Draco stared at the page, he was sure he had read the same paragraph four times. He had only been with Severus for a few days, but the boredom was beginning to drive him mad. The first day he had just sat around and sulked. The second day he had finished all his homework (with no help from his godfather, who had insisted it wasn’t fair to have a professor assisting him), and now he was just reading the same book about quidditch teams over and over.
“Severus…” He began, hating how whiney his voice sounded. He wasn’t a small child, but he was being treated like one.
“Draco, I know for a fact boredom cannot kill you. I’ve been a teacher long enough to know. If that were possible, Binns would be one of the biggest killers in the world.” Severus snapped, not even bothering to look from his own book.
They were letting a suite in the uppermost level of the Leaky Cauldron. The rooms were nice enough, clean, and full of well worn antique furniture, with plenty of soft blankets and cushions. The proprietor was happy to bring them anything they could want to eat, and Severus was able to get the newspaper and various books delivered form Flourish and Blotts. It would have been almost pleasant if it wasn’t for the fact Draco was beginning to go stir crazy.
“Hmm, boredom, the new unforgivable curse,” Draco mused, rolling over onto his back and draping the book over his face. “Well it’s novel at least.”
Snape snorted and finally put his book down. “Fine, fine, I guess you can go out for a little while. But you need to be a little less noticeably…”
“A Malfoy?” Draco supplied helpfully. “I know, we aren’t very popular right now but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.” He moved the book and pushed himself up into a sitting position.
Snape’s face took on a sharp look. “Well it is serious, and this is important. I can allow you to go out into Diagon Alley alone but you are not allowed, under any circumstance, to tell anyone you are Draco Malfoy. Your family twisted up in every plot in the Wizarding world in one way or another, either on your mother or father’s side of things. Right now, you’re a target.” He beckoned Draco over.
“You’re not going to make me do something awful like drink polyjuice potion with Longbottom’s hair or something are you?” Draco asked, approaching nervously. He wanted some freedom, but that would be a price too high to pay.
Snape shook his head. “No, nothing as awful as that I assure you.” Snape took his wand and tapped Draco on the nose twice and the top of his head once.
Draco blinked as the world took on a less crisp edge. “Glasses, really?” He pulled them off of his face and took a look. The glass inside wasn’t any real prescription, and the frames were thick black and grey tortoise shell.
“And a slight hair change. It’s simple but should be effective. As long as you don’t look like a miniature Lucius walking around no one should pay any attention to one child wandering around the alley out of dozens doing the same.” Snape wordlessly summoned a hand mirror and held it out for Draco to look.
Draco stared into the mirror, eyes going wide behind the glasses. He could barely recognize himself. Snape had switched his hair from it’s normal icy shade of blond to flat black, and the frames of the glasses obscured his grey eyes and high cheekbones. He reached up and touched his own face gently.
“I look like one of my cousins on my mother’s side.” Draco grimaced and pulled at a lock of hair.
Snape considered him for a moment. “Yes, like this you do look a bit like Regelus Black. But the point is, no one will see anything more than a soon to be third year doing some holiday shopping.”
Draco sighed. “Fine fine. I have some pocket money, so at least I can go and get a new broom maintenance kit.
“Just make sure not to use your real name,” Snape reminded him. “Maybe Orion? You look enough like his part of the family.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Fine fine, at least it’s not some silly muggle name.” he grabbed his wand and bag of money off of the dresser and hurried out before Snape could change his mind.
Outside the weather was lovely and despite the looming threat of serial killers on the loose, the alley was buzzing with activity. There were witches and wizards everywhere, shopping and talking and strolling as if they hadn’t a care in the world. It was nice, moving through the crowds, unnoticed. He had gotten used to the noise and press of people, between Hogwarts and his time at the Burrow.
It was also novel to be able to move through the throngs of people unnoticed. As a Malfoy, he had been used to a bit of attention whenever in public. His family was rich and powerful and, in many people’s opinion rather attractive. Going out usually meant being dressed and brushed and polished until he was perfect looking by some nanny, and then ordered to act perfectly while in public. Obviously anything less than perfection would have reflected poorly on the family.
Now, no one looked at him twice. It was freeing. The first thing he did was treat himself to a hand pie from a friendly looking witch selling them from a little push cart outside the bookstore. He bit into it and felt the crisp crust crumble down his shirt, and a bit of juice leak out of the corner of his mouth. He wiped it away with the sleeve of his shirt and smiled, knowing there was no one there to admonish him for being anything less than a perfect gentleman.
He spent the rest of the day enjoying his freedom. He pet every animal at the Magical Menagerie shop, heedless of the way the rat claws pulled at the fine knit of his sweater, or the way the cat shed on his pants. He walked out smelling faintly of hay and with a a bit of owl fluff stuck in his hair, but smiling wider than he had in days. He had always liked animals, but his parents had forbidden anything besides his eagle owl, which he needed for school. He had begged for a cat, but his parents had been firmly against such a thing, saying that animals were too messy to have wandering about the house.
He watched as a family with a younger child, probably a first year, picked out a frog for their son.
“Daaaaad, I don’t want a frog, I want an owl! All the other kids are gonna have owls!” the boy pouted, holding the amphibian between their thumbs and forefingers as if disgusted by it. “If I go in a with a toad I’m gonna end up in Hufflepuff for sure.”
Draco hid behind a row of owl cages and watched as the mother bit back a giggle and the father crouched down and explained to the boy why he couldn’t have an owl.
“Son, you didn’t feed the fish we got you, and you lost the rat you got for Christmas. You can have an owl if the toad makes it through first year, alright?” the son seemed rather unimpressed with the logic.
Then Draco perused the selection at Flourish and Blotts, even furtively sneaking into the Muggle Studies and Muggle Literature section, both of which had been strictly forbidden. Most of the books were unremarkable, books on muggle history where it had intersected with the magical world. He had learned about witch hunts as a child, the same way many magical children had. Many of the other books were guides of witches and wizards trying to explain their magical abilities to new partners, or primers for muggle born students to give to their parents.
He ended up furtively purchasing a novel from the muggle side of the store. A paperback with a dragon and a mountain on the cover. He had always been fond of dragon stories, ever since he was a toddler and learned what he was named after. The witch who sold him the book barely looked up from her own massive tome on ancient alchemy as she gave him his change, which was another interesting change. He ended up taking his new purchase and settling down outside Florean Fortescue’s ice cream parlor with a massive sundae. He knew he could have gone back into the pub and read with Severus, but it was nice to soak up some sunshine and people watch while he ate his treat.
He stayed there until the sun started to go down, finishing over half the book. It was a fun story, and a pleasant break from the endless educational texts forced on him at home. His grades, both first and second year, had been good, but lagged behind students like Hermione Granger. His parents had made it clear it was a matter of family pride that their son not be bested by some muggleborn who hadn’t even known about magic until she got her acceptance letter. His breaks were often consumed with time with half a dozen tutors, coaching him on everything from magical history to Latin and Greek.
When he got back to the room, Severus was much as he had left him, nose in a book. But dinner had been brought up, so they both took a break from their literary pursuits in order to consume the rather good takeaway curry Severus had ordered, and chat about the upcoming school year. They were just finishing up when there was a sudden hammering on the door. Snape jumped to his feet, wand drawn.
“Mr. Snape. There’s a bit of a situation going on!” Tom sounded slightly breathless, as though he had taken the stairs at a run. ‘You might want to come see.”
Snape opened the door an inch and peaked out. “What is it, what’s going on/”
“Well,” Tom fiddled with the strings of his apron. “It’s Harry Potter sir, he’s here.”