The next morning, Harry tumbled out of bed, into the clammy cold of a Scottish winter, with snow not yet on the ground. The ground crunched under his feet regardless, the ice crystals infusing the dirt itself. Harry found himself panting more than usual, because he had grown a little soft in the past two weeks.
Harry took an especially wide jump over a pile of leaves that were rumpled wrong. Soft, sure, Harry thought, but not stupid. Harry kept going, knowing without being told that stopping to poke at traps was likely to send a hex his way. Probably Snape's watching, Harry thought. Harry kept to the same track, knowing that Snape himself often ran it - the ground looked more like a deertrail than anything, as if hooves had irregularly scuffed a track.*
Harry could feel his muscles stretching, could feel himself starting to hum with the feel of real work. It was fantastic, this early in the morning, to feel wide awake - and to take an ice cold shower, and still be steaming.
By the time he had turned out to the Great Hall, his hair was back to it's normal unkempt state. He sat facing Malfoy, as always. At one point, he considered, it was because he didn't like an enemy at his back. Now... now he still had that sense, but wasn't as comfortable putting Draco in the category of enemy. Better think opponent, then. And that was certainly true, so long as Snape had Draco commanding his Squad of Ravenclaws. Outta tease him about learning to fly, he's spending so much time with the Ravens.
Half of Hogwarts was in the Great Hall, but, as usual, during the start of the year, there was little mail. One young Slytherin got a package from his family owl (sharing sweets with the girls like Malfoy used to with his yearmates). Then Harry saw an owl - a school owl no less, swooping down towards him. He felt a sickening, sinking feeling in his stomach. It got worse as he looked at the Headmaster's seal on the scroll.
Harry hated waiting, hated that stomach churning What if... And it got worse when Harry saw that Malfoy had gotten a School Owl too. Malfoy, who was scowling at a very similar looking parchment scroll.**
Harry stood and stalked out of the Great Hall, to find someplace private to read this (it didn't matter that Ron and Hermione weren't there to read over his shoulder, the rest of the Gryffs were about as bad about privacy). Before Harry rounded the corner to head upstairs, he could hear the door to the Great Hall shutting. It was Malfoy, his face grim, as he looked down at the missive. Giving it some thought, Harry realized that he'd never seen Malfoy get a school owl. And no wonder, if Snape had wanted Malfoy's attention, there were subtler ways. Other teachers would simply talk to him after class.
Harry smelled a conspiracy, the bad-egg smell wafting upwards, no matter how high he climbed. One thing he knew for sure, He didn't want to be around Malfoy if the two messages were at all related.
*Hiya rural folk! This is how dipshit city deer make stupid trails. I realize no wild deer would behave this way.
**To be fair, Harry would find all parchment scrolls look the same.
[a/n: Reviews? Harry's right to want to stay away from Malfoy. Blondie's got a temper.
Current plan is to use Zombie Harry sparingly. Complaints should wait until after he's been invoked, kiddos.]