Harry opens his eyes to the dark plane of a strange ceiling and blinks into the darkness, thinking that his eyes are virtually useless now. Every part of him is useless, he decides, but he would never admit it out loud because Hermione would vehemently protest the statement and Ron would clap him on the back a few dozen times before going back to his potatoes with added gusto. It would be a pointless effort, really, and Harry grimaces at the thought.

No, he would never say it aloud and he’s quite content to remain in bed for a moment longer before getting up to face the day.

A few minutes pass. The sunlight begins to creep through the crack in the curtains Harry sluggishly rolls out of bed and climbs wearily to his feet. He yawns, stretches and pads quietly to the wardrobe, blindly searching for his robes with one hand whilst scratching at the back of his neck with the other. Ron is still asleep, snoring in the other bed, but Harry doesn’t bother to wake him because he can’t really be bothered. As he steps into his trousers and pulls on his robes, the other boys begin to stir. Harry doesn’t hang around; he shoves his feet into his sneakers and brushes his teeth before leaving the room and traipsing down the staircase with a heavy sigh of resignation.

The common room is blessedly empty. Harry ducks through the portrait hole and then he’s stumbling down the deserted corridor with thoughts of sunshine and singing birds running through his mind. He picks distractedly at the frayed hem of his sleeve—how did that happen?—and wonders why he feels so ridiculously empty and deflated. It’s discouraging, and as he escapes out into the warmth of the morning light, Harry tilts his face into the sun and sighs.

He tries not to think about the next few minutes, in which he’ll eventually be forced to venture back into the musty shadows of the castle, out of the sunlight and into the darkness. Harry feels slightly suffocated at the very idea, but he pushes it away and contemplates the warmth of the sun on his face.

It’s going to be a beautiful day.


Hogwarts has never been so incredibly empty, Harry realizes as he enters the Great Hall and makes a beeline for the Gryffindor table. The tables are only half filled; the Slytherin table, in particular, is practically empty. And it isn’t that Harry minds the emptiness. It's quite the opposite. He enjoys the silence more than he should. In all honesty, peace and quiet is all Harry’s ever wanted and now that he finally has it, he intends to enjoy it.

Hermione glances up from a dusty text book and offers him a smile; Ron nods at Harry before tucking back into his eggs as if he hasn’t eaten in days. Harry watches them both for a moment, thinking that the emptiness is bigger than the silence in the Great Hall, but he doesn’t comment. Ron and Hermione seem to be perfectly content with pretending, and Harry is perfectly content in letting them do it. Who is he to tell them how to behave?

“Late night?” Ron finally asks around a mouthful of toast.

“Early morning,” Harry corrects him. “Couldn’t sleep.”

As expected, Hermione shoots him a look of genuine worry and Harry shakes his head and begins to pick at his breakfast with a certain air of grim calculation. Their end of the table remains relatively quiet for the rest of the meal, and the comfortable pause is broken only by an occasional cough or a sniffle. Harry rests his elbow on the wooden table beside his plate and revels in the silence while Hermione continues to read and Rob continues to eat. The routine is comforting, the silence is soothing, and Harry plucks thoughtfully as the crust of his toast as he studies the Slytherin table across the Great Hall.

It is, Harry decides, rather disconcerting to think that most of his seventh year, Slytherin classmates have left school indefinitely; whether to take the Mark or to go into hiding, Harry doesn’t quite know. And it’s even stranger, he realizes as he places his fork on top of his neatly folded napkin, that day after day Draco Malfoy sits alone at the end of the table and quietly eats his breakfast.

Harry’s always figured Malfoy would be the first one to go.

“Why are you staring at Malfoy?” Ron mumbles, craning his neck to look across the room. “He’s looking a bit peaky, actually.”

Harry shrugs noncommittally and the group shifts back into the same peaceful silence. He keeps his eyes trained on Malfoy’s face, thinking that Ron’s right and Malfoy certainly does look peaky, but Harry’s too tired to care and he pushes the thought away as Ron steals a piece of bacon from his plate and eats it.

Later that morning in Double Potions with the Slytherins—what’s left of them, anyway—Harry finds himself partnered with Malfoy. He ignores Ron’s gasp of outrage and sits down next to Malfoy without a word. The other boy gives him a blandly indifferent look; Harry turns away and begins to pull his materials out of his bag. The lesson turns out to be one of the most boring classes Harry’s ever had the misfortune of sitting through. During the middle of Snape’s monotonous droning Harry turns his head and finds that Malfoy’s fallen asleep with his chin cradled in the palm of his hand.

Somewhere near the end of the lesson, Malfoy jerks awake, as if he’s been shocked.

If he hadn’t been looking directly at Malfoy Harry would have missed the sharp intake of breath and the dazed look in the boy’s eyes. Malfoy coughs and shakes his head, as if trying to clear it, but Snape doesn’t seem to notice; he goes on with the rest of his lecture as if nothing’s happened and Harry seems to be the only one who’s noticed that Draco Malfoy looks as if he might vomit at any moment. It isn’t a pleasant thought, Malfoy vomiting in the middle of a Potion’s lecture.

“Hey,” Harry whispers. “Malfoy, are you alright?”

A moment passes before Malfoy turns, fixes his steel gray eyes on Harry’s face and blinks a couple times. A feeble grimace twists his lips for a moment and then it’s gone, so quickly that Harry wonders if his eyes aren’t playing tricks on him again. When Malfoy doesn’t respond, Harry finally rolls his eyes and turns away.

The lesson finally ends a good twenty minutes later; Ron and Hermione wait for Harry at the door of the classroom with barely concealed impatience, and when Harry finally joins them, they seize the sleeves of his robs and drag him unceremoniously down the hallway. Rather than asking Ron what the bloody hell his problem is—rather than yelling at Hermione to let go of his robes—Harry allows himself to be dragged through the castle without protest.

When they finally reach the Gryffindor common room, Ron and Hermione finally release Harry’s sleeves. He slumps into an empty chair, content to close his eyes and drift off to sleep instead of venturing down the stairs and into the Great Hall for lunch.

“Harry, you were talking to him,” Ron says incredulously.

Scratching distractedly at an itch on the tip of his nose, Harry tries (and fails) to look properly chagrined. In reality, he can’t find the strength to care that he’s actually spoken to Malfoy in a civil manner for the first time ever; he doesn’t have the energy to argue with Ron, so he nods and tucks his head into the crimson upholstery, silently hoping that Ron will up and leave him alone. The common room is silent again, but the atmosphere is less than tranquil.

“We only want you to be careful,” Hermione finally says.

“I’m not befriending him,” Harry mutters without opening his eyes. “He looked a bit sick, and I asked him if he was alright.”

Ron makes a sort of shocked sound in the back of his throat; a moment later, Harry hears the sharp sound of skin hitting skin and he opens his eyes to find that Ron is rubbing his cheek whilst throwing baleful looks at Hermione who looks immensely proud of herself. It would be comical if Harry wasn’t so incredibly sleepy; he stifles a bout of laughter and presses his cheek into the worn fabric of the chair.

“I think I’ll take a nap,” he murmurs. “You go down to lunch.”

Hermione looks as if she’s about to protest, but she quickly changes her mind. Taking Ron by the sleeve of his robes (much like she’d done with Harry only minutes before), she drags him toward the portrait hole and suddenly Harry is left alone in the empty common room.

A sense of calm washes over him; he lifts his head to glance into the flickering embers in the fireplace and wishes he was outside in the sunlight. Harry misses the warmth, but he pushes the thought away with a weary sigh. Sometimes, Harry thinks that living in the dusty gloom of an old castle is hard enough without the threat of Voldemort’s return. And perhaps, Harry muses, Malfoy misses the sun as well. The Slytherin dungeons are quiet musty and stale.

With a sigh of resignation Harry gets to his feet, stumbles wearily up the dormitory stairs and falls into bed.

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