Chapter 29 - Diagon Alley

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They had had a relaxing week at the Weasleys, but it wasn't doing them much good now. Draco was tense and Harry was nervous; not exactly a recipe for a great day out, but Harry had chosen to be stubborn on this point. They were staff at Hogwarts and that meant they had to be able to do everything an average wizard could and more. Going to Diagon Alley to pick up supplies for the coming year should not have been a huge deal, and yet as they stepped out into the main street, Harry felt as if he was walking into the lion's den.

There were so many people; all the Hogwarts pupils were there with their families buying their books and their robes and everything else they needed and the place was crowded. It was like a sea of people and Harry hadn't been this nervous since he had first come here when he was eleven.

Like an elite army unit, Hermione and Ron positioned themselves in front of Harry and Draco, and Neville, who they'd met up with in the Leaky Cauldron, moved to stand the opposite side of Harry to Draco. It almost seemed natural they did it so automatically, and briefly Harry wondered to himself how long it would be before his friends did not have to take special care of him. Crowds at Hogwarts had been well trained to part like the red sea, but not so much in Diagon Alley.

[They'll always take care of you,] Draco's voice sounded in his mind and he realised he had broadcast the last thought, [that's what friends are for.]

Harry gave Draco a look; that was a totally unSlytherin thing to say. Draco gave him an enigmatic smile for his trouble.

[A moment of weakness,] was the unrepentant reply.

Harry smiled and it almost chased his nervousness away, but not quite. As they stepped into the road properly, he tightened his grip on Draco's hand. They were going to Flourish and Blots first since even assistant Professors needed the year's course books. They made it halfway there before someone noticed who was walking down the alley.

"Oh my, Harry Potter," he heard from somewhere to the right, and tried very hard to ignore it.

[And Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom,] he commented snidely to Draco, as a similar phase came from another direction.

[Relax, love,] Draco replied calmly, [we knew this was likely to happen. Just keep going as if everything is normal.]

Now they had been noticed, the crowds parted for them like they had been magically moved. It made the way forward easier, but Harry began to feel even more uncomfortable. Children were looking at him with big round eyes and the parents weren't much better.

When they finally reached the shop, he had never been happier to enter a building in his life. Once inside, he and Draco managed to dive into the stacks at the side before any of the other customers realised who had just come in.

"Do you need us?" Hermione asked as they grouped away from the main crowd paying for their purchases.

"I can handle it from here, thank you," Draco said with a smile that belied his true reaction to the situation. "Shall we meet back here before we brave the counter, say thirty minutes?"

There were nods from everyone and then the five friends parted to the various places they needed to be to find what they were looking for.

[Come on Head of Extra Curricular Defence Against the Dark Arts Training,] Draco said with far more lightness in his mental tone than either of them was feeling, [DADA first and then you can be bored silly watching me drool over potions texts.]

[I'll just watch your arse instead,] Harry replied, [I'm sure I can amuse myself.]

Draco raised his eyebrow at the attempt at levity, but led him off to the DADA section anyway. Harry had had a long chat with Professor Daemon about ideas for the DA to link in with the curriculum for the fifth, sixth and seventh years. The DA was to be open to all students of fifteen and over, and he didn't want to be teaching them things they could not cope with. This wasn't like the summer classes, or even the DA from before.

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