Harry's arms ache. He can feel the muscles in his shoulders and his upper arms eke out vague protest even though he's now sitting completely still in his chair, and every now and then an infinitesimal will make a warm pain ache through the tired muscle. Harry doesn't like push-ups. He fucking hates push-ups.

"Prefect Potter, you take the patrol on the Astronomy corridor." Harry glances up, rather surprised. The patrol on the Astronomy corridor, he knows, is usually left to seventh year prefects – students will often be irritated if caught by a prefect, as the Astronomy Tower is a perfect place for a snog or something more. Harry knows of several prefects being hexed in the moment of being caught, either out of petty revenge or because someone was shocked by the interruption and acted instinctively. Simpson's trying to keep her face calm, but Harry can see her hand is tightly interlocked with that of Hadley Wessex – her boyfriend, and the Head Boy.

"Really? Me? A fifth year?" Harry grins, showing his teeth. There's a sudden, tense silence in the room as everyone considers what Harry might be about to say.

"You think you can't handle a s-stray hex?" Simpson says. Her upper lip is quivering – how they could possibly have picked her as Head Girl, he really can't conceive of. Maybe by the end of the year, she'll be halfway to leadership.

"But that's not the point, is it, Prefect Simpson?" Leaning forwards, Harry puts his chin upon his folded hands. He feels a sort of savagery within himself, just under the surface, itching to get out at such a minor provocation. "I'm only a fifth year, and you've given me a seventh year patrol. That either means you admire my skill – which I doubt, as you've never seen me in a duel – or that this is a punishment for ignoring your—" Harry delicately clears his throat. "— authority on the Hogwarts Express." Silence reigns.

"What the Hell is that supposed to mean?" Wessex says: he gets to his feet. Hadley Wessex is a Hufflepuff with eyes like mercury and an accent so posh it sounds like he has Galleons stuffed between his lips. "What sort of accusation are you making?"

"Oh, was it your idea?" Harry pulls an exaggerated frown. "That's such a shame. For a second, Prefect Simpson, I was really rooting for you."

"Control your man!" Wessex says, turning to Hannah Graydon. Graydon, who has a face that's been bashed a few too many times by Bludgers, raises her abused eyebrows.

"Control him? Why? What he's saying is true, isn't it? We've never given that patrol to anyone less than a sixth year, even when we're down six prefects, let alone down two." Harry glances around the prefects' table – a lot of them look uncomfortable or just plain uncertain. Ron looks vaguely constipated; Hermione looks furious, but it seems like she's holding herself back from saying anything, likely because she feels it will be too swear-y for mixed company. Cho Chang's lips are pressed tightly together, and he imagines she's wishing Cedric was here. "He doesn't care if you're trying to punish him, but you might as well admit to it."

"We're not punishing anybody," Simpson says. She has to concentrate not to stutter. "We're just— Well, Prefect Potter is competent. You're the top of your Defence class, aren't you?"

"Why are Gryffindors like this?" Harry asks, loudly, directing the question to Tracey Davis, Hannah Graydon and the only other Slytherin prefect there: Guy Sanderson. For obvious reasons, Rebekah Amstell hasn't yet returned to Hogwarts, and Harry isn't certain if Abraham Hamish will be replaced as prefect. "They come up with a plan they obviously think is very clever, despite being rather heavy-handed, and then they won't admit to it. No wonder these people don't become politicians." Sanderson and Davis laugh; Graydon sniggers. A few of the Ravenclaws have to hold back their own chuckles, although Harry is now receiving glares from every Hufflepuff in the room, and Simpson's pretty features have turned red.

"I'll take the patrol," Harry says, standing from his seat.

"The meeting is not over!" Simpson snaps, and she actually stamps her foot.

"It is for me!" Harry calls over his shoulder, and he kicks the door shut behind him as he stalks down the corridor, his cloak thrown loosely over his shoulder. It is early afternoon, and in twenty minutes, he has his last class of the week (barring Astronomy tomorrow night) – Gideon Gibbon for Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Thus far, his classes this week have been… Hard. OWL classes have been promised to him as much more challenging than anything he'd have done before, and even with the reading he'd done over the summer, the promises have shown to be completely true. The magical theory is much more complex than anything he's faced before, and every new piece of theory has accompanying philosophy and ethics they need to comprehend as well. The exams are going to be horrible, he knows already.

Potions is the only class he's felt on board with thus far, and that's only because he's practised a few of the potions at home – as for the theory? He worries he's never going to be able to wrap his head around it.

And this is just OWL stuff – he'll need much higher grade magic if he wants to actually survive this war, if he actually wants to go head to head with Voldemort. Why did it have to happen like this? Why couldn't someone just take him away to some secret room and give him a time turner, let him have a decade to prepare rather than this desperate urgency?

"Why aren't you in the Prefects weekly meeting?" Snape actually looks casual. Leaning one shoulder on the frame of his office door, his arms crossed over his chest and one eyebrow raised, he looks like a completely normal person – just for a second.

"Hello, Professor Snape," Harry says mildly. "Would you believe we finished early?" This year, the Slytherins had drawn the long straw, and subsequently, the Prefect meeting room is down in the dungeons, only two corridors away from Snape's office.

"Inside."

ϟ ~ THE LERNAEAN HYDRA ~ ϟ

"And then I just left," Harry finishes.

"Simpson is undoubtedly going to lodge a complaint about you," Snape says dryly. He doesn't seem too upset about it, though.

"We're already down two Slytherin prefects. It's not like she's in a position to get me kicked off."

"You're quite correct," Snape agrees. Harry sits in the hard-backed chair across from his desk, but Snape remains standing, pacing the room with his arms still crossed. He's thinking deeply about something, it seems to Harry, and he knows better than to ask what it might be.

"Are you going to replace Abraham?" Harry asks. Snape glances at him. "Not right away! I don't mean that – I just meant like, what's the protocol for something like this?"

"Prefects have died before," Snape says quietly. "Ordinarily, the faculty wait for the end of the term, and then assign a new prefect in the next one, if still required. In this case, however… Perhaps Albus will elect to waive that usual delay and appoint a new Seventh Year prefect during the half term. It depends if Ms Amstell resumes her post."

"You think she'd quit?" Harry asks. Snape's eyebrows furrow slightly, and the distant look in his eyes deepens. "You don't think she's going to come back to Hogwarts at all."

"Ms Amstell could easily complete her NEWTs on private study," Snape murmurs. He speaks very quietly, but in the absolute silence of his office, Harry only has to strain a little to hear him. "You will not find it in your textbooks, Potter, but this is how it begins. A few individuals drop away from their classes, perhaps change to another school – Eala Dubh, or Beauxbatons. Businesses may begin to close in Diagon Alley, particularly those that might have had a difficult quarter in the current climate. Fewer people, for example, are going out to play Quidditch in these trying times."

Harry watches the older man carefully: Snape is using his teaching voice, the voice he ordinarily uses for extended lectures on a particular element of potions preparation or usage. It doesn't feel fake at all, though, but almost hypnotizing – Snape has a way of presenting information in ways that's easy to listen to, even if it's a complex concept. Sometimes, Harry wishes Potions involved a few more theory lectures, and a little less practical work.

"And people leave the country, right?" Harry asks. "I heard the towns like Godric's Hollow, Ottery St. Catchpole – they used to have a lot more wizards and witches. But loads of them left."

"The majority were killed," Snape says. As he says it, he looks directly at Harry, meeting his eyes. A silence passes between them.

"Are you looking for me to flinch?" Harry asks. "I know people died, sir. My parents were some of the victims." Snape watches him for a few moments more, studying Harry's face as if he's a complicated experiment, or perhaps a dense passage in a book.

"You have a class on the hour, do you not? You ought make your way there. After dinner this evening, return here. We shall begin your… Mentorship."

"What do I say it's about?" Harry asks, pulling himself up out of the chair and shouldering his bag. His prefect badge shines in the soft light of Snape's office, and Harry looks down at it for a moment. Is it worth it? Is it worth the hassle from Simpson and Wessex? What does he want to be a prefect for anyway?

Snape artfully shrugs his shoulders. When he waves his hand in a gesture that strikes Harry as airy and strangely familiar, the position of his hand and wrist slightly mismatched with Snape's general demeanour, he seems just as aware of the misstep as Harry himself. He freezes in place, his expression remaining completely blank, but were he someone else, someone without so much self-discipline, maybe his lips would part, maybe his brow would furrow.

"It is your decision, Mr Potter." Harry thinks about asking what exactly Snape is thinking, who that wrist flick reminded him of, but he keeps his tongue still.

"See you after dinner," Harry says, and he leaves the room. He has to take a few shortcuts up to Gideon Gibbon's classroom, but he makes it within time – there are two or three minutes before the current classes will let out, and although all of his fellow fifth years ought have a free period, he doesn't see any of them in the corridor yet. On a stone bench carved with the Hogwarts insignia, he sees an abandoned copy of the Daily Prophet.

TODAY: YOU-KNOW-WHO'S INTERNMENT OR DECLARATION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY, declares the headline. It isn't exactly catchy, but Harry supposes there are only so many news stories that can be boiled down to a snappy title page. He glances over the first paragraph – the Ministry of Magic is going to declare their decision at 7:30 tonight. Everyone will still be at dinner…

"What the Hell was that, mate?" Ron Weasley asks. Hermione comes rushing up behind him, her lips pressed together, her eyes focused on Harry. "She was uh, Hermione what did you call it? Apocalyptic?"

"Apoplectic," Hermione supplies. "Absolutely furious, but um, well. Whenever she tried to talk, she just began to stammer."

"My two main nemeses this year," Harry mutters, half-under his breath. "Lord Voldemort and Patricia Simpson, Hogwarts Head Girl."

"Are you quite ready to enter the classroom?" asks Gibbon from behind them, the door abruptly open. His tone icy, he glares between Ron and Hermione, and adds, "Or are you going to stand about in the corridors, procrastinating your lesson time?"

"It's five to, Professor Gibbon," Harry says quietly. "No one else is here yet." This seems to strike the older man hard, his lips pressing tightly together, his eyes full of fury too-soon doused.

"Inside," Gibbon barks, and he whirls on his feet, making his way into the classroom. Glancing to Ron and Hermione, who look about as perplexed as Harry does, they make their way inside. Harry sits at the very front of the class, removing his textbook and a notebook from his bag and setting them on the desk; Hermione sits beside him. In true Ron fashion, Ron takes a seat at the very back of the class, as close to the door as possible, and when Seamus and Dean come in, they sit beside him. Gibbon is writing rapidly on a wide blackboard with a piece of chalk, and Harry watches him murmur under his breath. Hovering beside him is a leather journal, a dictaquill quickly moving over the page in a quick, looping scrawl. At this angle, and from so far away, he can neither hear what Gibbon is saying nor read the notes, and he feels curiosity flare inside him.

Gibbon is a portly man, tall with broad shoulders, and he has thick, blond hair that is beginning to recede on the very top of his head. His face is quite red, particularly his cheeks, but it isn't from anger – he has a naturally flushed pallor to him, and Harry would guess he's simply thin-skinned. He looks to be in his fifties (though who can really tell, with wizards?) but his robes are tailored in an old-fashioned style, with a white cravat thick about his neck, prominently white cuffs, and even spats that show when he takes a quick step forwards and the skirt of his robe shifts and displays his shoes.

Tracey Davis is the last to enter the room, and she does a quick glance over the others before pulling the door shut and taking a seat beside Pansy. Harry doesn't know what it is – perhaps the Slytherins take note of what Harry is doing, and then the Gryffindors do the same, or maybe the charged energy in the room isn't something he's imagining, but is something they all feel. Either way, everybody sits in absolute silence, the only sounds Gibbon's soft murmurings, the quiet grind of chalk on chalkboard, and the scratch of his quill on parchment.

Taking a pause to underline his name with a dramatic movement, Gibbon turns to face the silent room, and he steps out of the way of the blackboard. Harry looks at the board's dark-green surface, reading what Gibbon has written in chalk capitals, and he begins to note it down.

PROFESSOR G. GIBBON

TERM ONE SYLLABUS:

· PRACTICAL JINXES & MINOR HEXES

· COUNTER-JINXES AND DEFENSIVE CHARMS

· MAJOR HEXES (THEORY)

· SHIELD CHARMS (THEORY, HISTORY, PRACTICE)

TERM TWO SYLLABUS:

· THE PHILOSOPHY OF INTENT

· CURSES & THEIR HISTORY

o LYCANTHROPY & VAMPIRISM

o DAY-TO-DAY CURSES

· CURSE REVERSAL

· MINOR CURSES (PRACTICAL)

· MAJOR CURSES (THEORY, PRACTICAL)

As everyone begins to take notes, Gibbon walks into the room, making his way slowly down the rows, glancing over each of their shoulders. "For twenty three years," he says, "I have worked in the Ministry Office for the Removal of Jinxes, Hexes and Curses. For ten years, I was the director of the department. I actually planned to retire this year, but you know how convincing your headmaster can be." When he faces the class, giving a warm smile, a few people laugh. The coldness Harry had seen in the other man a moment ago has completely evaporated – and what had been the problem, anyway?

Had it been that he'd said Voldemort's name? That he'd been so flippant? That must have been it, and yet Gibbon now seems so charming, and so calm. What is Gibbon's game? His posh, clipped tones ring through the room, and Harry watches him carefully.

"Who here can define Dark Magic for me?" Harry hears a few robes rustle as hands go up – Hermione's shoots up, as does Draco's, Pansy's… And Vincent Crabbe's. Even Gibbon seems surprised by this.

"Mr Crabbe, isn't it? Tell us."

"If it's made to hurt people, and isn't for anything else, it's dark," he says quietly, but not so quietly it's hard to understand him. "If the spell is made just to hurt people, or kill 'em, that's dark." Gibbon gives a slow nod of his head. On his desk, behind him, Harry can see his quill making a few notes.

"And the Dark Arts… Are they inherently wrong? Mr… I'm sorry, your name?"

"Dean Thomas, Professor Gibbon."

"Mr Thomas!"

"It depends on how you use them. Like Crabbe said, it's kind of about intent – if you used the Dark Arts just to hurt people, most would say that's wrong, but if you're using them for something else, there's no moral problem." Gibbon gives a slow nod of his head, his hands in his pockets as he stands straight.

"Can you give me an example, Mr Thomas?" Gibbon asks. Dean pauses for a second.

"Uh, for example, the Reductor curse – we learned it in third year. You could use it to hurt people, or you could use it in a construction job, or in demolition. There's no dark intent there at all."

"And yet it's classified as a curse – why is that? Ms…?"

"Granger, sir," Hermione says. She's bouncing in her seat, leaning right forwards to give her answer. "Reducto, from the Latin, means "reduce", or "bring down". While it can be used innocently, it's best designed for harm, because of how powerful it can be without putting too much energy into it."

"And if I use a simple levitation charm, say, to drop somebody off a cliff… Would that be Dark Magic?" Harry can't help but roll his eyes, and Gibbon's gaze lands on him, intent. "You find that funny, Mr Potter?"

"It's just that it's an old idea," Harry says. "A cliché. I hear that question asked a hundred times a week by second and third years." In how many letters from Lucius, Harry wonders, had the man outlined the difference between Dark Magic and the rest? In how many letters from Molly, or Augusta, or Andromeda, had he been lectured about the importance of magical intent? "Of course that's not Dark Magic. Dark Magic is magic that was created with a particular purpose in mind, and that purpose being to maim or to kill. It doesn't mean that the spells in question can't be used to good intent – it's about their original creation. Having a blanket taboo on Dark Magic eliminates the bulk of those spells' use, but if you're creative enough, any piece of magic can be put to any purpose."

"Any piece of magic for any purpose, you say?" Gibbon asks. He raises his eyebrows, letting out a soft whistle of sound. "Not something I often hear from young men, and not something I'd expect from you, Mr Potter. What about the Unforgiveables? You think they could be used to good purpose?"

"Sure," Harry says. "But it doesn't mean they should be legalized – they're called the Unforgiveables because of what they're primarily intended for, and they should be kept criminal."

"Oh, forgive me," Gibbon murmurs. "But I'm so curious. What, good purpose, pray, do you think the Imperius Curse might be put to?"

"Someone's about to throw themselves from the Astronomy Tower," Harry says. "Using the Imperius Curse, I force them to step back from the edge, and then I call for help." Gibbon's eyes narrow slightly, and Harry regrets sitting at the front of the class – he can feel the stares of every one of his classmates boring into his back.

"And the Cruciatus? What good deed can a curse intended only to torture be used for?"

"The Cruciatus Curse can cause permanent nerve damage, burst blood vessels and even cause aneurysms in its victims," Harry says. He thinks of Neville Longbottom, sat in the desk behind him, and he presses his lips together for a moment before he says, "The only way Healers can help the victims of these curses, I'm afraid, is to study them. I'd bet you a Galleon there's a department dedicated to their study in the Department of Mysteries if any of us could ever prove it."

"And what of the last?" Gibbon asks in a whisper. He seems almost hypnotized, his gaze locked with Harry's, as if he's forgotten there are other students in the room. "You just told me, Mr Potter, that you would use the Imperius Curse to pull someone from the brink of suicide – so what possible justification could there be for the Killing Curse?"

"There are two answers I could give to that, Professor Gibbon," Harry says. He thinks of the Ministry announcement to come tonight, and Abraham Hamish, Madam Rosmerta… Lucius Malfoy. "I'll give the one people expect, first. If killing somebody does the rest of the world a net good – if that person is evil, and odious, and murderous, and brings only harm into the world, then I guess it would be justifiable to use the Killing Curse on them. On Lord V—"

"He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," Gibbon corrects, sharply.

"For example," Harry continues, refusing to use the stupid epithet, "He'd be a pretty worthy candidate."

"And the second answer?" Gibbon asks. His eyes are a watery brown, like the muddy mist that dredges up when you step through a pond. Harry's mouth is dry from talking, and he wishes he carried a flask of water in his bag like some of the other boys do, from class to class.

"If someone's going to die anyway," Harry starts. He says it a little quietly, not able to convince himself to speak any louder. "If— If you were prisoners, for example, and you knew all you had to look forward to was torture – if the other person was bleeding, wheezing through cracked ribs, and you couldn't escape, you couldn't help them any other way… It doesn't hurt, you know. It's very quick, but you feel warmth where the spell hits, and a little tingling… It doesn't hurt. If I had to die again, that's how I'd choose to go." He's never been in a room so utterly silent. He can't even hear anyone breathing, or hear the rustle of robes – even in Snape's most frigid classrooms, you can hear the crackle of fire beneath the cauldrons, the bubble of potions or the snikt of a knife through ingredients. Even Gibbon's dictaquill has taken a break.

"Mr Potter makes an excellent few points," Gibbon says suddenly: the spell is broken. Suddenly, Harry can hear people breathing, hear people shifting in their seats or moving their books around. "Whether you agree with him on the individual elements is unimportant – the fact is that he can create arguments to justify the use of the darkest spells known to us as wizards and witches. The Dark Arts, you see, is a misleading title, and as Mr Potter has wisely pointed out, primarily a legal one intended to steer students in the correct direction…" Gibbon keeps talking, and Harry looks back to his notebook, taking down everything the professor says. It's easier, somehow, to focus on taking the class down in writing, and lets him escape thinking about the implications in detail until later.

ϟ ~ THE LERNAEAN HYDRA ~ ϟ

When the class comes to an end, Harry feels relief. He stands up, packing away his books and his notes, which are written in a journal with a charm for drying ink – no blotting. What a luxury. There isn't the usual chatter as everyone gets up to leave – the Gryffindors and Slytherins alike are quietly pensive, thinking over what Gibbon had talked about.

It had primarily been an introduction to the philosophical theory surrounding Defence Against The Dark Arts, with Gibbon mostly lecturing them and occasionally getting someone to answer a few questions.

Harry is aware of some of the others staring at him; Neville gives him a wide berth, and Theodore looks directly at him, his expression a mix of what could be disagreement, and maybe… Pity?

Looking down at the spine of his journal, Harry takes up his bag by the strap and pulls it over his shoulder. Outside the window, it's cloudy and grey, and Harry breathes in slowly – there are a few hours to go until dinner, and this is his last class of the day.

In the quiet of the moment, he feels the slight ache in his arms, reminded of it by the weight of the bag… He has a few hours. He could go for a jog, maybe, like Lucius had suggested once upon a time…

"Potter?" Harry looks up. Gibbon is watching him, his expression showing a little concern. "Are you alright?"

"Oh, fine, sir. Just thinking." Gibbon gives a slow nod of his head, seeming to approve.

"You've a lot to face this year… I was going to ask if you'd like any extra tutelage in Defence. I would have to put aside the hours, but—"

"Oh, thanks, Professor Gibbon," Harry says, already shaking his head apologetically. He needs an excuse, something— "I'm actually studying with my godfather already. I'll come to you if I need any help, but I wouldn't want you to put aside your time for me!" He smiles, politely, and before Gibbon can say anything more, he leaves the classroom and makes his way swiftly down to the dungeons.

The Common Room isn't busy – most of the years have classes at this time – and Harry moves through easily, dropping his bag at the foot of his bed and rummaging through his wardrobe for his trainers and a light robe intended for exercise.

"Harry," comes a voice from behind him, and Harry turns. Draco is frowning at him from the doorway, and Harry frowns back, standing up and looking at the other boy. "The— What you said about the Killing Curse… It was so… Specific. You don't really think…?"

Sighing, Harry takes a step across the room, reaching for the folder of his and Lucius' letters. He has to page through the letters, but then he settles on a particular one, and glances over the flowing script. It was one of the rare letters signed from Lucius alone, without mention of Narcissa.

"Think, Harry, always of context. No morality is universal to every man, and even our stoutest morals might be challenged in a particular situation.

When I was your age, a friend of my father's, a Mr Wessex, told me a story. I was as yet young, just out of school, and we had begun a discussion about the Dark Arts and their classification. He had been stationed somewhere abroad (I know not where, for he never let it slip) and was made a prisoner of war. Having pilfered a wand from the guard, but under a heavy Apparition ward, it was crucial he make his escape.

Another wizard was locked in the very same dungeon as he. The other wizard, having been kept prisoner for several months (whereas this fellow had been captured only that week) had endured extensive tortures. Several of his ribs were cracked, and he was missing many of his fingernails; his kneecaps had been shattered, and he lay wheezing on a straw bed, barely able to so much as drink. One of his eyes had been removed, and the other was cloudy with blood.

"I can heal you," Wessex said to him. "Then together, we—"

"No," groaned the poor soul, between tortured breaths. "You aren't a healer: with me slowing your retreat, you shall never escape. Leave me here, only…"

"Only?"

"Do not leave me alive." For several days and nights, Wessex was tortured by the very thought. Could he kill a man? He was an intelligence agent, and had only ever been in practice duels – he had never seen battle, and never even seen an animal die, let alone a person. "Use the killing curse," the man whispered in the dark, through cracked teeth and a bloodied tongue. "It will be quick."

On the third night, they took the man for "questioning" once more. Wessex heard his cries, his begging for mercy, become less and less comprehensible, until he heard only frantic gurgling through blood, and then the fellow was deposited once more in the cold cellar, quite unconscious. What information he had, Wessex desperately wished to know, but the fellow was unconscious and the guard was lax – this was his chance to escape, he thought, as he stood over the man with his wand in hand.

That very evening, under the moonlit sky, he stole from the dungeon and fled into the hills, making it home within a week or so. He gave word of the other prisoner, but no one knew who he might be.

"And the poor fellow," I asked him, when he related the tale. "Do you know what they did when they discovered him dead?"

"They didn't," Wessex whispered to me. Never had I seen a man's face tell of such regret. "I couldn't do it. I shudder to think of it, at times, Mr Malfoy. The guilt eats away at me when I try to sleep sometimes. The guilt eats and eats."

Again, I reiterate. Much as we might wish it otherwise, our morality is an everchanging beast, changing from one situation to the next. Take care, Harry, that you do not follow absolutism to your doom: showing mercy sometimes means to let a fellow die."

Harry finishes reading that section of the letter, which had been prompted by a discussion about a man who had been prosecuted in a manslaughter case some years back. Draco stands in the middle of the room, and a little colour seems to have returned to his face, where before he was extraordinarily pale.

"Not a personal example or anything," Harry murmurs. "Just something Lucius said that stuck with me."

"I didn't mean to accuse you," Draco says. He sighs, putting his hand up to his forehead and rubbing over his hair. "Or— Anything else. It merely seemed so vivid, so visceral… Of course you'd have no reason to get into such a situation." Harry says nothing to that, and sets the letter down, beginning to change into his exercise robes. "With the announcement to come tonight, I suppose I just feel a pressing anxiety."

"Declaring a state of emergency is the first step," Harry says quietly, pulling his robes on over his head. "Everything will be better with this."

"You're sure?" Draco asks.

"Not in the least." Draco chuckles. "Where are you going?"

"Just for a jog," Harry answers, leaning down and unfastening his dragonhide boots, exchanging them instead for his trainers. Draco nods his head, reaching for a book from the shelf – Harry feels the barest hint of relief that he doesn't reach immediately for the letters. There's no sense in Draco forming some kind of obsession. "You want to come?"

"No, I watched you performing your morning exercises, and that's all about I can stomach to witness," Draco says dryly.

"I'll get better at it!" Harry says, a little defensively. "I'd like to see you do a push-up!"

Setting the book down on the bed, Draco gets slowly to his knees, putting his hands flat on the ground. Rather than stretching out his body to do a push-up, he throws his weight forwards and, balancing carefully on his hands, performs a perfect handstand that he holds for a long few seconds, his robes bunching about his crotch rather than falling down and revealing all.

"That's not a push-up," Harry mutters, and Draco laughs, standing back up. "How did you get into that, anyway? Gymnastics?"

"Mother does gymnastics," Draco says. He says it with a soft smile on his face, looking off into the distance. "See you later, Harry."

"See you," Harry murmurs, and he takes off for his jog.