Four and a Half Minutes
With all the people who were trying to harm Harry Potter on purpose, it was ironic that the worst thing that happened to him sixth year was that a Ravenclaw N.E.W.T. student accidentally reversed the order of ingredients in her Comfort Compotation, and a first-year Transfiguration student accidentally turned the blue bottle (the container) into a bluebottle (the insect), and Harry accidentally got a face full of a potion whose result was to send him into fevers and chills if he went more than twenty minutes without someone touching him.
Harry didn't find the irony terribly amusing, though, as he sat in the infirmary and watched the rest of the school enjoy an unusually fine May day, and sent silent 'hurry' signals down to the dungeon where Professor Snape was working on the long process of brewing an antidote, and wondered when the next person would come in and hold his hand for the required four and a half minutes, and hoped whoever it was would get here before the shivering started.
Hermione was the easiest. She came by every few hours, slung an arm around the back of his neck, and left it there while she read him her notes and quizzed him on his homework.
He tried not to be hurt that Ron hadn't come yet. Keeper and Prefect -- he was having a busy year.
Lavender read his palm, and then Parvati read his palm, and then Luna came in and offered to read his palm, but when she heard about Lavender and Parvati, she decided to interpret the bumps on his skull instead. Apparently he should be ashamed of neglecting his gifts in music.
Seamus and Dean gave amazing neck rubs. The funniest thing was that they both did it exactly the same way, which meant that either they'd learned it from each other, or Ginny had taught them both.
Ginny held his hand. It was sweet.
The Slytherins came through in a group, solemnly gave him slow handshakes one by one, and walked out without a word.
Professor Lupin behaved oddly at first, as though he were afraid he might hurt Harry if he touched him, but then he hugged him for a long time, which was surprisingly nice. Madame Pomfrey rested her hand on his face when she came in to make sure he wouldn't expire waiting for the antidote. And when Snape came up for a lock of Harry's hair, Harry discovered that the man's insults completely lost their sting when he delivered them while giving Harry a two-handed handshake like a vicar.
When the curtain moved at suppertime, Harry looked up eagerly, but it wasn't Ron, only Neville with a tray from the dining room. He sat with his hand on Harry's bare foot while Harry ate.
Harry was finishing a scroll for History of Magic and trying to ignore the small shivers starting up in his spine when the curtain twitched and Ron stood there, covered with mud and grass from head to toe. "Spinet's a brilliant Chaser, but she's a troll of a captain," he said. "Sorry I didn't come earlier."
"That's all right." Harry really wished Ron would go ahead and touch him before he started visibly shaking. It was so embarrassing.
"They're not leaving you all alone, surely." Ron brushed himself off and sat gingerly on the edge of the bed.
Harry kept still with an effort. All year long he'd had to be extra-careful about touching Ron, because he wanted it a little more than he was ready to admit. But these were special circumstances, and what was Ron waiting for? "No," he said. "Nev was just here, and Snape will have the antidote brewed by half-eight. I can hold out till then."
Harry looked up. Had Ron sounded disappointed? It almost seemed as though he had.
"Probably," Harry said tentatively, and Ron met his eyes, and there was something strange going on in his face. "It only hurts a little," Harry said shamelessly.
Harry started to say something else, but Ron touched his cheek with his fingertips, and Harry fell silent.
"Does that help?" Ron said.
"Yeah." It was enough to stop the shivers, but it still left Harry's mind chanting, Not just this, please, not just this and nothing else. Probably the only good excuse he'd ever have to demand four and a half minutes of Ron touching him -- surely it would be something better than --
Ron went up on one knee and pressed his lips very softly to Harry's.
Ron's mouth was chapped and warm. Harry sat very still, and then hesitantly returned the pressure.
When Ron sat back, there were two spots of red in the middle of his cheeks, making him look like a Dancing Harlequin Lolly. "Anybody else do that?"
"No," Harry breathed.
"Does it help?"
Ron's hand tightened on Harry's. "Want to do it some more?"
"Four and a half minutes at least," Harry said.
Ron gave him a serious look. "I was thinking of a little bit longer than that."
Harry stopped trying to stifle his grin. "Better get started, then."
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May 19, 2005