A/N: Well, I wrote this on a whim, all in one sitting, finishing at like four in the morning (way later than I should be up tonight since I have to babysit tomorrow!) but I just couldn't stop in the middle of this! I always like Harry getting the comfort and 'coddling', if you will, he so lacks until Hogwarts. I especially love Harry, Ron, and Hermione's friendship too. This is purely Friendship fluff really. (no slash because slash is weird)
Anyway, I hope you like it! It's set in the CoS. I was reading it the other day and there was a line around Halloween that said a spat of colds was going around and I though of this. Further down there're some 'typos' in the dialogue that aren't really typos, they're me writing out how Harry's pronouncing things through plugged up sinuses. It's kind of spotty because it's too hard to understand if I did it for the whole thing, so just assume that Harry's particularly plugged up when I'm writing out his congestion and adding extra b's and g's and stuff.
But anyway, onwards!
Harry shivered as he slogged across the drenched, muddy grounds back to the castle. His Quidditch robes streamed with water and clung heavily to his clammy skin. A fierce wind whipped rain into his face and half-froze him as he plowed forward against it. It was with enormous relief that Harry reached the great oak front doors and stumbled into the shelter of the entrance hall.
Darting wary glances around him in case Filch should show up and try to give him detention for tracking mud in again, Harry hurried up to Gryffindor tower, wanting nothing more than a hot shower and a chair by the fire.
Harry loved Quidditch in all weather; even pouring rain, and as much as he hated being freezing and soaked every evening, he thought Wood had the right idea keeping up training. If they had to play Slytherin in conditions like this, they needed to be ready for them.
"What, did Wood make you practice jumping into the lake?" Ron asked when he spotted Harry dripping across the common room.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's raining, Ron, haven't you noticed?"
Ron glanced vaguely out the window.
"I'll be down in a bit," Harry told them through chattering teeth. "I'm gonna clean up…"
Harry dragged himself up the spiral staircase, feeling distinctly dizzy once he reached the top. He reached out to steady himself on the wall as the world spun. After a moment or two, it steadied itself and he grabbed some dry clothes and headed for the shower.
Twenty minutes later, Harry was ensconced in one of the armchairs by the fire. He had put on his thick woolen Weasley sweater from last Christmas, but he still couldn't stop shivering. His head was starting to throb, too and he just wanted to go up to bed, but he had an essay for transfiguration due in the morning and he hadn't even started it.
"Harry? Are you okay?" Hermione's voice seemed to echo in his foggy brain and he looked over at her, blinking dazedly.
"Are you alright?" she asked again, frowning at him. "You haven't written anything. You've just been scratching lines on your parchment."
"Maybe he doesn't have a clue about what to write," Ron suggested, staring at his own blank parchment in frustration. "If you'd just let us have a look –"
"No, Ron!" Hermione interrupted him fiercely. "You are not copying my homework. Look at your notes if you don't know what to write."
"I would, but you're the one who takes notes and you won't let me look at them either."
"Het-chch!" Harry sneezed unexpectedly and affectively interrupted their bickering.
"Bless you, mate," Ron said as Hermione frowned at Harry.
"Thanks," Harry sniffled. He shook his head a little and refocused on his blank paper, groping with one hand for his book.
The rest of the evening passed with painful slowness, though the clock seemed to be going double-speed as Harry and Ron struggled to gather enough information between the two of them to write their essays. Hermione was outlining the next chapter in their Transfiguration book, but her exasperated and slightly amused expression told them she was listening to their pitiful attempt at writing a paper and might, eventually, break down and consent to help them.
By 11:30 Harry was ready to fall asleep right at the little table. His head was pounding, his face felt hot, but he couldn't stop shivering, and his nose had started to run. He had to keep surreptitiously wiping at it to avoid being the annoying person who sniffled every ten seconds. And still their essays were barely half-done.
"Well, I'm going to bed," Hermione announced, closing her book and standing up, rubbing her eyes.
"Fine, you do that," Ron said in vague irritation as exhaustion and time-crunch wore his nerves ever thinner.
Hermione stood surveying their panicked efforts for a moment before sighing heavily and setting her book back on the table with a heavy thud.
"Fine, let me see them," she said in a long-suffering sort of tone.
Harry and Ron looked up at her hopefully and her lips twitched at their expressions. She held out her hands, "Let me look at what you've written and I'll help you finish,"
"Ah, thanks Hermione!" Ron said gratefully as he handed over his blotched parchment.
"Yeah, thanks," Harry mumbled, as Ron snatched his paper and passed it to Hermione too. Harry dropped his head onto his folded arms and closed his eyes, thinking longingly of his soft, warm bed waiting for him upstairs...
Someone was shaking his shoulder.
"Harry? I've finished with yours," Hermione was saying.
Harry jerked up right, sniffling and blinking in confusion, noting his redoubled headache.
"Here," Hermione said, shoving his parchment in front of him. "I've corrected some of your paragraphs so that they're right and given you an outline for a conclusion. You're nearly done."
"What's this mean?" Ron asked from across the table as Harry took his essay and stared dazedly at the scribbles Hermione had made on a separate sheet.
Hermione leaned over Ron's shoulder to see what he was pointing at and began a long explanation of something Harry thought he should probably understand, but which at the moment made his brain hurt to listen to.
He made the corrections and cobbled something together for a conclusion. He rolled up his parchment feeling that it was not a very coherent job, but glad that it was, at least, done. Then he trudged up the spiral staircase behind Ron and collapsed onto his bed, not even bothering to undress.
"Harry! If you don't hurry up, you're gonna be late!"
Harry woke again to someone shaking him. He rolled over and sat up, feeling the world pitch dangerously as he did so. Sleeping had not helped at all; in fact it had made everything worse. All the aches and tiredness from last night were still there, and added to them was a ringing in his ears, a heaviness in his head and a raw, scorching sore throat.
Ron was standing next to his bed, talking to him.
"You alright? You look half-dead."
Harry sniffled and rubbed his tickling nose.
"Yeah, 'm fine," he mumbled hoarsely.
Ron looked skeptical.
"Just tired from last night's cram session," Harry assured him, managing to make his voice sound almost normal.
"Alright. Anyway, you've nearly missed breakfast. If you don't hurry up, we'll be late to first period," Ron informed him.
Harry glanced at the alarm clock next to his bed and started when he saw the time.
"You go on, I'll catch up," Harry told him as he jumped out of bed and snatched a clean set of robes out of his trunk.
"You sure?" Ron asked. "I can wait. I don't mind."
"No, it's fine," Harry assured him. "No sense in us both getting detention – Hehktchoo!"
"Alright, if your sure. Bless you," Ron added as he headed for the staircase.
The moment the door closed behind Ron, Harry slumped against the bedpost of his four-poster, dropping his head against the wood and immediately scrambling for handkerchief as the pressure on his sinuses materialized in a sneeze.
Unable to find anything, Harry buried his face in his elbow. "Ichshoo! Chshoo! Heh…heh-tchoo!"
He groaned softly and sniffled again. Today was going to be a long day.
By some miracle, Harry was only a few seconds late to Transfiguration and McGonagall didn't even notice because half the class was still on their feet, talking or, in the case of Dean Thomas, hurriedly trying to finish their essay, which they'd forgotten about until three minutes before class.
"There you are!" Hermione hissed as Harry dropped down into the empty seat between her and Ron.
"Overslept," Harry muttered, fishing his essay out of his bag.
As Harry had predicted, the day passed extremely slowly. Harry fought to keep awake in class and Ron and Hermione frequently had to jab him in the ribs to stop him face-planting into the desk. It seemed as if he were in a constant battle not to sneeze or cough. The last thing he needed was everybody staring at him as he continually interrupted the quiet lectures, and on top of that, he didn't want Ron or Hermione to figure out he wasn't feeling well (he would not yet admit that he was sick and was determined that this would pass soon if he just ignored it).
He couldn't explain why exactly he was trying to hide his symptoms, except that it was long habit. He'd never been sick at Hogwarts before. Hurt, yes, but not sick. When he got sick at the Dursleys, it was better for him to pretend he was fine. Far from sympathy, what he received from his aunt and uncle was either derisive claims that he was faking or chores for being a liar, if the symptoms were obvious enough, extended quarantine in his cupboard lest he infect the rest of the family. He knew Ron and Hermione wouldn't be like the Dursleys, but it still made him squirm with a sort of shame to be ill.
He hardly ate anything at lunch, wanting to avoid swallowing as much as possible.
Hermione noticed, but when she asked, Harry just shrugged and said he wasn't hungry – which was perfectly true.
Hermione exchanged meaningful look with Ron when Harry had gone back to staring at his plate. They had both noticed more than just Harry's lake of appetite.
"You know, you could just go to Madam Pomfrey and get some Pepper Up potion," Ron said casually to Harry as they made their way towards their afternoon lessons.
Harry glanced at him sharply.
Ron rolled his eyes. " 'cause you're sick."
"I'm not sih…si-cktchoo! Sick." Harry protested, the affect completely ruined when he sneezed in the middle of it.
"Yes you are," Hermione contradicted.
"What, can't someone sneeze without being sick?" Harry asked, pressing his tongue to the roof of his mouth as another sneeze began to build.
Hermione fixed him with an exasperated look. "Honestly, Harry, you've been miserable all morning. Why keep up the charade when you can just go down to the hospital wing and be fine by dinner?"
Always the logical explanations, Harry thought. "Fine, if it makes you happy," he said, unwilling to admit defeat.
A second later he sneezed again and then started coughing, shuddering with the effort of trying to suppress the deep coughs.
Ron and Hermione rolled their eyes at each other over his head. Always having to be the invulnerable one. But at least they'd won this one.
With Ron and Hermione promising to let Professor Flitwick know where Harry was, he headed off towards the hospital wing, rolling his eyes and pretending he was only doing it to mollify his friends, but secretly grateful at the prospect of relief. However, when he reached the infirmary, it was to find a harassed-looking Madam Pomfrey hurrying from bed to bed and a queue already waiting by the door.
"You too, huh?" sniffled a third year Ravenclaw boy as Harry joined the waiting students.
Harry nodded, coughing into his hand. "Beend goig aroud like bad lately," the boy said through thick congestion.
"It certainly has," Madam Pomfrey said as she came over to the waiting students. "I've been going through Pepper-up faster than Professor Snape and I can brew it. I'm sorry, but we ran out of draughts before lunch. You'll all have to wait until tomorrow. Unless you've got a fever, I'm afraid I've got to send you back to class."
Harry slipped out of the hospital wing as half the waiting students surged forward, claiming feverishness, and Madam Pomfrey pulled out her wand to weed out the fakers from the truly ill students. Well, he wasn't really sick anyway, Harry thought as he made his sluggish way down the corridor. But Ron and Hermione would still think he was. If he went back to class without the characteristically smoking ears the potion caused, they'd know he hadn't taken it.
Harry paused at the foot of a staircase, weighing his options. After a moment he turned and began trudging up the stairs towards his dormitory. He could rejoin Ron and Hermione after lessons were over and tell them Madam Pomfrey had kept him in the Hospital wing for the afternoon. By then the smoking would have worn off and they would think he was fine. Besides, it wasn't as if being in class would do him any good like this. He was so tired and sleeping the afternoon away was too enticing to refuse in his weak-minded state. It might even turn out as beneficial as a gobletful of Pepper-up Potion.
Harry caught up with Ron and Hermione just as they were climbing the marble staircase after dinner. Sleep had not restored his health, but it had made him feel better.
"Where've you been?" Ron asked when Harry joined them.
"In the hospital wing," Harry told them, pleased that his voice sounded normal despite his raging sore throat and stuffy nose.
"All afternoon?" Hermione asked anxiously. "Are you feeling better?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Harry assured her. "There was a long queue and Madam Pomfrey wanted to check us all over, so it took a while."
"Well, that's good," Hermione smiled.
"Yeah, now you can get going on all the work you missed," Ron grinned, clapping Harry on the shoulder.
Harry laughed feebly, just managing to hide the wheeze in his breath.
It did not take Ron and Hermione long to see through Harry's story. Try as he might to suppress and muffle his coughing and sneezing, they heard it, and there was nothing he could do about the vivid pinkness in his nose and flushed cheeks or his droopy, glassy eyes.
Ron and Hermione met eyes as Harry turned away to stifle yet another sneeze in his fist. He managed to do it so quietly that it was possible they might not have noticed, but of course, they did.
"What I don't get," Ron said quietly to Hermione half an hour later after Harry had departed for bed, looking as exhausted as he had all day, "is why he keeps pretending. Why's he so determined not to let us know he's sick?"
Hermione looked pensive. "I suppose he doesn't want us fussing. You know how he gets about people worrying over him."
"Yeah," Ron muttered. "I don't really get that either. What's wrong with people worrying about you?"
"I suppose he's not really used to it," Hermione said sadly, remembering what Ron had told her about Harry's aunt and uncle. Harry had never talked to her about them, nor to Ron since the first train ride. He always mumbled indistinct answers whenever anybody asked and then changed the subject. She could only guess what this behavior meant…
"But you'd think that would just make him want the fussing all the more," Ron argued. "I mean… if he's never had anybody worry over him, wouldn't he kind of like it?"
Hermione shrugged. "I suppose everyone's different. You know Harry, he hates extra attention. I suppose he just doesn't want to bother us with it."
"So how're we going to make sure he doesn't end up with Pneumonia or something?" Ron asked.
Hermione frowned. "I don't know. We can hardly force him to Madam Pomfrey, that's already not worked. We'll just have fuss in a way that doesn't make him uncomfortable."
"And how are we supposed to do that?" Ron demanded.
"I don't know. We'll just have to figure it out," was the only answer he got.
Harry was extremely glad that the next day was Saturday. He could not have made it through another day of classes or even homework. He woke late, a rarity for him. The Dormitory was full of mid-morning sunshine and filled with the soothing hush of a weekend morning with nothing to do and no hurry for anyone. All f his dorm mates were already up, their hangings gaping open to reveal empty, unmade beds.
Harry lay dazedly in the warm cocoon of his blankets for a while, listening to the distant sounds of voices and movement from the rest of the tower. Then, thinking he should probably get up before Ron came up to wake him up, Harry pushed himself up.
Immediately his sinuses flooded. He took a few hitching breaths, trying vainly to waylay the fit, but the best he could do was burry his face in his elbow and succumb.
"Heh-tchoo! Herchch! Chch! Ikchch!..."
He rocked forward with each sneeze, the tickle only getting worse it seemed and he couldn't stop.
Distantly, Harry heard the dormitory door open.
"You alright, mate?" Ron's concerned voice said moment later and Harry felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Yeah… Heh-Kch! I'm fi…fi… Ihshew! 'm fide," Harry tried to answer between sneezing.
Eventually he regained control, sniffling and rubbing his still-tingling nose vigorously. A box of tissues appeared in front of him and he took one and blew his nose sheepishly. He leaned over the side of the mattress to through the used tissue in the bin and then looked up at Ron, who was still holding the tissue box, scrutinizing him worriedly.
"Gonna live?" he asked.
"Feathers," he mumbled, gesturing at the feathered mattress and pillow around him. Even he knew it was a pitiful excuse and didn't blame Ron for ignoring it.
"You look like hell," Ron informed him bluntly.
Harry shrugged. He didn't feel all that great either.
"Give me a minute and I'll look better," he said, sliding out of bed and tottering to the bathroom. "I'll meet you down in the common room."
Twenty minutes later Harry staggered down the last few steps of the spiral staircase, his breath coming in painful wheezes that rattled his chest and sounded rather worrying, even to him. He spotted Ron and Hermione over by the fire again and made his way towards them through the crowded room, even more packed than usual for a Saturday due to the seemingly never-ceasing down-poor outside.
"Oi! Harry!" George Weasley called from the other side of the room, and Harry looked round. "Oliver's been looking for you! He says practice starts in an hour!"
Harry nodded and gave George the thumbs-up to let him know he heard since he didn't trust his voice to carry above the noise. Then he turned to join his friends beside the fire.
"You're not going to train in this?" Ron said incredulously, gesturing to the rain pounding on the windowpanes.
Harry shrugged. "Got to, if I want to stay on the team."
Hermione looked indignant.
"You'll catch your death out there!" she protested.
"I'll button up," Harry told her, suppressing a cough.
"Harry –" she began severely.
"Look, I'll be fide," Harry told her, trying to cover his congestion. He jumped to his feet and heated for the portrait hole. "I'll have lots of tea and orange juice for breakfast. Vitamin-C and all that for a strong immune system."
He was out in the corridor before Hermione could make any further argument, but Harry wasn't going to the Great Hall. He made straight for the hospital wing, hoping that smoking ears wouldn't interfere too much with Quidditch practice.
"I'm sorry, Potter, but I haven't had time to brew anymore Pepper-up," Madam Pomfrey told him as she hurried between one occupied bed to the next, checking temperatures and administering potions to the many students ill enough to earn a bed. "You'll have to wait a bit longer. Unless you're seriously ill," she added, looking at him sharply.
"It's just a cold," Harry said quickly, suppressing a cough.
"Then you'll have to tough it out a bit longer, I'm afraid," she told him. "It's good for your immune system to fight illness off the ordinary way, anyway."
Harry nodded glumly and left her to her work. Since he'd hardly eaten anything for a day and a half, Harry decided he ought to go down to lunch, although all he really wanted to do was enjoy his last forty-five minutes beside the Gryffindor fire before he had to face the storm.
Even Harry knew it was rather stupid of him to go to Quidditch practice in this weather, feeling as he did. It would only make him worse and he might well fall off his broom, but he couldn't see any way around it. If he wasn't ill enough to be in the hospital wing (and he maintained that he was not) then he ought to be able to go to practice.
He was glad that Ron and Hermione were not at the long Gryffindor table when he reached the Great Hall. The last thing he wanted to do was hear them try to stop him from going outside and fuss over every sniffle. He wasn't that sick.
"You alright, Harry?" Neville asked as he passed Harry going along the table.
Harry choked out a yes between deep, wracking coughs that shook his whole body.
"You sound awful," Neville told him, looking concerned. "Maybe you should go up to Madam Pomfrey."
"I was just there," Harry rasped, rubbing his aching chest. "She hasn't got any potion left."
"Has she got any empty beds?"
Harry whipped round at the sound of Ron's voice. He and Hermione were making their way towards him, determined looks on their faces that made Harry uneasy.
"We've been looking for you," Ron informed him with a voice that suggested Harry was in trouble.
"What for?" Harry asked innocently.
"You know what for," Ron said, grabbing him by the arm and hauling him up off the bench. "Come on, we need to talk to you."
Ron led Harry up the marble staircase, but by the time they reached the top, Harry was coughing so badly that he veered into a nearby deserted classroom and helped Harry sink to the floor, exchanging an anxious look with Hermione as she knelt down at Harry's other side.
"Harry, mate, you're ill," Ron tried to persuade, thumping him on the back as he coughed hard into his sleeve. It hardly sounded like coughing anymore and Ron was afraid a lunge might come up soon.
"Why did you tell us you'd been cured yesterday?" Hermione asked when Harry had finally gotten his breathing back under control.
Harry looked miserable. "I dunno. Just didn't want to bother you with it if there was nothing you could do."
"You wouldn't have been bothering us," Hermione told him firmly. "We're your friends. If you can't complain to us, who can you complain to?"
Harry smiled, but a moment latter he sneezed into his cupped hands.
"Hehrchoo! Sorry," he sniffled.
"Bless you," said Hermione, handing him a handkerchief.
She reached out and tentatively placed a hand on Harry's forehead, pushing away his fringe. His skin was radiating heat.
"Harry, you're burning up!" She exclaimed, startled at how warm he was.
"Amb I?" Harry said vaguely, feeling his own face. He couldn't tell exactly how warm it was because his fingers were icy.
"You ought to go to the hospital wing right now and stay there until you really are better," Hermione said in her bossy way.
"Ndo," Harry said stubbornly, voice thick with congestion as he tried to hold back another sneeze. "I dond't wandt to be ind the hospital wingg andy bore thand I have to be."
He lost the battle with his sinuses and his head jerked forward as he sneezed into the handkerchief.
"Harry, if you ever have to be in the hospital wing, it would be now," Ron told him firmly.
"Look, I appreciate the concern guys, but I'm not that sick," Harry insisted, pulling himself to his feet on the bookshelves behind him. "You worry too much."
But the moment he let go of the bookshelf he swayed dangerously and Ron and Hermione had to grab his shoulders to stop him pitching headlong.
"You were saying?" Ron said pointedly, lowering Harry back to the floor.
Harry opened his mouth to retort – though not really sure what he could say – but started coughing instead, pressing the handkerchief to his mouth.
"Harry…" Ron began, looking intently at his fingernails. "We're you're friends, right? And that gives us the permanent right to care about you. You know last year… after everything with the stone and you-know-who, when you were unconscious for three days? Well, you wouldn't know, 'cause you were unconscious, but those were some pretty awful days. You know how you looked all pale and not moving in a hospital bed? Scary, that's how. I don't think I've ever been more scared in my life, not even when the Devil's snare was choking us to death or that giant white queen was coming at me ready to swing. Those things got over too quick for me to really be terrified, but you looking like that and not waking up… that was really scary. I don't want to have see you like that again. Neither of us do."
Harry kept his eyes fixed on his knees, feeling bad that they'd been so worried about him now on top of everything else.
"We want you to be okay," Hermione said gently, laying a hand on his arm and looking at him earnestly. "And right now, you're not okay."
Harry bit his lip. "Alright," he said finally. "But I'm not going to the hospital wing unless it gets really bad. Madam Pomfrey doesn't need another person to look after and I'm used to being sick the Muggle way. I've been worse."
Ron and Hermione looked at each other.
"Fine," Hermione said, knowing it was the best they'd get out of him. "But you're going to take it easy, alright? That means staying in bed or by the fire. And you aren't going to try to hide how rotten you feel from me and Ron. We need to know how bad it is so we can take you to Madam Pomfrey if it gets bad enough. And we'll decide when that is," she added sternly.
"Yes, Mum," Harry grinned, for the first time really allowing himself to indulge in their caring. It felt good to be taken care of… once in a while.
Hermione smiled back as she and Ron carefully lifted Harry to his feet.
"We'll go slow back to the tower," Ron said as they started toward the door. "Just try not to hack up a lunge on us."
"And one more thing," Hermione added sternly as they reached the classroom door. "Absolutely no Quidditch practice."
The three of them spent the day in Harry and Ron's dormitory. Ron brought out an old wizarding wireless and staticky music by artists Harry had never heard of before played in the background as the three of them sat on Harry's bed and passed the time playing chess or exploding snap or tick-tack-toe and hangman on a bit of spare parchment.
Hermione insisted Harry get under the covers when he started shivering noticeably, but aside from that they didn't fret over him. Neither one said anything about his frequent coughing and sneezing fits, but supplied water or tissues wordlessly, not interrupting their conversation to worry over him. They let him lay back and doze off for a bit when he got tired and Harry lay quite contentedly beneath the blankets, listening to their murmured conversations.
Around mid-afternoon, Hermione, getting nervous about Harry's high temperature, looked up a spell that would give a reading in degrees Fahrenheit and started covertly checking his temperature every hour.
Harry fell asleep around four o'clock and didn't wake up again until past six. Ron and Hermione had, by then, taken it in turns to go down to dinner and had brought up a little bit for Harry if he felt like eating.
The dull, twilit dormitory was disconcerting to Harry when he came to, and it took him a while to be fully aware of his surroundings. The first thing he noticed was that Ron and Hermione were no longer sitting on his bed and he panicked for a second, wondering where they had gone. Then he heard them whispering not far off and felt like a stupid little kid for wanting them close by. He had gotten along just fine all by himself in his cupboard for ten long years, after all.
But feeling as rotten as he did, and having someone taking care of him for the first time in his life, he felt rather younger than he was.
"Heh…heh…ah…Chghch!" Harry sneezed, his breath catching as he groped for a tissue. Someone put one in his hand and he pressed it to his face as he pushed himself up and tried to master his uneven breathing. "Heh…Chchch! Heh-Chchch! Het-Kchgh! Etchchoo!..."
Harry was just starting to wonder if it would ever end when he started to feel some relief. He sniffled and pinched his nose, trying to stem the flow, his head aching from sneezing so much.
"It's no good trying to hold it in," Hermione murmured, gently coaxing his hand away and giving him another tissue.
But by then the last sneeze wouldn't come. Harry could feel it tickling madly in his sinuses, but try as he might with hitching breaths, he couldn't coax it out.
He flopped back against his pillow, rubbing his nose furiously and coughing miserably.
"How do you feel?" Hermione asked, the first inquiry about his health all afternoon and a sure mark that she was beginning to really worry.
Harry shrugged then remembered that they couldn't see him in the gloom – or maybe they could see better than he could, since someone had taken his glasses off.
"Same I gueh – gueh – guess," Harry answered, his breath starting to catch as the tickling grew stronger. He raised the tissue to his face hopefully, but a moment later the feeling had receded just enough to make him drop his hands in disappointment, but still irritatingly there, making him rub his nose and sniffle.
He felt Hermione lay a hand on his forehead to check his temperature, and the pressure was just enough to start his breath catching again. A moment later his head reared back and snapped forward with a very congested "Heh-KTCHEGH!"
"Bless you," Ron's voice said from his other side, and had Harry been more awake, he would have noted the concern that was strong in the blessing.
Harry sniffled some more, sneezing a few more times as he repositioned himself, trying to lessen the ache that pulsed dully in every part of his body.
"I'm going to take your temperature, Harry, okay," Hermione said in a soothing voice as if she were talking to a toddler.
A moment later Harry felt a wand tip on his forehead and numbers glowed green a few inches above his brow.
"103.6" Hermione murmured, doing the math in her head to convert the numbers into Celsius to better gauge exactly how high that was. "39.7" she murmured, throwing a worried look at Ron in the semi-darkness. "that's awfully high. And it's been going up all afternoon."
Harry started coughing then, doubling up, his whole body shaking with the deep, rough coughs. Someone started rubbing his back, talking to him in a calm, soothing voice, but Harry couldn't make out what they were saying as he fought for breath.
"That's it, we're taking him to Madam Pomfrey," Ron decided, listening to the rattling wheeze Harry's breathing made.
"Harry? We're going to take you to the hospital wing, do you think you can walk?" she asked, speaking close to Harry's ear.
"Ndo," Harry mumbled, fogginess swirling at the edges of his brain and making it hard to concentrate. "You said you wouldn't mbake mbe go."
"We said if you got worse we were taking you anyway, remember? You agreed to that, Harry," Hermione said patiently as she and Ron gently slipped arms around Harry's back and shoulders and lifted his thin frame into a sitting position. Harry started coughing again, but not quite as badly as before.
Ron pulled one of Harry's arms around his shoulders and pulled him up out of bed. Harry's entire weight (which admittedly wasn't much) leaned against him. Hermione hurried around the end of the bed to take Harry's other arm and together they supported him across the dormitory.
"But I don't want to go," Harry protested weakly. "Can't you just let me sleep? I just want to sleep."
"You need to see Madam Pomfrey," Hermione said firmly, yet gently, pushing open the door.
The spiral staircase was a daunting task, but somehow they managed to get Harry down it without breaking any bones. People stared as they emerged into the common room and crossed to the portrait hole. Fred and George jumped forward to help them get Harry out of it, looking worriedly at his bone-white pallor and uneasy breathing.
It seemed an interminable journey down to the hospital wing, and by the time they reached it, Harry was completely out of it. He didn't even seem to hear their falsely cheerful encouragement to just keep moving.
Madam Pomfrey was aghast when she saw them.
"He told me it was just a cold!" she raged as she helped them settle Harry into a bed. "Had I known… You should have brought him to me ages ago!"
"Is he going to be alright?" Hermione asked almost tearfully, wondering if her deal earlier would cause her friend unfixable damage.
Madam Pomfrey softened slightly. "I think so. I'll have to fix him up. You two may wait near the door until I've had a look at him."
She shooed them to the other side of the infirmary and proceeded to bend over Harry's bed, listening to his breathing and checking his temperature and pulse. She did a few complicated spells that let her see in a sort of x-ray style what his lungs looked like and then bustled to her office, returning with a few potion bottles. She poured out bright liquid from each one into a goblet and tipped the contents of each into Harry's mouth, being sure he swallowed before she turned and crossed over to Ron and Hermione.
"It's not as bad as it looks," she told them. "He's got an awfully high fever and a terrible cough, but it's not pneumonia. Bronchitis, probably, but he'll be fine in a few days. You may come and visit him tomorrow afternoon if you wish."
By Tuesday evening, Harry was left with only a head cold, but Madam Pomfrey wouldn't let him leave until he was absolutely fine. She wouldn't give him Pepper-up because, not only was there still a shortage, but it conflicted with some of the other potions she was still having him take to keep his lungs clear. Instead, she was giving him another potion to clear the sinuses, but it worked more slowly and made him sneeze quite a bit.
In fact, when Ron and Hermione came to see him after dinner on Tuesday, it was to find him with his head tipped back, eyes closed, and hands poised to catch a sneeze.
"Bless you," Hermione said, handing him a tissue from the box beside his bed.
"Thanks," he said, sniffling and blowing his nose.
"Feeling better?" Ron asked, the customary greeting over the last few days.
Harry sneezed again before answering in a slightly congested voice, "Loads. I'd be fine if could just stop – stop sneezing – Het-chch!"
"Gezhundeit " Ron said amusedly. "When do you think you'll make bail?"
Harry grinned. "Madam Pomfrey says tomorrow or Thursday morning. Whenever I can breathe through my nose."
"Good, 'cause it's dead boring with you in here. Hermione's idea of goofing off is reading about advanced charm development," Ron told him, rolling his eyes.
Harry laughed as Hermione scowled. "It wouldn't hurt to try and expand your knowledge."
"It would your way," Ron retorted.
Harry was pinching his nose, trying to stave off the tickle that had plagued him for nearly a week, his breath coming in sporadic gasps.
"Harry," Hermione said slightly sternly.
"You're head might explode if you try to hold them in," Ron joked.
Harry grinned in spite of himself and dropped his hand. "It's gone anyway."
But a moment later his face fell and his whole body jerked forward as he sneezed.
Madam Pomfrey let them stay no later than curfew each night, which meant that for the other twenty two hours of the day, Harry was completely bored (bored enough to attempt to get through some of the work Hermione brought him from their classes each day). And sure enough, Madam Pomfrey came by to chivy them out at five minutes to eight.
"Hey, guys…" Harry said quietly as they stood up to leave, keeping his eyes fixed on the bed sheets. "I don't think I thanked you for… you now, looking out for me," he paused to sneeze into the back of his hand and then continued. "I'm sorry I was… It's just, no one's ever done that for me before," he ended in a whisper and Hermione nearly burst into tears, but Ron held her back with a firm hand on her shoulder and pointed look at Harry carefully avoiding their gazes.
"Not a problem," Ron told him, clapping him on the shoulder. "It's what we're here for."
"We'll see you tomorrow," Hermione said, squeezing his shoulder briefly.
"Seh…see you later. Hertchegh! Chch! Ihchegh!"
Ron dropped the box of tissues onto the bed next to Harry and with a last round of good-byes, he and Hermione headed for the infirmary doors, watched closely by Madam Pomfrey.
"Bless you, mate!" Ron called over his shoulder as the doors swung shut behind him.
A/N: I hope you liked it! If you did (or didn't) please tell me so in lovely review! And please, please, please, don't favorite this story if you don't leave me a review and tell me why you favorite it. I will hunt you down and send you PM's questioning you if you do this! JK, I won't annoy you that much! But it's super frustrating when you log in everyday, all eager to see if anyone's sent you comments about your story and wondering if anyone liked it and seeing like three reviews, but like 20 favorites. I mean, people are obviously reading it and must like something, but they won't take the two seconds to tell you what exactly that is, even though you took the several hours to write the story for them…
Okay, rant done! Thanks for reading! Please review!