Soft light, bouncing off the thick snow outside, streamed in through the window. It had snowed all night straight through, blanketing everything in sight. And he and Harry had made love all night in front of the fire, one on top of the other as human blankets, warmer than any other kind either of them had ever known. The light of dawn fell upon the bed, the ginger-gold satin sheets absorbing and reflecting it. The curves beneath the sheets belonged to both men, though lovemaking was far from the current topic of concern. As if lovemaking could ever be far with the two of them lying beside each other in a bed.
Ron lifted his head from Harry's chest, sliding his arm to prop himself up against the giving mattress. With his other arm, he reached up and eased the thermometer from Harry's mouth. He regarded it a moment before leaning over the man to place it on the bedside stand. "Yup," was all he said, and said definitively, as he settled back. With his head on the pillow, one half of his face was in the soft forest green silk. The other half gazed over at Harry. His hand, tough and tender, caressed Harry's cheek. Gentle stokes with his fingers. Strokes... strokes that would have been preferable somewhere else. Those long, hard, firm arousing strokes. But these soft and comforting ones.
Harry closed his eyes with a wet sniffle in his nose. His chest, bare from a parted, unbuttoned nightshirt, rose high then dipped down flat again in a deep, huffed sigh. Distress filled his face almost completely, as quick as a flash. His chest rose again, this time in a sharp gasp. He raised a lose fist beneath his nose and lurched forward an inch, "heh--" then lurched again, his back coming off the bed and staying there for a second, "eck-shushhh!" Then he fell back onto the bed, his wet sniffle now a snorffing plea for something to blow his nose into.
Answering in a second, Ron supplied a tissue box, tilted at Harry in offering. Harry took one, two, and with one hand, gripped his nose through them. He blew gently, softly, sleekly. Then lowered his hand, stuffing the tissues into a ball in a tight, frustrated fist. "I don't get sick," he muttered as he tugged the sheet and blanket up to his neck.
"Pshaw!" Ron giggled, pushing Harry's dark banks back off his warm-but-not-hot forehead. The special Harry Potter lightning bolt scar was faded, soft and only slightly raised from the gentle, pale skin. Ron could recall when it had once blared in signature, and once burned with hatred. He could recall much more, also. "Everyone gets sick, Harry, Love. Even you." He held his hand, cool, against the forehead, hiding all evidence of the man's past for a few moments. "Remember our second-to-last year at Hogwarts when you caught that head cold in the middle of final exams week?"
Harry nodded. It was, he presumed, the main deterrent from his getting high marks on his OWLS. Hermione had made Prefect, as all assumed she had from the day they had met. Ron had struggled through his, taking time to play nurse on Harry's bed rather than keep his nose in the books. His wand had gone to the use of summoning glasses of water and plates of buttered toast rather than practice. Harry's had simply remained under his pillow.
Ron continued. "The whole first day you kept the covers pulled up past your nose to the bottoms of your glasses frames every time I came near to you." He slid his fingers softly down the side of his face, leaving them on the side by his ear, his thumb rubbing soothingly against the slightly flushed cheek. "And then when I finally persuaded you to lower them," he ran his thumb over the man's dry, gentle lips, indicating the means of persuasion, "then you would still pull them up every time you had to sneeze. And that was quite a lot, as I recall. Your nose was quite sniffley and tickley for a long while." He smiled. "And each time, you covered up. You didn't want me catching your cold, but you didn't once ask me to leave."
With a smile of his own, "Whyever would I have?" His hand reached up and pressed itself against Ron's hand, reassuring the man that he enjoyed the touch.
Ron's cheeks flushed a little, themselves and he looked away sheepishly. "You've always been hard to read, Harry."
"Not to... to you..." his dark eyes watered and closed, his nostrils giving a bit of a flair as his nose twitched from the tickles. He raised his fist again, allowing the tissues he'd been holding there to poke through to caress his nose. "huh-shukshhhh! ehh-Uhfshhh!"
"God bless you twice," Ron quickly followed up, brushing the man's bangs back again, out of his face. It was time for a hair cut, perhaps.
Harry nodded his thank you, unable or unwilling to speak while blowing his nose. He gave a frustrated sigh, scrubbing his nose with his palm and then slamming it down on the mattress.
Ron answered the frustration with a soft kiss to his cheek. "Hey now, Love. Not so bad. I'm here still?"
He sniffed wetly, looking a little hurt, a little needy. "You have work."
Ron looked perfectly aghast. "Work?" He forced a harsh laugh at the pure absurdity. "Go in to work when my Harry is sick in bed? What kind of lover would that make me?"
With another sniffle and raised eyebrows, "One that won't get fired?"
Shaking his head with a light laugh this time, "Silly, they'll expect it, not fire me." He ran his hand up and down Harry's arm. "I'm here for you." Harry smiled, rubbing at his nose. "Now then, would you like to sleep in or would you like me to read you the Daily Profit over a light breakfast?"
"You really don't have to... to... " he held his fist up to his nose, pressing his two first fingers up against the bottom. It was strong, demanding, sneaky. "...to take care of me all.. day... hept--!" the sneeze was too intense to deny another second. "ehhh'Ukushh! huh-ehhShoo! ehh-Efshhuh!" He went to blow his nose but was stopped.
Ron eased the wet, balled up tissues out of Harry's hand and replaced them with two fresh ones, then guided his hand the rest of the way to his nose. "There now... better, hmm? God bless you thrice." That was Ron, always exact about the important details.
Harry had to admit that it had felt much better, especially to let out the sneeze. But he didn't feel any better on the whole- if anything, worse. His head was congested, his nose ran and everything was a little fuzzy like someone had stuffed his head with cotton. Dabbing the tissues at his nose, he nodded.
"Now then, I will take care of you all day, and all night, and all the next day if I must, and every day until you feel better. And then maybe I'll think about letting you out of your sick bed for a spot in the living room on the couch. And only after that will I let you even consider thinking about any of your responsibilities. When I take care of you," he ran a finger from Harry's scar down his face, off the tip of his nose then over the lips and off the tip of his chin, "I make sure you are completely taken care of." He said it with such grace and kindness that Harry couldn't help but feel loved.
And yet, he wanted to be sure Ron knew he wasn't that terribly ill. It was only a head cold, after all. "I'll be all right. You," he rubbed at his runny nose, "You don't have to baby sit me every minute."
"Mmmm," Ron said, sitting up on his elbow once more and puffing up his chest nobly. "A challenge of my devotion, Sir?" he pulled his own wand out from beneath the pillow, muttering a soft word as sparkles flew out the end. "I will lavish thee with tissues and tea, cough drops and caring, Kleenex and kindness, soup and songs, bed and bless you's, attention and--"
"All right!" Harry laughed, reaching out and pulling the wand down to the bed so that Ron would quiet. "I believe you."
Tucking the wand away, "You should. After all, I took good care of you the last time, didn't I? Held your hand until you fell asleep, lay beside you to warm you, fetched you everything you wanted."
Harry reached out, running his hand down Ron's forearm, then slipping his hand into the others' locking fingers with a tight squeeze. "You're everything I ever wanted."
Ron smiled, "This cold's making you mushy." He squeezed back. "Not that I mind." And not that he wanted to drop the original topic. "But I will take care of you as well as last time. And we weren't even together then like we are now."
Harry's heart fluttered. He was always both amazed and overjoyed at the casualness with which Ron always spoke of their relationship, as if it were the most wonderful and natural and ordinary thing in the world. "I know, Love," Harry replied with a final squeeze. And he did know; he knew very well. He had no doubt that Ron would be by his side the whole time. It was just a difficult concept to grasp. All throughout his childhood he'd been forced to suffer in silence. At the Dursley's if he so much as sneezed too loudly he'd get a broom beat on the ceiling above the cupboard. He recalled catching the chicken pox from Dudley when he was young and being allowed to bathe to relieve the itching only once a day after the rest of the family had used up all the hot water. When being sick, he soon learned, it was best to sleep as much as possible so there was less noise and less suffering, and to hold one's hand over nose and mouth whenever sneezing or coughing to muffle the sounds. It was odd to suddenly have someone care so very much about his each and every sniffle. "Thank you."
"So," Ron said, lightening the serious albeit lovey mood, "More sleep or breakfast? You never did answer me on that count."
Honestly, Harry hadn't answered because he was still deciding. He scrubbed at his nose, feeling another sneeze coming on. "I don't believe I'll be able to fall back to sleep..."
"Breakfast then!" Ron announced, sitting up to get up.
But Harry shook his head at that as well. "I'm not very hun... hun..." he wavered, nose twitching again. "Hungry." He paused, eyes closed, mouth hanging half open, but nothing happened.
"Feel sneezey again?" Ron asked, though that was terribly obvious.
He managed to nod back, unable to speak through the pre-sneeze breaths that seemed to take him over entirely.
Ron knew what the problem was and reached over, massaging one of his mate's shoulders. "Just relax, Love," he spoke soothingly, leaning close so that his breathy words would tickle the nose as much as the lips. Those tender, pretty lips. "Relax and give a sneeze when you feel like it."
His mouth crept closed just a little, turning into a brief frown, before he heaved forward. "eh'Ihshh! ehh'KUSHH!" He was pitched forward off the bed, his legs coming up as well from the force. Ron's hands were immediately on Harry's back, holding him up afterwards so he wouldn't fall back quickly or hit his head on the headboard. After the sneezes, he let Harry take a few breaths, then gently helped him back down.
"Bless you, bless you." He supplied a few more tissues. "If you're not hungry, I'll just make a pot of tea for now. Sound all right?"
It did indeed. Harry nodded, blowing his nose.
Ron waited for Harry to fining, then kissed Harry on the forehead as he rose from the bed. "I'll be right back then." Before leaving, he tucked the covers around Harry more tightly, an excuse to slide his wand out from the tangle of blankets. He was wearing maroon, satin pajamas and walked on bare feet from the room. Harry had a matching set of pajamas in blue, but they were tucked away in a drawer for more appropriate winter night clothes, a flannel plaid patterned one Hermione had set him for his birthday when she was away in northern Scotland on holiday. These pajamas had the ability to warm themselves to the user automatically, always a toasty snuggly warm, but one that was always second to Ron's embraces.
Ron, in the kitchen, was a blur, making the tea, trying to do so as quickly as possible. He filled the kettle with water from the sink and put it on the stove. Meanwhile, a set of spoons, cups and saucers flew two by two out of the cupboard on one side to the other side of the room on a silver tray set out. These were followed by the teapot, tea leaves, spices, pitcher, and sugar bowl. The tea set had been a Christmas present to them both from their old professor, R.J.Lupin, a man who knew a thing or two about warm drinks; it was probably also the most expensive, extravagant thing they owned. Sugar, cream, honey and lemon assembled themselves behind the tray. A knife whipped out, nearly grazing Ron's strawberry hair, cutting the lemon into pieces. The rest went together easily, tea leaves in the cup, with the boiling water in as well. One, two, three stirs, then adding a bit of sugar. One, two, three more and it was time to take the tray back to the bedroom.
As he stood in the kitchen, hearing the sneezes of his lover as the sounds traveled down the hall, he hesitated, considering sending his mother an owl to ask some advice about what to do if a fever got too bad.
"ep'fshhh! ehk'shuchoo! ehh-EHptchhh!" sounded from the bedroom, and Ron snapped back to reality, the steam from the tea billowing up against his chin. "Rod?" came a call from the other room, and Ron hurried back to find Harry in a desperate state. He had a hand loosely cupped over the bottom half of his countenance, and a soggy, balled up tissue in the other. He nodded toward the tissue box on the bed. "Ebty," he snuffled through a stuffy, runny nose that he certainly did not want to show Ron.
Ron set the tray down on the dresser top and ducked into the bathroom, retrieving another box. "That one was almost out anyway," he stated so Harry would not feel embarrassed for finishing it up, tearing open the new one and handing it over. "This is going to be a rather sneezey cold, hmm, Harry?"
Harry nodded reluctantly, dabbing the tissues at his nose.
"Well, I'll have to do my best to distract you from it, then." Between Harry's two bed pillows and Ron's two, the lot easily served to prop Harry upright in bed. Ron sat crossed-legged on top of the covers, leaning against a bedpost of their canopy bed, the blinds of which were very rarely ever closed. They didn't really need its extravagance, but it was a common style in the wizarding world and they'd gotten a good deal on it. The tray was placed in between them, and Ron sat on guard, making sure that it remained level and would not spill. Harry took his tea this morning with honey and lemon and a little more sugar than Ron typically had.
"Thank you, this is lovely," he said after a few substantial sips. He set the tea down in his lap between sips. After a moment or two, staring at the tea service he grimaced.
Ron reached out a hand, touching his arm gently. "Are you all right? Going to sneeze? Worse?" It didn't seem like the flu, but just in case...
Harry sniffled. "It's all right, just remembering... Lupin..."
"Yes," Ron replied, taking a drink from his cup. "Lupin gave this to us."
"No, I mean yes, of course, I mean--" flustered as his mind grew fussy from fever and congestion, he coughed to clear his throat and allow himself a start over. "I mean he and Snuffles were supposed to visit tomorrow. I... sneezing... sick and all..."
Mildly amused at how minor a concern Harry had made out to be a bigger one, he smiled. "It's fine. I'll send them an owl after breakfast and ask them if they can't come a week from now."
Harry nodded. As much as he wanted to see the friends of his mother and father, he did not want them to see him like this. They had helped him through the worst of it, letting him sleep in their bed when he stayed that summer with them, putting cold washcloths on his forehead when his scar burned, sending him owls daily to make sure he was all right during the second rising. But that was in the past. These were happier times, and he didn't want them worried or bothered by his having a sniffley, sneezey head cold. "Thanks, Ron."
Shaking his head, "Not a bother, Love."
Harry set his tea down, taking up fresh tissues in fair exchange. "ehh'Uhf-shhhhah! egh-Ekkkshhh!"
"God bless, Harry." He reached up and felt the man's forehead again. It was warm, but certainly no hotter. That was a spot of luck this morning.
After giving his nose a good, soft blow, Harry smiled at him. "I'm all right, Ron. Don't worry."
Sheepishly, Ron smiled, looking down at the tray. He hadn't wanted to look worried... he just didn't want anything to happen to Harry. They had made it through the worst in history, and he was damned if he'd lose the sweet man now.
"You're not going to lose me," Harry said softly, as if reading his mind. Harry's quiet sentiment was overcome by yet more sneezes. "eek'kugshh! Huh-ufchah!" And it was interrupted by yet another few blows to clear his nose. "Not after all that's happened. You're not going to lost me now."
Ron looked into Harry's eyes in wonder, as if looking deeper would allow him to understand how Harry always seemed to understand his every move. And yet, it wasn't always so. Harry knew it, too. In the days that were only just behind them, the days of Voldemort's second rising, no one could be trusted. Not your best friend, and not your lover. And Ron had happened to be both. Just as Remus had doubted Sirius and Sirius Remus, and just as they both had underestimated Peter the rat. Even when you gave your soul, mind and spirit to someone... didn't mean they wouldn't stab you in the back in the middle of the climax. Pure terror, just as his parents had known, and as they had died from.
But now that was all over. Overcome. Now was the time of peace, of love, of rebirth and rebuilding. Now was the time when he could snuggle against Ron without any doubts and hold Ron tight as they spooned to sleep. Now was the time Harry had dreamed of every since he learned there was a world waiting for him outside of the Dursleys. A world he now shared with the people he loved, and a bed he now shared with the man he loved.
Harry gazed back into Ron's eyes, knowing the young man was unsure, still worried. He quickly drained his teacup with an extra large gulp, nearly spilling it down his front. Then he thrust the cup at Ron. "If you don't believe me, read the leaves."
Ron's smile grew and in a flash he was doubled over laughing. "I see a big black dog!" he giggled, examining the cup as he cleared the tray off the bed with his other hand. "And a wolf with him of course. And, and, what's this? You're going to die Harry!"
Laughing back, Harry rearranged the pillows so he was merely leaning on them, lying down more. "We're every one of us going to die, Ron," he commented, rubbing at his nose. "Just some sooner than others. And I've no intention of living through that just to up and die now." He reached up for Ron. "Not when there's so much to do."
"So much to make up for," Ron agreed, stretching out his arm and curling it around Harry as the survivor, the boy who lived, the best Quidditch player he knew, the sick young man, snuggled up to him. Harry laid his head on Ron's chest and shoulder blade, his arm draped over Ron's satiny middle. "And I'll make sure you're well for it. Maybe I'll make my mom's special No Fail Cold Buster Soup later today."
Harry looked up at him, eyes shining. How he loved Mrs.Weasley. "Really?"
Ron nodded, easing Harry back down against him. "I'll just have to get the recipe from her, later. But now... sleep, I think." He stroked the side of Harry's face, tucking strands of hair behind his ear and the shorter bits away from his face.
Hesitantly, as if the thought had just occurred to him but he didn't quite know how to say it, "I might accidentally snee--"
"Of course you might," Ron interrupted, sounding logical and kind all in one. "And I might stay in bed and hold you the whole morning, and rub your nose with tissues all you need. And you might like it and let me take care of you as I've told you I would all morning."
Harry grinned as he gave a yawn and nuzzled into Ron. "You're my Wheezy," he muttered, quoting a house elf he once had as an acquaintance.
"You're my love, Harry Potter," Ron replied. "And you're going to get some rest now."
"Mmmm," Harry agreed, relaxing in warmth and comfort.
Ron pulled the covers up to Harry's shoulders, tucking them as much as he could around them both. Then he wrapped his other arm around Harry's front, hugging him securely while the man finally fell back to sleep for a midmorning nap.