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Much Appreciated

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12:00AM, Monday, October 12, 1998

Harry Potter tiredly pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Leaning back in his chair, he stretched his arms behind his messy hair and yawned. He focused his exhausted eyes back on his tedious potions homework, glaring at it as if to make it go away. He was the only one left in the eighth year common room, everyone else not having two hours of Quidditch practice keeping them away from schoolwork. His textbooks and various tool were spread out along the circular mahogany table by the window in the 8th year common room, illuminated by a single glowing fairy hovering a few feet above the surface. The hushed crackle of the orange flames added to the sleepy atmosphere, not well advised for doing homework in.
Harry sighed. He couldn’t understand why he he would ever need to know the 23 different uses of horned slug slime, nonetheless write a 16 inch essay about it. This year in potions was turning out to be quite difficult for Harry, without the Half Blood Prince to help him. I should have saved the book from the Room of Requirement, he thought wishfully.
He picked up his quill and absentmindedly traced the scar on the back if his hand. He could go wake Hermione up, but he didn't think she would appreciate it. She would probably just scold him. “if you ever expect to pass eighth year harry, i would highly advise you start doing your own work.” He chuckled to himself at the thought.
“Whats so funny, Potter?” a half sneering voice came from the boys staircase.
Harry jumped slightly, then turned his head. He was surprised to see the slender form in the hallway was none other than Draco Malfoy. Harry groaned inwardly, definitely not looking for a fight.
“Never you mind, Malfoy.” he replied resignedly. “What are you even doing down here? It’s the middle of the night.”
“i could ask you the same thing” Malfoy replied testily. Apparently attitude had no bedtime with the Malfoys.
“well i would think it was obvious.” Harry waved his hand at the array of books and papers. He turned back to his work, wanting to just finish it and go to bed.
“Wait, Potter.” Malfoy said in an unidentifiable tone that didn't have its usual abrasive manner. Harry rotated his upper half back around, curious as to the sudden change of mood.
“I could- help you- with that, if you want that is, if not its okay, I just though- since you seem to be struggling- and i cant sleep anyways- “ he said, seemingly nervously, leaning against the hallway exit frame and tugging at his platinum locks with one hand.
Why does he seem nervous? And why the sudden change from snark to semi decency? Harry thought to himself. He considered the offer. This could be a chance to make peace to Malfoy, something Harry had always wanted subconsciously. And Harry could REALLY use some help with his potions. Wasn’t Malfoy the second best in the class anyways? No wonder he never liked Hermione. Harry rubbed his eyes.
“I’d appreciate that Malfoy, if you’re sure you don't mind”, Harry said cautiously, knowing the old Malfoy would have definitely minded. He wasn't so sure about the new Malfoy, though. Harry had noticed that there was a change in Malfoy this year. He seemed like he was trying to mend his life, to put the broken pieces that remained back together. But then again wasn't everyone? Harry almost half expected Malfoy not to come back to school, but to his surprise, and deep inside, although he couldn't quite tell, his delight, Malfoy had gotten on the Hogwarts Express September first. Since then, there hadn’t been a single remark from him about Ron's family or Hermione's blood status. However, he couldn't seem to resist a side comment about Harry occasionally. Nothing as disrespectful as previous years, just things like “ Who brushed your hair potter, a bird?” every now and then. Hermione had told Harry she thinks that Malfoy had changed his ways, and was trying to make amends.
“Alright then” Malfoy said awkwardly, and walked over to the table. Harry noticed there were dark circles under Malfoy's pale grey eyes, mirroring his own.
“Er- here”
Harry pulled out a chair close to his right that had been hidden under the table. Malfoy sat. Harry could sense Malfoy next to him, and he was emitting a surprising amount of warmth for someone who seemed so cold inside. Part of Harry wanted just to forget homework and curl up in Malfoys warmth and- wait. Where did that come from? Harry thought to himself incredulously. He shook his head slightly.
“Ok, “ he said as a starter. “I don't know how to rephrase this paragraph-“ he pointed to a long section of words in a thick textbook”- into three sentences without leaving out information.”
“Let me see what you already have written” Malfoy directed, taking charge. Harry looked around for his paper. He handed it to Malfoy, who wasted no time in saying,” Good lord potter, how do you manage to write this messy?”
“My apologies” harry said sarcastically. “Just try your best. I really need to get this done.”
Malfoy nodded, his gaze focused on the paper. His head was resting on one hand while the other’s fingers drummed on the table top. Under the table, Malfoy's knee was so close to Harry's they kept bumping, and every time, Harry got a small storm of goosebumps. Harry fidgeted with his quill, hoping it wasn't noticeable.
When Malfoy was finished, he said, “Listen Potter, all you have to do is write the main sentence and then look around in the book for two or three other pieces if information. Its—“ Malfoy looked up to see if Harry was listening. Harry was staring at the paper in Malfoys hand with a slightly blank expression, his mouth opened the smallest bit. Malfoy sighed, and with an uncharacteristic show of kindness that seemed like he wasn't used to displaying, said in an almost forced gentle voice. "Potter, Why don't i tell you what to write, and you write it? That may be the only way anything is going to get done tonight.” Harry was startled by this very un-Malfoyish offer and wondered what spell Malfoy had on him.
“That would be nice” Harry replied sleepily. He slid the textbook over to Malfoy, who handed the paper back in exchange. Malfoy looked over at Harry.
“ Ok ready?” He asked. Harry nodded, trying to avoid eye contact because he didn't trust himself at this point.

20 minutes and several yawns later, Harry threw down his quill in triumph.
“Done!” He practically shouted, exhibiting more energy than he had the whole time.” Thanks Malfoy,” he said gratefully. Malfoy nodded., then both tried to stand up at the same time. That did not work very well, with Malfoy almost falling and Harry knocking his chair over. Harry cursed himself internally.
“Merlin's Beard, Potter!” Malfoy yelped.
“Sorry”, Harry mumbled tiredly.
When that was sorted out, they faced each other, Malfoy leaning against his chair with one arm, Harry standing stooped over in front of him.
“Well, goodnight then, Potter.” Malfoy said, turning to go up the stairs.
“Wait” Harry said. He didn't know why.
“Er—“ he came up with something to say.
Malfoy turned back around.
“Er- if you want i could help you with homework in exchange,” Harry said, rushing the words out. “Tomorrow of course, not today because its really late and- yeah.” He finished inelegantly.
Malfoy tugged at his hair.
“ Well, I do have a Defense Against the Dark Arts essay due Wednesday I could use some help on.” he replied slowly.
“Do you want to meet at this table at 10 tomorrow night and I could help you?” Harry said, almost breathlessly for some
reason.
“Sure” Malfoy replied. To Harry’s surprise, he did something that seemed like a good attempt at a real, genuine smile. Harry gave a small smile back, slightly puzzled.They said goodnight, and went to their rooms. Harry went straight to his bed, not even bothering to change into pajamas. Harry had a lot to think about. He really needed to have a stern talk with himself about how he responded when he interacted with Malfoy. For instance, what was the point of those goosebumps? and all the blushing? Come on now. It's not like he has a crush on Mal- oh fuck. Wait a minute, Harry thinks. Do I have a crush in Malfoy? How did this happen? Don't i hate Malfoy?
The other side of his brain responded, No, you don’t, you moron. If you hated him why did you save him from the room of requirement? And why did you agree to help him tomorrow? Harry did not have an answer to these questions. The other side of his brain added, and why do you always get distracted when he walks by? You’re always thinking about how nice his hair must feel, or how gorgeous his eyes are, or how smooth his skin must be, or how nice his lips-
“Enough!” Harry whispered out loud. Okay, so he might have a crush on Malfoy. He didn't even know he liked blokes. If Harry wasn't so tired, he might have realized that this was a little bit of a big deal, but at the moment all he wanted to do was sleep Should he tell Ron? Maybe he should talk to Hermione first. She might know better than Ron about things like this. First thing tomorrow, Harry was going to find Hermione and talk to her about this.