A/N: Okay, apparently I really like sick fics. I guess I'm just a sucker for hurt/comfort. I've actually been working on this for a while, now and then when I ought to be doing other things (the best motivation is procrastination!). I actually got the idea from a story by the amazing Kendra James. Because this plot bunny would NOT leave me alone, I PMed her and she told me she didn't mind if I borrowed a few ideas. So the plot is loosely based on 'A Summer of Contentment' though I will do my utmost to make it my own story. Thank you very much, Kendra James!
And of course I own nothing. Even less than usual, actually.
Emerald green flames erupted in the Burrow's kitchen fireplace, interrupting the sleepy hush that hung over the house in the early hours of the summer morning. A fourteen-year-old boy toppled out, onto the hearth rug, barely managing to stop himself from smashing face-first into the floor.
Harry pushed himself up, feeling very dizzy, and squinted around the Weasley's kitchen, hoping he hadn't woken anybody up. The roaring flames died behind him, restoring silence (or as close to silence as the Burrow, with its creaking staircases and pipe-banging ghoul could ever get). Harry glanced at the clock in the corner before remembering that this particular clock was useless for telling time. He saw that all nine hands were currently pointing towards home, meaning that Ron's two oldest brothers were home again this summer. Pulling back his sleeve to check his watch, he saw that it was just past three in the morning.
A little less than an hour ago, Harry had been awoken by a loud knocking on the Dursleys' front door and his uncle's loud cursing about lunatics calling at this hour. He had stayed curled under his blankets as his uncle thundered down the stairs, flicking on lights and rumbling things Harry couldn't make out, but was sure were very rude. He knew - because these things always were – that this was somehow connected to him and that he should probably make himself present so that whoever was calling didn't have to deal with his uncle, but Harry hadn't been able to pry himself out of bed.
But whoever was at the door didn't seem very interested in dealing with his irate uncle because Uncle Vernon's shouting was cut off almost as soon as it had begun and a moment later someone was knocking on Harry's bedroom door (much more softly than they had at the front door), and pushing it open. A young witch had stood in the doorway, illuminated by the hall light.
"Wotcher, Harry," she'd said as if they'd known each other for years. She'd then pulled over Harry's desk chair as he struggled to sit up, gaping at her, and proceeded to explain to him that there was a problem with the protective enchantments placed around Number Four Privet Drive and for his safety, she (she said her name was Tonks) and another Auror called Kingsley Shacklebolt were going to send him to a different secure location.
After three weeks of near-silence from the wizarding world, Harry was a bit shocked, but he scrambled out of bed and began throwing things into his trunk, the mere fact that he was leaving the Dursleys enough to give him the energy he hadn't been able to find a few minutes ago. Tonks cheerfully helped him, amused by the way Harry couldn't seem to stop sneezing. In truth, he had been feeling rather rotten for days now, but whatever he was coming down with had waited until then to really hit him.
It hadn't taken them long to get all of Harry's things together and Tonks carried Harry's trunk down the stairs for him. A tall black wizard with a gold earring was standing in the hall, talking calmly to Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, this mere fact immediately earning Harry's respect. When he saw Harry, the man introduced himself as Kingsley and the three of them had left at once for Mrs. Figg's. Harry had been even more shocked to be told she was really a squib Dumbledore had asked to keep an eye on him when he was younger, but he was too tired and had too much of a headache already to bother getting upset just now that he'd been lied to like that.
The night air was chilly after days of rain and Harry had shivered the entire way over to Mrs. Figg's, sneezing and coughing so much that Tonks had given him her handkerchief before long. They'd sent him through the fireplace with a gaggle of blessings and get-well-soons, which only made Harry blush furiously. But the moment he'd realized he was in the Weasleys' kitchen, he'd forgotten all about his embarrassment.
Unsure of what to do and wondering if anybody knew he was coming, Harry brushed the ash off his pajamas and crept quietly out of the kitchen. He stopped at the bottom of the rickety staircase, wondering if he should go upstairs and wake someone up to make sure it was okay he was in their house. But he decided not to. Surely Dumbledore would have checked, and in any case they'd probably rather find him in the morning than be woken in the middle of the night.
All the energy Harry had mustered for packing seemed to have drained out of him. He was really beginning to feel quite awful. A headache was pounding in his skull, his chest was sore, he couldn't stop shivering, and as he made his way over to the sofa, he had to press Tonks's handkerchief to his face hastily to muffle another sneeze. He collapsed sideways onto the sagging cushions and curled up, wishing vaguely that he had a blanket before sleep swept over him again.
Mr. Weasley was the first one up that morning. It was not often that he beat his wife to the kitchen, but she had been on guard duty late the night before, so he thought she deserved a lie-in. As the first one up, it was he who noticed the letter laying on the scrubbed kitchen table. As he picked up the thick parchment envelope, he recognized Dumbledore's slanting writing with curiosity.
Dear Arthur and Molly,
Due to as-yet-unknown causes, there was a problem in the enchantments placed around Number Four Privet Drive very early this morning. There is no need for alarm. We do not believe there was any breach in security, but as a precaution, Harry was removed at once. As you have been asking since the end of last term, we sent Harry straight to your home. I am very sorry for the abruptness and inconvenience this might have caused, but as Molly was already on order business last night, I thought it would be easiest not to wake you and hope that you do not mind. Extra protection has been placed around the Burrow already and if you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at once.
Yours most sincerely,
Mr. Weasley's eyebrows were nearly in his hair when he'd finished the letter. Harry had arrived in the middle of the night? He hadn't heard a thing. Suddenly panicking a little, Mr. Weasley hurried for the stairs, heading to Ron's room, which was where Harry always slept. But before he'd gotten three steps up, he noticed the huddled figure on his sofa. Relieved that Harry had made it safely into their house, he tip-toed over to check on the boy.
The first thing he noticed was that Harry was shivering. Mr. Weasley summoned a blanket, and as he draped it over Harry, noticed with concern that Harry looked rather ill. He was very pale, except for his nose and cheeks, which were pink, and his forehead was beaded with sweat even as he shivered hard.
There was quiet shuffling on the stairs and Mr. Weasley looked over to see his wife heading, bleary-eyed, for the kitchen. She blinked at him, looking surprised and then slightly shocked when she spotted Harry's dark head.
"Arthur, is that Harry?" she whispered, hurrying over to them.
Mr. Weasley quickly explained what Dumbledore's letter had said as Mrs. Weasley tucked the blanket around Harry and pushed his bangs out of the way so she could lay a hand on his forehead.
"He's awfully warm, Arthur," she said anxiously. "Poor thing looks awful. I'm glad he came to us. I hate to think how his aunt and uncle were taking care of him."
"Me too, dear," Mr. Weasley murmured, pulling his wife gently to her feet so they could leave the boy to sleep in peace.
"It's no wonder he's ill," Mrs. Weasley fretted as she began making coffee. "Everything that happened last year, in the last few years, really, and after last month…" she trailed off, blinking a few stray tears out of her eyes as she handed a steaming mug to her husband.
He squeezed her hand as he took the coffee from her, kissing the top of her head. He loved that she cared so much about everyone, especially their youngest son's best friend. If anyone deserved some of Molly's motherly affection, it was the boy shivering on his sofa.
Breakfast was already being put on the table by the time the first of their children began to stir. Bill, Charley, and Percy were first downstairs as they had work that morning. Charley had taken the summer off in order to help the Order. He wanted to get a transfer back to England so he could stay involved, but the dragon reserve he worked at wasn't going for it and Dumbledore said they could use as many foreign contacts as they could get.
Mrs. Weasley shushed her sons as they entered the kitchen noisily.
"Harry arrived last night. He's asleep in the sitting room, so you'll have to keep it down," she hissed.
"Harry's here?" Percy asked, sitting down beside his father.
"Yes, dear. Something went wrong with his protection at his aunt and uncle's house, so Dumbledore sent him here, but he's ill so we've got to let him sleep."
It was too late, however. Harry had been woken by footsteps on the stairs, and as much as he wanted to get back to sleep, his aching chest and clogged sinuses wouldn't let him drift off again. Trying to muffle his coughing in his elbow, Harry pushed himself up on the sofa.
Mrs. Weasley heard, of course. She set down the half-filled kettle and hurried into the other room.
"Mrs. – Weasley," Harry tried to say through his coughing.
"Hello, dear," she said warmly, sitting down beside him and rubbing his back, not liking the sound of those coughs at all. "We're very glad Dumbledore finally sent you to us."
"Me too," Harry told her, trying to smile, but instead he turned away to sneeze into the back of his hand.
"Bless you," Mrs. Weasley said kindly, summoning a box of tissues for him. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," Harry mumbled, blushing. "It's just a cold."
"Well, it sounds like a nasty one," Mrs. Weasley said, pulling the blanket that had fallen off of him around his shoulders. "You sit tight for a minute and I'll see if I can find something to make you feel better, and then we'll see about finding a proper bed for you, hm?"
She bustled back into the kitchen and began searching through cupboards.
"Poor kid sounds like he's hacking up a lung," Charlie said sympathetically through a mouthful of scrambled eggs.
"Yes," Mrs. Weasley sighed as she heard Harry coughing again. "Doesn't look much better, either. Arthur, haven't we got pepper-up in here somewhere?"
"I think we used the last batch up before Ginny left for Hogwarts," Mr. Weasley told his wife as he stood to finish making the tea she'd abandoned. "With the kids not at home, we've hardly needed it."
"It takes nearly two weeks to make," Mrs. Weasley said in consternation, closing the cupboard. "Well, a warm bed and some tea is the next best we can give him. Percy, you don't mind if we put him up in your room until we get the camp bed set up in Ron's, do you, dear?"
Percy looked like he did mind. "Mother, I can't afford to catch anything just now. I'm already working overtime as it is with this whole fiasco, and if I get sick and have to take off – "
"He can use our room, we can bunk in the living room if we have to," Bill interrupted Percy's protests, scowling at his little brother. "Jeez, Perce, the kid went through hell not a month ago and now it sounds like he's dying in our living room and you won't even lend him your room for a few hours."
"Thank you, Bill," Mrs. Weasley said pointedly to her son as Percy flushed and stared sullenly into his coffee.
"We'd better get going if we don't want to be late," Mr. Weasley said hastily, setting the kettle down and ushering the boys towards the door.
The three of them shoved the last of their breakfasts into their mouths and headed for the door, disapperating one after the other on the back porch. Mr. Weasley kissed his wife on the cheek.
"Take good care of him, Molly," he murmured before following his sons.
Mrs. Weasley grabbed one of the cups of tea Mr. Weasley had poured for her, and went back into the living room. Harry was rubbing his chest, wincing.
"I wish I had something for that cough," Mrs. Weasley said regretfully as she sat down beside him again and offered him the tea. "Chamomile's all I've got, I'm afraid."
Harry accepted the steaming mug gratefully. "Thanks, Mrs. Weasley."
"Not at all, dear. Now, how about we get you up to bed before Ginny and the boys wake up and are all over you?"
Harry got tiredly to his feet, careful not to spill his tea, and Mrs. Weasley helped him up the stairs and into Bill and Charlie's room. She flicked her wand at one of the beds and the sheets stripped themselves off and shot into the hamper. Another flick and a new set had floated lightly down onto the bed and tucked itself in under the mattress.
Mrs. Weasley set Harry's tea on the bedside table as Harry crawled beneath the fresh sheets, pressing his hot cheek against the cool fabric and curling into a tight ball. Mrs. Weasley sat down on the edge of the bed and placed a hand against his forehead again, her brow creasing at how hot it felt.
"How do you feel, Harry? Tell me exactly this time," she spoke gently, but there was a no-arguments sort of tone in her voice.
Harry shrugged, not used to being interrogated about things like how he felt. He hated to whine, even when he felt terrible.
"Tired," he said, hoping that would get him out of it.
"You look it, but what else? Does your stomach hurt? Sore throat? Ear ache?"
She was looking at him with so much genuine concern that, to his immense embarrassment, Harry felt a lump rise in his throat, and looked away hurriedly.
"My throat hurts," he said hoarsely. "And my head, and – and – Het-chgh!"
"Bless you," Mrs. Weasley handed him another tissue. "And you sound awfully stuffy," she finished for him. "And we'll have to keep an eye on that cough. Well, you try to get some sleep, dear."
She stood up, looking down at him, and hesitated a moment before brushing the hair out of his eyes and leaning down to kiss his cheek as she would any of her own children. "I'll check on you later."
Harry slept more soundly than he had for nearly a month. Perhaps it was the warm bed, or the soft glow of sunlight creeping around the edges of the curtains, keeping darkness at bay, or the familiar sounds of the creaky house, or simply the comfort of knowing there were people who cared about him close by, but something kept away the nightmares that had dogged Harry ever since the graveyard.
It was a loud crack that awoke him, followed by Mrs. Weasley's furious shushing, "Fred! Goerge! If you wake Harry up, I'll flay you alive!"
"Sorry, Mum!" two voices chorused in a loud whisper.
Harry couldn't help but smirk through his tired haze. He was so comfortable and content that he would have happily drifted back off to sleep, but his nose was running like mad. He could see the tissue box just a few feet away, but he really did not want to sit up and scoot over to grab one, so he kept sniffling in an effort to push off the moment. But in the end this only yielded a few messy sneezes that brought him jerking upright and the pounding began again in his head.
Coughing, Harry groped for a tissue and blew his nose. He looked around for a waste basket to toss the used tissue and spotted one on the other side of the room. With a sigh that rattled in his chest, Harry pushed back the blankets, but before he could stand up, the door was pushed open just enough for someone to poke their head in.
"I thought you were awake," Ron grinned, pushing the door wide and throwing himself down on the end of Harry's bed. "Mum told us you came 'cause something happened in Little Winging. You alright?"
"Yeah, fine," Harry assured him, shivering despite the warmth of the morning. But he grinned at the sight of one of his best friends. "What've you lot been up to? How come you've barely written?"
"Sorry about that," Ron said sheepishly. "Mum and Dad say we've got to be careful with what we write in case it gets intercepted. It's hard to write anything useful or interesting like that."
"What's been going on?" Harry asked eagerly. It had been starting to drive him mad not knowing what was happening and wondering why nothing was showing up on the news.
Ron glanced over his shoulder at the open door to check that his mother wasn't coming, then leaned in and muttered, "We don't know all the details, but Mum and Dad are working with Dumbledore and a whole bunch of other people Dumbledore's recruited. Bill and Charlie are part of it, too. Charlie says it's a secret society. They've got a headquarters, and I think, once Hermione gets here, we're going to go there."
"Really?" Harry asked, his voice cracking a little. "When's Hermione s'posed to come?"
"Any day now. I'm waiting for her letter. She was supposed to come a couple weeks ago, but I guess something came up," Ron shrugged. "Hey, guess what? Bill and Charlie got introduced to snuffles last week! They're pretty confused as to why Dumbledore formally introduced them to a dog. Charlie says he didn't think Dumbledore could get much nuttier."
They both burst out laughing, but Harry almost instantly dissolved in a fit of coughing that had him doubled up.
"You okay?" Ron asked worriedly, thumping Harry on the back.
Harry nodded, burying his face in his elbow as he tried to control his coughing.
"Guess Mum wasn't exaggerating when she said you weren't well," Ron said, still looking concerned. "She can make a hiccough sound like pneumonia."
"It's just a cold," Harry said, trying not to laugh again.
"An awful one," Mrs. Weasley said form the doorway.
She held a tray with steaming soup and tea and a small blue vile, which she set on the bedside table before perching herself once more on the edge of Harry's bed.
"Are you feeling any better, dear?" she asked solicitously, eyeing him as only a mother can.
Harry shrugged. It didn't seem to matter so much that his throat felt like it was on fire, or that his chest was so tight he could barely breathe, or that his headache seemed to have expanded to his entire body. He barely noticed that with Ron sprawled in front of him making him laugh, the sound of Fred and George being told off by Ginny not too far away for something they had done to one of her shoes, and the periodic clank of pipes echoing down the house from the ghoul in the attic.
Mrs. Weasley tutted, unconvinced, and raised her wand to his forehead. "Let's see what your temperature is."
She brushed the tip against his temple and immediately numbers glowed above his brow.
"38.9," Mrs. Weasley murmured, frowning as she felt his cheek with the back of her hand.
The lighthearted humor had faded from Ron's face to be replaced by a look of slight worry. "That's pretty high for 'just a cold'," he said, looking at his mother.
"He'll be fine," she soothed. She picked up the blue vile and unstoppered it. "Here, dear, drink this. It's for the cough. I'll have to get something for the fever, too," she added almost to herself.
Harry tipped his head back and poured the blue potion into his mouth, gagging a bit at the taste.
Ron grimaced in sympathy. "Foul stuff, that," he nodded. "Ginny refused to take it when we were little. She'd pour it into the side of her mouth and spit it out the second Mum wasn't looking."
"Thanks for tattling on me," came a mock-irritated voice and Harry looked around to see Ron's little sister coming through the door. "Hey, Harry. I thought I heard you up. You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm alright," he told her, smiling and turning a little pink. It felt strange to have so many inquiries about his well-being. The Dursleys stayed as far away as they could when he was sick.
A second later he turned to sneeze three times into his elbow.
"You sound fine," Ginny said sarcastically, leaning against the foot of his bed as Mrs. Weasley handed him another tissue and summoned the waste basket to settle beside his bed.
"Excellent, you're awake," said Fred, leaning around the door to peer into the room.
"That means we can't get flayed alive," George added from out of sight behind his twin. There was a loud crack and a moment later they both stood on the other side of Harry's bed, grinning identically.
"How you doing, Harry?" Fred asked, clapping him on the shoulder.
"You two passed your Apperition tests, then?" Harry asked, grinning back.
"With distinction," George beamed.
"Yes, and we haven't had a moment's peace since," Mrs. Weasley grumbled, but there was a shadow of fondness in her voice beneath the irritation. She waved her wand and the tray of soup and tea floated over and hovered over Harry's knees. "Better eat up while it's still hot," she said, getting up. "You lot don't badger him too long," she added to her children as she reached the door.
" 'course not, Mum," Fred and George said together, innocent looks that deceived no one on their faces.
The moment their mother had disappeared down the stairs, the Weasleys began to fill Harry in on Fred and George's most recent inventions. Apparently extendable ears had gained them a lot of information they weren't supposed to be privy to, at least until Mrs. Weasley had discovered them and burned almost the entire stock. And the twins were especially proud of something called Skiving Snack-boxes, which were sweets that would make you ill enough to get out of class (or visits to fussy old aunts' houses or Saturday chores, or other such undesirable activities). Unfortunately, most of those were still in the 'testing' stage.
Harry listened mostly. His throat hurt too much to talk much and he was starting to lose his voice, but the others easily filled the silence with their loud debates and affectionate name-calling. When Harry had finished as much of the soup as he could and set the tray aside, he pulled the blankets up around him and leaned back against his pillow, just basking in the normalcy and warmth of being in the midst of a family. He let his eyes drift closed. It felt somehow unreal to him that he was here, now, in the middle of the Weasleys, tucked into a warm bed.
But as he drifted, the memories of gravestones, masked figures, high-pitched laughter, and the certainty that he would not make it out alive flashed in his mind. You shouldn't be alive… His eyes flew open, heart pounding, sweat beading on his face.
"Easy, mate," George was saying, a hand on his shoulder.
"What's the matter?" Ron asked, sitting up and looking anxiously at Harry.
Harry just shrugged and looked away from all four of their worried gazes, trying not to breathe so hard.
"Should we get Mum?" Ginny asked uncertainly, taking a few steps towards the door.
"No," Harry rasped, his voice cracking and wavering all over the place from hoarseness. "I'm fine, really. Just, dozed off for a second…."
"Well, we'll take that as our cue to get out of your hair," Ginny said, motioning her brothers out of the room.
"G'night, Harry, sleep tight."
"Don't let the bed bugs bite."
Ginny pushed her twin brothers out into the hall, rolling her eyes. Ron slid off his bed.
"See ya, mate."
The door shut behind them, and Harry rolled over and pulled the covers over his head, forcing away the images that had just flashed in his mind. He tried to remind himself that he was safe, that he was with the Weasleys, but he ended up falling asleep thinking that Cedric was the one who should be with his family.
The next time Harry woke, it was to the creak of his door. He shot up, confused from dreams that had not quite progressed into the usual nightmares, but which left his heart pounding in his throat all the same. The room was dark, sunlight gone from the window, and he squinted, trying to see who had come in.
A moment later, the lamp beside his bed flared and he made out a tall figure coming towards him. Someone had removed his glasses, and the world was fuzzy and too out-of-focus for him to make anything out.
"Hello, Harry," said Mr. Weasley's familiar, amiable voice from not far away, and Harry relaxed, his bad dreams beginning to fade.
Noticing Harry squinting, Mr. Weasley grabbed his glasses from the bedside table and gently put them on his face. "Better?" he asked.
Harry nodded, sagging back against his pillow and coughing into his sleeve. The potion Mrs. Weasley had given him earlier must have worn off, he though, noticing the ache in his chest.
"Sorry I woke you up," Mr. Weasley apologized, pulling the desk chair over and sitting down beside Harry's bed. "Molly sent me up with something for your fever. She just took your temperature again and I guess it's gone up."
He handed Harry a goblet filled with green potion, looking him over worriedly.
"How do you feel?"
Harry shrugged, rubbing absently at his tickling nose.
He didn't sound okay, though. His voice came out barely a whisper and so congested it made Mr. Weasley wince inwardly.
To avoid another question, Harry downed half the potion in one gulp. It was like swallowing ice, and he was vividly reminded of the potion he'd drunk in his first year to walk through fire and get to the stone. He shivered violently, feeling as though his insides were freezing. The sudden cold made his chest constrict and he started coughing hard.
Mr. Weasley hastily took the goblet from him before he could spill it all over the blankets and started rubbing circles into his back.
"You don't sound very fine to me," he said to Harry. "Want to try again? Molly wants a full report, I'm sure."
Harry took a breath and then another, trying not to start coughing again.
"It's just a cold, Mr. Weasley," he assured him. "Really, I'll be okay –"
He was cut off by a messy sneeze.
"Bless you," Mr. Weasley said kindly, dropping the box of tissues beside Harry.
"Thanks – " Harry sneezed again as he brought a tissue to his face.
"Want to try the rest of your potion, maybe a bit more slowly?" Mr. Weasley suggested, offering the goblet back to Harry.
This time Harry drank it down in small swallows, avoiding another coughing fit.
"What time is it?" he asked Mr. Weasley as he handed the empty goblet back.
"Just after ten," Mr. Weasley told him, checking his watch.
"S'pose I should go up to Ron's room," Harry said, although he really didn't want to move.
"Nonsense," said Mr. Weasley, waving a hand. "We're keeping you in a real bed until you feel better."
"But Bill and Charlie – "
"They're already camped out downstairs," Mr. Weasley assured him. "Don't worry about them, they don't mind."
"Will you thank them for me?" Harry asked, smiling.
"Certainly," Mr. Weasley said kindly. "Is there anything I can get for you?"
"Yeah, actually. D'you know where my trunk is?" Harry asked.
Mr. Weasley pointed to the end of the bed. "Had the boys bring it up while you were sleeping."
Harry grabbed his tooth brush and a fresh pair of pajamas out of the trunk and Mr. Weasley helped him up the two flights of stairs to the bathroom. He felt woozy and light-headed after sleeping most of the day.
A/N: What d'you think? I think it was a very well-rounded-off story, very completed. JK, this is only the first part. I don't know how long it will be or where exactly it will go or who will make appearances, but this is the beginning and if you are interested, I'll add on. And, if by some miracle, anyone who has read my other on-going fics is reading this too, you know how terrible I am with updates, so please be patient with me! I write when I can!