“Errgh” Harry groaned, “Is there something wrong with me?”
“Yes, but it’s the same thing that’s wrong with all of us.”
Harry lurched upright at the sudden voice coming from behind his right shoulder, a quiet murmur in the darkness. The 8th year common room appeared empty at first glance, existing entirely as shadows during the night, but a darker patch near the boys dorms had a familiar shape.
He felt his body relax and his pulse start to slow again as he recognised Malfoy walking towards him. He began the usual slow breathing exercises anyway, laying back down on the couch.
It had been Hermione’s idea to attend the muggle mindfulness class. Ron thought it was a load of wank – and he was mostly right, but the breathing thing had worked for Harry, so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
“Breathing is really good for you,” the mindfulness lady had said, giggling away as though she’d made some great joke, except nobody had laughed.
Harry saw Malfoy come into view, a warm yellow colour splashing across his pale features as his body entered the light of the fireplace. He sank into the couch next to Harry, narrowly missing his feet.
They sat in silence for a time, Harry alternating between watching the fire and Malfoy’s profile. They’d spent a number of nights like this, sitting quietly together in front of the warm fire in the common room. Sometimes Harry would be up first, woken by nightmares of death: cold, sterile, white train stations and empty, rotting forests. Sometimes he would find Malfoy sitting alone, staring at the fireplace, a close replica of the hot flames that licked his feet as he fought to escape the burning room of requirement. It became a different place for the two of them at night, facing the past as memories and dreams swirled around them.
“What is wrong with us?”
“Hmmm?” Malfoy hummed quietly, turning briefly towards Harry, then back to the fire.
“And what is wrong with us, Malfoy?” Harry repeated.
“Oh,” he paused, as if only just remembering their previous conversation, “we’re all totally fucked.”
Harry gave a startled laugh, kicking Malfoy gently in the thigh. It never ceased to amaze him that the buttoned-up, straight laced and conservative Mr. Draco L. Malfoy swore. He had such a dirty mouth and Harry absolutely fucking loved it.
Their conversation died off as suddenly as it started. Sitting in silence, they both stared into the fire getting lost in their own thoughts, the flames cracking and sending off sparks intermittently. Harry sunk back into the lack of sound, continuing his study of the dancing blue tinge at the base of the flames. He watched it flicker, move gracefully, constantly changing as everything slowed around him. He felt disconnected, as though awake in a living dream.
His vision blurred at the edges and his sole focus was on the colours of the fire, as if the fire and his body were the only things real in the world. The only things left. It made sense really, after dying in the forest. Harry was convinced that his soul – or whatever it was that was inside of us, never really came back right. Part of it went missing or was left behind. And he just wasn’t quite… right.
As he continued to stare into the flames, Harry was vaguely aware that he felt as though he were floating within his own body. Totally separate and yet still the same. Different yet vaguely familiar. It was strangely mesmerising, how alone he felt inside himself.
Taking a deep breath, Harry blinked, and felt his body slowly come back to him as though he was being pulled from a thick oil. His thoughts gradually cleared as feeling returned to his numb arms and legs. His head still fuzzy, he fought to stay where he was, feeling totally overwhelmed as the sounds and smells of the room rushed in. Even in the near empty common room in the very early hours of the morning, the noise was almost deafening.
Struggling to keep from sinking down again, he shifted and swinging his legs over the edge of the couch, he slid to sit next to Malfoy. He pressed his body shoulder to shoulder against the other boy, grounding himself to the moment. Resting his head against him he focused on his breaths, matching them to Malfoy’s steady rhythm. In. out. In. out.
Harry felt Malfoy’s hard shoulder beneath his ear, felt his head bob as Malfoy took a breath, heard the sound of it escape his nose. He felt the warm, firm thigh against his own. He listened to the fire, the soft sounds of feet moving or stretching as the two of them sat there together.
Eventually Harry felt himself relax, his muscles sore – he hadn’t even realised how tense he had become, and began to ease his body against Malfoy’s, his breathing eventually finding its own calm rhythm. Closing his eyes, Harry began to feel a little of the quiet stillness he only experienced when alone with Malfoy.
Hours later he found himself waking up slowly, a soft light starting to peek through the window. He wiggled, sensing a light weight across his back and saw Malfoy’s pale hand gripping his shoulder out of the corner of his eye. He savoured the moment. The awareness of Malfoy’s firm body beneath his head and his arm a comfortable weight, Harry felt soothed by the somewhat awkward embrace. Feeling rested for the first time in days, Harry regrettably detangled himself from Malfoy’s arm and moved towards the edge of the couch.
“Wake up” he whispered, lightly touching Malfoy‘s shoulder. “They’ll all be up soon.”
Malfoy’s eyes flew open and his body jumped, instantly alert. His eyes darted to the exits: windows, doors and dark corners and seeing nothing, they landed back on Harry.
Their faces close, Harry gave him a small, sad smile and murmured, “thanks Malfoy, I always sleep better out here with you.”
He stood up, stretched out his sore neck and moved towards his room, genuinely feeling the loss of Malfoy’s comforting body against his own.
“We should try it in a bed sometime,” came a small voice from behind him.
Harry froze, utter cold dread spreading from his chest into his stomach, then down through his legs.
He slowly turned around. Malfoy was still watching the fire, hair a messy fluff, skin pale and dark patches beneath his eyes. He looked softer in the mornings; a different person to the usually well put together boy he was during classes. Harry liked both versions of course, but this Malfoy looked… gentler. He was open and almost tender. And Harry counted himself so lucky to be the only one he showed this side of himself to.
Harry stayed silent - didn’t trust himself to answer. Didn’t know how to respond to something he wanted so badly. Harry had thought about it, during those boring classes when his mind wandered, while playing quidditch and trying to concentrate on the game and during meals in the Great Hall surrounded by friends but feeling bone achingly lonely. At the end of the day he always felt too scared to change this fragile thing they shared together.
As he walked back towards his room, heart thumping away in his chest, he remembered what Malfoy had said to him the night before.
“We’re all totally fucked.”
Too fucking right, thought Harry. He was absolutely fucking fucked.