I don't want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need…
Harry slams his hand down on the snooze button before the rest of him is awake, but it's too late--Mariah Carey has embedded herself in his brain, and by the time the radio goes off again nine minutes later he's gone over the entire song in his head three times and is tapping his fingers on the bed frame in rhythm.
Harry sighs into his pillow, turns off the alarm, and throws off the covers in the hopes that the cold air will be sufficient motivation to get up. It's not. He just lies there with his legs and the bare strip of skin between his t-shirt and boxers slowly going numb.
Right, he thinks grimly to himself. That's enough of that. UP, and he hauls himself onto hands and knees and unwillingly into the waking world.
Ten minutes later Harry’s drying his hair while staring in his own eyes in the mirror and not moping. Never mind that he's twenty-four and already feels due for a midlife crisis. Never mind that he’s desperate enough for human company that he's considering getting a haircut just for the awkward scalp massage (and even more awkward questions about his scar) while being shampooed and then inviting Dudley out for drinks. He is a fully grown adult making the adult decision of working the entire week leading up to Christmas Day, since there’s a conspicuous lack of other places to be, and he isn't going to start moping about it now.
“I'm not,” he tells his reflection decisively. His voice is hoarse from lack of use.
The reflection has no response.
His voice is still rough when he collides head-on with a young woman coming up the stairs of the Underground while he’s going down. Her armful of papers and folders spills out of her hands and scatters across the ground. “Sorry,” he says to her, ducking to help her pick them up and nearly falling himself, “sorry, let me get that.”
“It's quite all right,” the woman says, pushing her frizzy brown hair out of her eyes. Harry looks up--she sounds almost smug--and hands her the folder he grabbed. All the other papers are neatly back in her arms. He rather envies her apparent agility. “You had us all so worried! Just wait till Ron hears I'm the one that found you, he'll be absolutely furious--”
“Right, er,” Harry interrupts, backing away as subtly as possible. “I'm late to work, so if you'll, um, excuse me...”
“But,” the woman says, and Harry flees.
He's almost to work, one of a hundred bleary-eyed commuters with too many coats and unrinsed soap suds left behind their ears, when someone a few seats down the train compartment starts humming.
I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know…
“Damn it,” Harry says out loud. The elderly couple across the aisle from him gives him a scandalized look.
Make my wish come true, all I want for Christmas is you...
Harry thinks very hard about Bohemian Rhapsody and practically leaps off the train when it reaches his stop. As he crosses the street to his office building, a tall red-headed man waves in his direction and yells, “Oi!” Harry decides not to embarrass himself by looking around for the man’s friends.
Was he wearing a cape? Harry freezes with one hand on the door and turns around, scanning the crowd. The red-haired man is gone.
“Move it, mate,” someone snaps, and he goes in.
“I don't care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree,” he mumble-sings to himself in the lift, and does a little shimmy dance. Thankfully, no one else is around.
“Come in late one more time, Potter, and you're sacked,” Ben says mildly from his office as Harry hangs up his coat. “Honestly. D’you need me to buy you a watch? I'm running out of excuses to give the boss.”
“Good morning to you too,” Harry mutters.
“I'm serious. If it happens again--”
“It won't,” Harry says, and walks off. Ben sighs behind him but doesn't press the issue.
The morning passes in an unassuming blur. He receives three very angry calls from an old woman in Manchester who is quite sure her husband bought gold premium insurance.
“I've told you, ma’am, our records don't show any gold purchases at your address,” Harry tells her the first time. “Now, it does show a silver package--”
“Well, that's not right, is it?” she screeches back. “I'm warning you, Harvey, I have connections, I have friends--”
“Congratulations,” Harry says, his temper wearing thin. “Maybe you could try going out with them, then, instead of wasting both of our time.”
“How dare you!” she shrieks, and rings off.
Twenty minutes later she calls a second time. “Now listen, I know what my Robert bought, he bought the gold, you silly boy, he bought the best--”
“The computer disagrees, and I'm inclined to trust it,” Harry says, and disconnects before she starts shouting.
The third time she calls, several hours later, he connects her to Ben before she can say a word and goes on lunch break.
The nice sandwich place across the street is nearly empty, since it's still a bit early for lunch. The only other patron is a pale young man lounging in a back corner like he owns the place. Harry ignores him, orders the cheapest thing on the menu, and sits at a front table.
He's barely settled when the young man sighs as if hugely put-upon, gathers up his food, and sits opposite Harry.
Harry stares at him. “Can I help you?”
The man shrugs and gives Harry a challenging look. “I don't see anyone else queuing up to talk to you. And I couldn't just let you sit there alone like a wet mop, you're ruining the atmosphere of the place.” His eyes are gray and sharp, and dart around the room following every movement, every speck of light.
“Er,” Harry says. “Do I know you?”
“I seriously doubt it,” the man says. “Draco Malfoy.”
“My name.” He snaps his fingers impatiently. “Do try to keep up.”
“Oh. Harry Potter. Is mine. My name, that is.” Harry clears his throat. He can't remember how to have an actual conversation, or even how to gauge whether he's being slow or this stranger is being rude.
“Stunning wordsmanship, Harry Potter,” Draco drawls. “You ought to run for Parliament.”
Harry decides on the latter. “I don't recall asking you to come over here and--”
“Oh, put your hackles down,” Draco says. He's watching the woman behind the counter make sandwiches. “I'm trying to be personable. See? Now we're going to make small talk. This is how normal human interactions are supposed to work, in case you're wondering.” He raises an eyebrow at Harry.
“I'm shite at small talk,” Harry admits. The waiter sets his sandwich in front of him, and he smiles at her.
“Everyone is. That's the point,” Draco says, waving a hand. A man in an orange coat walks past outside, and Draco’s eyes flick to the bright color and away again. “It's diplomatic or some shit, having everyone fumbling around the weather and how many dogs your bloody aunt owns. Everyone is equal. Equally awkward and equally wishing to be elsewhere. But since you're so clearly an amateur at matters of diplomacy, I'll start. What do you do?”
“I sell insurance,” Harry admits through a mouthful of sandwich. “It's bloody boring.”
“Yes, I expect so,” Draco says, glancing at him oddly. “Harry Potter, insurance salesman.” He smirks and inspects a flake of paint peeling off the window frame.
It’s like sitting with a bird. Everything but Harry catches his attention.
“Well, go on, then,” Harry says. “How about you?”
“I don't need to work, I'm rich,” Draco says. “Bzzt. Try again.”
Harry tries to imagine what it's like to be so rich you don't have to work, and rather fails. “What do you like to do, then?”
“That's the best question you can come up with? Bloody hell, it's like talking to a stump.”
“If you can't be civil, I'm leaving,” Harry snaps. “I barely know you and I'm not going to waste my time on you.” He wraps up what's left of his sandwich and moves to stand.
“No, wait,” Draco says, and turns all his attention on Harry for the first time. It's like having a spotlight on him. “I'm sorry, I suppose. I can be a bit--”
“Of a prick, yeah,” Harry says, settling back down, slightly taken aback by the intensity of Draco’s eyes.
Draco snorts. “I was going to say abrasive, as I don't generally lower myself to words shorter than two syllables.” He picks up a passable French accent at the end, and Harry laughs.
Draco smirks at him, and Harry blinks. “Are you sure we don't know each other? Only you seem…familiar…”
“Don't know why that would be,” Draco says breezily. “Suppose we might have gone to school together, though. I certainly can't be bothered to remember every idiot I went to school with.”
“Yeah, that must be it.” Harry shrugs and goes back to eating.
Draco eases up on the snark a bit after that, and Harry surprises himself by quite enjoying the conversation. Draco is no-nonsense and viciously funny, and spends a good ten minutes narrating the lives of people who pass by outside, apparently with the sole goal of making Harry choke on his sandwich from laughing.
Harry glances at the clock. “Shit,” he says. “I've got to go.”
“--and I spent more on this tie than I have on my haircut for the past eight years--what?”
“Go,” Harry says, loudly. “Leave. Work. You know, that thing you don't do? I'm fifteen minutes past my lunch break.” He bunches together the paper from his sandwich and gets up to throw it away.
“Oh, piss off. Fine. See you for dinner.”
“Er, will you?”
Draco leans back and smirks. “I don't know, will I? What time are you off?”
“Five,” Harry says, slightly stunned. “I--yeah, all right.”
“‘Yeah, all right,’” Draco says in a low and bemused voice that's apparently meant to mimic Harry’s.
“Shut up,” Harry says, grinning, and leaves. It doesn't occur to him until much later, after Ben has roundly scolded him for being late and he's taken the third call of the afternoon, to wonder if this is what being flirted with feels like.
Draco’s leaning against a lamppost, wearing a well-tailored overcoat and a bored expression, when Harry leaves the building.
“Hey,” Harry says. “Where’re we going? Shall I pick?”
Draco snorts at the state of Harry’s coat, which he supposes is a greeting. “I wouldn't dare indulge your excellent taste. I might come away with food poisoning.”
Harry feels compelled to point out that the only food Draco’s seen him eating was at the same restaurant Draco himself was at.
“Yes, well, as a matter of principle I can't permit you to have halfway decent taste in food,” says Draco, and before Harry can tell him how stupid that sounds, he's swept off down the street, apparently expecting Harry to follow.
Draco leads him to an out-of-the-way little restaurant with ivy all down the front. It's dim and cozy and buzzing with conversation inside, and looks like the kind of place that would serve five kinds of tofu and a drink with green stuff in it.
“Snooty,” Harry says approvingly. “Suits you.”
Draco elbows him, and takes his revenge by pulling out Harry’s chair for him and just standing there smirking while Harry awkwardly sits.
The menu has six different kinds of tofu. Harry decides to just get whatever Draco’s getting.
The table behind them quiets for a second, and the radio music sweeps in to fill the silence.
I won't make a list and send it to the North Pole for St. Nick…
Harry groans and rests his head on the table. “This song is following me,” he says into the wood. Draco snickers at him.
I won't even stay awake…
“To get some magic reindeer dick,” Draco sings thoughtfully.
“Please shut up,” Harry says desperately through his laughter. “That's bestiality and the server can hear you--”
“Not if they're magic reindeer,” says Draco with an expression of innocence. “There's no laws about magic reindeer.”
“Server. Right bloody there.”
“Threesome?” Draco suggests. Harry throws a fork at him.
Draco meets him again for lunch the next day, and for dinner the day after that, and drags him off to the park the day after that and just...walks around with him in the snow, talking, until well after dark, and Harry’s either forgotten or never known what it's like to have a friend who genuinely seems to enjoy his company. Draco lives for an audience, and Harry is more than willing to provide.
In fact, Draco’s appearances seem a bit more frequent than is really reasonable. Maybe Draco’s been as lonely as Harry has. Or maybe Harry just doesn’t remember what reasonable is.
When Draco walks Harry out of the park and back to the train station, and says, “See you tomorrow, then,” a bit smugly, it takes Harry a second to remember to be surprised.
After dinner on Christmas Eve, Draco walks Harry back through the darkened streets and patches of yellow light from street lamps and bars, accompanied by snatches of music from the few that are open.
All the lights are shining so brightly everywhere…
Harry shudders, and Draco laughs at him. “Poor soul, haunted by Mariah Carey.”
And the sound of children's laughter fills the air...
“You can laugh, but I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy,” Harry says. “There are other Christmas songs, you know! Why the hell am I stuck with this one?”
Draco isn't listening. Harry glances at him. He's looking out into the empty street and frowning, and has a thin strip of wood in his right hand, holding it like a sword.
“What's wrong?” Harry asks.
Draco glances at him, and the wood stick vanishes smoothly up his sleeve. “Thought I heard someone. It was nothing.”
“Uh-huh,” says Harry. “And what’s that?” He points at Draco's sleeve.
“My arm. I don't mean to alarm you, but you'll notice, if you look down, that you have two.”
“Oh, shut up,” Harry says. “You know what I mean.”
“I haven't somehow learned to read minds, Harry, so no, I really don't--”
“You're stalling.” Harry nudges Draco with his elbow. “Come on, aren't we friends?”
Draco gives him a very odd, furtive look. “Yes,” he says, as if that had never occurred to him, as if he regularly spends every waking hour with people he doesn’t call friends. “Yes, I--all right.” He hesitates, sighs, mutters, “Fuck it all, anyway,” and pulls the stick out of his sleeve. “It's a wand. Er. It's for magic.”
Harry blinks at him and waits for the punchline.
“No, I'm serious,” Draco says. “Watch.” He mutters something, and the tip of the wand blooms with white light, then says something else and it goes dark again.
“You can do that with voice detectors and LEDs,” Harry says, instead of what the fuck.
“You can? Personally?”
“No, but I'm in insurance, not toymaking--hey!” Because Draco has bent and picked up a jagged rock from the pavement, inspected it closely, then, with a flick of his wand, made it rise into the air.
“Any bright explanations for this one?” says Draco, twirling his wand and making the rock execute a neat orbit around Harry’s head. “I picked it up off the ground, Potter, it's a normal fucking rock. Magic.”
There's a silence. Draco’s smirking. Harry closes his mouth when a snowflake flies into it. Another strain of music echoes through the empty street.
And everyone is singing, I hear those sleigh bells ringing
Santa, won't you bring me the one I really need?
Won’t you bring my baby to me quickly?
“Okay, assuming I believe you, and I'm awake, and there wasn't something else in that soup, and--”
“Skip to the end, please,” Draco says in a bored tone.
“Right--why doesn't everyone know about this? If magic is real, why isn't it everywhere?”
“Good lord, have you met humans?” says Draco, appalled. “Need I remind you about witch burnings? Superstition? The tendency of people to find someone different to blame their problems on and slaughter them until things get better? We've got magic, we’d be blamed for everything from global warming to untied shoelaces!”
“Who’s ‘we?’ Are there lots of you? Do you secretly control the government?” Harry can’t keep the laughter out of his voice, and holds up his hands in a gesture of innocence when Draco gives him an exasperated look. “Look, if you've still got magic tomorrow, I'll believe you, how’s that?”
“Perfect. Give me a key tonight so I don't have to actually break in. I suppose you do have a spare key?”
“Yes,” Harry says defiantly. “I have friends sometimes.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Draco says sweetly.
But Harry’s curiosity gets the better of him long before morning. Draco makes several cutting remarks about the state of Harry’s flat that Harry doesn't even hear over excitement, and flicks on the radio and starts fiddling with stations while Harry’s trying to turn up his spare key.
“Can you turn things into other things?” Harry asks over his shoulder, interrupting a brief and harmless tirade about the couch cushions.
Draco gives him a look of fond weariness. “Why, any requests? I can turn cushions into sea turtles, which might be an improvement on these--”
“Poor turtles,” Harry says. “Something smaller, please. And not alive, I'm not allowed pets.” He locates the key under a horrific blue porcelain pig from Aunt Petunia.
Draco flicks his wand at a pair of socks Harry left in a corner (clean, he's not totally deranged), and they wiggle, hop, and stretch suddenly into a vague cylinder of purple plastic--a child’s sippy cup.
“Hmm,” Draco says. “Not quite what I was going for, though I confess I'm a bit rusty on basic Transfiguration--frogs into teacups, when they thought we'd use shit like that--” He looks over at Harry, and falls uncharacteristically silent, like something’s pulled the snark right out of his mouth and the breath out of his lungs.
Harry doesn't question that; he's busy grinning so hard it hurts his face. “Brilliant.”
Draco blinks and glances away, the edge of a flush fading from his face. “Believe me, then?”
“I guess I do,” Harry says. “So you're a wizard, huh?”
“Happy about that, are you?”
“Nothing like this ever happens to me,” Harry admits, handing over the key. “I used to wish--er, anyway. This is kind of amazing.” He shrugs a bit sheepishly. “Never mind, it's stupid.”
There's a brief silence. Harry finally hears the radio, and braces himself.
I don't want a lot for Christmas, this is all I'm asking for
I just wanna see my baby standing right outside my door…
“This is getting ridiculous.” Harry flops down on the couch in despair.
“To be fair, it's Christmas Eve, they've finally got an excuse,” Draco says absently. He's clearly not paying attention.
“Not good enough,” Harry mutters, and shifts, self-conscious. Maybe this joke is getting old. That's an unpleasant idea. He's never had an in-joke before, and he's been enjoying it.
Draco clears his throat. “There's something else, too,” he says in an offhand sort of tone, like he's hoping Harry won't ask.
Harry raises his eyebrows expectantly. Draco sighs and sits next to Harry on the couch. He purses his lips like he's trying to figure out where to start, then says, “Nothing special, are you?”
“Well, no,” Harry says, nettled.
“Mm. Just dripping with normality, everywhere you go?”
“Never made weird things happen? Nobody at school ever called you a freak? No mysterious scars?” Far from looking uncomfortable, Draco now seems to be rather enjoying himself.
“Look,” Harry says, slightly irritated, “I don't know what you're getting at, but you know perfectly well there's nothing special, or--or magical about me, you know me.”
“Never talked to snakes?” Draco says quietly.
“How the hell would you know that?” Harry breathes. “I've never told anyone that…”
“Magic,” Draco says, still soft. “Nothing special, my arse. So maybe you're not a wizard. Don't think for a second you don't belong in our world.”
Harry wakes up and discovers that his brain has dealt with the shock by inserting a fervent and genuine belief that Draco won't be there. As a result, he nearly has a heart attack when he gets out of the shower and finds Draco on the couch eating biscuits that definitely didn't come from Harry’s kitchen.
“Rise and shine,” Draco drawls. “It's nearly ten, Sleeping Beauty. I’ve been here for an hour, you’re a terrible host.”
“Shut up,” Harry yawns. “S’also Christmas Day, I'll sleep in if I damn well want to.”
“Surprised you aren't at work.”
“Hadn’t you noticed my entire life is alternately working and sleeping?” Harry says. “Can I have one of those?”
Draco tosses him an unexpected biscuit. It's half a meter too far left, but Harry snags it out of the air easily. Draco smirks in a victorious sort of way.
“Don't be so pleased, it was still an awful throw,” Harry tells him.
“You still don’t believe me, do you,” Draco says, ignoring that.
Harry chews for a minute, then raises his eyebrows and says, “Magic, huh,” rather weakly.
Draco gives him an enormously keen look. “Your socks are still…whatever they are. And if you think these biscuits were made by human hands you’re sorely mistaken.”
Harry swallows and sets the rest of the biscuit down gingerly. “Look, why would magic want anything to do with me?”
“This again,” Draco says, apparently to himself.
“It’d make sense if you were hanging out with the Queen, or--or Jude Law, or someone, but I’m--”
“If the next words out of your mouth are ‘nothing special,’ I’m beating you to death with your own porcelain pig,” Draco informs him.
“--just me,” Harry finishes. “Not magic and not important.”
“Slightly better. So let me drag you halfway across England and prove myself.” Draco's lounging all over Harry’s couch like he owns it now, smug like he's already won.
Harry has somehow managed to file the previous night’s revelations alongside the plot of Cinderella in his brain, with all the other useless knowledge that doesn’t quite apply to him and thus is nearly forgotten. It's true that he doesn't quite believe Draco, not yet. The idea that he could actually have something special, something he gave up on wishing for back in secondary school, awakens a weird sort of ache behind his ribs. He just doesn't dare to hope, is all. He's not sure he could handle another disappointment.
But Draco is watching him out of the corner of his eye, a knowing, challenging, demanding look, and it makes Harry want to do something different, disappoint Ben and upset his aunt and uncle and risk something.
And even the smallest chance of belonging somewhere…
“What the hell,” Harry says fiercely. “Let's do it.”
“There you are after all,” Draco murmurs, his eyes glittering with the same fire Harry feels. “And all’s right in the universe.”
Harry doesn't even stop to ask what he means. He's too busy putting on his coat.
Draco grabs Harry's arm very tightly, does something that feels like he's in a plastic bag that's having all the air sucked out of it, and when Harry's eyes stop streaming they aren't in his flat anymore.
“What--where?” Harry gasps, as he tries to reinflate his lungs.
“Apparition, to Hogsmeade,” says Draco, who still looks perfectly cool. “And it looks like--yes, we've got it to ourselves. Good, this place can be damn packed.”
It's a long street lined with shops, and Harry can see houses farther away. Odd houses, too--some have bright yellow roofs, some are bizarrely triangular, one has two long slender chimneys curled together into the shape of a heart.
All the shops are closed, of course, but Draco shows him around anyway and they both peer in the windows. Harry can't help being amazed at everything, but Draco seems to enjoy acting as a tour guide, and preens a little more every time Harry makes an incredulous noise.
Draco buys them lunch at an enormously out-of-the-way wizarding convenience store that’s the only open place they can find. Harry waits outside (“we're trying to be smooth,” Draco says, “can't have you fussing over everything, dead giveaway”), and they wander back down the street eating delicious tiny meat pies that glitter when they don't think anyone's watching them.
Then Draco Apparates them again, and when Harry has swallowed his stomach back down and asks where they are Draco smiles mysteriously and says, “You’ll just have to wait and find out, won't you,” in the most infuriating tone imaginable.
Harry rolls his eyes and has a look around while Draco is off doing something or other.
It's slightly warmer here, and the sun is shining on broad plains of snow. There’s not a cloud in the sky. Harry isn't even sure they're in England anymore. The horizon is carved with slight hills, broad and uninhabited, and the only mark on the landscape is a long, low house made of golden stone about a hill away. It blends excellently with the land, and is therefore probably very expensive.
Draco emerges from an equally elegant, smaller house nearby that may be a shed.
“Who lives there?” Harry asks, pointing, and adds, “and what are those for?” upon noticing that Draco has two brooms under his arm.
“My family does sometimes, it's one of our more minor properties. We loan it to friends now and then--er, we used to. It's empty now. We came here every summer when I was little. The sea’s not too far.” Draco swings the brooms in front of him and looks them over affectionately. “And these are--well, not for sweeping floors.”
“I expect you have servants for that,” Harry says, slightly stunned. Minor properties?
“House-elves, actually. Here, take the Two Eighty, the Three Hundred lists to the left since I rode it into a tree when I was thirteen.” He hands Harry a broom and mounts his.
“Where’d you find trees around here?” Harry asks, mirroring Draco’s stance and grip.
Draco grins at him. “I wasn't anywhere near here. You'll see. Watch me first.” He kicks off the ground and in seconds is barely a speck against the glaring blue sky. He swoops back around and skims above Harry's head. Faintly Harry hears him call, “C’mon, Potter! Scared?”
“Not on your life,” Harry yells back, though he doubts Draco can hear him, and kicks off.
His whole body soars with the momentum, and suddenly he's weightless, free, tumbling through pure wind. There's cold, dazzling sky all around him, below him, and the broom feels like part of his body, and he knows without being told how to shift his weight so the broom shoots forward and turns and sways with every impulse.
Harry whoops, and Draco shouts back. Draco is keeping pace with him from a distance, small expert movements echoing Harry’s happy erratic ones. Harry loops and dives his way over to Draco.
“God, I could do this all day,” he yells over the wind, giddy.
“High enough up you can see the sea over there,” Draco points, “and there's a forest that way, but there's a village right next to it so you’ve got to be careful. Here--” He struggles with his pocket for a few seconds and takes out a tiny winged ball, glittering gold. “Not a real one, a practice one. We won't lose it, visibility’s great today.”
“What?” Harry shouts. Draco grins and lets go of the ball.
It zigzags in midair, then takes a roundabout and random path away from them. Draco holds up five fingers as they try to follow it with their eyes…four…three…two…one…
“Catch it!” Draco yells, and they both take off after the ball.
Draco’s better on the broom, but Harry’s less easily distracted. If they worked together the ball wouldn't stand a chance; competing, they're fairly well matched, though Harry has a feeling Draco’s going easy on him. They corner the golden ball far above them, and shoot up towards it at the same time, and Draco’s hand closes around it an instant before Harry’s fingers hit his knuckles.
“Rematch,” Harry pants. Draco smirks and releases the ball again.
They don't touch ground all afternoon. Once Harry’s warmed up a little, it gets easier to keep track of all his limbs and the broom and the ball and work as if everything is an extension of him, and as the day wears on the division of wins gets more and more equal.
“Last match,” Draco calls, when the edge of the sun has just started to disappear over the horizon (Harry’s been flying way, way up to where he can see the full sun and then way, way down to where a good half of it is obscured; Draco’s been shaking his head at him). Harry nods and bobs up and down on his broom impatiently.
That round’s a tense one. Draco nearly catches the ball three minutes in, but for a well-timed swerve from Harry that sends him off-course. Draco has an advantage in sprints and tests of control, so Harry busies himself with distracting Draco by executing fun and dizzying loops.
“What are you doing,” Draco yells, laughing. Harry looks up at him and grins, then looks down and dives as if he's seen the ball. Draco follows instantly, gaining on Harry with every second, but as soon as Draco’s level with him Harry pulls up and spirals away, towards the setting sun where the ball actually is.
Draco's momentum thrusts him several meters forward before he can get back control, and Harry is intentionally taking the long path, looping and zig-zagging and crossing his own tracks. Draco won't be able to see him clearly with the sun in his face.
Harry’s fist closes around the ball, cold metal in the cold air, and he turns in victory to see Draco a ways behind, shaking his head in defeat.
They land side by side and drop their brooms, breathless and ruddy and numb-eared from the sting of the wind, and Harry turns to gloat, but Draco is beaming.
“Believe me now?” he demands, hoarse from shouting. “You belong here. No matter what you think, all right? You’re one of us. Or do you think anyone off the street could've done that?”
Harry takes two steps forward and kisses him.
It's freezing without the sun, and Draco’s mouth is very hot by contrast, and they're both kind of damp from sweat, and it's the best decision Harry’s made in a long time because when they break apart Draco looks astonished and helpless and puts his hands in Harry's hair and kisses him again like the world is breaking apart.
“Stay the night,” Draco stammers out when they come up for air, “stay, please,” and Harry nods and wraps his arms around Draco's waist and leans back in.
When Harry wakes up, late-morning sunlight is drowning the room in white and he's alone in the bed. His clothes are clean and folded on the dresser.
Harry showers and dresses leisurely, warm and bonelessly happy, and then sets off to find Draco and food, though not necessarily in that order.
He's in the sleeping area, probably the master bedroom, and at the end of the hall are a few steps down into a sort of conservatory or sunroom, a broad round room full of windows and green leaves, like a little bit of summer in the middle of the winter plains. Snowdrifts blanket the outsides of the windows, but the inside is nearly tropical with steam on the glass, which is weird.
The plants look strange. Some move like sea creatures, and some mutter as Harry goes past. He's careful not to touch anything.
Across from the stairs, there's an archway into a breakfast nook, where there's food on the table and two places set, one of which has been used and cleared of dishes. The other placemat has a note on it. <
Eat the damn food and don't complain. Somebody has to feed you properly. I've got business to attend to but I'll be back by 4.
I don't remember what's in most of these rooms but you can look around if you like. Don't touch stuff--my family thinks death traps are a noble and refined source of entertainment--walls and floors are ok. Don't open locked doors blah blah Bluebeard shit, if doors are locked you can't open them what the hell am I talking about.
If you need something yell, Nimby will hear you (house-elf). Yes she likes it we've talked to her don't start that Granger shit.
Harry eats the damn food and doesn't complain, and puts “house-elf” into the growing mental category of “questions to ask Draco.” The carved wooden clock on the wall doesn't have hands, but snaps, “It’s half past noon, but I'm not supposed to comment on guests’ sleeping habits,” when Harry peers at it.
“Thanks,” Harry tells it, and goes exploring.
The bedrooms are all neatly and uniquely decorated, but there's a forbidding sameness about them nonetheless. Someone's made the bed Harry slept in, and he doesn't recognize the room until the sharp-fanged fairy in the painting over the bed waves at him.
There's a locked door off the parlor, and there are voices coming from it. Harry, who's already interrupted the conversations of several portraits, doesn't think much of it until he recognizes Draco's voice.
Harry leans in, curious, and catches the end of a different male voice’s sentence.
“--what you think you're doing, anyway.”
“Keeping an eye on things,” Draco snaps. “Something you lot seem supremely incapable of--oh, I'm sure it's not for lack of trying,” he adds, when a female voice makes a dissenting noise, “but no one in their right mind would give Gryffindors a job that requires tact. Don't roll your eyes at me, Granger, you know I'm right.”
“All right, whatever, but…” The male voice drops in volume, and Harry can't hear the rest of the sentence.
“That's rich, coming from the man who hexed me the second he recognized me,” Draco says coldly. “Don't you lecture me on motivations, Weasel.”
“That's enough, both of you,” says the female voice sharply. “Malfoy, you brought us here to talk about the antidote. Talk.”
“Hang on, let me just,” the male voice says.
“What, expecting eavesdroppers in my hou--” Draco starts acidly, but his voice is cut off by what Harry assumes is a spell. No more sound comes from behind the door, and Harry moves on, wondering if Draco will explain that conversation if Harry asks.
There are shelves and shelves of books against one wall of the conservatory. Harry wonders how they're kept from getting damp, until he moves toward them and crosses quite suddenly from warm wet air to cool dry air, with no discernible boundary between the two.
The books are fascinating, even if Harry only understands one word in three. He winds up in an armchair with what seems like a book of nursery rhymes, a bizarre Mother Goose with page after page of wands and broomsticks and odd creatures and potions--
“You've no idea how strange you look, reading that so seriously,” Draco says from across the room.
Harry looks up and grins at him. He's leaning against the doorframe smirking, as usual, but there's a hint of tension in his face and posture.
“I overheard some of you talking in the other room,” Harry says.
“What, nobody ever taught you to mind your own business?” Draco crosses the room and sits in another armchair across from Harry. “I expect you have questions you won't understand the answers to.”
Harry shrugs. “Your friends don't seem to like you much.”
“Colleagues, for Merlin’s sake,” Draco says, shuddering. “Though even that's several steps closer than I'd like. Do you know, I think they find me annoying.”
“Mm. Imagine that. What're you keeping an eye out for? What's the antidote for?”
“Friend of theirs got hit with a rather nasty poison I happen to know something about. They don't like me knowing more than them, and they don't like me trying to remedy that, either, so I've given up on trying to figure out what they do like. They’re trying to find the lot that did it, to get them arrested and out of everyone else’s way.”
“Do people get hit with poisons...often?”
Draco snorts. “Only the ones who attract trouble. Weasley and his friend are Aurors--magical law enforcement--so I'm not surprised they got targeted. And Granger’s involved because she and Weasley are joined at the hip. He's an insufferable moron, she's an insufferable know-it-all. Match made in heaven, really.”
“They didn't sound that bad.”
“No, I imagine I'm biased because of the decade of fervent mutual loathing, but so are they, so I can't bring myself to give a shit. Enjoying the library?”
Harry waves the nursery rhyme book. “What are nifflers? Why aren't kids supposed to have wands? If unicorns are really that rare, how can you be so sure they exist?”
“Here we go,” Draco mutters, but gamely answers all of Harry’s questions, even when they continue straight through dinner and are only momentarily paused by kisses.
Just in case they haven't fired him yet, Harry calls Ben the next day and takes the week off rather defiantly. Then he starts taking walks around town, looking for places that are hiring.
Draco, who seems to find the whole thing endlessly entertaining, walks with him sometimes and points out the most horrible ones.
“No, I will not be an assistant dishwasher at a seafood restaurant, I think I'd rather spend the rest of my life in insurance,” says Harry, amused.
“Good, because I couldn't possibly date you if you smelled like fish all the time.”
“You're the one who suggested it.”
“Well, who am I to stop you from following your spiritual summons to scrape fish bones off plates? I'll be a martyr to your career aspirations, I'm just that generous.”
Harry elbows him and they both snicker. Then Draco freezes in his tracks.
“What's the matter?” Harry says. Draco is staring wide-eyed at the other side of the street, where a woman outside a tiny and nearly-invisible bar seems very interested in her newspaper. Then he blinks, and appears to recover.
“God, this street’s a hellhole, let’s try a different one,” he says, a bit too quickly, and Apparates them nearly a mile and a half away to the outside of a coffee shop that's still blaring Christmas music.
I don't need to hang my stocking there upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won't make me happy with a toy on Christmas Day
“Whoops,” Draco says with no remorse as Harry groans and slams his hands over his ears a second too late. They're both humming the song at each other all evening.
It doesn't occur to Harry until after he's back home what an efficient distraction it was.
Draco, who Harry’s starting to think of as his wizard, takes to hanging around Harry’s flat after that, and Apparating them directly to wherever they need to go instead of walking. He also seems to genuinely believe Harry doesn't notice how he's turning down any suggestion of doing anything blatantly magical.
“What're you thinking about?” Harry asks him in the supermarket, once Draco's passed up the fourth or fifth opportunity to mock the boxed cake mixes.
Draco swiftly stops looking over his shoulder. “Thinking. Very meta, I know. I wouldn't expect you to understand.”
“D’you like orange juice? You think too much.”
“Well, somebody’s apparently decided he has better things to do than distract me from all this thinking.” Draco leans against the trolley and looks forlorn.
“You're a smug prick,” Harry tells him, and kisses him in the middle of the dairy aisle.
“Pumpkin juice is better but orange juice will do,” Draco says into his mouth.
Around noon on the third day after Christmas, Harry interrupts an admittedly entertaining tirade about the upstairs neighbors’ music taste to ask, “So, who are you avoiding?”
Draco chokes on his orange juice and nearly drops the glass. “You're a good deal sharper than you look,” he gasps once he's got his breath back.
“Wow, that's so flattering I forgot the question I just asked,” Harry deadpans.
Draco grins at him. “Well, it was worth a shot."
Harry raises his eyebrows, and Draco shrugs. “I've some former...cohorts, I suppose, who aren't especially happy with me. I rather ruined my share of a task we split. They've got nasty tempers, I'm best off keeping my head down for a bit until they’re sorted out. Staying in the Muggle world while I work on redeeming myself. That's what I'm doing all day when I'm not here--putting in the work I should've put in from the start. That enough to sate your curiosity?”
“Sure. None of my business anyway. Might have known you'd be a slacker,” he adds, and Draco gives him a mischievous smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes, somehow.
“Oh, hear what they're listening to now,” Draco drawls, as someone upstairs opens a door and sends a horribly familiar chord progression through the ceiling with even more clarity.
I won't ask for much this Christmas, I won't even wish for snow…
“I just wanna keep on waiting underneath the mistletoe,” Draco sings, and dodges the pillow Harry aims at him. The orange juice isn't so lucky.
“Ooo, you broke it,” Draco says in an accusatory sing-song best suited to an eight-year-old.
“So wave your wand and clean it up.”
“What am I, your household slave?” complains Draco, who's just finished doing exactly that. “This is exactly why the Statute of Secrecy exists, to prevent this egregious and shameless burden on all of wizardkind--”
“Oh, shut up,” Harry says affectionately.
Draco's gone when Harry gets up the next day, doing whatever he always does, and leaves a note saying he's nearly finished with his project and therefore will be out late to get it done. It's a cold, clear, lovely day, and Harry decides to go out for a bit of a job-hunting wander.
He winds up a block away from his old office building around lunchtime, and has lunch at the sandwich place he'd first met Draco in. The woman behind the counter recognizes him, and they have a chat about the weather and how many cats her sister owns.
He's barely a block into the walk home when someone presses something sharp against his back and says, “Going somewhere, Potter?”
Harry freezes in his tracks and considers his options. This street is lined with office buildings, and nearly deserted, but he almost yells for help anyway until he realizes three things.
First, even though he's in public in broad daylight and can clearly see several people, none of them are paying him any notice or even seem to realize anything is happening.
Second, his attacker knows his name, and Harry can't think of a single person, barring primary school bullies, who has any kind of personal grudge against him.
Third, the pointy thing at his back is not a knife. It's not even a gun.
It's a wand.
“Let's find a better place to chat, shall we?” the wizard says, in a perfectly cordial voice. He grabs Harry’s arm tightly and Disapparates.
When Harry gets his wits about him, they’re standing in a lightly wooded park, snow-muffled and utterly deserted apart from four witches and wizards directly in front of them. They all have slightly nasty faces, and they're all looking at Harry with unmasked hatred.
Harry’s captor walks around to face him. He's a man about Harry’s age, dirty-blond and freckled, and has his wand pointed at Harry’s chest like a gun. The other four come silently up around him, surrounding Harry, all with their wands out.
“We've got some questions that need answering,” Harry’s captor says, still cordial, “but I doubt you'll be able to answer them. So we've a bit of waiting to do before we can go sort this mess out.”
Harry doesn't speak.
“Not much of a talker, huh?” a woman behind him says. “That's a change, nobody used to be able to shut you up.”
“Shut it, Pansy,” somebody else snaps. Pansy grumbles but falls silent.
There's a soft pop and a rush of displaced air, and Draco appears a few feet away. Immediately, the circle around Harry dissolves and re-forms around both of them.
Harry risks a glance at Draco. He looks scared and tired and very young.
“Malfoy, good to see you,” Harry’s captor says with a jovial air, as if he's not pointing a wand at Draco. “Nott gave you our message, I see.”
“Lankin,” Draco says neutrally. His face is now expressionless, and he's looking somewhere over Lankin’s shoulder.
“So. We've got a bit of an issue here--not sure if you noticed.”
Lankin pauses. The rest of the circle snickers a little.
“Uh-huh. Small hiccup in the plans. Tell me, Malfoy,” Lankin continues, his voice suddenly sharp and loud, “why Potter isn't dead.”
Harry looks at Draco again. He's still not looking directly at Lankin, but his eyes are wide and wary.
“I've got a guess,” Lankin snarls. “Better than a guess, you fucking traitor. So riddle me this, mate, did you mean to sabotage us from the start? Or did you chicken out halfway through? Spy or coward, take your pick.”
The circle is muttering now. Harry's heart is beating so hard it's choking him, but he manages to get out, “What is this?”
“That's what I'd like to know,” Lankin says, quiet again. “What is...this?” He gestures between Draco and Harry. “Been keeping an eye on him, have you? Keeping us off his trail? Keeping him safe?
“But you told him things, didn't you? Took him to Hogsmeade--” Draco swears under his breath-- “and showed him around? Now, that's what I can't pin down, Malfoy. Betray us, sure, you never could stomach what needed doing. Protect him, sure, the Aurors were shit at that. But befriend him?”
Draco shuts his eyes.
Lankin must notice Harry’s bewildered expression, because he turns to Harry now. “Well, maybe you can tell me. Maybe I already know. Did he tell you everything? I don't think so. I think you'd have sent him packing in half a second if he had. So did he tell you who you are? What you've done? That the whole wizarding world adores you? What the mark on his arm means, or the scar on your head?”
“What d’you mean?” Harry croaks. His hand jumps to his forehead, and some of the circle snickers.
“Lankin, you're a sadistic son of a bitch,” Draco says unsteadily. Harry looks at him. He pulls his left sleeve down over his hand and doesn't look back.
“Did he tell you how much you hate each other?” Lankin asks, very softly.
Lankin raises his eyebrows. “I see,” he says, still soft. “Oh, I see. Fancied yourself quite the hero, didn't you, Malfoy? A second chance you didn't even have to earn…”
“Whatever you're going to do, hurry up and do it,” Draco snaps.
“D’you want that?” Lankin says, amused. “I'd planned to take him back to the Manor to kill him. Make sure there's no complications with the potion. But if you'd rather get it out of the way…”
Draco draws his wand. Someone behind Harry laughs.
“There are five of us and one of you,” Lankin says. “Put it down. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Imperio!”
Harry’s head goes blank and fuzzy. He feels like he's floating in warmth, nothing but peace and serenity and a voice in his head saying, go quietly...go quietly…
The fuck I will, his own voice snarls back. Get out of my head-- and there's a jolt and an unpleasant sensation of something being peeled away from the inside of his skull, and Harry’s eyes are clear again. The cold is back, and so is the fear, and the fury.
“What the fuck was that?” he spits at Lankin, who looks stunned.
There's silence for a second, and then Draco laughs.
It's a nasty, mocking, humorless laugh that Harry’s never heard before. “Didn’t think to do your research, did you?” Draco sneers. “Thought you were above all that? When every fool in Britain could tell you that wouldn't work?”
Lankin’s face goes from shock to hate, and he slashes his wand sideways through the air. Draco gasps in pain and clutches his bleeding arm.
“Lankin, this is taking too long,” the wizard to Lankin’s left says.
“Fine,” Lankin spits. “We're going to the Manor or there's more where that came from, Malfoy. Stupefy!”
The spell hits Harry with the force of a sheet of metal to the face, and as he falls backward into unconsciousness he hears, as if from a great distance, Lankin saying, “And you can carry him, if you're that desperate to get your hands on him…”
“--nnervate,” a voice says, and Harry blinks and shakes himself and looks around to see the door closing behind someone.
He's lying on a bed in a bedroom, as elegantly decorated as the one in Draco’s house, though far darker and more forbidding. The headboard is carved with a pattern that looks a little like vines and leaves and a little like twisted faces.
There's a portrait on the wall by the door. It's of a pale man with cool eyes and a pointed face, who could almost be an older Draco but for his 18th-century clothes and hair. He's staring at Harry with unabashed curiosity.
“Where am I?” Harry asks him.
“Malfoy Manor,” the portrait says. “Wiltshire. Green bedroom.”
It is indeed extremely green. The curtains over the window are sheer and green, and tint the light so the whole room looks like it's deep underwater. The wallpaper has faces in it if Harry squints. They're not friendly-looking.
He has a strong sense that this house doesn't like him at all.
The portrait actually rolls its eyes when Harry voices that feeling. “Well, of course not. It’s got every protective charm you can imagine on it. I doubt the Muggles down in the town can even see it.” He spits. “Keep the vermin out. Mudbloods don't like it here either. You're a pureblood, I hope?”
“Er,” Harry says. “I don't know.” He doesn't think he likes the portrait much.
“Hmm,” says the portrait, clearly unimpressed. “Well, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find my many-times-great-grandnephew.” And, with a swirl of his cloak, he walks straight out of the frame and vanishes.
Harry lies back on the bed and rubs his forehead. There's a kind of hollowness in his stomach that he doesn't like to think about.
Eventually there's a knock at the door, and Draco’s voice cautiously says, “It’s me. Can I come in?”
Harry turns his eyes to the ceiling and says, “Yes.”
The door creaks open, and footsteps come in and move to the chair in the corner. Harry has a feeling Draco isn't looking at him, either.
“Augustus,” Draco says--the portrait must have returned. “Would you be so kind as to run a message to the Ministry?”
“Certainly I would, young master,” says Augustus Malfoy.
“Good. Find Ronald Weasley in the Auror Office or Hermione Granger in the Magical Creatures Department. Tell them Harry Potter is in the Manor and so are the poisoners they're looking for, five of them, and I've got the antidote and…” He sighs. “I'll try to have it done by the time they get here.”
Augustus recites the whole message back to Draco, then there's silence. Harry supposes he's left.
“Augustus funded the hiding spells on the modern Ministry headquarters,” Draco says, just to break the silence, “so he gets a portrait there too.”
“Lankin,” Harry says roughly. “Was he telling the truth?”
There's a pause.
“Yes,” Draco says dully.
Harry breathes in slowly, then out again.
“You've got good reason to hate me now,” says Draco, still in the same dull voice.
“I haven't decided yet, but you owe me the truth.” Harry stares at the ceiling. “I want to know what's going on. And I want to know why you lied to me.”
“I don't even know where to start,” Draco says.
Harry shuts his eyes and lets out possibly the most embarrassing, wretched question of them all. “So I--I’m a wizard? I'm...somebody?”
“You're a hero,” Draco says, and there's a bitterness beyond words in his voice. “You killed a nearly-immortal genocidal maniac. You're famous, everyone loves you. I’m the nobody. I'm the poor confused child who fought on the wrong side.”
“Wait--” Harry says, but it's like a gag Draco’s been wearing for weeks has been released, and his words are falling over each other with their eagerness to get out.
“The war was bad enough, but it didn't stop when the war was over. Everyone hated us. Most of us had parents in Az--in prison. And we got to talking to each other, because nobody else would talk to us without spitting on us, and convinced each other that it was all your fault, everything we were going through.” Draco takes a deep, shuddering breath and continues. “We couldn't turn back time, but we could hurt you, we could get revenge, and we started talking about--about how we could do it--” He pauses to breathe again. “I didn't think they'd actually try. That's--I'm not trying to excuse anything, but--”
“What did you do?” Harry asks flatly.
“One of us suggested a poison, something she’d read about, the most painful way to die--it would drain a person’s magic, and then their life force. Incredibly painful. And eventually one of us tracked down the recipe, and we started actually making it, and then I realized they were serious--”
“So you sabotaged it?”
“I wanted you hurt, not dead,” Draco says roughly. “I never wanted you dead. I found a potion a lot like that one, a way to--reroute your magic, use it to block memories and create false ones. Supposed to help people deal with bad memories. Or brainwash them. Get rid of the memory of an hour, a day…I made it potent enough to use all your magic, as if you'd never had it. To block out the better part of a lifetime, make you a new life as a Muggle. The rest never knew. They had me doing all their dirty work anyway, my whole family was disgraced after the war. They slipped you the potion and then left you with me so I could make sure it worked, and it did--you fell asleep, and then you got up and sleepwalked out. I knew your magic would help you with the rest. I Transfigured a candle into the shape of a human body and wrapped it in a sheet.” His voice is utterly colorless. “They didn't even bury it.”
“The Aurors had Weasley and Granger looking for you. They didn't know what had happened, of course, and they're your best friends, thought they'd be the most likely to find you. I was looking, too. I wanted to make sure I found you before my friends did, and see if I could keep you safe while I met with Weasley and Granger and told them how to make the antidote.”
“How much of what I remember is fake?”
“Everything from the summer of your eleventh birthday to about two days before I found you in that sandwich shop,” says Draco grimly.
Harry lets out his breath and sits up slowly. Draco is staring at the floor, and looks like he's trying not to cry.
“Like I said,” Draco mutters. “You've got good reason to be angry.”
“Good,” Harry says numbly. “I'm glad you think so too.”
“You said there's an antidote?” Harry says.
“Yes. It'll--well, it's an antidote, it'll undo the poison. Give you back your magic and your memories. It's almost done, finished it earlier, just needs one more ingredient.” Draco pulls a palm-sized glass vial out of a pocket. It's full of an inky-blue, viscous liquid.
“Memories.” Now Draco sounds like he's talking around a lump in his throat. “Every false memory the poison made. And every memory you made since you took it. There's a spell to pull them out.”
Harry stares at him. There's a terrible kind of hope in him now, like when Draco had told him about magic, only deeper, and crueler, and more aching. An awful gnawing covetousness for a life he'd never dreamed of, for the paltry price of a life that had never been real to him, even before he'd known how false it was. He's never been given an easier decision to make…
Draco looks up for the first time, and their eyes meet, and suddenly Harry can't breathe.
“Did we really hate each other?” he asks.
Draco smiles wryly. “From the day we met. I broke your nose once. You got me back by slashing my chest open.”
“Then was any of it real?” Harry says desperately.
Draco's eyes go back to the floor, and he hunches down in his seat as if he wants it to absorb him. “All of it was.” He shuts his eyes briefly. “I'll swear that on whatever will make you believe me.”
“I believe you.”
Draco looks back up at Harry, then quickly away.
“Will I still have any idea what happened?” Harry asks.
“I don't know. I think--I don't know. There's no records of it either way, Granger would know if there were. It--seems logical you wouldn’t just have a blank space, you’d have something. But then why take the memories out to begin with?”
They look at each other in silence for a minute.
“Yeah, I'm mad at you right now, I want my life back,” Harry says softly. “But I don't want to forget--I don't want to lose…everything we... ”
“God, stop, please.” Draco covers his face with his hands. “Let's just do this, quickly.”
Harry says, “All right,” and barely flinches when Draco sits on the bed next to him, uncorks the antidote, and rests the tip of his wand on Harry’s temple.
“This'll feel weird,” Draco mutters, “relax, think about the memories.” He draws his wand away slowly, and Harry feels like a leak has sprung in the side of his skull, like he's being liquefied and sucked out of himself. Day by remembered day, his life is flickering away, a film reel unwinding out of him into open air.
And then there's nothing of him left, and he watches with mild curiosity as a strange pale man lowers a glittering silver thread into a glass bottle, and the liquid inside goes sky-blue and frothy.
“Drink it,” the man says, and Harry obediently takes it and drinks. It tastes like copper and freedom.
He’s very tired.
The first thing Harry sees when he opens his eyes is the ceiling of the spell damage ward of St. Mungo’s.
He takes a moment to consider the fact that he's living the kind of life in which he can recognize the spell damage ward of St. Mungo’s by its ceiling, then realizes something.
He's still got his memories.
They're odd and disjointed, like memories of a dream--a series of single very clear, though somewhat warped, images, accompanied by knowledge of the context and how he felt about it. Like book covers, scene and summary. But they're there.
He’ll have to tell Hermione, she’ll be glad to have solved that mystery.
Maybe he’ll get a Pensieve after all, if he could do this on purpose. Take out what hurts, and leave a labeled space, information without grief or weight.
He remembers a strange sort of double life, his years at Hogwarts side-by-side with a manufactured Muggle adolescence. He remembers work, and more work, and loneliness.
He remembers Draco.
He'll need to unpack the rush of emotion that comes with that discovery, but it'll have to wait. Harry knows by the tone of the silence that there are two other people in the room, who are trying to breathe very quietly and pretend they aren't there.
Harry sits up (slowly, his head has a weird light feeling to it that warns of a possible headache) and looks at Ron and Hermione, who are in chairs next to his bed watching him with a degree of apprehension he hasn't seen since they thought he might be the Heir of Slytherin. He rather wishes he had a camera.
“Well, now we know what to do if I'm ever getting short on sleep,” Harry says. “Suck out all my memories and then have me drink them. I feel like I've been asleep for months. What day is it?”
“Oh, Harry,” Hermione says in relief, and throws her arms around him.
“New Year’s Eve, mate,” Ron says, patting Hermione’s shoulder. “You had the whole department going crazy, you just disappeared all of a sudden.”
“Do you remember anything?” Hermione asks. “Anything at all?”
“Yeah, sort of,” Harry says. “It all feels like a dream. I saw you, didn't I? Both of you.”
“You gave us such a fright,” Hermione says earnestly. “We had no idea what had happened--”
“--then Malfoy turned up asking to see us--”
“Ron hexed him--”
“You'd have done too, you've no idea how weird it is to see Malfoy being sincere--”
“So he told you what happened?” Harry interrupts.
“What he did? Yes,” Hermione says grimly. “He told us everything, and asked us to keep it between us and not press charges.”
“I don't know that we shouldn't have done it anyway,” Ron mutters.
Hermione sighs. “We did owe him. We wouldn't have had any idea what had happened or how to make the antidote if it wasn't for him, and you'd have died in a lot of pain even before that. I'd call it even.”
“Have either of you, er, heard from Draco recently?” Harry asks casually.
“Not since we got you out of his house,” Hermione says, wide-eyed.
Ron shakes his head too. “Hey, Harry, is it true you were friends? Can you imagine…”
“Yeah,” Harry mutters. “Yeah, we--we were.”
“Well, that just makes it even worse, how he lied to you!” Hermione says indignantly. “I'd be so upset if it were me…well, Harry, we’ll leave so you can have some rest, come to the New Year’s party tonight, will you? Oh, it's so good to have you back…” She hugs him again, and she and Ron say their goodbyes.
Ron hangs back after Hermione has left, shifting his weight from foot to foot, and scratches the back of his neck awkwardly.
“All right, say it,” Harry says, amused.
“You and Malfoy,” says Ron. “Was there anything--were you--did he--er--”
Harry takes pity on him. “Yeah. We were together.”
Ron bounces on his heels, then appears to throw caution to the winds. “And are you--still?”
“I don't know,” Harry admits. “I think I'd like to be. I don't know if he would. I need to think about it.”
“Of all the people you could've picked,” Ron says wearily. “Well, all right then. Good luck, mate. Merlin, does this mean I have to get along with him?”
“Yeah, sorry,” says Harry, laughing. “If it's any consolation, he'll hate it too.”
“Nice to have something in common,” Ron says, and leaves.
Harry grins at the closed door and lies back, lacing his hands behind his head.
He knows he should be angry at Draco, and he knows he was, not too long ago. He also knows that Draco never once lied to him--only omitted, which is just as bad from Harry’s point of view, but from Draco’s would serve to spare him some guilt. Draco had gone out of his way to avoid feeling like he was lying to Harry.
He had also, apparently, gone out of his way to make his own job difficult. Draco had to have known that, given a taste of magic, however small, Harry would always want more. It had been going to Hogsmeade that had given them up in the first place. Draco's not stupid, he had to have understood the risks, but he took them anyway.
Harry misses him, he realizes quite suddenly. And he's not even a little angry at him anymore. And he wants to ask him questions, and hear the answers he already sort of knows, and kiss him to make that despairing look go away, the one he'd worn while pulling every good memory of the two of them out of Harry’s head…
Harry’s grinning like an idiot at the ceiling. There are great reserves of self-confidence in him now, confidence born of magic and experience and knowing the depth and breadth of his own ability, confidence his Muggle self had only dreamed of. It's like flying, like having the world beneath him, the horizon a touch away.
Suddenly it sounds reasonable, even easy, to walk up to Draco and just ask him out. And if Fate should neglect to present him with the opportunity, well--he's ridden dragons, he's fought a basilisk in a centuries-old secret room, he's nearly died a thousand ways since his first birthday, he's really died and come back and gone on about his life…
…he can ask his second-worst enemy out for coffee without the help of Fate.
Harry’s Healer lets him go to the Ministry New Year’s party, on the condition that he avoid overexertion. That's fine by Harry, since telling people he's not supposed to push himself results in them going away and leaving him alone, not to mention telling other people to leave him alone. So he has the same conversation about ten times, with people who are enormously happy to see him and then go away to instruct everyone else to give him space. It's quite enjoyable.
He skulks around the edge of the party with the other introverts. They're in someone’s immense yard, held in by a creek and some woods on two sides and glowing charms like fairy lights on the other two, keeping them away from the house.
It's lovely in the dark. Someone put Seamus Finnegan in charge of the fireworks, and now and then one explodes at random and the whole clearing is drowned with colored light that reflects in glimmers off the water in the creek. Everyone whoops and screams when this happens, drowning out Celestina Warbeck’s magically magnified crooning for a second.
Someone's sitting on a garden bench near the woods, hunched over like they aren't sure if they should be there or not. A firework goes off, to loud approval, and the figure is lit up white and purple, and Harry recognizes him.
It's Draco, staring moodily at the creek. People are giving him a wide berth.
Harry’s stomach goes enjoyably fluttery. He's long since learned how to convert that into excitement, not nervousness, and there's no friction of hesitation to stop him from going over and saying, “Hey, is this seat taken?”
Draco gives him a startled look, shakes his head, and curls more emphatically into himself, away from Harry, as Harry sits.
A voice over the radio announces that the next few songs will be seasonal Muggle songs, in honor of companionship and new beginnings, then starts an upbeat and entirely inappropriate 80s love song.
Harry scrutinizes him. A few weeks ago, all he would have seen in Draco's expression was sullen moodiness, but there's hopelessness there too, and Draco’s head is ducked like he's weighed down with the pressure of the silence between them.
“I'll just,” he mutters, and goes to get up.
“Wait,” Harry says. “Can I talk to you?”
Draco glances at him and away again. “Here?”
Harry shrugs and looks out at the party. “Might as well, since we're both here.” The noise should mask their conversation; he's not concerned about being overheard.
Draco nods carefully, watching Harry out of the corner of his eye.
“How'd they get the poison to me in the first place, d’you know?”
“Nott bought drinks as a peace offering. Slipped it in yours. You didn't think to be suspicious of it.” Draco's voice is raw, like he's been crying recently.
“Maybe I should get like Moody, and only ever drink out of a hip flask.”
“That'd be smarter than whatever the hell you think you're doing instead,” Draco snaps. “Accepting drinks from former enemies--I didn't think it would work, I thought nobody could be that stupid.” He hunches back over and looks away.
“Clearly I'm in a league of my own, then,” Harry says, but Draco doesn't immediately tell him to shut up and piss off, and the conversation trails away.
Someone in the middle of the crowd drops a firework, and half the crowd has to throw themselves out of its way, shrieking with glee.
“I've still got the memories,” Harry tells Draco quietly, once the noise has died down again.
“They're kind of weird and dreamy, but I've got an idea what happened.”
“I'm sorry,” Draco says, and his voice cracks. “I've told you, you've got a right to be angry.”
“About what?” Harry asks gently. “You giving me two of the best moments of my life? Yeah, I'm just furious.”
Finally Draco looks straight at him, wide-eyed.
“I was angry,” Harry says. “I'm not anymore. Just curious. Why did you tell me so much? Take me flying, all of it?”
“I got carried away.” There's dry self-mockery in his voice now. “Forgot to be careful. All of a sudden I had this chance, to see if maybe we could get along after all, if I could--be something. To you.”
“And we did get along,” Harry prompts.
“Yeah. And I knew I should've left it at that, but…”
“But I was miserable.” Harry's talking as soft as he can.
Draco nods shortly. “And you weren’t even...you weren’t yourself, you didn’t have a deathwish and a hero complex and everything else that’s so bloody Gryffindor, and I guess I thought maybe if I--acted like that, took some stupid risks, you’d remember how to…not be miserable.” He half shrugs. “Whatever. It's over now.”
“D’you think you were taking advantage? Because I don't think you were.”
“Don't make it real,” Draco says very quietly.
“Why not? It is real. It is to me, and you said it was to you.”
“Don't make it harder,” Draco snaps. “Not now, not when it's over, just go back to your friends and leave me alone.”
“Actually I was planning on asking you out,” Harry says carefully.
Sharp intake of breath. “That's not funny.”
“I'm not joking. I told you I didn't want to lose you, and I don't.”
Draco doesn't even flinch when another firework goes off. He's still staring at Harry. Thirty seconds to midnight! someone yells, to widespread applause.
“I remember why I like you, you know. Because you're a ruthless bastard with a nasty sense of humor, and you aren't afraid to say what you're thinking. And you like me.”
“I'll swear on whatever will make you believe me,” Harry says quietly.
Draco blinks like he's waking from a deep sleep. “You're serious.”
“Wow,” says Harry. “So that's, what, three ways of saying the same thing? That's what it takes to get the message across?”
“Oh, shut up,” Draco says, now wide-eyed and nearly smiling.
“Might make it awkward to keep eating out, if the waiter has to repeat everything three times--”
“Shut up,” Draco says giddily. “Shut up, for the love of God--”
“Make me,” Harry says. Something in Draco’s eyes sharpens.
The space between them feels unbearably fragile.
Harry leans in, and Draco meets him halfway.
The fireworks are nice, Harry thinks distantly. It's not often that the entire sky echoes how he feels.
Once the shouting has settled down a little, and the most enthusiastic screamers have lost their voices, Harry and Draco break apart and breathe softly into the space between them.
For a second, the noise of the party seems to be on the outside of a bubble around them, inside which is only peace and stillness.
Then, ever so softly over the chatter, the thinnest strain of music rises into the night.
‘Cause I just want you here tonight, holding on to me so tight…
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Harry says in dismay.
Draco’s eyebrows go up, and he snorts and bursts out laughing. The song’s back in Harry’s head, as strident as if it had never left, but Draco’s leaning on him now and Harry can feel his body shaking with laughter.
And maybe it is kind of funny, anyway.
What more can I do?
Oh, baby, all I want for Christmas is you!