"Dr – Sir?"
Draco looked up as his servant entered the small dining room. He waved a hand at the empty seat across from him.
"Good Morning. How did you sleep?"
"Good, thank you. It's – the new bed, the room – it's weird, but comfortable. Thank you."
"Sir, when we're out in public, how do I act towards you?"
"As though we're at school. Not as informally as here, but no where near as formal as my father demands. You don't have to 'Sir" me while we're here, though, unless we're in a punishment session."
"Okay. Thank you."
"I have to stop by Gringotts before we do any shopping. Sort out some things. You are free to either go to the Weasley shop," he said, not quite able to hide his continued distaste. "Or you may go ahead to Madame Malkin's."
"What exactly are you expecting me to get today?"
"A set of robes, some everyday clothing. A portable wand safety case. Anything else you may want to make your room yours. To make yourself more comfortable here."
Even without being able to see, he could tell her hands were twisting with the corner of his old robe.
"Before you ask, yes, I'm sure. You deserve this. And no, you don't owe me anything extra for today. This is to be considered part of my bonded requirement of taking care of you."
She nodded. "Thank you, Sir."
In the end, Ariella decided to head straight towards Madame Malkin's. It was nerve–wracking enough being out in public for the first time since her imprisonment, since the war ended. She wasn't ready – wasn't sure when she would be – to face some of her peers. The less people she had to face, the better off they'd probably be.
Entering the old robe boutique, she sat down to wait, hoping she wouldn't be denied service when they saw her arm.
"How can I help you, dear?" a young lady asked, coming around the corner in blue robes ten minutes later.
"A set of daily robes, please."
"Certainly. If you'll follow me."
Draco made his way down the busy alley. Gringotts had been a headache – anticipated, but unwelcome nonetheless.
He kept his gaze forward, his gait firm. He wasn't oblivious to the stares he was getting. He would have been more shocked if he wasn't getting stared and pointed at. It had been a mistake to come right before the new school year, but he hadn't been thinking about it. He could have them turn back, but they were already here.
Walking into the robes shop, he was glad to see Ariella had already been taken back for measurements. He took a seat in the waiting area, simply pulling out his book and continuing to read.
He didn't get far, however, before a voice called to him.
Looking up, he vaguely recognized the young woman holding a robe bag in front of him from school.
"Hello, Greengrass. How are you?"
"Fine. And yourself."
"Fine, thank you."
"How is being out – I mean, are you adjusting well? To being back?"
He shifted somewhat awkwardly, but she genuinely looked like she cared, even if her nerves were showing through the small biting of her lip. Still, though he knew it was on many minds, he hadn't been expected to be asked outright about his return – Nott aside.
"Yes. As well as I can be. Thank you for asking."
"Of course. The past year hasn't been easy. I needed new robes to finish school with."
"You're going back then?"
She nodded. "It's my last year. I'm hoping to have better year than the last two. Though last year wasn't horrendous, just an adjustment."
He just nodded awkwardly, unsure what to say to that.
"Are you waiting on new robes, too?"
He nodded again; it was easier than trying to explain.
"Would you want to – "
A tapping on the glass outside interrupted her and Draco startled, wand in hand before he realized what was happening. He took a few beats to realize it was just Daphne Greengrass, trying to get her sister's attention.
"I'd better go. Good luck," she bid him.
"What were you doing?" Daphne hissed as her sister stepped outside.
"With Malfoy? His whole family's a disgrace now."
"It would have been impolite to just ignore him."
"I doubt he would have noticed."
Draco watched them go, puzzled by both the kindness and boldness of the younger Greengrass sister. It wasn't as if they had been close in school.
Turning back to the shop, he stiffened upon hearing raised voices.
"Did you think you could get away without paying?"
"No! I'm going to pay, I just need to wait for – "
" – is there a problem?" he asked curtly, stepping into the back of the shop.
"Mr. Malfoy. I didn't hear you come in," Madame Malkin replied as politely – and briskly – as ever.
"I'll be paying for her robes. No need to get angry."
"You'll be paying for her?" He could hear the scepticism.
"Yes. Was there anything else you needed from us?"
"Just payment for the day robes. 6 galleons."
Draco raised an eyebrow at the price, but said nothing. He knew they were likely overpaying, but between his family's downfall and business recovering post-war, it wasn't worth arguing over. He shot Ariella a look as she watched him pass over the money. He didn't need her making a scene.
"Right. Should be done soon. If you want to wait out there – "
" – I'll wait here," he interjected, leaning stiffly against the doorpost.
Though the workers didn't argue, he could tell they didn't like it. Madame Malkin eyed him with suspicion and the others gave him a wide berth, even seeming more hesitant when finishing with Ariella, now that their association was known.
Finally, the worker thrust a bag at him – not Ariella, him. He turned on his heal without a word and walked out, knowing she'd follow him. Once they were outside, he simply held up a hand to stall the apology he knew was on the tip of her tongue.
"You did nothing wrong. What's our next stop?"
"Do we have to do everything today?"
He turned, finally looking at her. "No, but we should get farther than just robes."
She swallowed, but nodded. "Yes, Sir."
He led her towards Olivander's, even though he was dreading that shop in particular. He briefly shook his head to try and clear the morbid thoughts before making a decision. "Go on ahead. Here's some money to pay for what you need. Ask for suggestions if you need to for our unique situation. You have permission to talk about the bond if warranted."
"But what if – "
" – you'll be fine. Look who's working today," he prompted, nodding towards the window of the shop, where they could clearly see their friend behind the counter, helping an out-of-sight Mr. Ollivander.
Draco noted her relief at the familiar, comforting face.
"Did you plan this?"
"No. But I hoped he would be working today."
She just gave him an appreciative half-smile and nod, before tucking his money away in her small bag and going to enlist their friend for assistance.