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There is a ritual to how Harry Potter readies himself in the morning.

First, he gets up.

He stands to his feet and stretches. He looks around the room, peering at his sleeping roommates. First, at Seamus, the farthest from his bed. Then, to Dean, who is in the bed next to Seamus. Neville, snoring away into his pillows.

Finally, Ron. Ron is the ugliest of sleepers.

Harry saves Ron for last because it always makes him want to laugh. Ron is starfished out over his sheets, snoring rather loudly with his mouth hanging open unattractively. It’s a laugh, for sure. And after he laughs, Harry goes to the bathroom and continues the ritual.

He strips out of his clothing and ignores the snide remarks from the magical mirror—because he remembers the days where they took the magical mirror out, the days when he was a breeze and his bones—before he steps into the heat of the shower. Slowly, all of that sleep tension melts away as he runs soap up and down his arms. He lets the water pour over his head, flattening his hair over his blurry vision. He soaks in the heat and lets it seep through his pores. Even now, after all of these years, hot showers sometimes feel like a luxury—this is one of those mornings when they do.

Because it feels like a luxury, he melts in the heat a little longer than he usually would. When he finally steps out, wrapping himself in a fluffy crimson towel, he feels more refreshed and relaxed than he has in ages. There are no phantom aches, his stomach doesn’t feel too full when it’s so empty, and his skin doesn’t feel too tight for his bones. He feels healthy because he is; he’s better now.

He grabs another towel to scrub the wetness from his curls and walks quietly back into the bedroom. Neville is up, but he’s moving quietly. He offers a smile, but doesn’t say anything to Harry—Neville and Harry aren’t close, but Neville knows his habits.

This is an early morning.

That means Harry means to go it alone today.

So, Harry dresses in clothing that fits, which to this day, still feels rather odd. He knows that the trousers aren’t too tight; they’re simply tailored. But Lavender has joked that they make his bum look good, and he’s not sure what to make of that, honestly.

He buttons up his shirt, and then, pays homage to Sirius by leaving his shirt untucked because, according to Sirius, shirt-tucking is for scrubs. Harry doesn’t really know what that means but Sirius says a lot of wild things and he thinks that the scrunched up expression that Remus will surely make is a little (a lot) funny.

Finally, Harry loops around his tie. He remembers his first year, when he didn’t know how to tie a tie. He glances over at Ron, still ugly-sleeping and smirks.

Ron had known, and had gladly taught Harry.

Harry’s smile softens; it’s hard to make fun of someone so earnest.

He slides into his shoes and waves goodbye to Neville before he scoops up his robe over one arm and his satchel over the other before he’s bounding down the steps. Harry ignores the third-year student that’s always up at this time too, always studying. Sometimes Harry thinks the kid should’ve been Sorted as a Ravenclaw, because he is always studying. Harry goes up to the portrait hole and pushes it open.

He stops.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Harry asks.

He pulls his bag up his shoulder and swallows, staring at the other boy on the stairs.

Harry hates how fucking handsome the other boy is; tall and dark and handsome with a patrician nose. He thinks he’s too good to be wearing the Hogwarts uniform, electing an all-black Muggle suit with only his fucking tie to break up the solid wall of darkness. Harry sneers.

Tom Riddle smirks up at him, like there’s nothing wrong with the picture.

Harry can think of about twelve.

“I’m here to walk you,” Riddle says.

Harry scoffs, leaning back against the portrait hole. He ignores the Fat Lady’s squawks of disapproval, keeping his eyes trained on Riddle and his smug fucking face.

“To where?” Harry asks.

“To breakfast,” Riddle says. He takes another step up, like he’s going to actually walk up to Harry, and Harry can’t have that.

Harry walks carefully across the landing to the opposite staircase, and Riddle turns, keeping him in his burgundy line of sight, but he doesn’t make a move to follow Harry. Harry had thought that Riddle would’ve given up by now, but he seems to be fucking serious with his nonsense.

“No thanks,” Harry retorts with a sickly sweetness and he throws open his bag, digging through it as the staircases start to shift, thank Merlin.

Riddle stares with an absent sort of curiosity that turns into burning amusement as Harry finally pulls his hand out of his bag.

And promptly flips Riddle the bird.