DISCLAIMER: Warning! I make no claim to any property of J.K. Rowling's, and am in no way profiting by this. I do offer her my sincerest thanks for allowing us this garden of the mind in which we play. Further Warning! This story...and likely any I ever write...are dominated by gay themes and characters. That's how it is, if this in any way makes you uncomfortable...do not read further.

Secondhand Robes……….by Samayel

'I can't believe this is happening to me! To ME!'

Draco stood outside Madam Malkin's. With his parent's arrest and subsequent sentence to Azkaban, the Ministry had frozen their assets, including Draco's trust fund.

Due to the incredible complexity of the Malfoy estate, and the equally incredible incompetence of the Ministry, no judgment had yet been rendered. It had been almost two months, and not a Knut had been released for his education and other expenses.

The petty cash available to Draco, made up of small change that had been kept at hand for travel and shopping, had been eaten up by the cost of renting a small room in Diagon Alley. Food had not been included in the arrangement, and when Draco finally received his Hogwarts letter, he had actually broken down and cried with relief. The Sorting Feast had never sounded so good before.

Each new year had always included a trip to Madam Malkin's. Until now. The latest styles were out of the question for his budget, and his robes from last year scarcely fit him anymore. Not to mention that, with the closing of the manor, Draco had been barred from most of his wardrobe. In the hustle to survive for two months, this moment hadn't really occurred to him.

His Transfiguration skills were rather meager, and his Charms were only average, and none of them were up to the task he required. He'd mostly paid attention to hexes, curses, jinxes and the counter-spells for same. Now he found himself in need of magical tailoring, and without much in the way of funds, he was in a real bind.

The Malfoy name had suffered quite a bit, but if he showed up in Slytherin looking poorer than a Weasley, his reputation would be ruined for good. As horrifying as the past two months had been, Draco contemplated leaving England and just running away for the first time. Some fates were worse than death…facing his housemate's ridicule was one of them.

There were alternatives to the traditional stores, but that idea was fraught with peril. If anyone learned that Draco Malfoy had shopped for secondhand robes, all hell would break loose! Then there was the wound to his pride that undertaking such a course would inflict. It was simply out of the question.

It was possible, albeit unlikely, that he could play upon his reputation and good standing, thereby cadging a small measure of credit from this shop. He'd spent thousands of Galleons here since he'd started his schooling, and that had to count for something. Right?

He'd seen other students wander in and out of the shop, while he stood in the alley nearby, gathering his courage. When the traffic ebbed low, Draco strolled in, hoping his air of nonchalance was convincing.

It seemed safer to shop first, then let the issue of payment emerge later, and affect an air of confidence and disdain…if they bought it, they could always bill him later, and he could direct them to the Ministry for payment. Anything to make the silly buggers hurry up and allot him something for expenses!

The clerks were cloying, the tailors ingratiating, and Draco had never enjoyed shopping so little. Tension and veiled shame were simply ruining one of his favorite activities. Nonetheless, his head was high as other students drifted in and out, and when his selections were tallied, he steeled himself for the inevitable.

The young witch at the counter packaged his purchases neatly and handed them to him with a smile. Her only remarks were the standard well wishes and entreaties to come again.

Draco stood still a moment, waiting for some kind of explanation. His heart was pounding so heavily that he was afraid that she might hear it. With no information forthcoming, he was forced to pose the indelicate question himself.

"Um…all in order then? No problems with my account?"

The young witch looked up cheerfully. "None at all Mr. Malfoy. Your new account was set up today. I hope you found everything satisfactory. Is there something more I can help you with?"

Draco reeled. "My…my new account?"

"Yes. The owl came through this weekend. The matter was handled with the discretion requested. We do pride ourselves on our service, and I hope we didn't disappoint."

'No…no…not at all. Just…uh…well…who set up the account?" Draco felt an intense need to know who his ally was. Someone had done him an enormous favor, and if it was a Slytherin, he would be expected to recompense them in some way. Knowing who had done this would make the negotiating a bit easier. He couldn't imagine anyone not a Slytherin who would do such a thing on his behalf, and the notion of owing someone who might make unreasonable demands was a bit unnerving to say the least!

"I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Malfoy. The matter was resolved with the discretion requested, and I'm afraid we can't divulge that information." She seemed sincerely sorry, but Draco was not easily dissuaded.

Thinking fast, Draco made a startled face and looked to the stock room behind her. As she turned to glance back, his eyes raked over the paperwork in front of her. All he caught sight of was a Gringott's account number, but at least that was something to go on. He smiled politely as the clerk turned back to him.

"You've been very kind. Do have a nice day, and I look forward to shopping here again soon. Farewell."

The clerk wished him well and Draco left with his package of clothing, thoroughly mystified by his weird turn of fortune.

His next stop was Gringott's, and Draco knew he'd need more luck than charm if he was going to squeeze more than a couple words out of one of the goblins. The hard nosed little bastards were as stingy with information as they were with Galleons, and that was saying quite a bit! There was a wizarding legend that claimed that the American Grand Canyon had only come to exist because a goblin had dropped a Knut down a sewer grate!

In the end, the entire encounter had been an exercise in managing frustration. The goblin had shut him down completely, answering with yes or no and refusing to elaborate or divulge information about an account that was not Draco's.

Draco left in defeat, stepping out of the long line that had formed behind him and heading for the exit. It was only the hushed tone of the person talking to the goblin clerk that alerted his Slytherin instincts. Draco paused, pretending to check his package carefully before moving on.

"You're account number, sir?" The goblin's voice was an ugly rasp like rusty hinges.

"Four-oh-one…one-three-seven…two-three-nine." The gentleman in line was a non-descript fellow with muddy brown hair and no particularly note worthy features, but the number was the precisely the one Draco had read earlier!

"And your business, sir?"

"Account status…recent activity and new balance."

The goblin scribbled a few notes, then handed a slip to the gentleman. "Is that all you require?" The creature's tone was still brusque.

"Yes. Thank you." His mystery benefactor strolled away, and Draco waited a few seconds, then followed with the kind of caution only a Slytherin could manage.

The unfamiliar fellow drifted from shop to shop, seemingly without purpose, but Draco recognized a pattern to the choices. This fellow was trying to avoid being trailed, and Draco worked all the harder to avoid being seen while keeping up.

In an alley not far from the famous entrance, Draco saw the man slip into the quiet gloom and disappear. Before Draco could move closer, Harry Potter walked out of the alley, distracting Draco's attention completely!

Draco waited until Potter was gone, then moved into the alley himself. Twenty feet in, he realized he was in a dark cul-de-sac, no exits, no doors. The only people that had been through this alley were Draco, the mystery man, and Potter. A horrifying notion crossed Draco's mind a second later.

It didn't seem plausible. Why in the name of the Nine Hells would Potter set up an account for Draco? Potter! What game was the scar headed prat playing at? It simply made no sense.

Draco still had the bookstore to visit, and he wondered if an account had been set up there, too. If Malkin's had been covered for him, why not his school texts as well? Finding out would occupy time while he struggled with the concept of Potter's inexplicable act of charity.

Charity. The word made Draco's skin crawl. It was unthinkable that a Malfoy would take favors of this nature. A business deal was one thing, that was the stuff of life, but charity was for the weak, and there were no weak Malfoys. At least, that's what Father had always shouted at him, usually while wielding the business end of that fucking cane. Draco changed his mental tack, avoiding the things he hated to think of at any time.

His father was in Azkaban because of Potter. The Ministry attack had been a spectacular failure, and even the Dark Lord himself had been forced to flee from Potter and Dumbledore's combined strength. If Potter hadn't shoved his nose into that business, Draco would still be living in the manor, dining off of priceless heirloom flatware, sleeping in his own bed, and buying whatever he pleased with his own money!

That forced another unbidden thought into Draco's mind. It had also been two months since he had been beaten by his father, and two months since he'd needed Healing spells or Glamours to hide bruises.

Lucius Malfoy had become increasingly violent and erratic since the Dark Lord's return, and Draco would never say it out loud, but he'd slept more peacefully in a strange and uncomfortable bed these last two months than he had in his own home the last two years.

Potter had bought Draco more than robes, he'd bought Draco a few weeks of quiet and peaceful routine, even if poverty was the side effect. Now the bespectacled enigma was undoing the poverty. It just made no damn sense!

Draco finally reached Flourish and Blott's, and slipped into the small crowd of shoppers. He gathered the texts he'd need for his sixth year courses, as well as a few necessities for study and writing, then moved to the payment queue.

He'd been right. A small account had been set up in his name, with slightly more funds than he would likely have required for any purchases. This time the clerk was paying no attention, and Draco quite clearly spotted the paper the man had read from when Draco requested the purchase be charged. Potter had been here, too!

It was vexing. Unfathomable. Just bloody fucking incomprehensible! He had to wonder what was going through Potter's head. Potter was supposed to hate him above all Slytherin students. Hell, Draco's reputation was practically built upon the foundation of being the chief rival and tormentor of The Boy Who Lived.

How could Harry Potter have forgotten the last five years? Especially last year…Potter was furious when the Inquisitorial Squad had caught him red-handed. If anything, Draco should have been dodging hexes, not trailing a hidden benefactor!

Draco lugged his purchases down the street, wishing he'd mastered that Shrinking Charm in Flitwick's class last year. The trip back to the Halfway Inn would be longer than ever with bundles of books and clothes to be dragged along behind him.

Draco stopped cold outside of Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor. Through the front window he could see Potter chatting with his friends. He looked like he was having a nice time on the town, and a manic urge welled up in Draco. He wanted to confront Potter, and it looked like the opportunity for same was coming soon. Weasel and the Mudblood were getting up to leave, and Potter hadn't shown any sign of budging yet.

He slipped back into the milling crowds, and waited for Weasel's flaming red hair and Granger's bushy mess to pass safely by before he entered. Merlin, if those two ever bred, the children would have heads that looked like someone had set the shrubbery afire!

Potter looked pensive, and a bit tired. His free hand was rubbing his temple, as though he had a headache. Draco moved in quietly, and stood in front of Potter's table.

"What's wrong, Potter? Something bothering you?" Honestly, he hadn't meant for it to come out sounding so insulting, but instincts and habits are hard to break. The sharp tone made Potter look up with serious irritation.

"Something is…now! Don't you have anything better to do? I don't need this right now, Malfoy. Cut me a break today, and you can be twice as rotten as usual some other time, sound good?"

Draco couldn't help but notice the note of almost plaintive exasperation in Harry's voice. If he wanted answers, a different tone might be called for.

"Sorry. That came out wrong. I meant…you just look like you have a lot on your mind. Maybe you're too good to talk to me, even if I tried. I'm off. See you in school." Draco feigned disinterest, and turned to leave, hoping Potter would take the bait.

"Malfoy. I didn't mean it like that. If you're not here to make trouble, I wouldn't mind if you sat down."

Draco his smile. Jackpot! Sometimes Potter was wonderfully predictable. "Thanks, I just wanted some ice cream, and you're the only person I know in here. Some company would be refreshing."

Draco placed his order and returned to the table with a sundae that had cost him most of his remaining change. Not that it mattered, his room was paid to the end of the week, and he had just enough for a couple meager meals. Once he was back in school, he could eat to his heart's content. At the moment, however, his sundae tasted better than anything he'd ever had.

He hoped Potter was too off his guard to notice the starvation induced ecstasy that Draco was experiencing with every spoonful. It was time to chat, and hope he could work his way around to the subject of robes and books.

"Like I was saying…you just looked tense. I can understand that. This hasn't been my easiest summer. Something unsolvable, or something solvable but thorny?"

Harry's eyes were veiled, full of mysteries and suspicion. Draco suddenly worried that nothing he could say would undo the damage he'd done without thinking before. Then Harry answered.

"Not unsolvable, just very, very thorny. I don't want to insult you...take my word for it, but I have to say this. You're here for something. Talking to me for a reason. Let's respect each other enough to stop the pretense, Malfoy. Why are you here…at this table?"

Damn! Who would have imagined a smart, subtle Gryffindor? What a pain in the arse that he had to show those traits today! Draco was halfway taken by the urge to spew a few curses and leave, but he wasn't abandoning his ice cream so easily…or his answers. Exasperation took over. Draco put his spoon down and looked Potter directly in the eyes.

"You know why. I didn't start this. I'm just seeing where this is going. So respect me enough to treat me like you understand that, and we'll get on just fine." Draco lifted his chin and let hint of his old sneer show. Potter blinked.

"What…what are you…oh. Fuck! How? How did…"

"I'm not wearing green because I'm a mental defective, Potter. No matter how much your housemates might think otherwise, at least credit the house that represents cunning with actually having some. It doesn't matter how I know…I came to find out why."

Potter's front crumbled easily enough, and Draco was feeling smug…until Potter clammed up completely, and looked like he was ready to explode or leave outright at any second.

"We're not having this conversation. I have to go." Potter stood up and grabbed his pack.

Draco felt a mixture of panic he hadn't expected, and a surge of anger he hadn't intended. His mouth was moving before his brain caught up.

"Yes, we are fucking well are talking about this! You can't do things like that and walk away without an explanation." It came out an angry hiss that made Potter flinch a little with embarrassment.

Potter flicked suddenly back to outrage. "Shut up! You weren't even supposed to know! If you weren't such a prying, spying prat you could have just fucking enjoyed it without picking it apart. Damn it!"

Potter turned for the door, obviously aware that this conversation had become a scene in the eyes of other patrons. His hand was almost on the handle when Draco lost it.

"WHY? POTTER…WHY? What was all that for? The secrecy, all the effort, no credit for you, no brownie points…so why?" Draco's face was red. He knew his cheeks must be burning, but he was past caring now. His entire focus was on Potter, who had frozen stiff at the edge of the door.

Potter turned around. His face was a study in contrasts, part amusement, part horror. Draco honestly couldn't tell if Potter was on the edge of laughing out loud or breaking into tears.

Potter raised his chin like a challenge, bit back whatever emotions were tearing him apart, and answered haltingly, as if every word was a torment to release.

"I did it…because…because…" Potter faltered for a minute, choking on either laughter or tears, looking at Draco with a crazy kind of desperation and helplessness.

"…Draco…Malfoy…doesn't…wear…second…hand…robes." Potter's eyes were shining. Then he turned away, and left without another word, leaving Draco sitting in gob-smacked confusion.

Draco finished his ice cream in silence, lost in thought, and returned to his tiny room at the Halfway Inn. His sleep came uneasily, and was plagued by dreams that seemed to drift constantly toward shining green eyes.

The day for leaving came faster than he imagined. Draco packed his things, hefted his trunk, and made for Platform Nine and Three-quarters. His heart felt lighter than it had in years, and a nervous trepidation filled him that hadn't been present since his first year.

This wouldn't be a year like any of the ones before it, and Draco knew instinctively that something would mark this year as the strangest and most profound of his entire life.

He also knew that whatever came to pass, he would walk into Hogwarts and the Slytherin commons with his head held high, bowing to no one, because Draco Malfoy didn't wear secondhand robes, and Harry Potter had seen to that.