Title: Suffering in Silence
Disclaimer: JKR's characters and world. I'm just playing and don't earn a cent from this.
Author's Notes: Written for the hp_sickfics Autumn Challenge 2009: Takes place autumn of Harry's first year at Hogwarts. Harry falls sick but, due to what he learnt at the Dursleys', tries to hide it from everyone. However, one person, either a teacher or a student, notices and helps him get better. The person must NOT be Snape! The following words MUST be used: cupboard, conjure, pink, house-elf, snow.
Posted to LiveJournal communities: hp_sickfics and hcfic
Suffering in Silence
Harry woke early Friday morning, expecting the extra few hours of sleep he'd forced on himself to have done at least a little good. Instead, he'd lost out on time to finish his Transfiguration homework and he felt twice as bad as he had last night. Harry groaned inwardly and wanted nothing else but to burrow under the blankets and go back to sleep. It was only the autumn, but it felt so cold in the dormitory room it might as well have been snowing.
A tickle flared up in Harry's nose and he knew a sneeze would be loud. He didn't want to wake anyone up, both because that would be rude and because he didn't want anyone to know he was feeling ill. So Harry broke out of the warm confines of his blankets and headed out of the room to the bathroom. He couldn't help but notice that the hangings around Neville's bed were open and Neville wasn't there.
When Harry got to the bathroom, someone was in the shower. From the pile of clothes and pajamas, Harry was sure it was Neville. He was also sure Neville had caught something. Possibly the same something Harry was starting to come down with. He could hear Neville sneezing and coughing, and the sound echoed loudly throughout the bathroom.
Not wanting to be caught, Harry quickly retreated to the privacy of a toilet stall. He put the lid down and sat down. He pulled his feet up onto the led with him and hugged his legs to his chest. Then he pulled his wand out and cast a silencing spell around the stall. In his month at Hogwarts, that spell was easily the most useful he'd learned. He pulled on the end of the toilet paper roll and blew his nose into it.
“Oh,” Harry whispered, though he could have shouted it and not been heard. Blowing his nose had relieved some of the pressure, but it had also loosened something inside his head. Suddenly it felt as though someone had snuck in and performed a spell on him to fill his whole head with liquid. His eyes teared up. His nose ran. His mouth was wet. He blew his nose some more, tore that clump of tissue off, threw it away, and used the next few squares.
The water shut off and Neville coughed lightly in the silence and then cleared his throat. Harry felt sorry for him and didn't want him to be ill, but it was kind of nice to know Harry wasn't alone in feeling awful this morning. Neville gave a final clear of his throat and left the bathroom.
Harry kept his feet up on the lid with him, though, because it was warmer all folded up on himself and because anyone else could have come in at any minute. But Harry relaxed a little and let himself sneeze all he needed. “heh-hahChoo! HuhChoo!”
Sitting in this small space made him think of his cupboard and the countless colds he'd been through there. He was used to taking care of himself. He was used to waiting out the sniffles. He was used to being quiet and not bothering anyone.
At breakfast, Harry downed glass after glass of orange juice. He couldn't have too much Vitamin C, as far as he was concerned. Every time he felt like sneezing, he'd rub hard at his nose or hold his breath. And every time he felt like coughing, he cleared his throat or took another drink to soothe his throat. Without too much difficulty, he managed to keep his cold hidden.
Apparently, Neville was pretty good at it as well. And that was just what you were supposed to do when you were ill. You weren't supposed to complain or ask for special treatment. You were supposed to keep to yourself and keep quiet. That was the very first lesson the Dursleys had taught him and he wasn't liable to forget it.
It made sense for him to pretend he was all right even when he wasn't, and it made sense for Neville to do likewise. So Harry pretended not to notice when Neville muffled a sneeze into the crook of his arm. Or when Neville cleared his throat a few too many times between bites. Or when Neville rubbed his nose almost constantly.
Ron, however, noticed and actually said something. “Hey, Neville, are you feeling all right?”
Neville's cheeks went pink to match his nostrils. Neville glanced quickly at the staff stable, then looked back at Ron and shook his head. “I have ad adwful head cold,” Neville confessed in a whisper. He sniffed a few times. “But I dod't wadt to go to the hosbital widg yet.”
Harry couldn't blame Neville at all. Once, when Harry had had the chicken pox, his aunt had hauled him over to the doctor. He'd sat on the cold, sterile examination table in the freezing, white room, scratching and feeling feverish and miserable while Aunt Petunia had sat reading fashion magazines in the waiting room. The doctor had been quick and abrupt and had barely wanted to touch him. Aunt Petunia had been called in and she tried to arrange somewhere Harry could stay until the illness passed. But the doctor had insisted she take him home. She had done that, in the end, and he'd spent the rest of the time scratching and squirming in his cupboard. Doctors weren't much help at all, not to mention that there wasn't really anything that could be done about this. There wasn't a cure for the common cold, after all.
Sometimes, Harry was surprised by how little Ron understood. “Why don't you want to?” Ron asked.
Neville looked shiftily towards the staff table again. Then he buried his nose in the crook of his arm. “hihshhuffffff!” He sniffled messily and rubbed his sleeve under his nose. He cleared his throat and sniffed again. “If I get through breakfast, thed I'll go to hosbital. I bight be able to codvidce Badab Bobfrey to let be stay a little while. Which beads I cad skib Double Potiods class.”
It was a clever plan, now that Harry thought about it, not to mention a tempting one. Harry didn't enjoy Double Potions on the best of days, but now that he felt ill, it was going to be an absolute nightmare. If Harry could have done the same, he would have. But it would look suspicious for them both to leave. And it would mean admitting he was ill. He didn't want to admit that to anyone, least of all Snape.
Harry's potion assignment turned out all wrong. This time he'd tried to follow the instructions completely and he hadn't skipped any steps or used the wrong ingredients. He hadn't even prepared the ingredients the wrong way. But he had measured incorrectly. Or he'd read the amount incorrectly. Whichever it was, the potion in his cauldron began to bubble and overflowed with a thick, red foam. The foam filled his cauldron and began spilling out over the sides onto the table, then onto the floor. It was an impressive accomplishment, but it earned him a zero.
Lunch went much like breakfast had, except that the orange juice stung Harry's throat when it went down. By the end, he couldn't even swallow any more, which wasn't much of a loss as he wasn't really that hungry. Neville was back from the hospital wing and looking a lot better. He was sitting halfway down the table on Harry's side, so Harry couldn't get a good look at him. But he did hear Fred and George teasing him a little about steam coming out of his ears. That sounded dreadful. Harry wasn't at all interested in that kind of treatment. But he was glad for Neville; he knew Neville hated Potions with Snape.
Harry's classes ended early on Fridays, and he usually went down to visit Hagrid and have what passed for tea with him. And as nice as a hot cuppa sounded right now, Harry was sure he wouldn't be able to hide his symptoms from Hagrid. It was bad enough having to duck out of class to visit the restroom or invent some pretense for ducking under a desk or table to rub his nose. And he was sure if Hagrid found out he was ill, it would be a straight march to the hospital wing.
So Harry went up to his dormitory room. Seamus and Dean were having some sort of argument about whose socks had been left in the middle of the room, but as soon as they decided they were Neville's socks, they cleared out and Harry was finally alone.
He hadn't meant to fall asleep. He had meant to hide out on his bed, out of sight and earshot to work on his homework. But it wasn't twenty minutes before he nodded off.
In-between sneezes, Harry glanced at his wristwatch. 2:28am. He hadn't been up this late in… well, he couldn't remember ever being up this late. The long nap he'd had that afternoon had extended through dinner and after waking up and feeling far worse than he could ever remember feeling, he couldn't fall back to sleep despite all his attempts. Counting sheep seemed to do no good.
It was the sneezes keeping him awake, mostly, though the coughs weren't helping either. The raging, relentless cold filled his head. And no matter how much he blew his nose, he couldn't get rid of it. But he tried not to blow his nose too much, because he was running low on handkerchiefs and he didn't feel up to conjuring any, even if he could figure out what spell to use to do that.
“AhhShoo! Ahh-hah-Choo!” His head pounded painfully after each sneeze, making him feel exceedingly more miserable. His throat burned and tickled. His body felt heavy and achy and tired. And his nose simply refused to stop dripping. “HahChoo! Hah…”
Suddenly, Harry heard the sound of curtains rustling then sliding along the wooden rod.
“Hahh…” Harry held his nose and held his breath, hoping to be overlooked, hoping not to sneeze.
Then something hit the floor with a thunk. Footsteps made their way over. Then there was a soft sound of fingers touching curtains. And a voice, “Harry? Are you all right?”
Harry's heart sank. He had been sure Ron was asleep, but it looked like he was wrong. “I'b fide,” Harry whispered, his voice thick with congestion. “Go ahhh-away-ahhChhshhh!” He sneezed wetly into the hand still cupped over and pinching his nose to no avail.
The sneeze seemed to be an invitation to Ron, who parted the curtains immediately and looked in. He sized up the situation immediately and climbed up onto the bed without an invitation. He cast a silencing charm to encompass the bed.
“Did that already,” Harry told him.
“Well you can't have done it properly, because I could hear you from my bed,” Ron told him. “How long have you been feeling under the weather, mate?”
Harry shrugged, not sure if it would be more believable to say he'd only just come down with the sniffles or that he'd had them since yesterday. If he claimed to have only recently felt ill, he would have to explain how his symptoms grew so bad so quickly. But if he said he'd been ill all day, he would have to explain why Ron hadn't noticed him before now. Before Harry could decide which was the rock and which was the hard place, he sneezed again. “hah-AHShooo!”
Ron took a crumpled but clean handkerchief out of the pocket of his pajama bottoms and handed it to Harry. “Never mind,” he said softly. “It doesn't matter. What matters is that you don't feel well now.”
Harry felt relieved but still quite embarrassed. “I'll be all right. I just deed sub sleeb.”
Ron looked at him skeptically. “It doesn't look like you've had any sleep at all tonight.”
As he considered lying to Ron, a tickle flared up in Harry's throat. He tried to hold his cough in, pursing his lips and closing his eyes as his body shook, practically convulsing with each nearly silent cough. Then Harry felt a hand gently patting his back.
“It's okay, really.” Ron said. “Just cough.”
With tears in his eyes from the effort of holding back the coughs, Harry forced himself to comply. He raised a fist to his mouth and let loose. The cough was wet, phelmy, harsh, and still shook his body. And it went on seemingly forever. Every time he tried to take a breath, he had to do so through his mouth as his nose was completely stuffed up. And every time a breath hit the back of his throat, it caught and made him cough more. He coughed and coughed and still felt the hand patting his back. He sounded disgustingly dreadful, yet Ron was still there. For the life of him, he couldn't understand why, be he was glad for it all the same.
Finally, the coughs passed and Harry was able to take a tiny, shallow breath in and out again without triggering more. Exhausted, he leaned to the side and did a face-plant into his pillow.
Unable to reach around him in this position, Ron's hand slid from Harry's back to his arm. Ron rubbed slowly.
Harry turned his head just enough to fix one eye on Ron. Ron was blurry from the darkness and the lack of prescription glasses, but Harry could still see the concerned, almost nervous expression. He didn't want Ron feeling bad like that on his account. “You should go back to bed. I'll be okay dow. Thags for the siledcig charb.”
Ron narrowed his eyes and pulled his hand back. “Am I making you uncomfortable? That's just what Mum does whenever I'm not feeling well. I thought it would help. I'm sorry if it doesn't.”
Harry closed his eyes. Merlin, he was tired and now he'd said the wrong thing to Ron. “Dod't be sorry,” he murmured into his pillow. “It was dice.” It had been beyond nice, actually. The touch had been comforting and reassuring. He couldn't remember anything feeling so nice to him when he felt so completely awful.
Ron put his hand back on Harry's arm. “I'll just sit here and keep you company until the morning when you can go to the hospital wing.”
Harry groaned inwardly. This was what he had been worried of. He curled in on himself and his body tightened. “Dod't wadt to go,” he said.
“Don't be stupid,” Ron said. “Don't you want to get well quickly? All you have to do is take a remedy and you'll be fine.”
Harry shook his head. Yes, he wanted to feel better, but that wasn't the way colds worked and that wasn't how he handled them. The best thing to do was just to shut one's self up and wait for the worst parts to pass. And with the way he felt now, this was definitely one of the worst parts. If he was lucky, the cold would only last a few days. But the last thing he wanted to do was to go see a doctor. “That's dot how colds work,” he told Ron. “There's do cure for the cobbod cold.”
“Maybe that's not how they work in the muggle world, but wizards can make potions for just about anything. One dose of Pepper-up and you'll be fine. And Madam Pomfrey's a trained healer. I bet hers will be even better than the stuff my mom brews me when I'm ill.”
Harry shook his head. “I heard Deville gettig teased.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “That's just Fred and George being Fred and George. Pepper-up is wonderful stuff, really. It couldn't be safer. Too bad we can't just get a house-elf to bring you some.”
Having no idea what a house-elf was or what Pepper-up was like, Harry just shrugged. Then his body convulsed with more coughs. Harry closed his eyes and waited for them to pass. Then he blew his nose. “But you still dod't deed to sit here with be.”
Ron rubbed Harry's arm. “I'm not going anywhere, mate.”
“I'd rather be ill alode.”
Laughing, “Harry, no one wants to be ill alone.”
Even Harry couldn't argue with that. He had been told to suffer alone. He was supposed to suffer alone. He was used to suffering alone. But did he want to suffer alone? Absolutely not. And for the first time in his life, he didn't have to. “Thags, Rod.”