Harry took in a breath of the cool October air as he walked out of the noisy interiors of the Leaky Cauldron and its celebratory Friday night gathering of lovers.
Lovers of drinks, lovers of gossip, lovers of comfort - even if they only found it in the warm greasiness of their food - and all the lovers in love. Not holding back any public displays of affection. They were irritating him and he figured he was just envious. He couldn’t find it in his exhausted self tonight to care. With a feeling of heavy guilt and an even heavier heart, he snuck out quietly with his head down, and his feet took him toward the darkness of Nocturne Alley. He stopped before going in too deep at this hour of the night - both into the roads and inside himself.
There was no other way to look except up. The sky was moonless and clear, with a handful of bright stars to give some light to the blackness. Harry closed his eyes and took another deep breath, letting all his senses drown upward into the heavens.
It was time to go home. To leave behind the chaos of his mind and remember the peacefulness of the lonely night. As he walked away, a sharp sound, like a cloud blowing a whistle, made him turn his head around. There was a silver dragon, flying softly like a shadow between the stars, brightening the darkness with its powerful light. It was the most beautiful patronus that Harry had ever seen. The detailed scales of its skin, bellowing wings, and large eyes mesmerized him and he couldn’t stop staring until it slowly dissolved into the atmosphere. He continued to feel its magic long after it had left.
It was harder, and took him longer, to walk away from the darker side of Diagon Alley the second time.
The loud knocking woke Harry from the meticulous boredom of his paperwork. He also realized how dark his office was, and drew up the curtains before calling out, “Come in!”
Ron slowly opened the door, gave his friend an unsure expression and asked, “Am I bothering you, mate?”
“No, just filling in the details of the cases from the past month. I’m late on them, as usual,” he laughed, offering Ron an armchair on the other side of his desk. “What’s going on?”
“I’ll keep this short,” Ron continued. “There’s not much to say, really. I was assigned in Nocturne Alley this morning, for the illegal potion case. Well, I caught him, and as I cleared the area behind a dingy pub, I ran into some thick bushes with long branches.” Ron paused, swallowing hastily, “covering a body.”
Harry frowned, squeezing his eyebrows together in worry and confusion.
“I leaned down to look beneath the branches, and guess who I see? Draco Malfoy. In tattered clothes, matted hair, dirty and filthy all over. He didn’t smell too good either..”
Harry’s mouth dropped. “What?”
“Yeah,” Ron continued. “He looked awful. He was...I’m not gonna sugarcoat this, mate. He looked halfway dead. Barely breathing, and struggling to.”
Harry held his breath. He felt this chest restrict and swallowed the lump in his throat.
“I’m not sure why I’m even concerned, ya know? It’s Malfoy. I still remember all the awful things he did during school. Maybe he had this coming to him.”
“We don’t know what happened,” Harry said. “We should go see if there was foul play involved.”
“I doubt it,” Ron replied. “He looked like he’d been out on the streets for a long time.”
Harry took a few seconds to think of a way to show concern for dark activities, rather than being concerned for Malfoy himself. “Then I suspect this might be another illegal potion case or potion abuse. If he’s surviving somehow.”
“I couldn’t be sure,” Ron said faintly. “But it’s something that hasn’t left my mind all day. He looked like a right mess. Even I’m not that heartless. Maybe he’s ill.”
“Maybe,” Harry said, matching Ron’s tone; keeping any possible emotions buried inside himself. “I’ll go after I finish this. It’ll still be daylight for another couple of hours. Just to see if his life’s in danger. It’s the right thing to do, after all. Thanks for telling me, Ron.”
“Sure, yeah. I’ll see you tomorrow, Harry.”
“Bye mate,” Harry said, glancing down at his paperwork. He wouldn’t be able to concentrate. As soon as the door clicked , Harry urgently put on his coat, grabbed his wand, and apparated to the entrance of Nocturne Alley.
Harry felt the chilly air burn his face as he hastily pushed his way through the crowds outside the shabby pub. He had spent nearly an hour trying to locate the building according to Ron’s vague description. He realized it wasn’t Ron’s fault as the place had no name and really, no appearance of a proper, public gathering at all. It looked like a wooden fort that children would build; only much larger with black-painted logs and a few nails to ensure that it wouldn't collapse.
As he made his way to the back of the building, he noticed the bushes that Ron had described immediately. There were long low-hanging branches that fanned out over a paved walkway; but no body. Harry sighed in disappointment and frustration. He stomped all the way toward the end of a narrow alley, looking between the buildings on his right and the trees on his left.
Harry caught a small glimpse of blond amidst leaves and tree limbs. Draco Malfoy was on the ground under a thick cypress tree. He looked completely still, curled tightly onto himself as if trying to blend into the ground. Harry stepped closer reluctantly; afraid to discover him dead but remembering what his responsibilities were as an auror. He was filled with relief when he saw Malfoy’s chest move. It was labored and his shoulders shook slightly. When Harry was a few feet away from Draco’s body, he heard wheezing sounds with every pained breath. Harry silently stepped off the path and squatted on the grass. After watching two more breaths, Harry whispered, “Hey. Malfoy.” When Draco didn’t respond, Harry spoke a bit louder, “Malfoy!”
Draco quickly turned his head toward Harry. He blinked a few times before sitting up,looking alarmed. “Wha-?Potter?” His voice was hoarse and barely audible. Malfoy moved closer to the center of the tree, slowly and painfully. He leaned with his back against the trunk, pulling his legs towards his chest in a hug. “They ...they told me I can stay here.”
“Who? Told you what?”
“It was a couple of aurors, some weeks ago. They said it wasn’t illegal for me to sleep here.”
Harry looked down at the blades of grass beneath him and thought about what Malfoy was saying. “A couple of aurors caught you somewhere and told you to sleep under this tree?”, Harry clarified.
Draco coughed. “I was using the old wooden building just down there for shelter. They came in saying that it was bought and would be turned into a pub. They looked angry and annoyed,” Draco took a shaky breath. “I told them the weather’s getting colder and thought the building was abandoned. They said it wasn’t a public place but anywhere amongst the trees behind the buildings were.” Malfoy shook with either cold or fear, or both. Harry wasn’t sure. He looked desperately ill, way too thin, and his overall destitute condition broke Harry’s heart. His wore a few layers of frayed clothing with brown and black dirt dulling the original colors. His once bright blond hair was a tangled mess now; tinged with a layer of grey. He continued to wheeze.
“Can you stand up for a minute? I need to check something,” Harry said.
Malfoy looked apprehensive but did as he was told. Harry cast a few simple spells up and down Draco’s body.
“I need to take you to-”
“What?! I’m not carrying anything illegal! I’ll show you my pockets. And my wand, you can check my wand for spells,” Malfoy desperately said, stuttering and shaking as he spoke. He took out a wand from the inside pocket of his blazer jacket and Harry immediately recognized it. It was Narcissa Malfoy’s.“I barely use it. It doesn’t work that well for me for the simplest spells sometimes, much less a dark spell. But you can check.”
Harry sighed. “Malfoy, I’m not accusing you of illegal activity. I checked your health status. You’re showing some serious signs related to your heart and other organs that might endanger your life. I was saying I need to take you to St. Mungo’s.” Malfoy looked suspicious.
“I thought you were an auror, not a healer.”
“No, I’m not a healer. But we learn basic health spells that show us when someone is in a critical state. Nothing more detailed than that. The red light that you saw appear from the end of my wand was a warning.”
“I don’t want to go anywhere, but thank you,” Malfoy said, trudging away past the tree he was sleeping under a few minutes ago.
“Draco, wait!” Harry shouted, and the haggard man stopped moving. Harry suspected it was partly due to the use of his first name.
“Please. I won’t let them harm you or take anything away from you.”
“Except turn me away.”
“They’re not allowed to! Please..” Harry knew he was begging. “You’re going to die out here. The weather is only going to get colder and wetter.”
“I can take care of myself,” Malfoy said as loudly as he could in his precarious condition.
“Can I please help you to do that?” Harry quickly stalked toward Malfoy, grabbing his left shoulder and turning him around. “I still have your old wand. I had no idea where you were all these years. I tried to owl you a few times but all the letters were returned back to me unopened.”
Draco was silent for a moment. “There were special wards placed on the manor by the Ministry,” Draco replied evenly. “We weren’t allowed to receive messages or mail. No visitors either. The only person allowed to come through the wards was a healer that was employed by the Ministry itself because my mother was sick.” Draco took a rattling breath. “We were also given a ration of food that was sent by the same healer. We had to go through the goddamn Ministry for everything we needed. When my mother died, I was allowed to leave for a day to attend her funeral. I grew desperate being stuck in the manor alone for months after. I thought I’d go crazy. So I broke through the wards one day and ran to the cemetery. They found out, of course. And their way of punishing me was to confiscate the manor and everything inside.” He took another laborious breath. “They sold everything but I was able to take out whatever money I had from Gringott’s. It wasn’t much but I lived off of that for about a year, then ended up on the streets. I’ve been out here for a couple of years. I don’t know dates anymore. I can tell months by the changing seasons.” Malfoy shivered his way through his speech, looking down at Harry’s feet most of the time.
Harry was silenced by Malfoy’s tale. He felt intense anger and sorrow build inside himself but his mind was still focused on one thing.
“Please let me take you to the hospital, Draco. I’m going to have a little talk with the Ministry, I promise. I won’t let them get away with this. And I will return your wand back to you.”
Draco was still looking down. “Alright,” he softly uttered.
Harry stood and was greeted in the waiting room by Healer Goodridge, who had been examining Draco. She was in her mid-sixties, with a soft voice, yet a confident presence.
“Mr. Malfoy gave me permission to speak to you about his condition.”
“Yes, sure,” Harry said, sitting back down. She sat right next to him, with a small notebook in her hand.
“He told me he has been living in the streets for a couple of years, is that correct?”
“Yes, he told me the same thing,” Harry replied.
“I’m going to tell you the worst of it first, if that’s alright with you.”
“His kidneys are in a very serious state. Borderline failure. He has a urinary tract infection, and I believe this is what led to kidney damage. It was never treated, obviously, so it became worse, reaching his kidneys. He must’ve been in massive pain, especially being on the streets like that. I don’t know how he did it.” She looked down into her notebook. “The heart condition you detected with your spell is an irregular, rapid heart rate called tachycardia. He has high blood pressure, and this is likely the cause of the tachycardia. And it’s a possibility that all this was caused by the decline of his kidneys.”
Harry was breathing very slowly as he took all this information in, trying not to jump to any conclusions.
“And..um...what else?” he quietly croaked out, nervous to hear more.
“He has pneumonia. That’s what was causing his wheezing and trouble breathing. He has a fever of 40 degrees, which is in response to all the infections his body is trying to fight. He’s extremely dehydrated, malnourished, and will need to put on weight. We will treat the fever, pneumonia, and urinary tract infection as well, but the kidney damage and heart condition are permanent.”
Harry exhaled, looking down at his knees. The room felt cold all of a sudden and he wrung his hands together in cold sweat.
“He will need special potions to help flush toxins out of his body every couple of days, using a drip and administered by a healer. He’ll also need quick access to the hospital in case of an emergency. Since he doesn’t have a place to go, I suggest Willows of Peace, right outside of London.”
“That’s...uh...that’s a hospice, right?” Harry muttered nervously.
“Yes. They take really good care of people. And it's closer to the countryside and it’ll be a nice escape for him, and a contrast of what he’s had to live through.” She must’ve taken Harry’s silence for uncertainty and continued saying, “His situation is very critical, Mr. Potter. A few more days like this and he might’ve died. You found him just in time.”
Harry’s mind was addled with thoughts and emotions that put him in a state of panic. It took all his power to keep a calm exterior in front of the healer.
“If...if he were to be living somewhere else, would it be a greater risk to his health? If he was given everything a place like that provided?”
“If a healer would come to see him for the potions he needs and checks his vitals, no, it wouldn’t be a problem. He’s safe to apparate if he needs the hospital.”
“Can I see him?”
“I’ve sedated him to help him sleep. His body hasn’t properly rested for a long time. He’s hooked up to potions for the infections and it should be cleared up by tomorrow. I’ll show you to his room.”
Harry walked down the corridor with Healer Goodridge and followed her into a dimly lit room on their left. The windows emitted sunlight which slightly illuminated part of the room and spilled onto the bed Draco was lying in. Harry’s heart sank as he noticed how sunken Draco’s face looked; his mouth and nose covered by some sort of bubble charm that helped him breathe with less burden. Draco was completely still except for his chest that was slowly rising and falling. His long, blond eyelashes rested on top of his cheeks. His hair was entirely covered by a white linen hat and he looked much cleaner. Harry figured they used a cleaning charm since the smell of dirt and urine was gone and replaced by the aroma of strong medicinal herbs and tonics.
The healer’s voice was even softer. “I’ve told him everything that you know. We didn’t talk about the hospice though. Would you like to discuss that with him?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“No problem, Mr. Potter. I’ll see you both very soon.” She softly clicked the door closed behind her and Harry was finally able to release the breath he was holding. He sank into the armchair next to Draco’s bed, rested his elbows on his knees, pushed his glasses up into his hair, and slowly rubbed his flat palms on his face. He was tired. In every sort of way possible. He was furious and disgusted at the way the Ministry had treated Draco and his mother. They were responsible for this. Responsible for the damages that were slowly killing Malfoy.
It was hours later and already dark outside when Harry saw Draco slowly opening and shutting his eyes. He called in the healer with a button on the side of the bed. Healer Goodridge came in immediately and checked Draco using her wand. The bubble charm was released but his drips continued to operate. She handed him a small bottle with a blue liquid inside.
“This is for pain,” she said, handing him a glass of water right after. “Harry, would you like anything? Tea? Coffee?”
“No, thank you, I’m fine.”
She left the room, leaving them both by themselves.
“Were you sleeping on that chair, Potter?” Draco asked, groggily. Harry noticed a bit of a smirk on his face. Just barely.
“Yeah, why?” He answered, with a small smile.
“Your Auror costume looks incredibly uncomfortable. Don’t they have proper pajamas here for special visitors?”
“Draco. Shut up.”
Malfoy gave a small laugh and Harry noticed how beautiful his teeth were. Incredible for someone in his situation. Harry told him about the hospice that Goodridge had mentioned. Draco was silently staring right into Harry’s eyes, and Harry had to look away a few times from Draco’s intense gaze. The piercing and barely-blinking silver-blue dug into Harry.
“And she said that it was near the countryside, away from the streets you had to live on,” Harry continued.
Draco was silent in contemplation, then spoke..“I don’t hate the city. I don’t think inner chaos goes away by changing your location.”
There was a soft knock on the door and both men turned their heads at the same time. “Hello Mr. Malfoy. How are you feeling?” Goodridge walked toward the bed, checking his drips and temperature.
“Better, thank you.”
“Your temperature is back to normal, but the infections still have to clear before I can release you. Here’s a pamphlet about Willows of Peace. Think about it and let me know. Do you have any questions?” she said, smiling, and placing the brochure on his bedside table.
“Yes. How much time do I have?”
“For?” Goodridge’s eyebrows furrowed with her inquiry.
“To live. How much longer do you think I’ll last?”
Goodridge looked contemplatively at Draco, and gently said, “It all depends on your body, Draco. It could be anywhere from six months to six years. It all depends how much your body is willing to fight. But let’s hope for longer,” she said, giving his knee a soft squeeze and leaving the room.
Harry felt a strong lump forming inside his chest. Meanwhile, Draco looked like he was told something as simple as the weather forecast. He sat up a little straighter, fixing the hat on his head.
“I hope they didn’t throw away my clothes. That’s all I had.”
Harry was startled awake from his thoughts. “Oh! Forgot to tell you. I have them here. Your mum’s wand is in here too,” he said, pulling out a green cotton bag with the St. Mungo’s label on it from under his chair.
Draco gave a soft smile. “Thanks Potter. The only thing I’d like to leave with is this hat, because my hair’s a right mess. If they let me.”
Harry stared at Draco’s thin wrists and fingers. He felt a strong protective urge and finally said what he had been thinking about ever since Goodridge spoke to him about the hospice.
“I want you to come home with me.” There was a long pause and Harry started to wonder if he said something wrong.
“What?” Draco said, genuinely confused.
“Instead of the hospice. I asked Goodridge, and she said it will be just as safe as long as we have a healer come by every couple of days for treatments.”
“Like they did with my mother…” Draco’s words were barely audible but Harry heard every bit of it.
“I don’t want you to be stuck at a place where you don’t know anyone and can’t leave. I have extra rooms at Grimmauld Place and I’ve renovated the whole thing. It looks like a modern muggle townhouse but with all the magic still intact.”
There was a nervous, long pause again.
“What do you think?” Harry probed.
“Let’s try it. If it doesn’t work out, I have this place to fall back to,” Draco said, picking up the pamphlet from the side of his bed. “I just don’t want to get in your way.”
“You won’t,” Harry quickly replied.
“Thanks Potter. You’re a hero.” Draco looked away from Harry’s eyes, and Harry couldn’t help but smile.
“ Oh, Harry, one more thing. Here’s a booklet for what foods are best for him. It’s a tricky situation because he’s so malnourished that I don’t want to put any limitations, but we need to be careful with his kidneys,” Healer Goodridge said while standing up, to lead Harry out of her office. “Please firecall me if you have any questions. Healer Stevens will be at your place the day after next.”
“Thank you so much,” Harry said, shaking her hand.
When he got to the room, Draco was sitting in the same armchair that Harry had been using. He was still wearing the white hat and a white cotton button-up shirt with matching trousers that the hospital had loaned. He was holding the green bag with his old clothes against his chest and looking down at the floor.
“Hey,” Harry said, slowly approaching him. “You ready?”
Draco looked up with a half-smile. He stood next to Harry, very close to touching him. Harry could still smell the medicinal aroma off his skin. He held Draco’s wrist reluctantly, afraid to hurt him. He almost released him back when he felt the fragility of his bones and thin skin. He tried again more gently, and apparated them both to his doorstep at Grimmauld Place.
Draco took a few steps inside after Harry, but remained close to the umbrella stand near the front door. Still clutching the green hospital bag filled with his dirty clothes against his chest, he scanned the living room in front of him.
“Is it alright? Too strange looking?” Harry asked, graciously.
“Huh? No! No, not at all,” Draco replied, coming out of his stupor. “I just...haven’t been inside a home in years.” He continued to look around, walking further inside. “It’s very lovely, actually. Leaning towards muggle-ish, but not bad,” he said, smirking a bit at Harry. He quickly looked away when Harry smirked back. “It smells lovely too. Very ...homey, Potter.”
Draco made his way to one of the blue armchairs and sat down to unlace his shoes.
“I made chocolate cookies a couple of days ago. Never opened a window so I guess the smell stayed inside.”
Draco wasn’t paying attention to Harry’s words.
“Sorry, they’re so filthy. They were my most comfortable pair and now I think I’ve worn them to death.” Draco said, his voice permeated with embarrassment. He put his Oxford-style shoes by the leg of the armchair, away from view. The thick, brown fabric had frayed holes near the toes and next to the heels. They had several old stains and the laces were near breaking point. Harry kneeled down and brought them back into view. He cast a few spells and repaired them to look nearly new. Draco smiled, looking up at Harry.
Harry smiled back, his cheeks reddening. He couldn’t keep his eyes on Draco's so he looked at his beautiful teeth instead.
Harry led Draco up the stairs and into one of the empty bedrooms in the corridor.
“This one has been my guest room of sorts,” he said, leading Draco inside. It had a single bed with an olive green duvet and matching pillows. The windows to the left of it shed light through thin, translucent curtains; creating a dim atmosphere. There were a few pieces of furniture made with the same type of light wood as the bed. Oak, or pine, Draco figured.
“Can I wash those for you?” Harry asked, motioning his hand toward the bag Draco still held at his chest.
Draco looked down, frowning. Potter would have to touch his filthy clothes. Clothes that haven’t even seen a cleaning charm in months, much less soap and water.
“They’re...um...are you going to use a charm? Maybe I can try with my wand?” He continued to stare at the floor.
“Oh! No, I use a washing machine. It’s a muggle device. You just throw in the clothes with the detergent and it does the work for you. It does a more thorough job than a cleaning charm, it’s great,” Harry said, reassuringly. Draco looked up, with a half smile. “Thank you. They’re so filthy, as you can imagine-”
“It’s alright. Really.” Harry said quickly to save him from having to explain further.
“Hey, can I...uh...use your bath?”
“Yes, of course, sorry, yes this way.” Harry quickly stepped out, ready to lead Draco farther down the corridor. Draco followed him, leaving the bright green hospital bag on the bed.
Harry led Draco into a decently sized bathroom with a tub, sink, toilet, and a large mirror. It would have been a laughing matter to Draco back in the heyday of Malfoy Manor, with its excessive, opulent, and enormous bathrooms on every floor. But now, this was heavenly. All he wanted was a warm bath. He had dreamed about it, yearned for it, on so many cold nights hiding away in the corners of dirty streets. He tried to fight back the tears that he felt gathering around his eyes. Harry was looking through a cabinet under the sink.
“Here,” he said, turning to face Draco and handing him a large white towel. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, fine. Sorry,” he said, slightly shaking his head. “Thank you.” He walked immediately toward the bathtub as soon as he took the towel; in order to avoid further questions from Harry.
“I’ll be downstairs. I’m going to make dinner. I’ll see you soon.” Harry left, softly smiling and gently closing the door behind him.
While the water was boiling on the stove, Harry decided to look through the booklet and potions with Goodridge’s instructions. He walked to the cupboard to grab a box of pasta, still holding the booklet in his non-dominant hand and continuing to read.
Submerged almost completely inside the hot foamy water, Draco had his head rested on its side, using his right arm as a pillow, with his eyes closed. He had changed the water three times already; making sure all the dirt, bad smells, and dreadful memories were washed off of him. His hand swept across the back of his head, and he remembered the tangled mess of his hair. It felt like steel wool against the sensitivity of his wrinkled fingers. Draco decided he didn’t care. He wasn’t trying to attract a mate or anything - he only wanted to get cleaned. He was awakened from his slumber by the soft knocking on the door.
It took Draco some time before he answered; still sleepy from the bath. He cleared his throat.
“May I come in?”
Draco quickly checked the bath water, making sure the foam was thick enough to cover his body. “
Harry walked in cautiously, gently closing the door behind him.
“Is everything alright? You’ve been here for a couple of hours.”
“Yeah...I just ...sorry I...really needed-”
Harry immediately realized his mistake. He should not have questioned someone who hadn’t felt the comfort of warm water on his body in years.
“No it’s fine! I mean...take as long as you’d like. I don’t mind. Is there anything else you need?”
Draco sighed. Both from relief and exhaustion.
“I don’t think so. My hair is an awful mess. Maybe I’ll shave it off and start over with it.” He didn’t miss the slight frown on Harry’s face.
“I have something that might help,” Harry replied, turning to rummage through the potion cabinet next to the mirror. He walked over to Draco with a bottle and a wooden comb. He put them on the edge of the tub near Draco, picked up and moved a stool nearer to the bathtub, and sat down on the stool side by side with the bottle, comb, and right next to Draco. Draco picked up the bottle and read the label to himself.
Sleekeazy’s: Hair Potion and Scalp Treatment Suitable for All Hair Types.
“It was invented by my grandfather. I didn’t know him but this quadrupled the family’s wealth I was told,” Harry exhaled sharply, as if to laugh.
Draco was still looking at the bottle, turning it around a few times and watching the dark brown, oily liquid gliding against the glass.
“Here, let me show you,” Harry said, gently taking it from Draco’s hand and popping off the cork. He put a generous amount onto his hand and smeared it on top of Draco’s head. The contact made Draco jump and his eyes grew slightly wider for an instant.
“Sorry, here. You can do it if you’d like. I thought it might be hard to see and I don’t have a hand mirror.”
“It’s fine, Potter, I don’t mind.” Draco double checked the current bubble placement and sank into the tub a little deeper, his chin almost touching the surface of the water. Harry continued to apply more of the potion onto Draco’s hair, covering it entirely with the gooey liquid. Then Harry used the wooden comb, which easily passed through the strands. He rinsed off the excess grease using an empty jar on the other side of the tub to pour some of the bath water onto Draco’s head. He used his fingers to arrange the hair in place and Draco felt his scalp tingle at the sensation. It had to be because of the potion, he thought. He was thankful he was underwater because he didn’t want Harry to see the goosebumps running down his skin.
“It looks great,” Harry said smiling. “You have nice hair, Malfoy, I’m jealous.” He smirked and got up to put everything away. “Dinner is ready, you should come down.”
“I look like a giant prune. Don’t get scared.”
“Oh, and your clothes are washed. I left them on your bed. I also set out some extra clothes and pajamas for you.”
Draco looked up at Harry, his heart beating strongly in his chest.
“Thank you. For everything.” Draco felt his face flush. Both from the heat of the water and the warm smile on Harry’s face.
As soon as Harry was gone, Draco got out of the bathtub, unstopped it, and wrapped the fluffy white towel around himself. He wiped off some of the steam on the mirror to look at his hair. It looked immaculate. He needed a haircut but there wasn’t a single piece of hair that looked damaged or out of place. He ran his fingers through his damp hair, remembering how it felt when Harry was doing it. He didn’t know whether it was his newly diagnosed heart condition or Potter’s generosity that made the thumping in his chest go a bit faster.
When Draco got to his room, his clothes were laid out perfectly on the duvet. They smelled like lavender and felt soft and clean. His frayed blazer jacket, threadbare undershirt, battered trousers, and old socks with various sizes of holes in each one looked odd against the plush duvet. The elastic band on his cotton boxer-briefs was so damaged, it barely stayed up his body most of the time. In reality, every piece of his clothing was absolute trash and not worth trying to save or mend. But Harry had treated them with such enormous respect, as if it had a lot of value. Draco felt a lump forming in his throat at the man’s consideration. He eyed the other clothes next to them. They were Potter’s, he could tell. There were several pairs of socks, multiple pairs of underwear, a couple of shirts, trousers, and flannel pajamas. Draco couldn’t remember the last time he felt clean and bathed, much less the last time he changed into washed and nearly new clothing.
He walked downstairs wearing Harry’s clothes. Grey cotton trousers loosely hugging his hips and a blue knitted jumper sagging around his shoulders. But the pants and socks fit just right. He hadn’t felt this pampered in a very long time. Potter’s clothes felt brand new on his body.
Harry was standing next to a small dinner table near the kitchen. He smiled upon seeing Draco and started to serve him first. They both sat down at the same time across from one another. The food looked incredible and smelled delicious. There was a pasta dish with a red pepper sauce, stir-fried vegetables, cucumber salad, garlic bread, and a glass of water with condensation building on the outside. Draco felt overwhelmed.
“Harry, I...this looks great, but I don’t think I can eat all this.”
“Eat as much as you can. Slowly. The healer said it’ll take time until your system adjusts to eating normal-sized portions. Try everything, but I don’t expect you to finish it. I won’t get angry, I promise,” he said smiling.
Draco sighed and decided to get everything off his chest.
“Potter, I’m going to say this in case I look like a fool. As you probably already figured out, I haven’t had a bath, new clothes, or proper food in a very long time. This all happened out of nowhere and I don’t know how you found me, and not just that, but you decide to take me inside your home, give me my own bedroom, new clothes, a hot bath, fix my hair, and cook a meal. I did not expect my life to change like this overnight and certainly not by someone I know from school and have a less than pleasant history with. I don’t want to pretend that our past doesn’t exist.”
Harry was silent for a moment.
“Draco. I remember everything from school and the war. I haven’t forgotten.”
Now Draco was silent, waiting for Harry to continue.
“And what? Right now we’re here. We can mention the past when we need to or when we have to. We can’t deny it. But right now, we’re here. I don’t want you to feel awkward about it. What happened to you could have happened to anyone. What the Ministry did was wrong. I know I’ll lose my temper when I talk to them, so I’m going to have to plan this and do it at the right time. They’re not getting away with it.” Harry took a sip of his water, looking at Draco.
“Do you want anything else?”
“No, thank you. This is more than enough.”
“Good. Now stop trying to express your gratitude so much. I know you appreciate it and I’m not looking for extra recognition, okay? Don’t feel obligated to thank me for every little thing. I want you to feel like this is your home too. I needed a housemate anyway,” Harry said, winking and smiling.
Draco took a bite of the pasta and closed his eyes; his memories being evoked by the flavors he was tasting. The simple pleasure of enjoying good food and not merely eating anything he could find to survive.