Chapter 7: Friend or Foe

2377 1 1

August 1881

"Can't we just use the bath in the room?” Harry begged as they descended the stairs, Remus dragging him by the wrist in protest. 

“Even James wasn’t this timid at your age and he struggled to speak English fluently,” Remus scoffed. “There are private baths, don’t worry. We need the salt library, though. Come on.” Harry sighed as they went down two more flights of stairs back to the level they had entered on.

“We’ll see you upstairs afterward?” Amelia asked, guiding the girls toward the blue door.

“Take your time,” Remus nodded, steering Sean and Harry into the red door. Harry immediately covered his eyes in embarrassment. Taps were arranged all around the edges of the room where men were scrubbing and washing their forms brazenly with no shame for their neighbours. The middle of the room had shelves with thousands of little bottles, bags, and boxes being retrieved quickly by male youths in shorts and wrap shirts attending to the patrons.

“You said something about privacy?” Sean asked Remus pointedly. “I think the young master just might die blushing here.”

“Come on,” Remus said, dragging Harry toward the shelves. There were a few breaks in the shelves of doors, and Remus went to an open door, glancing in before smiling and pulling Harry into a small, enclosed space with a tiled tub. The water was being cycled continuously and there was a sort of basket system built into the wall that the water was passing through on its way down to the tub as if being filtered. “See? Nice and private,” Remus assured Harry.

“Can I help you?” an attendant asked hurriedly, peaking his head past Sean. He winced when he saw Harry and stepped inside to look him over, grimacing. “Did you fall in a sewer?”

“Practically,” Remus nodded. “He was thrown into a coal cellar and then a filthy store house. He’s got broken ribs, bruises, a magical wound on his wrist, at least a week of kitchen and laundry grime, and ten-years-worth of a badly maintained guise spell.”

“Hmmm,” the attendant said, scratching his neck. “That’s a large load. Allergies?”

“Pumpkin,” Sean said.

“What’s the nature of the wound?”

“Rough dispelling.”

“Blood status?”

“He’s a Potter,” Remus said.

Instantly, the room went deadly quiet – so quiet that Harry could hear the bamboo tap drop and echo through the room. The water even seemed to go still as the attendant’s eyes widened.

“Who would dare do this to a Potter?” the boy asked in awe.

“Evan Rosier,” Remus said simply. “His magic’s a little sensitive right now.”

“Right,” the attendant said, clapping his hands together. “This will take a careful mix. I’ll ask Lady Shizumi. Such a case is beyond my potioneering skills.”

“Potioneering?” Harry asked as the boy left.

“Potion-making,” Remus said. “What – you thought the bathhouse was a Muggle one? They use potions in the water to maximize their effectiveness. All you have to do is sit there and soak, and the potions will take care of everything else. You won’t even have to scrub. Now go ahead and get into the water. Go on!”

They turned their backs and Harry shyly disrobed and slipped into the warm water. The bath was deep enough to completely hide him, and the water was cloudy with minerals to protect his virtue from wandering eyes. A few minutes later, the attendant returned with a basket and arranged salts, liquids, and herbs into the complicated filters on the wall. He spread a floral mix into the water and knelt by the tub, smiling at Harry. “Sir, this is for your face. Just place it over your face and lean back with your hair in the top bucket.”

“Huh?” Harry asked, tilting his head in confusion. The boy showed him that there was a headrest with a separate small tub behind it for hair, and helped Harry situate properly in place with the soft cool rag over his face. He felt as if tiny fingers were scrubbing his face and hair but tried to relax at the foreign feeling.

“We’ll be back soon,” Remus said, patting Harry's shoulder. “We’re going to wash, and we’ll come retrieve you. Just stay here.”

Harry hummed awkwardly in response and waited in the water. It was a strange feeling, being pampered like this when he was usually one having to scrub at Rose’s ankles or Dudley’s back. At least no one was touching him. He didn’t think he could handle a stranger putting their hands on him after Marge’s costume incident. Slowly, the water began to fight Harry's nerves and he found himself relaxing in earnest into the tub, which seemed to mould to his form to maximize his comfort.

He had almost started to fall asleep when someone knocked on the door and entered. “It’s me,” Sean assured him. “That felt great. These waters are really something. I could never get this clean back at the gaff. Let’s see if these potions and what-not worked, eh?”

He gently pulled the rag off of Harry's face and fell back in surprise.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” Sean exclaimed in shock. “Janey Mack! What’s in this stuff?”

“What?” Harry yelped in concern, sitting up. Sean’s jaw hit the floor and his eyes went as wide as Petunia’s had when she saw Dudley buff on the stairs last year after he’d gotten into Vernon’s liquor cabinet.

“What’s wrong?” Remus asked, coming into the room. Unlike Sean, though, he beamed when he saw Harry. “Lady Shizumi’s outdone herself.”

“What did she do?” Harry asked worriedly.

“What she’s supposed to do,” Remus said. “She took off ten years of grime and neglect. How do your ribs feel? Still hurting?”

Harry felt at them and winced at the water. It felt like dishwater after Italian food. “Ew…”

“Ah, yes, come on out of there and rinse off here,” Remus said, showing him the shower tap on the wall. “We’ll give you a moment. Sean?”

“Are you sure that’s Harry?” Sean whispered as he was steered out of the room.

“Yes,” Remus laughed, closing the door.

Harry climbed out of the water and turned on the tap, allowing the cool water to wash over him refreshingly. He leaned his head back but frowned. His hair felt longer somehow. He pulled it over his shoulder to find that not only was it half a foot longer, now reaching his elbow, it was also incredibly smooth and silky, softer than Rose’s hair had ever been, and darker as well. It had been a dark Jacobean walnut before, but now was pitch black. And as he looked at it, he saw that his hands were much paler than they had been before. His callouses were gone, leaving his fingers soft, and his bruises on his arms and legs had vanished.

Harry turned off the water and looked around the little room, noticing a mirror on the back of the door. He stood before it and gasped, covering his mouth.

In the mirror before him was someone he’d never seen before but was terrifyingly familiar. He was a younger version of James Potter, but with lighter skin, wider green eyes, and a smaller mouth. Gone were the blemishes and marks of servitude. His skin all over his body was soft and clean as ceramic. The blood blisters and petechiae that he’d grown used to seeing on his feet and shoulders were gone. Even his eyelashes seemed longer and fuller. His ribs still hurt, but the ugly green and blue bruises that had been there the night before had vanished, and his wiry muscles were softened by smooth skin over his torso.

Never before in Harry's life had he thought himself attractive, but even he had to admit that the stranger in the glass was beautiful.

Harry pulled on the silken shorts and robe that Remus had left him and opened the door to the two men. “Change me back,” he immediately ordered Remus.

“No,” Remus said firmly. “Definitely not. Harry – this isn’t some spell to make you attractive. This is what you really look like underneath—”

“No, this isn’t me,” Harry argued. “I’m not this – this—”

“Harry,” Remus said, putting his hands on Harry's shoulders and looking at him compassionately. “I know that you’ve been through a lot of changes recently, and it’s overwhelming. But you need to understand something – it’s not that you have been living one life and are now being pushed into a new life. The life that you’ve been living in Belfast has been a disguise for your true life here. You’re coming home. This is the real you underneath the mask that you’ve been forced to wear for ten years.”

A weight seemed to descend upon Harry, and his eyes dropped to the ground. This dream-like life, this world of magic and beauty, this fantasy of him having everything that the Dursleys had and more….How could he believe that this was real when his servant’s life had been so much more comfortable and simple?

“Come on,” Sean suggested. “Let’s get some breakfast, eh?”

“Yes,” Remus nodded. “Good idea. You must be starving. Come along. They serve food in the main baths. You can sit and relax and get some food in you. You’ll feel much better.”

Once again, Remus steered Harry along, and it was starting to feel like he was a sheep being led by a wolf, but Sean’s reassuring hand on his lower back kept him from fighting back. They went down a long flight of stairs and entered a large room in the basement with mosaic tiles forming mountains on the walls. Four spacious baths split the room, with men lounging comfortably along the shallow edges or wading through the deep centres. The steam gathered on the ceiling and flowed illogically toward the walls, returning to the water cyclically.

Sean grabbed a tray of fruits and citrus water, bringing it with them into a cool bath. They waded to the empty corner and sat down on the shallow edge while Harry remained in the deeper range, looking at his hands while he obediently chewed an apple slice.

“I don’t understand,” he finally said to Remus. “If this is how I really look, why…?”

“The guise, remember?” Remus explained quietly. “Dumbledore put a guise on you when you were a babe. I didn’t think it worked, since you looked the same at the time, but it must have taken effect slowly. They do that sometimes on children.”

“And those herbs and salts – they just washed it away?”

“It is magic,” Sean chuckled.

“Are you sure it didn’t change the way I looked?” Harry asked.

“Absolutely,” Remus nodded. “You looked a bit like your father before, but now the resemblance is striking. You have your mother’s mouth and eyes, and her hairline, too, but you look like him otherwise, though he was never so pale. That must be from Lily – or maybe just because you’re so clean.”

“It’s no wonder the Dursleys wanted to conceal you with filth,” Sean said. “It’s Cinderella, isn’t it? They thought that if they concealed you, then their loaf of a son would look better.”

“Excuse me.” Harry turned quickly and found himself facing a handsome boy with blonde locks clipped up behind his head, silver eyes focused on Harry. “Sorry – I was wondering if there was a hair pin in that corner. My father’s lost it. It’s silver with an emerald?”

Sean and Harry looked into the corner and noticed the shimmering pin just under the surface. Harry collected it and offered it to the boy, who smiled and accepted it.

“Ah, thank you,” he said in a musical Welsh accent. “It was a wedding gift from my mother. She’d have been furious if he didn’t find it. Draco Malfoy,” he introduced, offering a hand.

Harry hesitated before accepting it timidly. He wasn’t used to people introducing themselves to him – just barking orders at him or ignoring him. “Erm, Harry – Harry Ev – ahem – Harry Potter.”

“Potter?” Malfoy repeated breathily before grinning. “What kindness the fates have borne. Ah, I do believe we’re to be classmates this year at Hogwarts. You must be in the alley for school shopping.”

“Alley?” Harry questioned.

“Diagon Alley,” Remus said. “It’s the shopping centre just on the other side of the bathhouse. We’ll be going tomorrow.”

“Happy coincidence,” Malfoy smiled, his eyes sparkling. “Perhaps we could keep one another company, get to know each other. How comforting it would be to enter the school with a friend.”

“Friend?” Harry asked. He’d never had a friend before – at least, not one that didn’t work and live with him. Friends were for normal boys like Dudley. It was beyond him to expect friendship or kindness from strangers, another luxury he wasn’t….

“Ah! Are you okay!?” Malfoy asked worriedly. Harry felt a wave of dizziness and grasped his temple before noticing red in the water dripping down. He tasted copper late and found blood on his lips as though he’d bitten himself.

“Harry!?” Remus jumped, turning Harry to face him and looking into his face carefully.

“Is it the water?” Sean asked.

“I don’t know,” Remus said anxiously. “Come on, let’s get you upstairs.”

~~~

“That was refreshing!” Rose cheered as she returned to the suite, dropping her shoes and entering the sitting room where the males were, Marie and Amelia close behind. “That salon downstairs is fully equipped – finally got rid of those curls and those terrible cuticles – WHOA!”

“My goodness!” Marie exclaimed, looking at Harry. “Those are some waters!”

“Galloping Gargoyles – he really is James’ heir, isn’t he?”

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Remus chuckled.

“Are you okay?” Rose asked, noticing how clammy Harry looked.

“A little anaemic,” Remus assured her. “We should have had breakfast before the baths. He’ll be okay.”

“There was food in ours,” Amelia said.

“His colour’s come back after some meat and tea,” Sean said, pouring Harry another cup of the sweet floral tea that had been in the room when they’d returned. “Must have needed the iron.”

There was a knock at the door and Harry automatically stood, but Marie put a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll get it, you rest.”

“No, please,” Harry said, standing fully. “I need to walk.” They reluctantly nodded and Remus watched him carefully as he walked around the table and stepped into slippers to cross the courtyard to the doors. He opened it and found silver eyes upon him again. “Mr. Malfoy.”

“Please, Draco – I brought you some medicine,” he said, pressing a small vial into Harry's hand. “My uncle fainted in the baths last summer – too much heat – and he made this for himself. It tastes bitter, so I recommend adding it to tea or soup, but it’ll stimulate your blood flow and ease your temperature acclimation. And this,” he gave Harry a tiny round ceramic pot, “is for low minerals, which can cause nosebleeds. I wasn’t sure – I couldn’t see if you were bleeding from the nose, but I figured.”

“I…I haven’t money—”

“Oh, no need,” Draco chuckled. “I’ve enough money to last two lifetimes. I hope to be a healer someday, and you being a Potter – well, fates are indeed kind. Are you planning on carrying on your father’s practice?”

“Practice?” Harry repeated, blushing. “Oh. Um, I hadn’t thought about it, really. I didn’t know – well, until yesterday – him being a healer.”

“Didn’t know?” Draco asked, leaning on the closed door as Harry half-hid behind the open one. “Didn’t your Wen family tell you?”

“Wen? Oh, no. I – I haven’t met them. I grew up with my mother’s family.”

“The Evans’? Oh, I didn’t know. I thought they died years ago.”

“My aunt,” Harry said simply, holding the little medicine against his chest.

“I never knew your mother had a sister. That explains the Irish accent. I’ve never been to Eire. Is it true there are no snakes there?” Harry nodded and Draco smiled, looking up at the opening in the roof. “Looks like rain. Let’s hope it doesn’t pour tomorrow, or our shopping will be rather dreadful.”

Harry looked up at it as well and saw the droplets already descending onto the roof tiles. He breathed in the scent and grinned at the familiarity – at least that smelled the same even in Scotland.

“I love the smell of rain,” Draco admitted. “It smells like new beginnings. Apt, I suppose.” He brushed Harry's hair off his shoulder familiarly, surprising the other boy. “You haven’t done your ears yet.”

“Ears?”

“Right – you probably don’t know. It’s tradition here to pierce one’s ears before going off to Hogwarts, at least for Purebloods like us. I’m planning on doing mine this afternoon. Would you care to join me?”

Harry thought to his dreams of his father, and he couldn’t remember any earrings – of course, he still didn’t know what those dreams were or how accurate they were, but…

“I…I don’t think my dad pierced his ears,” Harry said, scratching his earlobe self-consciously.

“So?” Draco asked softly. “You don’t have to be just like him if you don’t want to.”

Harry looked up at him in surprise. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“I mean,” Draco rubbed his neck thoughtfully. “I just mean that you’re your own person, you know? You don’t have to do things or not do things just because of what your parents want or did.”

It didn’t feel like he was talking about James Potter or Lily Evans. It felt like he was talking about himself, and Harry felt a slight sadness for the boy. The look in his eyes, the shakiness of his pupils, the friendliness and kindness – it reminded him of Rose.

“Harry?” The boy gasped slightly and looked up at Remus, who was focused on Draco. “Everything okay?”

“Yes,” Harry nodded.

“You should get some rest. We have an appointment this afternoon.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Remember to mix that with tea,” Draco said, tapping the vial in Harry's hand. “It tastes awful.”

“Thank you,” Harry said as the blonde departed, waving over his shoulder. Harry closed the door and turned to find Remus right behind him, taking the medicine from him at once and examining it closely. “Um...he said it’s for fainting.”

“You didn’t faint.”

“And nosebleed—”

“You didn’t get a nosebleed.”

“I…he was being kind.” Harry didn’t look up at the man’s face. Quite suddenly, he felt like he was back at the Dursleys being questioned by Petunia.

“He’s a Malfoy, Harry. You can’t trust him so easily.”

“Why not?” Rose asked, joining them. “Who are the Malfoys?”

“Suspected Death Eaters,” Amelia said, making Harry looked up at her in shock. “Was that their boy?”

“Draco,” Remus confirmed. “He approached Harry in the baths, and then Harry quite suddenly was bleeding from the mouth and now he’s appeared with medicine.”

“Well, that’s awfully convenient,” she said disapprovingly.

“I didn’t see a spell, but his father could have cast it from afar,” Remus pointed out.

“But if he hurt Harry,” Rose said, “wouldn’t he have given Harry the right medicine to fix it?”

“It makes him look more innocent to give the wrong medicine,” Remus said, handing the vial and jar to Amelia, who examined them herself.

“I…” but Harry couldn’t say anything. What did he know, after all? He couldn’t tell a spell if he saw one.

“You should rest,” Remus said again, steering Harry back toward the sitting room. He turned toward the little tearoom and pushed a narrow door open to reveal a staircase. “There’s a suite up there with a nice futon. It’ll be more comfortable than the beds at the Leaky Cauldron – firmer and more like what you’re used to back at Privet Drive. Get some sleep, okay?”

Harry didn’t argue. He climbed the stairs and found three rooms in a row connected by sliding doors. The first had a table like the one below. The next, a low dressing table and a wardrobe. The last had the futon that Remus had mentioned, and Harry sat down on it to find it firm enough to be comfortable, but soft enough to still be as luxurious as the breath-taking view of the ocean through the window.

Draco had seemed so sincere and kind. Why would he want to hurt Harry? They’d only just met. It wasn’t as if Draco knew that Voldie-what’s-his-face. He was too young to have any sort of history with Harry's parents. And hadn’t he said himself that one did not have to live as one’s parents did?

For a moment, Harry had thought…but never mind…how naïve of him to think that he deserved….

~~~

A soft sliding noise was followed by the noise of chatter of people, the banging of boxes, the clinking of jars, and the swish of fabric, rousing Harry before Sean even reached the futon. “What’s going on?” he asked the former footman.

“Well, we all left without packing,” Sean explained. “Remus said that he was going to get us some clothes – I assumed he meant picking up some standard sizes.”

“What did he do instead?” Harry asked, throwing aside the blankets and standing up.

“What rich people do,” Sean muttered, rubbing his neck as Harry opened the door again.

An entourage of dressers, stylists, and beauticians were arranging trunks and screens in the two sparse fore-rooms of the suite. Rose was standing on a stool in the middle of the farther room, while a short woman in an exotic robe and eccentric hair was tapping on her with a magic wand. A herd of measuring strips were flittering back and forth from the girl to a mannequin, which seemed to be shrinking and moulding to replicate Rose’s form exactly. Her assistants were setting up the dressing table with tools of their trade from elaborate traveling vanities. Two girls were unfurling a bare wooden lattice that was mounted by hundreds of delicate fabric strips. All the while, Remus was leaning against the wall beside Harry's door investigating a magazine in Chinese.

“Good, you’re up,” the man said. “Madam Malkins needs to measure you.”

“What on earth is this!?” Harry demanded, catching all of their attention.

“It’s called a fitting,” Rose explained chipperly. “We need new wardrobes, ones that match the style of this world so that we’re in fashion.”

“Madam Malkins also needs to size you for your Hogwarts uniform,” Amelia noted, coming up the stairs with Marie. “Her shop is the official atelier for the uniforms.”

“Harry, look at this embroidery!” Marie beamed, showing him a beautifully sewn handkerchief. “They can do this with magic – just whip it up instantly. Isn’t it amazing!?”

“You,” Harry said, grabbing Remus and dragging him up into the bedroom, slamming the doors behind him. There must have been some magic on them because as soon as they were closed, he couldn’t hear the others anymore. “Are you insane? Do you have any idea how expensive tailoring and dressmaking is? Even if I got the full funds from Petunia that my father left her, I can’t afford an entire new wardrobe for everyone! And even if I could – it’s such a waste of money! We’ll just grab some standard sizes from a second-hand shop and be done with it. All of this nonsense is complete frivolity! I’ll be lucky if I can even afford to pay for this bathhouse and you want to tack on hundreds of pounds—”

“Harry!” Remus said, finally getting a word in after several attempts. “Stop! Money is the last thing that you should be worried about. Do you really think that James left Petunia his entire fortune? Don’t be ridiculous. The only money that I’ve given Petunia was the money left to Lily by her parents so that the Muggle records wouldn’t trace back to James and the Potter family. That’s not even scratching the surface on James’ accounts – trust me, I’ve been managing them for a decade. As for this bathhouse – this suite is free for you because your grandfather sold his recipes for the bath salts to the former owner. You haven’t spent a pence of your money yet. I paid for the Inn last night.”

“Ten years of no movement – I’m not a fool,” Harry argued. “Those accounts have surely shrivelled by now to nothing at all.”

“Have you never heard of interest? Your accounts have been accruing interest unrestrained for ten years – on top of the continuous income from your grandfather and great-grandfather’s businesses, and James’ income for his medicines that he created during the war. Even with the charity that Lily established for war victims and the one that James established for the hospital, you are still wealthier than the Malfoys and Notts put together. You could afford all of Diagon Alley easily and still have the funds to buy the White Star Line if you wanted.”

“Not with the way Petunia spends money—”

“Petunia has not had any access to James’ accounts. She only had the money that I gave her, which is tied up in Privet Drive at the moment. You have plenty of money to buy a new wardrobe.”

“I don’t need a new wardrobe!” Harry insisted. “What I need is a job—”

“Why?”

“What else am I supposed to do? I don’t know how to do anything besides work.”

“You’ll have plenty to do at the Manor once we get there,” Remus said, “and don’t forget about school – you start Hogwarts this year.” He took out the letter once again from his sleeve and Harry stared at it apprehensively. “You still haven’t opened it.”

“You open it, then,” Harry said, crossing his arms stubbornly.

“I can’t,” Remus said. “They’re your letters. You have to open them. There’s a spell on them.”

Harry sighed before snatching the letter and opening the wax seal, unfolding the sheet. Ink appeared gradually, the lettering slipping open and widening individually by character as if awakening from the depths of the page. The top of the page was dominated by the school’s boar seal with the title beneath in purple:

 

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Headmaster: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore,

OMF, Grd. Sorc., Chf. Wrlk., Sprm. Mgwp., Int. Confederation of Wizards

 

“Tart,” Harry immediately scoffed.

“Eh?” Remus frowned.

“Only someone quite all lured of himself would put his full name with all middle terms and a full list of titles on a letter like this,” Harry said dryly. “Arrogant prat.”

“Professor Dumbledore is hardly arrogant,” Remus defended.

“Oh really?” Harry challenged. “Then why does he feel the need to show a bunch of wee teenagers all of his titles and accomplishments like a bloody peacock unfurling his feathers – and as the first thing on the letter at that!”

“It’s tradition,” Remus blushed.

“It’s cocky as a brock git is what it is,” Harry rolled his eyes, his Irish accent getting thicker with his disapproval. “Sauntering wean melter, is he? Hasn’t a baldy notion of the impression he makes – or worse, he’s a bloody clotpole what inherited and has no concept of earned honour!”

“I don’t know half of what you just said, but I know it’s wrong,” Remus shook his head. “My goodness – you condemn a man you haven’t even met who’s reputation is unscathed, and yet you flirt with Malfoy easy enough after having just a moment with him.”

“I haven’t flirted with anyone, you sod!” Harry growled.

“Oh, lovely, you have your mother’s temper,” Remus sighed in frustration. “Would you kindly read the rest of the letter, or are you still determined to castrate the man who helped me save your life when you were a wee babe?” Harry's nose twitched before he looked back down at the letter.

 

Dear Mr. Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. The term begins on 1 November with new students to arrive on 30 October. We await your owl by no later than 30 September.

Yours Sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall,

Deputy Headmistress

 

“Aye – see, that’s an appropriate signature line,” Harry said, showing him the Deputy Headmistresses signage. Remus closed his eyes with a small smile and opened the letter to its final fold.

“There are your supplies. We’ll get most of them tomorrow, but right now, you need clothes, so will you please go out there and get sized?”

“Wait, what did it mean by owl?” Harry asked.

“I’ll take care of it,” Remus said, taking the letter and pushing the door open.

“Harry, there you are.” Harry looked over to find Draco sitting languidly by the window. “You didn’t come to the salon, so I thought I’d come see how you were doing. Do you feel any better?”

“Yes,” Harry said, approaching him and glancing around.

“New wardrobe, eh? Love the colour palate.”

“Over here, my dear,” Madam Malkins giggled, pulling Harry to the stool while Rose chatted with the girls over fabrics and magazine images.

“Just a moment,” Draco said, getting up and gracefully collecting a hair stick from the dressing table. He went behind Harry and carefully gathered up his long locks, twisting them around the stick and pinning it into the back of his head out of the way. “There you are.”

Harry's bangs slipped around his face naturally and he looked at Draco as the blonde returned to his seat under Remus and Amelia’s suspicious gaze. Madam Malkin bullied Harry onto the stool and her snake-like measuring strips began matching his terms to that of a new mannequin beside Rose’s.

“So – did my medicine help?” Draco asked, looking over a magazine page.

<I don’t know,> Harry said in Gaelic, catching the blonde’s attention. <Remus took them away at once because he thought they might be poison. Something about your family wanting to kill me.>

<Ah, yes,> Draco smirked, unperturbed and easily changing tongues with his peer, though with a musical Welch accent rather than Harry's bitter Irish one. <My father’s made some rather unfortunate political choices in his time. Thankfully, I get my good senses from my grandfather, who is blessedly still alive to protect the Lordship until I’m of age.>

<Political choices?> Harry asked.

<Voldemort promised freedom for Purebloods from Muggle oppression – a chance to live free and subordinate them for a change. Foolish,> he scoffed dismissively, <life’s more fun in the shadows and far less bloody. Not to mention, it’s more entertaining to rebel against them subtly. Just take our clothing for example – we don’t care to bend to Muggle fashions. They’re such prudes. Our men wear jewellery, our women wear trousers, and we don’t care about their self-righteous uniformity. Why, we even have men who live as women and women who live as men.>

<My,> Harry commented, stepping down from the stool and crossing his arms. <I had no idea mages were so threatened by Muggles that they had to rebel against them. I would think people with magic wouldn’t feel the need to distinguish themselves from those without in such trivial ways.>

<Threatened?> Draco laughed, his eyes twinkling with amusement at their exchange. <Why on earth would we be threatened by those useless rats? You misunderstand. They’re so powerless that they cannot dictate us in our style. Our distinction from them is not a rebellion against a superior force but a way to dismiss of an inferior presence.>

<Inferior!?> Marie exclaimed furiously. <I’ll show you who’s inferior, you—>

“Marie, love,” Sean restrained her. By the confused looks on Remus and Amelia’s faces, Harry had been right in his assumption that they didn’t speak Gaelic.

“I meant no offense, my lady,” Draco said, putting up his hands peacefully. “I simply mean that the Muggles are incomparable to us mages in our cultural norms. They live their lives by a two-thousand-year-old book, symbolically cannibalizing the corpse of a long-dead sacrifice. We, on the other hand, treasure life over necromancy, and value individual freedom and worth over penance and self-loathing.”

“There’s more to Muggle culture than Christianity,” Harry pointed out.

“As there is more to Mage culture than the Triple Goddess and Wheel of the Year,” Draco nodded. “My point is that we are motivated differently and express our values separately. It is to our credit and merit that we do not bow to the numbers and cruelty of Muggles, and our nobleness is shown in that we do not use our magical advantage to subjugate them. This, my father doesn’t understand.”

“I see,” Harry said, sitting down at the dressing table as he was bade by Madam Malkin.

“My dear, we need to know your preference for style now,” she said, offering a stack of magazines. Harry gasped as he noticed that the pictures in them were moving, the models turning in place to show their fashions and wares.

“See,” Draco said, pointing briefly to Harry's look of surprise. “Let’s see Muggles manage moving pictures.”

“Alright, that’s enough of that,” Remus said, approaching. “Thank you for coming by, Mr. Malfoy—”

“Yes,” Harry interrupted. “I could use you—” he stopped pointedly to look up at Malfoy through his eyelashes, “I mean, your expertise.”

Draco’s silver eyes danced as he smirked at the slip, and Harry tried to restrain his own grin. “Indeed, you could use me. Master Lupin has been out of the country for many years, and Madam Bones is guided in her tastes by propriety and purpose of profession. Allow me to offer a modern appreciation of sartorial taste. And in exchange….”

“Your interest in healing seems readily apparent,” Harry said. “Perhaps my family’s library would stimulate your clearly underappreciated intellectual demands.”

The blonde smiled readily, leaning on the dressing table toward Harry with his chin in his hand. “My dear Harry – how cunning you are. I am left naked and transparent under your keen gaze.”

“Let’s hope not,” Harry said, looking the mirror at his strange handsome face. “Your mask looks much better on your face than deposited by my grip.”

“Oh, but that is where we differ,” Draco said, gracefully sliding on one turn of his knee so that he was positioned behind Harry, able to share his vision in the mirror. “I am so very curious to see what lies beneath your mask. How very entertaining it will be to remove such an artwork from its frame.”

He slipped the hair pin out of Harry's hair, accepting the cascading locks and taking up a brush to tend to them, all with a satisfied smile on his thin lips.

~~~

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26 Apr, 2021 15:10

OMG! This chapter was just hilarious! I love the way that you wrote Malfoy and Harry. I am very interested to know where their friendship will grow and how it will develop.