Title: Attempts at Comforting

Author: tarotgal
Harry Potter

Rating: G

Spoilers: none

Warnings: a little buddy-buddy comforting (or attempts at such)
Oh come on now! Do I look like J.K.R.? Do I look like I'm getting money from this? And do I look like I'm not just a humble fan who spends what little money she gets on fanish pursuits?
In this short PWP, Ron catches a cold and Harry tries to comfort him.

Comments: I'd love some



Attempts at Comforting


     Ron was sniffling, but his attention was elsewhere. It was evident just to watch him that his mind was reeling with every move, every mistake of the game. He seemed utterly depressed and completely distracted.


     "Take a drink, Ron," Harry advised, gesturing over to the steaming pitcher at the end of the locker room as he shrugged his cloak on after practice. The others were all helping themselves to cups of the frothy potion, and Harry had already gulped one down the moment he had entered. But Ron, who had had a terrible time at practice, had stormed right in and straight to the showers, leaving parts of his Quidditch uniform on the floor behind.


     "I took a shower, I'm fine," Ron said, stuffing his uniform away angrily, banging pads against the side of the locker as he shoved them in. He hit his head against a closed locker and swore so badly that Hermione would have done more than give him a scolding look. Practice had not gone very well for him, not helped at all by the pelting rain. "Let's just go back to the tower, okay?"


     "Kay," Harry agreed, pulling up the hood on his robe and followed Ron out into the cold, pouring rain as they made their way up to the castle.




     The owlry had been it's normal empty self this Sunday morning when Harry visited it, and the rest of the school seemed no more full. Wondering what Ron could be up to and not finding him in the common room, Harry headed back into the dormitory. He nearly collided with Ron who seemed to be on his way out. Their eyes locked for a moment, both bodies teetering on the spot rather than falling forward into each other. Then Ron turned his head and sneezed freely. "uhhhSheshhh! uhhhCheshhhh!" He sniffed hard, rubbing the bottom of his nose with a single finger.


     "Still feeling under the weather?" Harry asked, taking a step back and closing the door behind them. "I thought you slept in this morning to take care of that."


     "Didn't... work..." he said, turning again. "ehhhShushhhh! ehhhShuhhhh!" There was one more, hovering on the edge. He waved a hand in front of his face desperately, willing it out as he panted. "uhhhCHUHshhhh!" he sneezed, staggering forward. He shook his now wet hand to indicate his annoyance with his ailment.


     "Then what are you doing out of bed?" Harry asked, reaching out to pat Ron, but finding the sensation awkward. He pulled his hand back before it made contact and tucked it into his pocket uselessly.


     His breaths sounded heavy and congested and his nose didn't seem to want to stop running. Sniffling, rubbing various parts of his hand beneath his runny nose, Ron didn't notice Harry's gesture, or lack thereof. "I... was hugry," he said, quickly cupping his hand over his nose and mouth again. "hehhhEHShhuhhh!" The sneeze doubled him over.


     This time, Harry did reach out and took hold of Ron's upper arm. "Come on, back in bed, Mate." He dragged Ron around by the sleeve of his pajamas.


     "But I wadted ludch," Ron muttered, still rubbing his nose and trying to pull away.


     "I'll get it for you. All you had to do was ask." Harry pulled back the hangings to Ron's bed so Ron could climb in and get back beneath the covers.


     "But you weren't here," Ron whined, falling back into his pillow, sniffling.


     Harry sighed. He'd never heard Ron whine before. Complain, yes. Swear angrily, yes. But whine? "You could have asked Hermione to get you something. She's just downstairs in the common--"


     "No!" Ron exclaimed rather nervously, pulling the covers up to his eyes and looking around as though afraid Hermione would come in at the very mention of her. "I dod't wadt her seeig be lige dis." He closed his eyes, snapping forward at each and every sneeze. "ehhhSheshhh! ehhhChushhhh! uhhShhhhh!" Pulling both his head and a hand out from beneath the covers, he reached for a balled up tissue that lay beside his pillow. He moved his hand around in the pile, finally locating one he could use to blow his nose on. He moaned when finished, tossing the tissue into a mess of others. "I thig I'b dyig," he complained and flopped back against the pillows.


     Harry only now noticed the mess that was Ron's bed. The pillow looked darker, damp with sweat and he suspected the sheets were similar. The covers were literally covered in used tissues which spread onto the mattress and the floor beside Harry. Several empty glasses were on the nightstand, one of which was knocked over and in danger of rolling off and breaking. "So," Harry said, suddenly realizing what sort of a morning Ron must have had and why, after being in bed so long, he didn't look too rested. "Can I get you something?"


     Ron brightened significantly at the offer. "Really?" Harry nodded. Harry had meant lunch, of course, based on his comment a minute ago.  But Ron moaned, rubbing a hand under his nose and said "Kleedex."


     Not expecting this, he stuttered, "You want... Kleenex?"


     "I deed Kleedex," he said, lifting a heavy hand and gesturing to the empty box on the edge of his bed between pillow and nightstand.


     Harry rubbed the back of his neck. "Ah, sure. I'll go find some then." Ron looked as though he didn't want Harry to go and almost made to grab for him as Harry turned to leave. But said nothing as Harry headed off. He assumed there would be extra supplies under the sink in the bathrooms. He knew there were extra towels and blankets there. But it still took a while to root through the cupboards to locate one. He lingered a moment, checking himself out in the mirror. He seemed to look just fine, bright eyes, skin the normal color, throat the normal red. He sniffed cautiously through his nose, then swallowed. Perfectly normal. Looked as though he wasn't coming down with Ron's cold, but he knew it didn't hurt to double check.


     He returned to find Ron sneezing again, forcing him up off the bed a few inches this time. "uhhhChushhh! ehhhChishhh! huhhSheshhh!" His hair disheveled, his nose a tad pink, his freckles more pronounced on his face from being pale, he certainly did look sick. Harry set the tissues down on his nightstand on top of the empty box. Demandingly, Ron held his hand out for one. With a light cough to cover his surprise, Harry quickly pulled one out and handed it to him. Ron blew his nose several times. His head then sunk back into the pillow. "Thanks," he said, sounding much clearer now. "Would you get me some water, too?" he asked, looking hopeful.


     Harry wished he had thought of filling one of his glasses with water when he went to the bathroom, for this meant yet another trip there and back. And when he returned, Ron was lying on his stomach, moaning softly. Harry set the water down and reached out again, giving Ron an awkward pat on the back. "It's all right, Ron," he said, hoping his voice sounded comforting rather than impatient and shocked at how much like a five-year-old Ron was acting. "It's just a little head cold."


     Ron glared up at him. "It's not little," he spat, burying his face into his pillow. "I want to die I feel so bad," came his muffled complaint. And he shook with coughs so bad that Harry winced at the sound.


     "Ron, er, maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey if you feel so bad?" Harry suggested. He certainly did not mind looking after Ron, but he knew she'd do a much better job than he was.


     But Ron shook his head with the same disgruntled look. "All she'd do is yell at me for not taking that preventative draft, and she'd pump me full of a bunch of potions. I don't want that."


     Harry took great effort to restrain a sigh. "What do you want?"


     Biting his lip, Ron thought for a moment. "Chicken soup," he stated plainly.


     "Chicken soup?"


     "Yeah, chicken soup. Whenever I got sick as a kid, Mum used to bring me chicken soup." He looked up hopefully from his pillow. "Don't think you could manage that, could you?"


     Harry wasn't sure, but said he'd try. He headed out of the dormitory and down the stairs before thinking that he should have told Ron to stay in bed this time. But didn't feel much like going back up just for that. Hermione waved to him from across the common room, asking how Ron was. "Not too good," Harry confided. "And I can't seem to make him feel better, whatever I do."


     Hermione laughed. "He hid beneath the covers when I went in earlier," she told Harry. "Mumbled something about being a man now and not needing a girl hovering over him."


     Harry sighed. "So he just wants me hovering over him." He rolled his eyes.


     "Well, you are his best friend. Maybe he doesn't mind asking you for what he needs. Maybe you don't baby him the way... others would." Her cheeks flushed and she stuck her nose back into her work.


     Harry supposed she was right, and he had a long walk downstairs and back up to mull it over. Ron certainly had seemed all tough and manly when he'd refused to drink the preventative potion in the locker room. But not quite so tough with the moaning and whining. Harry seriously hoped that he, Harry, didn't sound so bad when he came down sick. Though he'd seen Ron injured a number of times, and they'd all ended up in the hospital wing more times than Harry could count. Madam Pomfrey was just about ready to assign them permanent beds.


     Madam Pomfrey was the one who should be looking after Ron now, no matter what Hermione said. Harry reckoned that even Hermione'd be better at it than he was. Girls were much better at that sort of mushy, comforting sort of thing. And it wasn't like Harry had ever remembered his mother taking care of him in this way. No example to follow, no clue what to do. Harry felt Ron was asking too much of him. Though it almost made it more determined to get the soup and do something right for a change.


     Lunch was nearly over by the time Harry reached the Great Hall. But while there was potato soup and tomato basil soup, nowhere in sight was chicken soup. So he snuck over to the kitchens straight away, running into Dobby without really even trying. The elf was delighted to be of assistance, and Harry was carrying a steaming hot bowl of soup up the stairs in no time. He was forced to cut across the third floor instead of going straight up the main stairs because a section switched on him unexpectedly, nearly dangling him in the middle of nowhere.


     The common room was nearly deserted when he got back. He assumed this was due to the snow falling outside the window. The first snow of the year generally amounted to much more merry-making rather than studying. As he opened the door to their room, Harry heard the moaning at once. It was soft but terribly painful, like the cries of a sick animal. Too bad it was only Ron.


     "Ron?" Harry asked, finding a bulge of blankets where his best friend should have been.


     "You alode?" he moaned, sniffling.


     "Yeah," he pulled the covers down. Ron shivered violently as the cold air came in contact with him. "Whatcha doing under there?"


     "Just did't want adyode else to see be right dow." He reached for the tissues, but the box was too far away. Harry nudged it nearer. He blew his nose furiously. It was looking a brighter shade of pink now, that is when there wasn't a tissue or a hand blocking it. Harry handed him the soup and Ron looked quite excited about it. "Not too hot, is it?" he remarked as he swallowed a spoonful.


     Harry sighed, thinking that anyone would have figured out some way to keep the soup hot. "Well, I did have to carry it all the way up from the kitchens." Ron didn't protest further, and finished the whole bowl to the last little bit. He couldn't understand why, really. When he, Harry, got sick, he never felt the least bit hungry. Ron, on the other hand, seemed ravenous and Harry wished he'd thought to bring a bigger bowl or a bit of bread or something. "Guess you were hungry," Harry mumbled, taking the bowl from him. There wasn't any room left on his nightstand for the bowl, and the floor was littered with tissues. Harry got up and set it down on his own trunk to take it back down again eventually.


     Ron was moaning when Harry returned, rubbing his hand against his forehead. "Head hurts..." he complained, looking up hopefully at Harry, as though Harry knew some magical way of making it all better. "hehh...uhhhChishhhh! ehhhShuhhh! ehhhChushhh! huhhChahhh!" He winced. "Hurts eved bore whed I... sdeh... ehhHeshhhh! Sdeeze." He pressed his palm flat against his forehead.


     "Sorry," Harry said, sympathetically, having no solution, magical or otherwise. He handed Ron a tissue. "Blow you nose, you're all stuffy again." It was strong advice, but Ron followed it, several times over.


     "I think I'm running a fever, too," Ron said, sniffling. He looked up at Harry expectantly. "C'mon, feel." Hesitantly, Harry put his hand down, touching Ron's forehead briefly. Ron chuckled. "Not like that," he turned Harry's hand over and made Harry press it harder against the hot forehead. "Is it too hot?" Ron asked.


     Harry shrugged. "Uh, I don't know." He pulled his hand away and felt his own forehead. His was startlingly cool in comparison. "Yeah, actually, I think it is." Ron looked suddenly terrified. "But it's not that bad, really," Harry lied, glad to see Ron relax again at the answer.


     Ron motioned towards the tissues and Harry handed him one, already in the middle of the task thanks to identifying the look on Ron's face. "ehhhKeshuhhh! uhhhChushhhh!" He sniffed and looked up at Harry. "Don't I get a bless you?"


     Harry laughed. "If I blessed you ever time you sneezed I'd lose my voice before long." Ron's eyes narrowed and Harry held his hands up. "All right, all right! Bless you!"


     "That's better," Ron said, rubbing again at his forehead.


     With a deep breath, Harry tired again, "Are you certain you don't want to go to Madam Pomfrey? She can give you something for the headache at least."


     Ron shook his head. "No. I'm not a little kid any more. I may feel bloody awful, but I can get through it all right without her help," he snapped, plucking tissues out of the box one-by-one as he spoke so that by the time he'd finished, he had at least a dozen in his hand. It was lucky, too, because he had to sneeze again almost directly. "ehhhSHhhhh! uhhhChishhhh! uhhhShehhhh! uhhhhShahhhh!" The sneezes bent him forward helplessly at the force. "ehhhCHUHshhhh! uhhhShehhhh!" Ron buried his nose in the whole handful of tissues and blew. Then he flopped back against the pillows with a groan. "Harry... I really do feel bloody awful."


     As though Harry couldn't have figured that out without all the commentary? "I know, Ron... how 'bout getting a little rest now?" Assuming Ron could fall asleep at all with congestion and sneezes like this. "It'll make you feel better." Maybe.


     "Maybe," Ron muttered, but he let Harry ease him back down and tuck the blankets tighter around him. He fell asleep without too much trouble, but his snores filled the room so loudly that Harry took his homework to the common room just to study.




     "I did say you should have had a drink, didn't I?" Harry asked, brining a cold washcloth and pressing it to Ron's forehead. Ron's uncomfortable-ness combined with his annoyance at being sick had been difficult to endure, and it was only after a number of hours that Harry thought of getting a cool compress for his head. Ron certainly needed it but stubbornly wouldn't propose the idea himself. He seemed to think it was Harry's place to come up with brilliant solutions.


     At the comment, Ron glowered at him. The washcloth covered the top part of his face, the rest of his body was covered up to his chin with blankets. "You don't have to say I told you so... I feel bad enough already," Ron said crossly, nose wiggling with the need to sneeze. Harry inched the tissue box closer, allowing Ron to reach out for it. But Ron didn't seem to be in the mood to be polite. "ahhShuhhhh! ehhhChuhhhh! uhhhShuhhhh! Sheshhhhh!" He took a tissue only when finished sneezing, and blew his nose weakly. He balled up the tissue and tossed it past Harry, who had settled down on Ron's bed, to the foot of his bed along with the others. Ron groaned, rubbing his eyes with index finger and thumb for the sinus pressure behind them.


     "Yeah, I know," Harry said, trying to sound comforting, though knowing that he wasn't making a very good show of it. Ron had comforted him a number of times in the past, through various injuries, illnesses, throbs of his scar, and countless other things. "But, hey, you miss lessons for a day, yeah?"


     Ron gave a meek smile to indicate he really didn't care about classes, especially if he was going to be feeling this sick in bed all day as an alternative. "hahhShuhhhh! hehShuhhh!" Ron repeated the action of blowing his nose and tossing the tissue. A rather considerable pile was forming there. Ron groaned again, sniffling, looking up at Harry. "Kill me now?" Ron begged. He reached out, finding the cuff of Harry's sleeve and tugging dramatically. Harry gave a laugh but Ron shook his head. "No, you're a mate, you've got to help me. I really think I'm dying." He put his hand to his head, flipping the washcloth over so the cool side was pressed to his head now. "Better to make it quick and fast rather than... than... this-" Harry pulled away, leaning over to allow Ron room to sneeze freely, as he seemed so fond of doing "-EHHHShuhhh! ahhhShuhh! ehhhChuhhh!"


     Awkwardly, Harry patted Ron's head, feeling the dampness of his red hair as he did so. "Bless you," he said, again trying to be comforting about it.


     They heard footsteps coming up the stairs and Ron jumped. He tugged the covers up to his nose, sniffling. As the door opened, letting the light from the hallway shine in momentarily, Ron slid down beneath his covers entirely. There were a few muffled sniffles, then a stifled sneeze that Harry could only discern as a sneeze from hearing the deep intake of air and seeing the covers shake.


     Harry looked around the hangings of Ron's bed to see the other boys. "It's only Neville, Dean and Seamus," Harry said shaking Ron through the blankets. Ron slowly slid back out, pushing down the heavy covers. Harry helped him readjust them, replaced the washcloth, and pulled the box of tissues close again. Ron was a little shaky and, added to looking sickly and sniffley, Harry thought he looked the worst he had ever looked, including both spitting up slugs and terrified when meeting Aragog.


     "hehhhShuhhh! uhhhChuhhh!" He rubbed a finger under his nose miserably, then took a tissue and blew his nose.


     "You sound terrible, Ron," Neville said, glancing over at Ron through the open side of the hangings where Harry sat. "Maybe you should go down to Madam Pomfrey?" he suggested.


     Ron shook his head. He insisted on staying in bed and not needing medicine, while all the while complaining and groaning and begging for Harry to finish him off. "No way," Ron answered, stubbornly. Neville shrugged, unable to think of anything else to suggest. Turning to Harry, Ron admitted, "You're right." He pulled the covers around himself tighter as he turned on his side. "I should have had some of that potion to drink. It was all that cold rain and... and... oh damn, I think I'm going to... sneeze again... hand me a- heh- tissue?" Harry reached over Ron and took one from the box, pushing it into Ron's hand just in time. "hehEHHShuhhhh! ehhhChuhhh! uhhhChahhh! ehhhChuhhhh!" He sniffled and blew his nose again, snuggling his pillow closer.


     Harry readjusted the washcloth, holding it against Ron's forehead as he kept slipping down now that he was sideways. "Anything I can get you, Mate?" Harry asked, hoping Ron would suggest something that would make a difference.


     Ron shrugged. "Dunno what else you could do..." Harry saw his ears flush a violent red, and his cheeks might have followed if they weren't already red from the fever. Sounding as though he was only saying this to be polite, "You don't have to stay with me, Harry. You don't. You've got homework and--"


     Giving a short laugh, "You think I'd rather do homework than make sure you were all right?" He tucked the blankets around him and Ron seemed to take to it, enjoying the tightness but not brining himself to say so. "So, is there anything else you need?" Harry really had no clue. It had taken hours to think of a cool compress, for instance. So he tried, "What does your Mum do when you get sick?"


     This time, Ron laughed. "You don't want to go by her, Mate. Barely lets me breathe on my own." He shied, smiling sheepishly. "But I could go for a cup of tea, if you could swing it."


     "Done!" Harry promised with a nod. He managed to head downstairs quickly, able to use a secret passage short cut. Dinner was still going on, and Harry had no trouble sneaking a cup of tea out. He took a small sweet cake along with it, hoping that might cheer Ron a little. Upon his return, Harry found Ron hiding beneath the covers again. "S'only me, Ron." Ron crawled out again.


     Ron, sniffling, let Harry sit him up. He took the tea gratefully, and ate the cake with a smile. "Thanks," he said, finishing it up. "This helps a lot." Harry smiled back, feeling at last as though he'd done something significant to comfort Ron. "Though if you could just kill me and get the rest of this suffering over with, I'd be even more grateful." Harry firmly refused and told him to finish his tea.


     Harry tucked him back beneath the covers when he was finished, putting the empty cup to the side. Ron looked terribly drowsy now, nodding off as soon as his cheek hit the pillow. Feeling his forehead again, the proper way, Harry frowned. If he wasn't any better by morning, he'd try and convince Ron to swallow his pride and go down to Madam Pomfrey.


     The door to their dormitory opened again and Ron, even tired, slowly pulled the covers up over his head to hide himself. And this time, his attempt was justified. Harry looked to the door as Hermione came in, timidly. Coming around the bed and spotting Harry, she looked sympathetically at the lump in the bed. "How's Ron?" she asked with a pitiful sigh.


     "He's not feeling too well," Harry started, and felt Ron kick him or hit him or bump him or something from beneath the blankets. "He'll be just fine after a good rest," Harry tried again. "No need to worry."


     The lump beneath the blankets gasped, then shook several times with stifled sneezes. She looked suspiciously at the lump as a hand reached out and grabbed a tissue from the box. The muffled sound of blowing followed. Hermione sighed. "All right then. I suppose you know best, Harry, as he won't see me. But if I can help..." she offered, looking as though she really did want to help and not scold him for catching cold in the first place.


     "Thanks, Hermione. I've just got him some tea and I think he's due to go to bed early. But thanks loads, just the same." He wished she would stay and help him out. He felt lost when it came to this sort of thing. He'd never had so much as a sick dog to look after. But Ron had made it perfectly clear that he didn't want Hermione around him when he was sick.


     She nodded and turned from the room, shutting the door behind. Ron crawled out from beneath, his face was all a bright red now, and not just from embarrassment. He took a few gasps of the cool air and relaxed against his pillow. "Thanks for covering for me, Mate. I wouldn't mind it so much if I didn't look so bloody terrible," he said, shrugging. "hehEHShhhhh! uhhhShuhhhh!" he sneezed weakly, pitching forward at each, and blew his nose again. "But I don't want her seeing me like this, you know?"


     It was true, Ron didn't look overly handsome like this. But they'd all seen each other at their worst at some point over the last few years. Still, Harry could name a few people he didn't want looking at him whenever he got sick, and he had to admit to hiding himself away whenever he got a sniffle from too much Quidditch practice in the rain. But that was mainly because, as a child, that's what he'd done every time he'd come down with something, retreat to his cupboard so as not to bother the Dursleys. And he certainly expected no hovering mother as Ron was used to, because Aunt Petunia didn't do much more than throw cold tablets and meals in at him when he was sick.


     Harry looked down at Ron, finding him asleep. Mouth open, hand half clutching a balled-up tissue. Harry eased it out of his grip and tossed it to the others before making the lot of them disappear. He patted Ron's shoulder through the blankets, then retreated to his own bed.


     But he didn't close the hangings. He kept them open so he could look up periodically and be sure Ron was still all right. He didn't fancy Ron waking up sneezey and feverish and alone. So he kept an eye on him as Harry finished his homework. And when he went to bed, himself, he kept his own curtains open so Ron would be able to see him when he woke. Though Harry hoped very much that Ron would be able to sleep through until morning because he was exhausted. He didn't know how Mrs.Weasley did it, taking care of as many children as she had. Just one sick Ron was enough and Harry wasn't even sure he was even coming close to helping him at all.




     Ron woke in the middle of the night, burning with fever. He felt oddly disoriented, unable to tell if he'd burst out of his dreams or whether he was still in them. He felt terrible, a thousand things wrong with him that he couldn't begin to list. But before he could moan miserably for assistance, he looked over, having a clear view of Harry.


     Harry lay on his own bed, fast asleep but facing Ron. Ron smiled, remembering the evening of sniffling Harry had seen him through, and didn't feel much like calling out to complain any more. He snuggled back against his own pillow after grabbing what happened to be the last tissue and rubbing his nose. He didn't bother closing the hangings as it made him feel better just to know his best mate was trying to watch over him, even though he was asleep.


     Ron sniffled into the tissue. His nose was running terribly again. And he wanted someone to tell him he would be all right. "H-harry?" he whispered. Harry did not wake. "Harry? I need... heh...ehhh-KEHShhhhh! hehChushhh! hihCheshhhh!" His hand found its way to the tissue box, feeling the empty cardboard at his fingers. "heh-CHIHShhhh! Sniff, sniff! Harry? Haaaaaaaaarry?" he called out desperately.


     Harry woke sometime between sneezes, not quite remembering why he felt the need to wake so badly. He grunted and opened his eyes, looking over at Ron. He seemed to understand at once, watching Ron sniffle and rub the side of his hand, then the back of it, then the palm, against his nose. He lifted a heavy hand and sent his own box of tissues flying over to Ron. They landed on the bed just to the side and Ron took up a few at once, rubbing his nose. "Th-thanks," he whispered back, his speech broken by another strong shiver.


     Harry's eyes were already closing. Taking care of Ron all day had sucked all his energy out, but he still felt the need to be sure Ron was all right now. "You cold? Want me to get you another blanket." Eyes closed, Harry could not see the nod, but the shy, sniffling sound told him that much. He pulled himself out of bed, taking his top blanket along with, and draping it over Ron in bed. Then he tucked the covers around Ron tightly. "Better?" he mumbled sleepily.


     Nodding again, Ron rubbed his nose and closed his eyes. But his nostrils twitched with the tickling need to sneeze again. Harry had the tissues ready again. "ehhhKushhhh! uhhhCheshhhh! uhhhhShushhhh! Ughh..." Ron groaned, collapsing against the pillows, barely having the energy to rub his nose.


     At the sight, Harry woke up a little more. He climbed up onto the bed, sitting back against the headboard. He felt Ron's forehead again, finding it beaded with sweat and even hotter than before, though he was careful to keep this realization from showing on his face this time. Ron, however, seemed to know anyway. "I'll be all right, Harry," he said, trying to sound tough.


     "I believe I'm supposed to say that to you," Harry whispered back, his voice soft and soothing. He pulled back the damp red bangs and put his cool palm on Ron's forehead instead of a washcloth. "And you will be all right, Ron."


     Ron looked up at him, eyes shining with gratitude. But then Harry looked away, cupping his other hand over his mouth to hide a yawn. "You can go back to sleep. Sniff! Sniff! If you want to," Ron said. But his hand closed on the leg of Harry's pajamas, holding tightly for moral support.


     "You think I'd rather sleep than make sure you were all right?" Harry patted Ron's shoulder with his free arm, then tucked a fresh tissue into Ron's fist for later, sure he'd need it eventually.


     Ron smiled and inched closer, his head half on his own pillow and half on Harry's warm thigh. Harry lifted his arm in surprise, but did not pull back as Ron came close. "Night Harry," Ron whispered, falling back to sleep again, despite all the aches, stuffiness, and discomfort.


     Harry smiled back. With the way Ron had snuggled up to him and smiled, well, he didn't feel quite so awkward any more. And in truth, he thought he must be doing a much better job that he felt he'd been doing. Though, of course, he'd had enough practice at attempting to comfort by now and just wanted Ron to feel better now. The shock wearing off, Harry put his hand on Ron's back and closed his own eyes. He decided to stay, dozing off in place rather than disturbing Ron by slipping away to his own bed.