Author's Notes: I would like to dedicate this to my first and so far only flame, Amanda. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid. ~pretty smile~ Sorry about all the sappy bullshit - I promise that I am getting to the plot here! It just takes me awhile. Get ready for a showdown between Ron and Malfoy in the chapters to come, and Snape will eventually become involved as well....

DISCLAIMER: If I owned Harry and Draco, they would not appear in children's books.

Pretty When You Cry

Chapter Three: Never Like This

By Mizery


He had never heard Harry cry like this before.

Ron was no stranger to Harry's tears. When one shares a room with others for five long years, they are forced to share certain intimacies... they come to certain, unspoken understandings, and subsequently tend to withhold judgement. Indeed, every one of the Gryffindor fifth_years had cried themselves to sleep at some point, and the others _ knowing it could just as easily be them _ respectfully closed their ears to it, as they prayed the others would do out of embarrassment when they were the ones with the tears to shed. They did not speak of things like these. Lack of privacy demands a certain amount of mutual respect.

But Harry was prone to tears far more frequently than the others. Ron didn't blame him. His best friend had a lot to cry for. Sometimes he wasn't even sure Harry was awake... the boy was the victim of ruthless nightmares, and more often than not he awoke from them in a terrible state. Nevertheless, he was always so very quiet _ Ron doubted that he disturbed the exceptionally heavy slumber of Neville or Dean very often... but tonight, the entire dorm room seemed conspicuously silent save for Harry, who was making much less of an effort than usual to conceal his misery.

These were not the usual soft, self_contained tears shed for nightmares or memories or pain too long beared in silence. This sorrow was far too acute, too immediate to be for a proverbial scar that refuses to fade, but rather for a fresh and open wound. Ron rolled over on his back in bed and bit down on his lower lip, listening as Harry gasped for breath and tried in vain to muffle another round of broken sobs into his pillow when he had regained it, whimpering something that Ron couldn’t quite hear, but had the distinct ring of "Ow". The sound made something deep in his stomach shift uneasily.

He wasn’t sure how long he laid there after that, wide awake and staring into the darkness, listening to his friend slowly but surely exhaust himself in the bed beyond - his sobs growing quiet, losing intensity as he lost more and more energy. But the pain was still there, no matter how softly he cried... if anything, the weakness that laced Harry’s voice only served to magnify the pain in it tenfold. Ron rolled restlessly onto his side, his eyes still wide open. If Harry was going to have cried himself to sleep, he would have done so by now. No, Ron had never heard Harry cry like this before, which is why after several moments he finally made up his mind and slid out from beneath his blankets, his feet connecting with the cold stone floor soundlessly. Moonlight was pouring through the window above the silver water jug, which was half blocked from his view by the large, looming dark mass that was Harry’s bed, only a few feet

away."Harry...?" he whispered, pulling aside the bed curtains and letting in the moonlight " all right?"

But it only took one look for him to be sure that Harry was very much not ‘all right’. His friend was huddled in a little ball on top of the blankets, shaking from head to toe and clutching a pillow to his chest as if his life depended on it. Harry’s knuckles were white around the pillowcase, his face buried behind it. Beside him on the bed lay his glasses, horribly bent on one side as if...

* if someone hit him...* Even the thought of it made Ron sick... but at the sound of his voice Harry raised his head, and Ron’s worst fears were confirmed. A ghastly looking bruise ran the length of his left cheekbone, visible even in the half-light. His expression was that of a deer caught in headlights - startled, scared, and frozen with indecision, but those green eyes said all that needed to be said, even if Harry himself didn’t know it. *Help me...*

"Im... sorry for waking you...." he whispered a moment later, reaching for his glasses and feigning moderate composure. Ron picked them up for him and set them in his trembling hands before he sat down next to him on the bed, and Harry fit them awkwardly onto his nose, struggling to sit up at the same time. "I didn’t mean... "

Ron hushed him gently before he could continue, and Harry regarded him rather dubiously, as if he wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Ron furrowed his eyebrows and reached out one hand, brushing his fingers lightly over the bruise on his cheek. "What happened?"

Harry flinched upon first contact, but he didn’t pull away. Instead he looked down at his lap. "You should go back to sleep, Ron... I won’t keep you awake any longer.."he whispered softly.

"Not until you tell me who or what did this to you." Ron countered, hoping that he’d been successful at sounding both stern and comforting at the same time. He smoothed Harry’s hair back off his forehead and tucked a few stray strands behind his ear for him, while the other boy chewed nervously on his lip and avoided his eyes. He didn’t reply, but he did lean into Ron’s hand a bit in appreciation, which was better than nothing. "Harry...", he continued, "come on... I’ve never seen you this upset before..."

"Please don’t tell anyone..."

"You know I won’t. You can trust me."

Harry finally looked up at him, and studied his face very hard for a moment, as if trying to read the answer to some great inner turmoil there... and after what seemed like a lifetime, he buried his face in his own hands, pulled his knees up to his chest, and the whole horrid tale flooded forth - muffled by his hands, but still audible enough to make Ron’s face pale and his stomach twist into a knot.

"...and I don’t know what I did wrong. I don’t even know..." Harry’s words trailed off, and Ron could tell by the way he bit his lip and closed his eyes that he was fighting back another onslaught of tears. Wrapping his arms around himself, he gazed through the gap in the curtains to the window beyond, but from the look in his eyes Ron doubted that he was truly seeing anything that was there.

There was nothing he could say... nothing that would make it all better for his best friend, and never before had Ron remembered feeling so helpless. He licked his lips once or twice, on the verge of speech, but there were no words to heal those wounds. He could only think of one thing to do. Cautiously, so as not to hurt him further, he gathered Harry up in his arms and pulled him close. The other boy did not resist - quite the contrary, he positively melted into his embrace. Ron could feel a shudder run through the slender body in his arms, before it began to relax, slowly but surely.

"You’re going to be all right, Harry... I’ve got you..." Ron let the words of comfort roll from his tongue without really thinking about it. He caressed the boy’s cheek gently, as if to soothe the bruise away with his bare hands, and Harry finally closed his eyes. His breathing was fast becoming regular again, and he’d stopped shaking so very hard.

"Don’t leave..." The whisper was barely audible, muffled against Ron’s neck as Harry burrowed against his shoulder and curled his fingers around the other boy’s nightshirt.

Ron kissed his hair softly, burying his face in the smell of shampoo and fresh air and Harry himself, and tugged the bed curtains shut around them. If Harry didn’t want to be alone, then Ron wasn’t going to leave him - and it was more than obvious by the way the boy clung to him that this was precisely the case. It took him a few minutes to coax Harry out of his arms long enough so that he could turn down the bedclothes, but his suspicions that his best friend must be cold were confirmed once he pulled the blankets up over them.

"You need to sleep..." Ron told him, as Harry re-settled himself once again in his embrace.

"As long as you stay..."

"I’m not leaving, don’t worry."

And for the first time that evening, Harry actually smiled - a soft and almost contented smile as he closed his eyes, nuzzled against his best friend’s shoulder. He could hear the other boy’s heartbeat through his chest, and it sounded nothing like Draco’s heart did. Soothed by its rhythm, he fell asleep in a matter of minutes.

But Ron did not sleep so quickly. He lay awake for a very long time, listening to Harry’s soft and even breathing, and planning where to hide Malfoy’s body....

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