In the aftermath of the war, the Ministry of Magic was… well, honestly, calling it a wreck would have been a bit of an understatement. There were hundreds of Death Eaters and other supporters of Voldemort in custody or on house arrest, including a good portion of the Ministry’s staff. Many claimed to have been Imperiused, of course, but voluntary Legilimency testing had quickly called into question the veracity of a good number of those claims—mostly because anyone who hadn’t actually been under the Imperius curse tended to refuse the testing altogether. It was rather damning to reject the only way to prove one’s innocence, after all.
Many other Ministry workers had unfortunately died, and even more had—not to put too fine a point on it—said a firm “fuck this” to government work entirely (now that they were unlikely to be murdered for doing so) and retreated to country homes or to live with relatives outside of the UK. Not that anyone blamed them, of course. Daily fear for one’s life was certain to put a bit of a damper on a person’s enthusiasm for their work, after all.
Meanwhile, poor Kingsley Shacklebolt had been pressed into accepting not only the role of Acting Minister for Magic, but also that of Interim Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. There would, hopefully, be other candidates to fill either or both positions soon, but for now… well. Gawain Robards had only been promoted to Head of the Auror Department two years ago, so it was probably a bit early to ask him to head the entire DMLE, and no one really had the time to find anyone else at the moment. Overall, to say that the Ministry was “understaffed” and that Shacklebolt was “overworked” would be a monumental understatement.
It was only because of all this that Harry Potter convinced himself to bite his tongue as an exhausted looking Kingsley gave him his newest assignment: Muggle Liaison to Draco Malfoy as he served out his sentence of a year living as a Muggle. “I’m sorry, Harry,” Kingsley sighed as he handed Harry the details of the job, “but I can’t think of anyone else who would be fair with him.”
Harry, sure that couldn’t be true, ran through a mental roster of the other temporary Ministry employees that had joined him in the months following the final battle to help get things in order and quickly drew a blank. The official Muggle Liaison Office had been one of the hardest hit by the Voldemort regime, so there weren’t many permanent employees who could take on the task, and there were a lot of people with similar sentences who also needed Liaisons. Malfoy, however, was the only one who was Marked and was therefore the likeliest to be harassed by anyone adversely affected by the war, which was… well, all of them. Harry let out a defeated sigh of his own and accepted the packet. “Right. I’ll just… take a look at this, then,” he answered resignedly. The palpable relief evident in Kingsley at his answer assured him that he was making the right call in not arguing, despite his desperate wish to do so. It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than being trotted out as a public figure every day, he supposed.
And so, the next day, Harry found himself at the door of a flat within a rather posh building in Mayfair. He snorted to himself; the flat probably cost twice as much as the cozy two-bedroom he and Hermione were sharing above a restaurant in Covent Garden, near the entrance to Diagon Alley (Ron had moved back in with his family temporarily, as they needed the help, and Hermione was insistent that moving in together at the very beginning of their relationship was a recipe for disaster). But even in the Muggle world, he supposed, a Malfoy was still a Malfoy—even if he had seemed to have a change of heart about his allegiances once the war began in earnest.
Malfoy and his mother were part of a small group of people who had been sentenced to “rehabilitation” after the war—one of many criminal justice reforms introduced by Hermione in her new role as advisor to Kingsley and the Wizengamot. As it had quickly become evident that Azkaban had nowhere near the capacity to hold all of the people who had committed or facilitated crimes during the war, Hermione—with the help of several other Muggleborn wixen—had quickly stepped in to explain several aspects of Muggle law enforcement to the Ministry. Taking the opportunity to attempt to remedy the harsh, uncompromising Wizarding justice system (neither she nor Harry had forgotten Hagrid being held in Azkaban while he was simply being investigated in the opening of the Chamber of Secrets), she had quickly begun introducing concepts such as rehabilitation, restorative justice, and house arrest.
As a result, only Voldemort’s inner circle and collaborators who could be proven to have personally (and voluntarily) committed severe crimes had been sentenced to time in Azkaban. Those who had acted under duress and those who had merely facilitated crimes—either by looking the other way or by providing things like information or access—had largely gone into Hermione’s proposed rehabilitation program, where they were to live in the Muggle world for a set amount of time while wearing a magic-dampening ankle bracelet (quickly devised by the Unspeakables after Hermione had explained the concept of house arrest to the Wizengamot) without contacting any of their similarly-sentenced peers. Supposedly it would teach them to value Muggle lives, although Harry had his doubts about how effective it would be.
The liaison program had been put in place to help those sentenced adjust to the Muggle world since, given their opinions on Muggle-kind in general, they were unlikely to know even the tiniest thing about living without magic. Some people had been in favor of leaving them to sort it all out on their own, but in the end, the idea of dozens of confused wixen breaking the Statute of Secrecy left and right had shut that argument down fairly effectively.
Bracing himself, Harry knocked on the door. Today would probably be the hardest day of his assignment, since he was supposed to show Malfoy the ins and outs of Muggle life, and therefore would have to spend a good deal of time with his former nemesis. After this, he only had to come by when Malfoy called him with specific questions, which shouldn’t require much interaction. Tapping his fingers against his thumbs nervously, he waited for the door to open.
When it did, Harry was surprised at the appearance of the Malfoy heir. When Harry had last seen him, at the final battle, Malfoy had been gaunt to the point of looking ill and even paler than usual, with dark circles under his eyes and blood and soot streaked across his face. His gaze had looked almost dead. Now, however, the blond looked… well, good. Although he was still slim, he had filled back out to healthier proportions. His skin was clear and smooth and no longer nearly-translucent. His hair had regained its luster and was cut short and carefully styled, although not with its former helmet-like severity (much to Harry’s chagrin, as the new style caused his strong jaw and high cheekbones to look unfairly modelesque rather than unappealingly pointy). His clothing was not only Muggle, but also stylish and rather more flattering than Harry thought should be allowed after so many years in somewhat shapeless wizards robes. Still, he supposed it made sense that Malfoy looked so much better now than he had in May, since he and Narcissa had been held at the Manor while the higher-profile trials were taking place and had not been deprived of their surviving house elves in the intervening months.
When Harry finally finished his unintentional perusal, he noticed that Malfoy’s trademark smirk had also returned, causing heat to rise up Harry’s cheeks as he realized just how long he’d been gawping. The familiar silvery-grey eyes, however, showed trepidation rather than smugness, reminding Harry that neither of them were at all who they had been the last time they’d had any sort of meaningful interaction.
“Potter,” the blond said, his tone unreadable.
“Err, hi,” Harry greeted him awkwardly. “So, they probably told you I’m your Muggle Liaison?” Draco nodded the slightest bit, so Harry continued. “Right, so, I’m here to explain the basics. It hopefully won’t take too long.” The pair continued to stand, staring uncomfortably at one another, but Malfoy gave no indication that he intended to move aside, forcing Harry to finally press forward with a “So… can I come in, then?”
This seemed to remind Malfoy of his manners, and he stepped back, gesturing. “Of course, please come in. My apologies.”
Harry glanced over the flat as he entered, taking in a clean and elegant, if not particularly homey, space. “Wow, you got set up pretty fast,” he observed. Malfoy had only moved into the building that morning, supposedly, and his ankle bracelet had already been activated, so Harry was a bit confused as to how he’d managed.
“It came furnished,” Malfoy returned dismissively. Well, that explained the complete lack of personalization, anyway.
“Ah,” Harry said. “Right. Okay. Well, what do you know so far about how everything works in here?” Draco’s mouth thinned into a straight line, and he didn’t respond. Harry sighed. “Right. Square one, then.”
What followed was a brief walk through the flat, which didn’t have much that needed explained other than light switches until they reached the kitchen. There, Harry began pointing out the various appliances and fixtures and explaining what they did. “This is the electric kettle, you use it for heating water for tea. This is a microwave, it heats food quickly, and these are the oven and range. The inside is for cooking things like roasts or cakes or whatever; the top is for things like soups or fry ups. It’s also electric, so there’s no fire or anything, and these knobs and buttons at the back turn the heat on and off and change the temperature. There are probably manuals around somewhere, so we’ll find those before I go so that you can learn all the details. Unless you want me to show you?”
This earned a halfhearted sneer from the blond, who had been largely silent during Harry’s explanations. “I’m perfectly capable of reading a book and following directions, Potter. I’m not the one who barely passed Potions.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he said, trying to hide his exasperation, “moving on. This is a dishwasher—you can wash your dishes by hand, of course, if you prefer, but this is easier if you’ve got a lot of things to wash at once. And this over here is the washer/dryer for your clothes. It doesn’t press them, though, so if you want things to be as… sort of precise, I guess?...as you usually wear them, you’ll need to iron them. There probably isn’t an iron here, though, so we might have to buy one if you want it. That’s about it in here.”
Finally, they ended in the sitting room, where Harry tried and failed to explain the television. “Well. I guess it’s not that important if you’re not interested anyway,” he said, giving up when Malfoy still seemed completely confused about why you would want moving pictures with your wireless dramas after several minutes of Harry attempting to explain films to him. Setting the various appliance manuals they’d discovered on the countertop so that Malfoy could look through them on his own, he let out a breath. This hadn’t been so awful. Malfoy had been unnervingly quiet, but at least he hadn’t been antagonistic or argumentative. “I assume you’ve already figured out Muggle money, since you got yourself set up here okay and bought clothes?”
Malfoy nodded. “Before I was moved here from the Manor, I was escorted to Gringotts. The Muggle Exchange department set me up with a small rectangle that allows me to access my vaults from Muggle shops.” Grudgingly, he admitted, “It’s actually rather ingenious. I’ve no idea why Wizards haven’t come up with something similar so that we don’t have to carry sacks of gold around with us all the time. It’s a rather inconvenient system.” Harry found himself cracking a small smile, which seemed to throw Malfoy off, judging by the way he turned his head so as not to look directly at Harry.
“Okay great. So, one last thing, and then we should be set. I’m supposed to teach you how to use the telephone so that you can call me if you need help with anything or have questions.”
At this, Malfoy looked almost intrigued for the first time. “Call? Like a floo call, you mean?”
“Sort of. It’s only for talking, there’s no faces or anything, but you don’t have to kneel on the ground, either, so overall I like it better.”
“Hmm. So more like a Patronus message, then.”
“Except you can hold a conversation. Here, let me just show you. I’ve got my mobile with me, so you can call me right now and see how it works.”
“Mobile… you know what, nevermind. Let’s just do this.” Harry gave Malfoy a pointed look at his irritated tone, and the other man sighed, sounding put-upon as he added, “Please.”
Trying to hide a grin, Harry showed Malfoy where the phone was mounted on the wall. “So, you take the phone off like this,” he picked up the receiver, “and then these numbers here are how you tell it who to call. So, for instance, my phone number is…” he thought of the 10-digit string of numbers and changed his mind. “Do you have a pen and paper? I’ll write it down for you.
“I’ve got a quill and parchment, will that do?”
“For now,” Harry answered. “Muggles definitely don’t use those, though, so you should get some pens or pencils and paper pads soon if you don’t want to stand out if a Muggle comes over for some reason.” Malfoy looked skeptical at the idea, but left the kitchen and returned momentarily with the writing implements. Harry wrote down his number, trying to keep his chicken scratch handwriting as legible as possible, and then handed the parchment to Malfoy. “Okay. I’m going to go into another room. You press those numbers on the phone and then press the button with the phone picture on it, and it will call me. Hold it up to your face like this,” he demonstrated the correct position for the receiver, “and you’ll be able to talk to me. Okay?”
“Okay,” Malfoy answered. He looked slightly overwhelmed, but determined.
Harry went into the small office at the other end of the flat and waited for his mobile to ring. Surprisingly quickly, it did so, and Harry pressed the button to accept the call before bringing his phone to his ear. “Hello?”
“Potter?” came Malfoy’s surprised voice.
“Yes! Well done!” Harry responded, genuinely pleased at how successful Malfoy’s first attempt had been. “And you didn’t even yell! The last time I taught a wizard to use a phone he about blew my Uncle’s eardrum out by screaming into it.”
“Well that was foolish of him; it’s not as though this is difficult,” came Malfoy’s smug response, although he didn’t quite succeed in sounding derisive over his obvious pleasure at succeeding in the task.
“Yes, well. Not everyone picks up on Muggle things as quickly as you,” Harry found himself teasing.
“Shut up, Potter,” Malfoy answered, although he sounded more amused than annoyed.
“Alright, I’m hanging up now. Put the receiver back into the cradle on the wall and it will disconnect. Be right back.” Harry hung up and put his mobile back into his jeans pocket before heading back into the kitchen, where Malfoy was smiling to himself, although he schooled his features upon Harry’s reentry. “Right, so,” Harry said, “now you’ve got my number, and you can call me if anything goes wrong.”
“I’m sure I’ll be just fine, Potter,” Malfoy responded, his voice once again flat, as though trying to make up for his slip.
Harry sighed, but shrugged internally. He doubted he’d be hearing from Malfoy anyway, so he supposed it didn’t matter if they were particularly cordial. With a final “Bye then,” he slipped out the door.
“This is absolutely unacceptable, Potter. Come here this instant.”
“What the… you know what, nevermind, I’ll be over in a bit. I’m apparating in, though; I’m not taking the tube during rush hour.”
Harry took a bit longer than was strictly necessary to get ready, annoyed by the early summons. When he finally arrived at the flat, he was greeted by a tired and irritated looking Malfoy. Rather than acknowledging Harry with yesterday’s quiet stoicism, he merely glared at the other man and spat out, “How the fuck do I make tea with this blasted delectic kettle? I filled it from the tap like you said, but it’s been an hour and the stupid water is STILL COLD.” He turned around without waiting for an answer and stormed toward the kitchen, obviously assuming his visitor would follow.
“Electric,” Harry corrected absently as he did just that.
“Not the point,” Malfoy grumbled.
As soon as he spotted the kettle, Harry could immediately see what the problem was. “It’s not plugged in,” he told the other man.
Malfoy glared at him. “I have no idea what that means,” he said. “The manual said something about plugs as well, but it didn’t explain it, and you certainly didn’t say anything about it yesterday.”
“I mean, I thought it was sort of obvious,” Harry said, immediately realizing his mistake as Malfoy raised a judgemental eyebrow at him.
“Obviously not,” Harry echoed. “Sorry, it’s one of those things you just sort of know when you’re raised in a Muggle home; it just didn’t occur to me to explain.” Malfoy looked distinctly unimpressed, but Harry pressed on, feeling the need to defend himself. “It’s like all the things you made fun of me for when we started at Hogwarts because you assumed everyone knew—like, not knowing about Quidditch or basic spells and things, you know?” At this, the blond at least had the decency to look slightly embarrassed. Harry cleared his throat and walked over to the kettle. “Okay, so this long bit is called a cord, and you put these metal parts into these holes in the wall. Don’t touch the metal bits or it’ll shock you, kind of like a stinging hex. Then you flip the switch on the kettle. See how it lights up? That’s how you know it’s working. It will whistle eventually, which means the water is boiling and you can make tea with it.”
Malfoy was standing close behind Harry as he watched the other man turn the kettle on, causing Harry’s skin to feel a bit twitchy and overheated. At the end of Harry’s explanation, Malfoy gave a grudging “thank you,” stirring the hairs on the back of Harry’s neck and causing him to give an inadvertent shiver. Quickly easing himself out from between the blond and the counter, he rubbed the back of his still-tingling neck unconsciously.
“Do you want me to stay until it’s ready, just to make sure you’ve got it?” Harry asked hesitantly.
Malfoy paused, seeming to consider the offer, before finally shaking his head. “No, I think I’ve got it from here. I… appreciate your help.”
“The micro-thing is sparking. Is it supposed to be sparking?”
“Oh fuck. Malfoy, get as FAR AWAY AS YOU CAN, I’ll be right there!”
Harry appeared in Malfoy’s kitchen just in time to cast a desperate “Protego!” before the spitting, sparking microwave exploded spectacularly. It was lucky he had, too. Draco hadn’t managed to get further than the other side of the small peninsula of his kitchen; the shattering glass would almost certainly have slashed his face open. Breathing heavily, Harry turned to see the other man’s face looking shell-shocked and even paler than usual. “What happened?” Harry asked.
Malfoy’s wide eyes flicked over to him, unfocused. “I was…” He gulped. “I’d gotten a takeaway for lunch, and I wanted the rest for dinner. The manual said this would heat it.”
Carefully making his way closer, Harry peered into the charred interior of the appliance-that-was-once-a-microwave to see the blackened remains of a foil Chinese food container. He closed his eyes. “The container was tinfoil. You can’t put metal in a microwave,” he explained tiredly.
“I didn’t know.” Draco’s voice was shaking.
“It’s okay,” Harry reassured him quietly, still looking at the detritus of the recent kitchen disaster. “We can get you a new one. I’ll walk you through it more thoroughly next time. You’ll have to use the stovetop for any reheating for now; will that be okay?”
The other man hesitated, but then nodded. “Yes, I believe so. The manual made it seem similar to using a cauldron?”
The statement came out as more of a question, and Harry nodded. “Yeah, same basic principle. The circles heat whatever’s in the pot; to be safe, just stir whatever it is continuously so it doesn’t stick or burn.
“I can do that.” Still shaky, but resolved.
“Okay. Great. Good. I uh… why don’t I show you how to safely clean up glass the Muggle way, just in case anything else breaks, okay?”
“How do Muggles clean up water without tergeo, Potter?”
“I mean, they usually just use a rag or something; it’s not exactly complicated.”
“Well, it’s rather a lot of water…”
Much to his dismay, Harry’s apparition landed him directly in an ankle-deep slush of water and foam. As he took in the room around him, Harry supposed that wasn’t too surprising. The entire kitchen was filled with foam. Malfoy was perched atop the kitchen island, looking morose. It would be kind of adorable, Harry reflected, if it weren’t for his own sodden-and-probably-ruined trainers.
“Malfoy, seriously, what the fuck?”
“Well don’t ask me! I followed the directions exactly! I read them over several times.”
“The directions for what, exactly?!”
“The dish washing machine!” Draco was rather flushed, assumedly from a combination of frustration and embarrassment.
Harry raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “The dishwasher did this? How?!”
“Well I’m sure I don’t know,” the blond pouted. “I did exactly as it said. I put the dishes in, I added the dish soap in the little compartment, I closed it, and I pressed the start button. It wasn’t exactly complicated.”
Harry puzzled over the conundrum. It did, in fact, sound as though Malfoy had used the appliance correctly. So why the hell was he standing in a pool that resembled the Prefect’s bathtub if one were to turn on one of the particularly bubbly taps? He sighed, and waded toward the aforementioned appliance. Opening the door, he cringed as even more foam spilled out, revealing a few ostensibly-clean—but very soapy—dishes. “Right, walk me through it, then,” he said tiredly.
Draco rolled his eyes. “I told you. I put the dishes in. I filled that little compartment—” he gestured at the detergent slot “—with dish soap—” waving a hand vaguely at the bottle by the sink “—and then I—”
Harry groaned, realization hitting him. “Okay, stop right there. I can’t even be mad at you for this one.” He leaned over to open the cupboard under the sink and pulled out a box. “Dish detergent,” he said, emphasizing the second word while holding the box out toward Malfoy, “is different from dish soap. This one is a powder and goes in the dishwasher; the stuff by the sink is for washing things by hand.”
Draco looked down at the box and then up at Harry’s face, eyebrows drawing together. “Why the fuck are there two different products with practically the same name that do the same thing?” he finally asked, sounding frustrated. “How in Merlin’s name was I supposed to know which was which?”
“—one of those things you know if you grew up Muggle. Right.” Malfoy finished morosely. “Well, how do I clean this up, then?”
“As much as I’d love to just tergeo it for you, I should probably teach you how to use a mop,” Harry decided glumly.
Later, Harry couldn’t help but think that the ordeal had been worth it just to watch Malfoy swear and struggle with a mop. He hadn’t even reacted poorly when Harry had laughed at him for falling over and soaking his trousers. Well, except to splash a wave of soapy water back at him, but really, Harry thought, it had been a small price to pay.
“Potter, you told me this infernal machine would clean my clothes! Now everything I own is pink! I can’t go out like this; I demand you bring me something to wear!”
Everything was, indeed, rather pink. Well, not everything; just the things that had previously been white. Unfortunately, it seemed Malfoy wore quite a lot of white.
“Oh my god,” Harry wheezed, almost doubled over, cackling at the sight of Draco in a splotchy pink button-up shirt. It looked almost like it had been tie dyed, but poorly.
“It’s not funny, Potter! This color is atrocious! It does nothing for my complexion, and I look… I look…”
“Very pretty,” Harry managed to choke out.
“I hate you,” Malfoy grouched.
Once Harry managed to catch his breath, he wiped the tears of laughter from his face. “Okay, okay, sorry. Here.” Without waiting for permission, he began digging through the rest of Draco’s pile of laundry. Fairly quickly, he came across what he was looking for: a lone red item in a sea of pale pink. “Aha!” he announced, holding them up triumphantly. It was only when the blood drained from Malfoy’s face that Harry looked at what he was holding, and promptly choked. Dangling from his fingers were a pair of Gryffindor red briefs, with ‘Mrs. Potter’ scrawled across the bottom in sparkling gold.
“Give me those!” Malfoy yelled, nearly knocking Harry over in his haste to snatch the incriminating item. “They were a gift from Pansy. As a joke. She’s a cow. And I would never have worn them if I had anything else clean.”
“Why would she buy you these?!” Harry asked, slightly hysterical. “Aren’t these from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes? Why on earth would she even be in there?” Harry had tried half-heartedly to talk George out of selling the horrifying novelty lingerie, but in the end he had given up. If anyone was going to capitalize on Harry’s post-war fame, it might as well be George; he didn’t laugh nearly so much these days, and Harry couldn’t bring himself to fight too much against anything that brought the surviving twin some modicum of amusement. Even if it was to Harry’s immense embarrassment.
“It doesn’t matter,” the blond bit out, blushing even pinker than his shirt. “She thinks she’s funny. Her sense of humor leaves something to be desired, however.”
Harry managed to raise an eyebrow, intrigued by how flustered the other boy was, even in the midst of his own embarrassment. “Riiiiiight. Well, in future, do a separate load of laundry for bright colored things, especially red. The dye will bleed on everything else in the wash.”
Malfoy glared, still red-faced. “So I see.”
“Anyway, I don’t think these would be salvageable by Muggle means, but I can probably ask Molly if there’s a spell for bleaching stained clothes. I don’t mind fixing them for you this time around. It would be a bit of a waste for you to replace them all.”
“I know the spell,” Malfoy responded grudgingly. “You twirl your wand like this, and say…”
“Potter, I am in need of your assistance.”
“I don’t wish to discuss it over the telephone. Please come at your earliest convenience.”
When Harry stopped by after wrapping up his other work at the Ministry, the flat was dark. “Malfoy?” Harry asked, hesitant.
“Don’t look at me,” came a mournful voice from the dark.
“What happened?” Harry asked, skimming his hand along the wall in search of a light switch.
“I’ve gotten fat. I can’t be seen like this.”
“Fat? Malfoy, what are you on about? You’ve just barely put on enough weight to not look like you’re starving to death. And I just saw you two days ago, and you were as fit as ever!” Finally, Harry’s fingers found the switch and flipped on the overhead light. Malfoy’s back was to him, and as Harry observed the blond, he noticed that his wool trousers were, in fact, rather tight. Very tight, in fact, he thought to himself, gulping at the way that they emphasized Draco’s distractingly round bum. Has it always looked like that? Harry wondered, trying not to gawp. Damn. Shaking his head and continuing his perusal, he noticed another thing about the trousers: they were a good four inches too short. Harry snorted.
“I told you not to look!” Malfoy moped, hunching in on himself.
“Malfoy,” Harry sighed exasperatedly. “Turn around and look at me.”
It took a moment, but finally, Draco obeyed, arms crossed defensively across his chest. He glowered at Harry. “I told you,” he glowered as he finally made eye contact with the other man.
Harry noted that his eyes were lined with red, and sighed again. He glanced down, startling at Malfoy’s unzipped fly and the flash of silky pants through the gap and quickly lifting his eyes back up to the blond’s face. He cleared his throat. “You’re not fat, you git; you fucked up your laundry again,” he managed.
Draco’s face had taken on an interesting expression as he noticed Harry’s wandering eyes, but at this, he glared. “I fail to see what my laundry has to do with anything,” he groused.
“You shrunk them,” Harry clarified. “The trousers,” he added unnecessarily when Malfoy merely raised a pale, pointed eyebrow at him. “You can’t put wool through the washer and dryer; you have to send it out to be dry cleaned.”
“What in the actual fuck are you talking about?”
“You know that different fabrics have to be taken care of in different ways, right?” Harry asked.
Malfoy colored slightly. “I was aware that there were various spells, yes,” he muttered.
“Well it’s the same with Muggle cleaning. Your clothes should all have tags in them saying how they need to be cleaned. Water temperature, whether they can be put through the dryer or need to be hang-dried, whether you need to have them cleaned professionally…”
Draco closed his eyes, seeming to steel himself, and then opened them again to meet Harry’s. “Can you show me?” he asked reluctantly. “...Please?” he added after a moment.
Harry’s stomach did a little flip, but he nodded. Then, however, Malfoy’s face cleared as though remembering something.
“You called me fit!” he exclaimed, pointing at Harry and grinning.
“Shut up, Malfoy.” Harry turned away to hide his face as he headed toward the newest load of Draco’s laundry to show him the instructional tags.
There was no greeting, only a muffled whimper.
“Hello? ...Malfoy? Are you there?”
A choked sob came in response.
When Harry arrived, he was greeted by the distressingly familiar sight of Draco Malfoy on the floor, injured and crying. At least he wasn’t bleeding out in a puddle of water, this time, Harry thought blankly. Instead, he was slumped against the cabinets, phone by his side, cradling his left hand against his chest.
“Jesus, Malfoy,” Harry breathed, crouching by the injured man’s side. Draco bit his lip, obviously trying to hold back his sobs. “Show me,” Harry directed. Obediently, the blond drew his hand carefully away from his chest and held it out for his companion to see. Harry hissed at the sight; Draco’s palm was burned red raw, blistering in patches. “Fucking hell,” he breathed. “Just… hold on. Can you stand up?” Malfoy made a pained sound as he attempted to shift his body, but he nodded, so Harry took his good hand and pulled him to his feet. “We need to run it under cold water to stop it from getting worse. Then we can try to fix it up, okay?”
Malfoy cried out as the icy tap water hit his burned skin, and Harry felt himself wince in sympathy. “I know, I’m sorry, but it’s necessary. I’ll be right back.” Turning, he hurried to the bathroom, opening the medicine cabinet in search of first aid supplies but finding it empty of anything but toiletries. “Shit,” he muttered, spinning around to see if there was anywhere else they might be stowed. Instead, he caught sight of a small radio, plugged in and sitting on the edge of the bathtub. “SHIT,” he repeated, before pulling out his mobile and dialing Hermione.
When he returned to the kitchen, Malfoy hadn’t moved from his spot at the sink. “Hermione’s on her way,” Harry told him. At this, Draco’s eyes widened.
Harry bit back a sharp retort about Malfoy’s prejudice; now was not the time for a lecture. He didn’t have time, anyway—it was barely a moment before he heard a loud crack and then Hermione called from the foyer. “Hello?”
“In here,” he answered, not taking his eyes off Malfoy, who looked panicked but was still holding his hand obediently under the cold water.
Hermione bustled into the kitchen, her face studiously calm. “Right, let’s see it then,” she directed, her voice impressively even. Malfoy flinched and didn’t make eye contact, and Harry sighed in frustration. He turned the tap off and took the blond by the shoulders, turning him so that he was facing Hermione. She reached out and clasped his wrist in a businesslike manner, ignoring where her fingers grazed the edges of the dark mark peeking out from Draco’s buttoned shirt sleeve despite the boy’s visible wince. Observing the burns dispassionately, Hermione addressed Harry rather than Malfoy. “These look quite bad; they’re probably second degree. Still, no worse than what we suffered in the Lestrange vault, I suppose. The charms I used by the lake and some dittany should have him back in order. It’ll be a bit raw, but he’ll be fine in a few days. What happened?”
“No idea,” Harry answered. “Malfoy?”
Still staring down at the floor, looking at neither of his companions nor at his red and blistered hand, Draco seemed to make an attempt to answer through his pain-gritted teeth. “I slipped,” he managed, “and landed…” he gestured with his free hand in the direction of the stovetop, where a steaming pot of something and an empty bowl sat next to an evidently-still-hot burner and Harry cringed in sympathy. Even Hermione winced.
“Well. Let’s get this fixed up then, shall we?” Her tone stayed businesslike, and she quickly went about setting a few spells over the area to decrease the severity of the burn before spreading a pungent salve over the skin and wrapping it loosely in clean, white bandages. As she worked, Harry could see some of the tension seep from Malfoy’s body as the pain left him. “All set,” she said after a few minutes, charming the bandages in place. “I’ll be off then, unless you need anything else?” This last was still directed at Harry.
“That was all. Thanks, Hermione—you know how useless I am at healing. And I’m not sure if I’m allowed to take him to St. Mungo’s.”
“It’s fine, Harry. I’ll see you at home later, okay? I have to get back to work.”
Harry nodded and stepped in to give the girl a tight hug of appreciation. As she prepared herself to Apparate, however, Malfoy suddenly spoke up.
“Granger, wait…” He finally looked up, and his eyes held a look Harry had never seen there before: conflicted and perhaps… pleading? Hermione paused, meeting his gaze and raising one eyebrow at him, lips pursed. “I… I wanted to say… thank you. And… I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.”
Hermione’s face turned speculative as she observed the former Slytherin. “Sorry for what?” she asked after a moment, when Malfoy didn’t elaborate.
He let out a pained breath. “Everything. All of it. The names, the war. My aunt. Just… everything.”
Hermione’s lips thinned as she continued to scrutinize the boy’s face. Finally, she gave a curt nod. “Your aunt wasn’t your fault,” she responded, “and neither was the war. But I appreciate your apology.” Malfoy nodded. Hermione nodded. Everyone stood awkwardly for a moment. Then, Hermione seemed to remember herself and cleared her throat. “Right. Yes. Work. I’ll see you later, Harry,” she reiterated, and Apparated away.
Harry’s mind was reeling. Of all the things he’d anticipated Malfoy saying to Hermione, that certainly hadn’t been one of them. Perhaps the war really had changed the other boy? He found himself more pleased at the thought than he would have expected. He… hadn’t hated the time they’d been spending together recently—if nothing else, he definitely valued (and felt responsible for) the other boy’s safety—and knowing that perhaps Malfoy had begun to overcome his bigotry was something of a relief. Caring about the wellbeing of someone (and that’s all it was, Harry thought, it certainly wasn’t attraction, absolutely not) who hated you and everyone you cared about was not the most uncomplicated of situations, after all. Releasing a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, he turned back to Draco. “Well. You aren’t going to be able to use that hand much for a few days.” He suddenly remembered the scene he’d encountered in the bathroom whilst searching for first aid supplied. “Also, if that radio in the bathroom falls into your tub while you’re in it, it will probably kill you.”
Draco’s eyes widened in shock. “What?!”
“Yeeeeah electricity and water don’t really… mix well?” Draco still looked stunned and lost, and without allowing himself to overthink it, Harry let his most Gryffindor tendencies guide his next words. “Why don’t I stay here for a couple days? Just to help you out while your hand is healing and make sure you know how to use everything properly.”
A series of emotions flitted across Draco’s face faster than Harry could read them. “I… that won’t be necessary, Potter,” he answered, sounding unsure.
Harry was about to accept, but suddenly a variety of increasingly horrifying scenarios in which Draco caused worse damage to himself than a burned hand crossed his mind. “Actually,” he said decisively, “I insist.” He attempted a smirk, trying to convince the other boy. “You ending up dead because I didn’t teach you enough about Muggle living in one of my first Ministry assignments wouldn’t really reflect well on me, would it?”
Malfoy allowed himself a small, unsure smile at that. “I expect not,” he responded. Gathering some of his former armor back around himself, he went on. “Well, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for tarnishing the Golden Boy’s reputation, would I? So I suppose you may stay.”
Harry laughed. “Thanks. Git.”
This time, Malfoy’s smile was genuine.
Harry stayed with Malfoy for three days, and—to his own dismay—found that he quite enjoyed himself. While his injured hand prevented him from doing very much himself, Draco diligently observed as Harry demonstrated various tasks around the flat: cleaning, cooking, ordering food to pick up, and even how to operate the telly. The last had led to a particularly entertaining evening during which Malfoy leaned forward on the sofa, elbows on his knees, and stared avidly at the pictures moving across the screen while occasionally interjecting comments on how bizarre the experience was and asking about random bits of Muggle culture.
On the second day, Harry even managed to convince Malfoy to leave the flat with him so that he could show him a few practical skills that could keep him from becoming a complete hermit during his year of rehabilitation. These included how to use the tube (an experience during which Draco’s face went rather green and his good hand clung to Harry like his life depended on it), how to hail a cab (when Draco vehemently insisted that he would never take the tube again), and how to avoid getting conned by street vendors (when Draco almost purchased a wristwatch from a stand selling knockoffs for well over their actual value). Harry also convinced Malfoy to purchase a few decorative pieces for his flat to make it feel a bit more like a home. “You’ll be there for at least a year,” he pointed out. “You might as well be comfortable.”
Through it all, although Draco maintained the aloof air of his pre-war self, he also managed to be somehow… likeable. He laughed at his own mistakes rather than getting defensive. He expressed genuine interest in learning new things. He still mocked Harry, but the teasing was good natured, rather than the mean-spirited tormenting of their youth. And on the final night, as they sat at a pub together (where Harry had introduced him to the beverages available in Muggle establishments and explained what drinks were purely magical and should not be ordered) sipping on their third pints of the night and conversing casually, he did something Harry would never have expected, even after the interaction with Hermione earlier that week: he thanked Harry and apologized.
“I know I can’t make up for everything,” he said, his voice quiet, “and I’m still not sure everything I was taught was wrong.” Harry raised a skeptical eyebrow but didn’t interrupt. “But I regret the war, and my actions in it. The Dark Lord was… he was a monster. He was completely insane. Growing up, my father taught me that the Dark Lord would protect us, that his goal was to ensure the safety and continuation of the Wizarding world and our way of life.” He stared down at his hands. “I spouted a lot of hateful shit, I know. But I never… I don’t think I truly wanted anyone dead. Not really. And I was not at all prepared for the reality of having that thing living in my home, torturing and killing people at my dining table as though they were animals.” He looked up, meeting Harry’s eyes.
Harry nodded slightly in acknowledgement, and then, hoping he wasn’t pressing too much, asked, “And before the war?”
Draco cringed. “I was jealous, and I was used to getting what I wanted. You rejected me, so I didn’t like you and I didn’t like your friends, and everything I’d been taught before Hogwarts told me that I was better than all of you, so I had no problem telling you as much. I don’t have an excuse. But I am sorry. And for what it’s worth...” he trailed off for a moment, but then steeled himself and went on, “I’m really glad you won.”
“Okay,” Harry responded after thinking it over for a minute. Hesitantly, he slid one of his hands forward so that his fingers brushed Malfoy’s, just a little; a sign of acceptance, he told himself; nothing more. “I...Thank you. And you did help save my life so… you know. I guess we’re good.”
Draco gave a relieved half-smile. Without looking, he inched his own hand forward so that his fingers overlapped Harry’s slightly. Harry pretended not to notice. After that, however, the conversation felt much lighter.
“Potter, I can’t find the telephone number for the good Indian takeaway that we found. Can you come by and show me where you put it?”
“Potter, I don’t know how to change the pictures on the television without that wand control. And I seem to have misplaced it. I don’t suppose you could come help me find it?”
“Potter, I wish to make a purchase from a store that will not accept my Gringotts rectangle. How do I go about procuring the paper currency Muggles use? I need you to show me.”
“Malfoy, for fuck’s sake, you don’t have to make up reasons to get me to stop by! If you want to see me, you can just… ask to see me, yeah?”
“...Fine. Potter, would you care to join me for dinner this evening?”
“To be clear, just like, a friendly dinner? Or would this be, like, a date?”
“A date. If you would like. It doesn’t have to be though if you don’t—”
“I’d like that, actually. But Malfoy?”
“Well obviously. That stovetop tried to kill me. Come by at seven?”
“Yeah, sounds good. See you later, you prat.”
“I’ll see you at seven, Potter.”