There are walls all around, everywhere, inside and out. Some of them are comforting, like the cool stone wall he likes to rest against. Sometimes it's rough and parts of it dig into his back, telling Ron he's still here. Sometimes it's smooth, and part of him knows that that doesn't make sense, walls don't change their texture just like that. Maybe he is moving. Maybe the walls are.
Ron enjoys walking along the edge of the room, his finger trailing along the groove between the bricks. Smooth in places as if someone has worn it down. Rough in others – Ron is sure he's the first one to visit those places, he enjoys those the most. Ron isn't sure where everyone else went. He doesn't like to think about that though, it makes him feel uneasy. As if something is wrong, but there's nothing wrong with this place.
Sometimes the wall close in on him, he's suffocating. There's nowhere to go, he can't move. He screams, it works: the walls retreat. Ron leans against the wall, reassuring stone behind his back.
"How is he, Draco?"
"No changes." When Draco saw Hermione's crestfallen expression, he added, "He reacts to touch, Hermione, that's a good sign. And I am fairly certain he smiled at me this morning."
Hermione looked up at Draco, hope written all over her face. "So you think he's – Is he getting better? There's still hope, right?"
"There's always hope."
"Can I see him now?"
"Of course." Draco led the way and opened the door to Ron's ward, letting her pass through as he stood leaning against the doorjamb. He watched as Hermione walked over to Ron, knelt down beside him and carefully held his hand.
Ron's head was leaning against the wall. He stared right through Hermione, showing no sign that he recognised her or even realised someone was in the room with him.
Draco sighed. When he first began his apprenticeship right after the war, every single person who had ended up in the Janus Thickey Ward had served as a grim reminder of his mistakes. Some had died, which had been a relief. Some recovered and left, also a relief as well as a reason to be proud. He was doing a good job. Some – a lot, too many – people stayed indefinitely. Over time they became part of Draco's life, no longer an admonition for the past but rather a constant and sometimes a source of comfort.
Ron had been there since the very beginning. Not so long ago, Draco would have given anything for him to not react, to just let Draco have his will. Now Draco wished Ron would yell at him, would insult him, would tell him what a poncy little pureblood git he was. Ron's progress, however, had been minimal at best, but hope springs eternal, Draco tried to convince himself. He averted his gaze as Hermione reached out to wipe the drool off Ron's chin.