In November of Ron Weasley's first year at Hogwarts he sent a pair of socks home with the plea that his Mum might darn them for him; they came back two days later, un-darned, but with needle and thread and step-by-step instructions enclosed.
He's never let on to either Harry or Hermione, but he's gotten fairly good at mending his own things since then. And occasionally he's even mended some of theirs - Harry's usually, jeans that almost fit him or a t-shirt he likes. Probably Harry thinks the house-elves do it. Anyway, half an hour with a needle and thread more often than not means several more months wear out of a garment, and that's the important point.
Hermione differs with him on this.
"I don't care! I'm going shopping. Everything I own is bloodstained, or a school uniform, and I'm not an idiot little schoolgirl anymore!"
She's shaking a tattered t-shirt under his nose as she says it, and Ron flings his hands up defensively. "But you are going back to school."
"That's different! That's - that's about doing things properly. Actually no, it's not different at all, this is about doing things properly as well, and I'm damned if I'm going to show up for this briefing at the Ministry looking like something that's been dragged through a hedge backwards -"
"- which you only will if you forget to brush your hair in the morning -"
"- and then dressed in a scarecrow's cast-offs! I've got some money -"
"Congratulations," says Ron, patience snapping, "I haven't."
Hermione plants her hands on her hips. "If you -"
"Shut it. I won't. And you're gearing up to making some noise about a belated birthday present and I'll kill you if you do." He glares at her.
She huffs. "Look, just one outfit."
"So I don't embarrass you?"
"So the dozens of Aurors at Kingsley's bloody briefing take us seriously."
Ron looks at her.
"We can't afford to look like kids," Hermione says quietly. "Not even kids who won a war they ran away from. We've got to look like we're their equals, or we're going to spend the next few months getting into fights with them instead of rogue Death Eaters. They'll fight us, and we can't afford to be fought. It's too important."
Somewhat to Ron's irritation, he finds it difficult to argue with that. He'd like to, he's got some pride - all right, maybe a bit too much pride - and Hermione drops the t-shirt and puts a hand on his chest.
"Pay me back," she says. "Kingsley's put us on the pay roll for this, you know, so just... pay me back. Actually, no. I don't have that much money left. Let's both get the cash from Harry."
"Sponging off him," says Ron half-heartedly. It's fair enough that it's Harry's money paying for the rebuilding of the house, seeing as it's, well, his house. But he already forks out for just about everything else as well - food and drink and what have you.
"You think there is such a thing?" asks Hermione. "With us?"
Ron opens his mouth to argue with that, and finds, once again, that he can't. "All right," he says. "But when that money comes in -"
"With interest," says Hermione, and holds out a hand to shake.
She thinks about robes, and even tries some on, but it's odd how a single year can change her perspective on them so completely. She stumbles over them just in the changing room, and they hang heavily on her shoulders. She could run jump fight in them as easily as in her jeans, but Hermione finds she doesn't really want to anymore. She'll wear the uniform at school of course, but...
But no longer does she anticipate the day she gets to wear them every day, all the time, for no other reason than because she wants to. They were supposed to be a statement, she was going to wear them and say look, I've chosen my world.
It's just that the world she's chosen is more complicated than that.
Hermione eyes herself up in the mirror, watches the long dark blue robes fall to her ankles, and thinks she looks like Narcissa Malfoy, like Bellatrix Lestrange, like Death Eaters and wives of Death Eaters arrested and imprisoned. She looks at once assimilated and a poor imitation.
"They'll always be a uniform now," she tells her reflection. "Always."
She takes them off and leaves Diagon Alley with a purposeful stride. Hermione Granger has no intention of wearing a uniform outside of school, and she sees no reason why she ought to conform so hard to a society that almost destroyed her and everyone like her that she gives up her very clothing preferences for it. She likes wearing trousers and she likes wearing blouses; she likes skirts and boots and trainers and yes, goddammit, she likes wearing beige bloody trenchcoats that make her look thirty instead of eighteen, because she likes trenchcoats and they sodding well suit her.
Hermione marches into Muggle London and starts eyeing up pantsuits and smart skirts and jeans and blazers; she collects a small mountain of shirts and t-shirts and buys two new pairs of boots, working on the assumption that Kingsley's briefing is not going end in her being sent off to the Wizengamot in court shoes and a tiny handbag. And she buys socks and tights and underwear too, things she'd almost forgotten she could buy more of, with the intention to toss out every single washed out no-longer-elasticated pair of M&S undies she owns. Just about all her first paycheck is blown through in just two days. The only concession she makes to wizarding fashions is the long outer robe she also buys, cloak-like, to toss over her suits and swish dramatically around her ankles. It's red: obnoxious, obtrusive, attention-grabbing Gryffindor scarlet, and she loves it. (Whether or not she'll ever wear in in public is a whole other - and wholly unimportant - question.)
There's almost too much shopping to fit in the Floo with her.
"Bloody hell, Hermione," the boys chorus when she gets home.
"Did you buy all of London?" Harry wonders.
"Who," asks Ron, "is Laura Ashley?"
"Paws off," says Hermione. "I told you, I don't have a thing to wear."
"Well, you do now," Harry mutters. "Hermione, when are you planning on wearing all of this?"
"Whenever I want," says Hermione firmly, and shakes her new beige trenchcoat out of its bag. She yanks the tag off with a snap and swings it round her shoulders, and it falls just right, down to her knees. Fold it over and tie the belt and grin at the boys.
"It's nice," says Ron, straight-faced.
"It's a beige trenchcoat," says Hermione. "I look about thirty. And boring. And professional."
"Well, maybe a bit," says Harry.
Hermione breaks into the first proper smile she's worn all day.
"Perfect," she says happily.
The first thing Harry notices is how people in Muggle London look at him differently. If he catches someone's eye by accident they'll generally nod at him; the waiter in the coffee shop they stop at is more polite, more than one girl smiles at him. That's never happend outside of the wizarding world before. (Imagine, say, Lucy Prentiss from primary school smiling at that delinquent Harry Potter. And he used to run into her in Little Whinging fairly often; but apparently perfect strangers are prepared to do just that.)
He gets a good few looks in the Ministry, but Harry knows anybody does who wears Muggle clothes in here.
Kingsley blinks at him and nods, which Harry understands is an expression of surprise, although surprise at what he's not quite sure.
Anyway, he carries on buying new clothes - it's not just vanity, although maybe there's a touch of that. It's also more comfortable - he's been so used to wearing Muggle clothes that didn't fit right he had no idea what it was like to wear ones that do. He buys jeans he doesn't need to wear belts with and jumpers that don't need rolling the sleeves up, and, fascinated by this strange new wardrobe, forgets about robes entirely.
"Harry, dear, you do look smart," says Mrs Weasley approvingly.
She laughs at him. "Yes, of course. Although, if you'd just let me fix your hair..."
"I sort of like it the way it is, to be honest with you Mrs Weasley."
"Oh, but dear -"
"Muuuuum," says Bill, coming up behind her, "let him wear his hair any damn way he wants to."
She sighs. Bill winks at Harry behind her back.
"Besides, it'd probably grow back over night," Harry mutters, thinking of Aunt Petunia's scissors.
Hermione makes him buy a suit - an actual suit - for the trials, but Harry refuses to bother knotting a tie; it's as if there's a certain amount of time and effort he's prepared to put into this, and a certain amount he's not. He will not turn up to Lucius Malfoy's (second) trial looking like he spent ages fixing himself up in preparation to be there.
But wearing the Auror signet ring on his right hand is the most disconcerting thing of all. He catches himself playing with it, the weeks after he gets his official licence, twisting it round his finger and watching the light glint on it. He's never worn jewellry before, unless you count a Horcrux, which he doesn't. Yet Harry can't leave it alone not because it's uncomfortable, but because it isn't.
"Well, you know, you've wanted it since we were fourteen," says Ron.
"So have you," quietly.
Ron shrugs. "I'll get there," he says. "I will. I can't leave George now - not yet - and I need - well, maybe I need to prove something first. To me."
Harry twists his signet ring again. "I get that," he says.
"I know you do," says Ron easily, and Harry grins, and they finish their pints in silence while the pub bustles around them, and every now and then their knees knock together under the table.
If later pressed Ginny would have had to admit that it didn't really register with her until Christmas. She'd spent the summer grieving and giving statements and running around with the Aurors; then she'd gone to school (two weeks late this year, allowing for the paint to dry); then, at Halloween, and every subsequent Hogsmeade weekend, she'd had other things on her mind than what Harry was wearing. Specifically, what was underneath what Harry was wearing.
She felt reasonably secure in the assumption that he'd been thinking the same way.
Anyway, it was Boxing Day and they were at the Burrow, running around collecting presents and caps and lost gloves and whatever else; she was going back to Godric's Hollow with Harry, Ron and Hermione, and Neville and Luna had promised to come over, and George probably would if she had anything to say about it, and maybe Bill and Fleur, and the rest of the DA if they were really unlucky. And Ginny was standing in the hall buttoning her coat up and Harry came out of the kitchen swinging his own round his shoulders and she realised his shirt was crisp and new and pale blue and far tighter than she'd have thought he'd ever wear -
- except it wasn't tight, was it, it just fit.
He was wearing black jeans, and those fit too - fit really nicely in fact. Ginny paused a moment to let this register on her. She'd seen him naked four... five times now. But somehow this was a bit different. It was about... promise, and possibility. And, OK, showing off. (Possibly she was thinking exactly what he had this morning when she'd shown up in her new dress - the first she'd worn in at least a year, and sleeveless, so that Mum and Dad had both flinched to see her forearms.) If only he'd undo that prim top button on his shirt. And roll his sleeves up. She reckoned she could get him to make a habit of that, if she asked nicely.
And his boots were new as well; they didn't look it, having seen a certain amount of muddy wear and tear, but they weren't the sort he'd have gotten away with at Hogwarts, and for some reason she remembered the ones he'd worn at the battle quite clearly. Of course, every detail of his limp corpse lying in Hagrid's arms had imprinted itself into her brain rather deeply.
He caught her looking.
"Are those new glasses?"
Harry wasn't sure whether to grin or to go red. "It's pretty much new everything," he admitted. "I mean, Hermione sort of insisted cause at first we didn't have anything that wasn't falling apart or bloodstained, and then I kind of got the impression at work that one of the ways in which you instill confidence in the Wizarding Population of Britain that you're Serious and Trustworthy and Out To Protect Them is by not looking like a tramp or a juvenile delinquent, so... yeah."
"But you are a juvenile delinquent," said Ginny, straight-faced.
"Cleared of all charges, thank you," said Harry. "I mean." He settled the jacket - it was a comfortable, warm brown leather - on his shoulders more comfortably and tugged at the navy scarf that was dangling out of a pocket. "D'you like it?"
Ginny took the scarf off him and looped it round his neck. Then, because he was there anyway, she leaned up on tiptoe and said, "I might." Did he have gloves? Leather gloves? Fingerless, knowing Harry, like his Quidditch gloves.
Oooh. Thoughts were happening. That was interesting.
Harry leaned back and away from her. "If...?"
She grinned and kissed him. It took them a few minutes. Through the door and three feet away Ron and Hermione were arguing about something; Bill's laugh rang out, and Mum was divvying up the leftovers and foisting extra Christmas pudding on Percy, who'd always hated it.
Harry slid his hands under her coat and around her waist; when Ginny dropped back onto her heels he followed, bending over her. They kissed a leisurely, indulgant sort of kiss, the kind that didn't care if anyone was watching and couldn't be bothered to check the time to see if either of them were late for something; Ginny shimmied closer to him and rubbed at the soft leather covering his hips. He'd always been good-looking, in that thin, distracted, scruffy way. Now he looked like he knew it. As far as Ginny was concerned, it was the icing on the cake of her favourite Potter-trait: that insufferable smart-mouthed (smart-arsed) self-confidence.
"I might kind of like it a lot," she said into his mouth.