--of or pertaining to the home, the household, household affairs, or the family.
--devoted to home life or household affairs.
--a household servant.
Fifteen months after the Battle of Hogwarts.
"Is that Malfoy?"
If Hermione were lunching with them today, she'd chastise Ron for pointing so rudely. It's almost better that she's not, Harry muses. These days their bickering quarrels tended to end with doe eyes and romantic murmurs of apology. He loves his friends, as he should, but he doesn't need, or want, front row seats to their giggly PDA. A year had done little to diminish their new-couple flirtation, much to his nauseous embarrassment.
As it is, Hermione isn’t with them—apparently having finally secured a lunch conference with the Secretary of the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures for her S.P.E.W. campaign—so Harry tosses his unwanted sandwich crust on its plate, brushing his hands together to lose any lingering crumbs, and his eyes follow Ron's outstretched finger to the crowd gathering in front of Flourish and Blotts. He briefly wonders if some hot, new author is debuting—Lockhart, he remembers with a snort—but then a large bloke wearing a too-small robe shifts to one side and he sees that the crowd is formed instead around that of a mounting argument.
Two older wizards stand on opposite sides of the human circle, one in severe, coal black robes with perfectly styled cropped hair to match his stiff spine, and the other wearing dusty-bottomed spring green robes, bald and rosy-cheeked from verbal exertion. It takes Harry a moment to realize that they're not arguing with each other but rather a younger wizard standing point, chin tucked down as he glares at them from beneath a curtain of lank, brown hair.
"No, that's not—" Harry starts to say, then stops, squinting as the younger man sneers at the growing crowd.
That particular sneer he knows all too well—especially the fear behind the bravado.
Harry scrambles from his chair, stumbling over the wide leg base of the table and nearly face-planting onto the street. Fortunately, the argument has garnered all attention so no one notices the clumsy save as he grasps the café railing, aside for Ron—whose snort of laughter isn't particularly appreciated. He can't help but be startled though. The last time he'd seen Draco Malfoy had been—
Narcissa Malfoy's funeral.
Completely unaware of Ron's exasperated protests, Harry quickens his stride when he sees Malfoy's two opponents reach for their wands. Both they and Malfoy—and he's positive now that it's Malfoy—don't notice him wiggling his way through the crowd. Instead, Malfoy presses back against the Flourish & Blotts window with a look of panic.
"Malfoy!" Harry shouts as he reaches the edge of the ring of onlookers at last.
There are gasps, of course, and pointing—always everyone with the pointing—as people recognize him in turn. The lack of attention he'd enjoyed seconds before disappears completely as he once again finds himself center stage. Even Malfoy and the two older wizards appear to have frozen in their standoff as a hush goes over the crowd; they all seem to lean in curiously, waiting for him to say more.
"Er, um," he stammers, a blush lighting his cheeks as his eyes dart between Malfoy and the swarm. Now that he's nearer to Malfoy, he can see what he mistook for light brown hair is either greasiness or mud. Possibly—probably—both. Studying Malfoy more closely, he takes in the tattered robes and yellow-tinged skin with unveiled surprise.
Malfoy is too thin—always thin before but now too thin. The robes he wears look like they're from decades earlier, hanging off his body like ratty old drapes. Even the skin of his face looks saggy, like it's still stretched to fit a fuller mold. The grimy sight before Harry now is at odds with his memory of the glowering Malfoy he'd given a small, apologetic nod to that sunny day of the funeral a year prior. Malfoy had appeared bony and exhausted then too, but nothing to this extent.
Malfoy tenses under the scrutiny but finally greets Harry with a stiff nod of acknowledgement and a quiet, "Potter," voice rising like a question, as if he is unsure whether Harry is there to help or harm.
Belatedly, Harry realizes that he has no idea what to say to Malfoy. Hadn't known what to say then, when Narcissa's casket was being carried into the tomb, and didn't know what to say now in front of the curious shoppers who keep staring at him, just waiting.
To his luck, Ron appears by his side and tugs on his arm, saying in a quiet but tense voice, "We'll be late for afternoon practicals. C’mon."
Ron manages to drag him two steps and then he hears it. The noise is not quite an angry protest but not quite a pathetic plea either. Desperate yet annoyed, perhaps, but enough to remind Harry why he'd rushed over. He spins back around to Malfoy and finds grey eyes intensely focused on him, distress evident in the crease of Malfoy's brow. From the corner of his eye, Harry notices one of the wizards from before rolling the wand in his hands nervously.
Clearing his throat, Harry gestures for Malfoy to follow, saying, "Well, come on then." Deciding it may be prudent to give the gawking crowd a reason Harry Potter would invite Draco Malfoy to join him, he adds, "If you can wait while we finish training, we'll, er, go for dinner… or something. The three of us can, um, catch up, you know?"
At that, Ron gives a quiet snort but, to Harry's surprise, he doesn't object.
Malfoy doesn't need to be asked twice. He immediately pushes away from the Flourish & Blotts window, marches past his two shocked opponents, and latches onto Harry—not in the way that he has a physical hold on Harry's arm, but he stands close enough that Harry feels his body heat against the crisp autumn air.
Being too close to someone he is so strongly aware of sends goose pimples down Harry's arms and legs, tickling his fingertips and toes. Shaking the feeling away, he briskly heads toward the floo port that will take them back to the Ministry. The crowd parts to make room as Malfoy and Ron both silently follow.
Malfoy follows so closely that he steps on Harry's heels a couple of times.
Harry had once heard a rumor that the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's waiting hall hadn't been redecorated in over a century—he believes it. He also believes that Malfoy's grungy robes fit right in with the setting.
Absently pushing at the sweaty bangs sticking to his forehead, Harry stares at Malfoy, who stares back as if accepting a challenge, somehow appearing both defiant and composed even with his head tilted back to meet Harry's gaze from where he sits. When Harry had first entered the hallway after training, he'd seen Malfoy tenderly touching one arm and wincing. He gestures to it now to break the silence, asking, "Are you— Your arm… What, er, what's wrong with it?"
Malfoy's mouth thins and he tugs the arm in question closer to his body with a small shudder. He appears a twitch away from scowling at Harry, but then grey eyes flicker past Harry and the would-be scowl morphs into a fear-tinged frown. He clears his throat, opening his mouth to speak, then decides against it and simply shakes his head in answer to Harry's question, eyes darting to the floor.
Curious as to what has spooked Malfoy, Harry glances back to see two crimson-robed senior Aurors striding toward them.
He almost heaves a sigh in exasperation.
"Said he's waiting for you," the taller Auror, Burdock, says with a jerk of the head at Malfoy. He flashes a look of disdain at the blond before staring expectantly at Harry.
"Er… yeah. Uh, we met up at lunch. There were some people—" Catching the way Malfoy's hands tighten into fists around the frayed robes at his knees, Harry stutters for a second, then finishes lamely, "Um, he wasn't busy, so we thought we could, uh, talk, so… yeah."
The stockier Auror, Malon, leans close, the look on his face like that of sympathetic fondness. He's the one in charge of morning lessons and, annoyingly, is of the sort that thinks Harry's a delicate child in need of a father figure. "If he's bothering you then just say so, Potter. We'll take care of him."
Harry's irritation flares. He can handle himself, thanks—especially against Malfoy of all people. Malfoy, who tenses at Malon's words and again fixes an intense gaze on Harry, like a rabbit on the chopping block eyeing the butcher.
"No, it's— I'm—" tired from practicals, and grimy and sweaty and smelly, and Malfoy is hardly a threat and looks like he hasn't eaten in weeks, and is probably as grimy and sweaty and smelly, and I wish people would stop babying me while treating me like some sort of divine savior at the same time—
"I'm fine. We're fine," Harry finishes, acknowledging his inner jaded monologue with only a mental eye roll. He makes a small wave at Malfoy and randomly adds, "We were in the same year at Hogwarts," as if that were some new bit of information that hadn't already been published in The Life & Times of Harry J. Potter: Allies & Enemies Volume One, or some other such rubbish that Rita Skeeter's ilk seemed so keen on writing.
The Aurors nod anyway and seem to tentatively accept the statement as an excuse for Malfoy having sat in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's waiting room for five and a half hours.
Harry wonders why Malfoy had stayed.
"Well, if you need anything, you let us know," Malon says with a pointed look.
Harry forces a polite smile and waits until they leave in a fluff of red robes, standard boots clacking on the tiled floor, before turning back to Malfoy. He stares for a moment more, watching as Malfoy's eyes flicker between his and the floor. When the silence continues, a glimmer of impatience slowly twists Malfoy's pallid features until it finally transforms into the original scowl that had fled with the approach of the Aurors. Harry almost smiles.
"Have you anywhere to go?" he asks at last, wondering what he is supposed to do with Malfoy now that there is no threat of angry civilians or over-protective Aurors.
Malfoy's jaw works furiously for a moment as he searches for, presumably, an appropriate insult, but eventually he merely turns away, closes his eyes, and quietly releases a heavy breath before giving a tiny shake of the head. A strange feeling that's borderline pity but mostly compassion shivers through Harry.
"Come on then. You can stay with me," he says. To his surprise, Malfoy simply stands and follows. No scowl, no sneer, no shame.
Just weary acceptance.
When they leave the D.M.L.E. and make it to one of the authorized apparition points, Harry draws Malfoy close enough to get a good sniff.
Yes, they are both in need of a bath.
"You can't use a lot of magic outside the wards on my flat. It messes with the muggles' electricity. Just basic spells here and there," Harry explains as the lift shakes to a halt on his floor. Malfoy appears scandalized by the fact that he lives in a muggle apartment building.
"S'not that bad. You get used to it." Then, because he does feel slightly discomfited about his living situation—doesn't want to burden the Weasleys, too many unpleasant memories at Grimmauld Place—he adds, "It was a lot easier than trying to live in the magical world, what with, well…"
"What with the Hero status and all," Malfoy quietly finishes for him, tart but somehow not derisive.
Harry hesitates, then gives a small nod—no point in denying it—and leads down the creaky hallway to the apartment at the end. He's already unlocked the door and stepped inside when he realizes that Malfoy isn't behind him anymore. After kicking off his shoes, he leans back into the hallway to see Malfoy standing a few paces away from the lift, one arm still drawn up like it is injured. Malfoy stares back but his eyes narrow suspiciously when their gazes meet.
"Why—" His voice sounds rough and he clears it and swallows before retrying, "Why are you doing this?"
The reluctance and distrust frustrates Harry—mostly because he himself is still uncertain about the whole situation. Why couldn't Malfoy just gratefully accept his kindness instead of asking questions he couldn't answer?
"What's it matter? You haven't anywhere else, have you?" he snaps. Malfoy's expression promptly closes off in response, smoothing over in clear disdain, and Harry sighs. All he wants is a shower and some dinner, not to stand in the hall tenderly coaxing a wary Draco Malfoy. "Look— I'm, you know, sorry. It's just… Can we talk about this later? I'm tired and I don't feel like talking. Just chalk it up to me being a bleeding heart Gryffindor for now, all right?"
With that, Harry trudges back inside, telling himself that he doesn't care if Malfoy joins him, but he listens closely for Malfoy's steps all the same. The soft footfalls come after he's already discarded his robes and torn off his sticky undershirt, intending to hit the shower first as per his usual evening routine. He pauses, looking over his shoulder to see Malfoy standing in the hallway beyond the front door.
For a breath, Malfoy hesitates, then steps inside.