Title: A Romantic Nocturne

Author: Piper Mackenzie (eurydice2584@yahoo.com)

Summary: When Harry is too sick to go to the ball, Ron brings the ball to Harry.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I am but a poor, lowly college student to whom nothing of the wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs. I am making no money off of my work. It is all J.K. Rowling's creation.

Category: Romance

Warnings: SLASH

Notes: Having only taken one lesson in any type of ballroom dancing before I was unceremoniously kicked out in the cold (apparently I have no talent), I feel it necessary (if not entirely prudent) to admit before you read this story that I really have very little knowledge about things like waltzes and nocturnes except for what little research I did at the last minute and a definition in my American Heritage Dictionary (nocturne: "a musical composition of a pensive, dreamy mood"). Please feel free to point and laugh at any glaring mistakes I've made and in my few feeble attempts to display what little musical knowledge I actually possess and, when you're done doing that, I am not opposed to having an e-mail sent to me (politely) correcting my error(s). This also goes for whatever mistakes I've made in the Harry Potter context as this is only my second story in this particular area of the fan fiction world and I'm sure I don't have everything right yet (including Ron's tone as a teenager-in this story he's supposed to be looking back from the vantage point of adulthood on a moment he shared with his friend, if that helps at all). Other than that.

Enjoy!

~*~*~*~

After the sobering events of fourth year, outward excitement was not something Harry often allowed himself to show. So when the announcement was made that there would be a special ball at the end of our sixth year, he didn't participate in the enthusiastic celebration of the newly established tradition. The ball became such a huge part of all our lives and we talked about it endlessly, speculating what everyone was going to wear and who was going to bring who as a date. But not for Harry. He often brushed off the topic when someone tried to include him in the conversation and we soon learned that he had no intention whatsoever of becoming an active participant in the festivities.

Which was a shame to a lot of people. More for our benefit, the ball was being put on for his. Though our parents and professors tried to protect us from it, we knew that the violence brought on by Voldemort's return was escalating and that, at the center of it, was Harry. With the knowledge that his next year at Hogwarts would be his last, the Ministry was growing anxious to make him a more active participant in the war. The ball was meant as release from that pressure and the reality of the situation that it presented. Yes, one day soon, we would all have to fight. But not today and that was what the ball was meant to remind us of. It was something we all needed. But it was something Harry needed more and he was hardly acknowledging its existence.

However, for someone who knew him fairly well (and I felt that I did), it was easy to see that not only was he acknowledging the existence of the ball, he himself was looking forward to it with the enthusiasm that everyone expected of him. The signs were subtle, but they were there. While he would never let himself be brought into a discussion on how low cut Pansy's dress would be or if Hermione would straighten her hair again, he wouldn't walk away from it either. Instead, he sat through it and listened intently to what the rest of us were saying, though he made no contribution of his own. His face would go red every time we began to advise each other on who to ask, assigning him dates when he refused to pick one himself, knowing full well he would never ask anyone we suggested (wisely so, in all honesty). He tapped his foot every time we got into a debate over what kind of food they would have for the feast, a sign of excitement I had come to know him for over the years.

A more obvious sign was in the way I had caught him practicing dance steps in the Gryffindor common room one day while skipping Potions, something that we never acknowledged between us.

There wasn't any question in my mind that Harry was definitely just as excited about the ball as the rest of us, if not more so. He just didn't like to show it outwardly. Maybe it was because he thought it would jinx it or maybe because he knew that, being who he was, there was always a possibility that he wouldn't make that far into the future and didn't dare hope. Whatever the reason, I wasn't about to pressure him into showing his excitement if he didn't want to. It was good enough for me just to know it was there.

So of course it had to be something simple like the stomach flu, incurable with magic, that brought him down a full week before the big night. It wasn't even like it was a serious ailment and, when he came down with it, we were all confident that he would recover in time. Even he had remained optimistic for the first day or two. But then he kept not getting better. Three days passed, four and five and nothing changed. Everyone was worried about him, even maybe Snape who had built an understanding with Harry over the past year or so (if not with the rest of us-we still all thought he was a greasy git). The only explanation Madam Pomfrey could give was that the stress of being the Boy Who Lived had finally gotten to him, prolonging his illness. There wasn't much we could do for him except make him comfortable and keep him hydrated, a duty assigned to me and Hermione. It was no easy task, either, sitting there everyday after classes and watching him sweat, shake, sleep and throw up more than any person should be able to in one lifetime, much less one week. His optimism waned as did ours and he grew more depressed as it became apparent that he wasn't going to be able to attend the ball with us.

It was the ultimate disappointment for him, at least at that time in his life. Even after the fever broke two days before the celebration, he was still much too weak to go. He could hardly walk himself farther than the toilet much less execute any of those fancy dance steps I had caught him practicing that day. So, he put on a brave face like he always did and resigned himself to laying quietly in his bed in the infirmary while everyone else (even Madam Pomfrey herself) enjoyed the evening that had held so much promise for him.

Everyone, that is, except me.

Three-quarters of the way through the big night found me not whirling my date around the dance floor but creeping into the infirmary where I found him laying on his bed, eyes closed but not sleeping. One hand lazily clutched an emergency basin which was (thankfully) clean and empty. On the nightstand a full glass of water sat along with a plate of uneaten food, nutritious and bland. Very unlike the rich meal the rest of the student body, including myself, had just finished indulging themselves in.

Slowly, I walked up to the bed and sat down in the chair beside it, positioning myself comfortably in the rut I had made for myself over the past week. I watched him for a moment, wondering idly if he was pretending to sleep to make me go away and not honestly caring if he was. I wasn't about to go back there.

Finally, as the silence drew on, I ventured some conversation.

"You're not a very good faker, you know," I said.

"And why's that?" he answered, a smile quirking his lips. The immediacy of his answer let me know that he hadn't been trying to fake at all.

"You're too quiet when you're faking," I said, scratching my nose.

"Ron Weasley, are you implying that I snore?" he said, cracking one eye open to watch my reaction in amusement.

This was an age-old argument between us.

"That would be a polite way of putting it, yes," I replied, grinning at him. "Another way would be to say that you're a bleeding window rattler."

"At least I don't grind my teeth," he shot back, closing his eye again and settling back into the pillows.

"Am I bothering you?" I asked after another moment of silence.

"Not really," he said. "I was just listening to the music."

"Music?" I said, perking up my ears in the stillness of the room. "I don't hear anything."

"I do," he said simply, not bothering to elaborate.

I listened again. "I still don't hear anything," I said finally.

He sighed. "Imagination, Ron," he said in exasperation before opening his eyes all the way and sitting up a little. "So," he said, "what brings you to my neck of the woods on a night like this?"

"Got bored," I said with a shrug.

"So you just left?" he said doubtfully.

"Yeah," I said as though it were the most natural thing in the world to simply walk away from something I had been openly looking forward to from the moment the announcement had been made.

"Why?" he said. "I mean you had a date and everything."

"You don't have to make it sound like some sort of miracle, you know," I said even though, in reality, it was.

"Sorry," he said. "I just mean that.she's not sick is she? She doesn't have what I have, I hope."

"No, nothing like that," I said. In reality, Olivia Buttersmith, my so- called date of the evening, had fallen ill over the weekend with the same flu Harry had. Unlike him, she had had the decency to recover from it the next day rather than a week later.

Not that I was about to point that out.

"Then why is she down there while you're up here?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"When you say it like that, it sounds like I abandoned her or something," I said, shifting in my seat.

"Didn't you?"

"No," I said. "She's been spending the entire night fawning over Draco Malfoy with all his other groupies. Naming all the traits that make him so gorgeous. Talking about how polite he was to each of them when he had to say no to their offers of a date to the ball because he already said yes to someone else. I highly doubt I'll be missed."

He looked at me for a minute.

"You're not bitter or anything, are you?" he said.

"Yeah, well, anyway, I decided to come up here and visit you instead," I said, flinching when I realized that it sounded like an accusation. In a way it might have been. After all, I wouldn't have even had to agree to go with Olivia Buttersmith, who had treated me like a consolation prize from the start, if Harry hadn't gone and gotten sick.

"You even dressed up for the occasion," he observed. I looked down at the dress robes I had managed to save enough money to buy over the summer in favor of the secondhand monstrosity my mother had bought me a few summers ago, which didn't even come close to fitting anymore. "It looks nice on you," he added with a nod of approval.

"Thanks," I said, blushing a little bit. "Those pajamas are pretty stylish, too, if I do say so myself. At least they're a little better than the ones with the cows jumping over the moon that she had you wearing before."

He looked down at himself and the simple striped infirmary-issue pajamas he was wearing. "I liked the cows jumping over the moon," he said mournfully before looking up at me and laughing.

"You would," I said and laughed too. "Anyway I'm glad to see you're feeling a bit better."

"A bit," he said, hugging the basin too him a little closer like it was some kind of teddy bear.

"Still a bit nauseous?" I said, nodding toward it.

"Not really," he said. "But after the last couple of days."

I nodded, knowing what he meant. To be caught unawares and not have something handy was a very bad thing indeed. I knew that firsthand from one of my visits on the first day he was in the hospital wing.

"Sorry about that, by the way," he said.

"It's all right," I said. "I'll get another sweater next Christmas."

He looked away from me and began picking at the sheets. I saw that we were running out of things to say and struggled to find some agreeable topic of conversation.

Failing miserably.

"Speaking of nauseous," I said, "how come you haven't eaten your dinner?"

His face fell. "Actually, that's lunch," he said. "My stomach has given up the idea that food is Public Enemy Number One but hasn't exactly put it on the Most Wanted list either."

"Still, you should try to eat something," I said, knowing I sounded like a half-assed version of my mother. "Or at least drink the water. You're probably dehydrated from all that-"

"Ron," he interrupted, "don't worry about it."

I had forgotten how much Harry hated to be mothered when he was sick. Especially when it was coming from me. To him, illness was an embarrassment and a waste of time. The fact that he had been downed by something so simple was a bit of a sore spot at this point.

"And as for water," he said, lightening his tone so I knew he wasn't really mad, just a little cranky, "she's practically been making me drink it from a hose lately. If I have to make one more trip to the toilet today."

"Too much information," I said, holding up my hands in surrender and laughing. I had had quite enough of Harry Potter's bodily functions lately, I really didn't need an exact schedule of every time he had needed to take a piss in the last twenty-four hours.

"Sorry," he said and blushed.

We fell silent again and he picked at his sheets even more, further loosening a stray thread. I tapped my fingers on the arm of the chair, waiting for him to take up the conversation this time.

He did less than a moment later.

"I can't believe you can't hear that music," he said.

"I can't believe you can," I said, knowing full well by now that he wasn't hearing any such thing. The only music being played at Hogwarts right now was coming from the ball and that, I knew, was a good distance away from where we currently found ourselves. The wind wasn't even blowing in the right direction. "Are you sure you're not delirious from that fever again?" I said, jokingly reaching out to check him for a temperature. He allowed my touch to linger for a long minute before I pulled my hand away, surprised at the warmth I had felt. "Jesus, you are still sick, aren't you?"

"It's gone down a lot," he insisted. "It's a waltz now."

"A waltz?" I said, wondering why he had chosen a waltz.

"Yeah," he said.

"I've always associated waltzes with old people," I said. It was unlikely that they would have played a waltz at a school like Hogwarts. In fact, if I remembered correctly, the band playing was some popular group or another who were more prone to rocking out than playing waltzes.

"Not me," he said. "They're nice. I like them."

Somehow that didn't surprise me.

"Too bad you can't dance to one," I said jokingly. Not that I could either.

"Actually," he said, looking down at his hands, "that was what I was doing that day you walked in on me."

"Really?" I said, thinking that what I had caught Harry doing had not even closely resembled a waltz. In fact, it had looked quite a bit more like some sort of clumsy rain dance ritual than anything else.

"Yeah," he said, sighing like he was waiting for me to begin making fun of him.

But I really had nothing to say to that except, "Oh." Then, oddly moved by the forlorn look on his face, added, "Want to show me?"

He blushed bright red then. "I, er, I wasn't very good," he said.

"Neither am I," I said, standing up and holding out my hand. "We can be bad together."

Hesitantly, he took my hand and swung his legs over the side of the bed, standing shakily in front of me.

"No music," he said, willingly putting an end to his own fantasy.

"I left my wand on my bed," I said. "I could go get it-"

"No," he said. "We can make something up."

Unsure of what he might mean by that, I guided him to a space in the room that was slightly more open.

"Who's going to lead?" I asked.

"Do you know how to follow?" he asked back.

"I don't even know how to lead," I said.

He smiled.

"We'll figure something out," he said. After a bit of fumbling, we positioned our hands in acceptable spots and ended up just standing still like that, holding each other at arm's length. Almost a full head shorter than me, he stared up into my eyes, squinting a little bit. I noticed for the first time that he wasn't wearing his glasses.

"So where do we begin?" I asked, aware that my voice was getting a little husky. It was a weird thing to be doing with someone who was supposedly my best friend and yet not completely unlike us. To everyone else, Harry and I were just inordinately close but between ourselves we had talked several times of becoming more. The idea had been vetoed, however, on the basis that we didn't want to hurt our friendship. Feeling him in my arms like this made me wonder why we bothered to worry.

He hummed experimentally for a minute, and, finding a tune he liked, began to pull me around the room in what was a pretty poor imitation of some kind of dance that may or may not have been a waltz. After accidentally stepping on his feet four or five times and nearly landing him on the floor because of it, I tore my gaze away from his and concentrated instead on what our feet were doing as he hummed along. After a short time, he tired somewhat and allowed me to lead. It was at this point that the dance dissolved into something more like a lulling swaying motion. Overcome by exhaustion, he began to lean against me more and more until finally his head was resting on my shoulder and his arms around my neck were the only thing keeping him up. We were barely moving by that point.

"Do you want to stop?" I asked, swallowing.

"No," he murmured, pressing his hot cheek to my cooler one. "This is nice."

So we stayed like that, just holding each other close and swaying to a silent tune. He had long given up trying to keep up whatever melody he had had in his head.

"I'm sorry you had to miss the ball tonight," I said, shutting my eyes and taking in the scent of his hair, which smelled surprisingly soapy. Madam Pomfrey must have allowed him to shower himself today instead of making him suffer through another embarrassing sponge bath, I reflected.

"I'm sorry your date with Olivia didn't work out," he replied drowsily.

"It's all right," I said. "I'd rather be here with you anyway."

He lifted his head and smiled up at me. "Thank you," he said. "And I don't just mean for now, I mean for everything. For being here while I was sick. For making me feel human. And for not making me feel bad for throwing up on you."

I shrugged. "Harry, if you tossing your cookies on me is the worst thing that happens to me in my entire life, I'll consider myself a lucky person," I said. "Besides, I'm sure that one day I'll do the same to you."

"Yeah, but chances are if you do, I'll probably just end up following suit immediately thereafter," he said. "You know I'm a sympathetic puker."

Instead of answering, I walked him back over to the bed where he sat gratefully for a few minutes, his head in his hands, before getting on it all the way and laying himself down. I hoped that our activity hadn't been too much for him. He reached out his hand for the glass of water on the nightstand but gave up when it appeared that it was too far out of his reach. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I took it up and handed it to him.

"Thanks," he said, taking a few careful sips before handing it to me to put it back.

"What now?" I asked.

He glanced at the clock. "You should probably go," he said.

I looked at the clock too and was surprised to see that I had been there a lot longer than I thought. Curfew had been extended tonight but not by much and I knew Snape, eager to get away from the festivities, would be prowling the halls, more determined than ever to catch someone where they weren't supposed to be. There wasn't any chance of my being caught so long as I left within the next half hour or so but it was still quite a walk and, as my mother delighted in reminding me every chance she got, it was better to be safe than sorry.

"I guess so," I said.

"Thanks for coming to see me," he said, taking my hand.

"No bother," I said, leaning over to kiss him. It was less romantic than I would have liked what with his lips still saturated with the water he had been drinking, it was almost like kissing somebody who was drooling. There was also something in the back of my mind that kept reminding me that the person I currently had my lips attached to had only recently put the basin to which he clutched to some pretty good use. Even still, in my heart I knew that if I did happen to catch the flu from Harry, it would be worth it. Just to have this moment with him.

A moment filled with music.

~*~*~*~