious, but not at all unwelcome. Harry cocked his head and asked for clarification."You mean in bed with you?"


     Neville pulled back a little. "Well you said you didn't want to be loud and wake everyone up. So I thought you could share mine." He continued quickly so as not to lose his courage halfway through. "A few years ago Professor McGonagall gave me permission to put a powerful silencing charm on my bed. It was back in fifth year after those Death Eaters escaped from Azkaban and I kept having those nightmares..." Harry recalled the nightmares of his own that he'd had that same year. Rather, he wished that they had been nightmares. "So if you wanted to sleep more comfortably, in a bed, you're welcome to share mine. That way no one will be disturbed by you sneezing all night."


     "You will," Harry pointed out the hole in the plan.


     Neville shrugged. "It's the least I can do considering I'm sort of responsible for you being sick." Harry looked confused again. "The snowball fight. Remember?"


     Harry remembered Ron charging over the bushes at the girls as Harry and Neville stayed behind to cover him. But the girls seemed prepared for the rush and threw snowballs at Ron. And then, suddenly, it was no longer boys against girls or Weasleys against the others, but everybody for themselves. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny all scooped up snow and threw snowballs at each other, laughing and darting to the side to try and avoid being hit- and failing at that. Neville and Harry, however, had been busy snogging behind the bushes. Taking advantage of their private location and the fact that the others were occupied, Harry grabbed Neville by the scarf and pushed him down into the snow with a particularly hard kiss. Neville returned it, rolling with Harry onto their sides, then over to pin Harry against the snow. So strong and involved were the kisses by that time that Harry had not wanted to make an effort to get up. He had let himself sink into the snow, soaking his clothes and his hair and chilling the back of his neck while the rest of him burned with warmth from Neville's kisses.


     Yet, sneaking in an impromptu snogging session wasn't exactly on the same level as sharing a bed for the night. And though it was a lovely idea, Harry wasn't quite sure he wanted to quite go that far already.


     "Or we can just trade beds for the night," Neville suggested, clearly sensing the reason for Harry's hesitation. Or perhaps he felt similarly. "But you're sick and I won't let you stay here when you should be in a proper bed with blankets and pillows. You're not going to be able to get much sleep while trying to stretch out on two armchairs." His tone was unusually firm, and Harry wondered if it was because Neville was worried about him, or simply feeling a bit better about exercising some control when Harry was clearly not in a position to do much for himself.


     Harry nodded in agreement. He took a deep breath and tried to keep his voice clear of any uncertainty. "Well... if you really don't mind sharing your bed with me..." As though to illustrate the point, Harry turned away, tightly clutching the handkerchief to his face. "ahhh-Shooo! Ah-ahhChoo! Sniff! Even though I... I have a cold..."


     Neville beamed, his smile stretching across his face. "Of course I don't mind." Neville helped Harry up and wrapped the comforter around his shoulders. Harry started to pull it to his chest but stopped and held his arm out. He wrapped it around Neville's shoulders, bringing the blanket along to wrap it around them both. Then they headed quickly up the stairs to their dormitory room.


     All of the Gryffindor boys had stayed for the winter holiday this year, Neville and Harry moved quietly to keep from waking Ron, Seamus, and Dean. It was dark in the room, but neither would light their wand for fear of waking the others with it. Harry kept hold of the blanket and kept his arm around Neville as they walked, but his nose twitched with the need to sneeze. He squeezed his eyes closed and held his breath and his nostrils flared.


     He barely made it behind the curtains of Neville's bed before sneezing. The first was unrestrained but the second was muffled into the handkerchief. "ARHShhoooo! Ah-Shphh!" He wrinkled his nose and wiped it dry. Then he looked up at Neville who was pulling off the comforter and crawling up the bed.


     Neville grabbed Trevor from his spot on a pillow and flipped the pillow over so it wouldn't smell like frog. He set the frog down on a different pillow, on the side of the bed in which he was supposedly planning to sleep. Trevor croaked his displeasure at being moved but stayed put.


     "You can sleep on the right side of the bed," Neville said, gesturing. "The nightstand is on that side and there's a tall stack of hankies in the top drawer. Use as many as you need."


     Harry smiled appreciatively as he crawled up the bed. He had spread the warm comforter across the bottom of the bed to keep their feet warm. His own felt frozen thanks to the ice cold stone floors and stairs. Both Neville and Harry slid beneath the covers, with Harry on the right side of the bed and Neville on the left. The blankets were pulled up to their shoulders and both lay on their sides with their backs to each other.


     "Goodnight, Neville," Harry said into the darkness, starting to sound a little stuffy.


     "Goodnight, Harry," Neville replied. "If you need anything, just ask."


     Harry's head bobbed up and down in a nod. He'd been given a lot already, this night, and he was certain this would be enough. Harry could not think of anything else he might want.


     He shivered and curled up, trying to draw the warmth around himself. He leaned back a little, intending to reposition himself, when he felt Neville's warmth behind him. Cautiously, he scooted back an inch and the heat felt wonderfully closer. As Hogwarts beds really weren't that wide, it only took one more scoot backwards for his back to be pressed against Neville's. Involuntarily, he sighed and smiled as warmth spread through him. Neville did not pull away, so Harry supposed it was all right and he remained like that.


     Not a minute later, however, Trevor jumped from Neville's pillow over to the one Harry was using. Finding the frog suddenly in his face, Harry gave a start. He tried to pull back but Neville was there.


     Neville glanced over his shoulder, understanding. "Oh Trev," he sighed. "I'm sorry, Harry. Sometimes he's restless at night, sometimes." Neville rolled over from one side to the other. Then he leaned forward, his chest pressed to Harry's back, in order to reach over Harry and scoop up Trevor. He made to move and set Trevor aside, but Harry grabbed his forearm.


     "Wait," Harry requested softly. With Neville against him like this, he was so very warm. Not only warm, but comfortable. There was a strong softness to the other young man, and such overwhelming gentleness. Timidly, and sounding quite like Neville in fact, Harry whispered, "Stay like this? Please?" Neville hesitated. "That is, if you're comfortable."


     Neville let Trevor go and the frog jumped over both of them to the other side of the bed. Neville tucked the blankets better around them and draped his arm over Harry beneath the covers. His hand rested on Harry's chest, the flannel nightshirt soft and warm with Harry's heat. When Harry smiled and sighed, Neville tightened his hold into a hug. "I'm very comfortable," Neville whispered.


     Harry closed his eyes, but not to fall to sleep. "AhhShhooo! AhhhKShooo!" Tensing slightly in embarrassment, Harry blew his nose into one of Neville's handkerchiefs.


     Ignoring the sound, Neville hugged him. "Bless you." And, gently, he kissed the back of Harry's neck. "Are you comfortable enough?"


     Harry nodded and smiled. In truth, he felt a little silly. Silly that he hadn't just said he was sick earlier when it had become obvious. Silly that it took something like a cold to get him into Neville's bed when clearly they had both been ready for it. But lucky to have friends who understood him well enough to take care of him the way he needed.