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I'll Floo Home for Christmas

Chapter Text

Harry loved Christmas, he really did. The holiday food, the festive parties, the joyful music; it all added up to Christmas being his favourite holiday, and he looked forward to it every single year. But if he was being completely honest just for a minute, he would probably say that he didn't think the festivities at the Ministry really needed to begin the second the clock ticked over to December first. Twenty five days was a long time, and over the years of working there, Harry always found himself getting kind of weary listening to Celestina Warbeck's rendition of 'Summon Me Under the Mistletoe' on repeat after a week, and he found that the bright, flashing christmas lights that sparkled off every available surface began to hurt his eyes after about two.

Not that he'd ever complain; he didn't like to imagine the backlash if his co-workers ever heard anyone utter a single negative word about the intensity with which they celebrated, but he'd silently protest the excessive decorations by throwing a sly frown in their direction when he started to get sick of them. It made him feel better about it.

Ron, the self-proclaimed 'King of Christmas', said Harry was lacking the proper holiday spirit and should be grateful to work somewhere that took the season so seriously, but Harry was pretty sure Ron would have the joke shop decked out with tinsel and wreaths and lights before Halloween was even over if George would let him, so he didn't take his comments too seriously.

This year, though, thankfully, the song at least had been updated, and as Harry wandered through the halls to his office in the Auror Department he found himself humming along to 'I'll Floo Home for Christmas' with a bit of a grin on his face and a little bubble of excitement in his stomach.

Maybe this year it would be a little more bearable, he thought. He loved Christmas, after all. Maybe he'd just needed a few years to get used to how much his co-workers liked this time of year.

"Potter, there you are."

Harry turned and saw Draco Malfoy striding towards him from the other end of the hall, his dark robes a stark contrast to the bright red and green tinsel draped artfully along the walls. He was one of the only other Ministry employees who got to work as early as Harry did, and Harry often wondered if they were in a silent competition to be the first here. He'd never ask, obviously, but he always made a point to arrive extra early, just to make sure that if they were competing, he was winning.

"Kingsley wants to see us," Malfoy announced, coming to a stop in front of Harry.

Harry frowned at him. Malfoy was Head of Magical Games and Sports. He'd worked himself up from being a clerk to the Head of the Department in just a few years, and some people had whispered and grumbled about it behind closed doors, but Harry had heard and seen enough to know Malfoy was excellent at his job and had earned his position. Their departments rarely intersected though; for big events like the Quidditch World Cup, Harry, as Head Auror, would assign a team of his Aurors for security, but it was unusual for them to ever need to work together.

"Why?" he asked. His eyes widened. "Christ, we're not doing a Christmas Quidditch match this year, are we? I didn't think that was happening anymore."

He made a face at the memory of the last time Malfoy's department had tried to get the staff together for a friendly match; two people from Magical Accidents and Catastrophes had ended up in St Mungo's after getting into a fight, one of Harry's trainee Aurors managed to set someone's broom on fire (accidentally, the boy had claimed, but Harry was pretty sure he'd seen him flick his wand in that direction), and Harry himself had ended up with a dislocated shoulder after the witch who ran the cafeteria had hit a bludger at him from close range when she thought he was going to get the snitch.

That was the first and last year there are had been Christmas Quidditch, and coincidentally, the last year the previous Head of Magical Games and Sports had worked here before Malfoy took over. People just couldn't be trusted not to get competitive. The incident was known these days as the Christmas Quidditch Catastrophe, and Harry shuddered at the thought of it being reintroduced.

"Merlin, no," Malfoy replied, shaking his head and making his hair fall over his forehead. "It won't be happening again while I'm in charge."

"Good," Harry sighed in relief. "I don't fancy any more bones being dislocated."

"And you don't want to lose again, I imagine," Malfoy commented casually, smirking as he inspected his nails.

"I didn't lose," Harry grumbled. "I was injured. The match should have been called off."

"And it was, after I caught the snitch, Potter. That means I won," Malfoy replied smugly.

Harry crossed his arms and scowled. "What did Kingsley want, Malfoy?"

Malfoy was still smirking, and would probably bring the match up again in a few days; he'd been doing the same thing for the last couple of years, making sure Harry never forgot, and Harry was mostly used to it by now, but sometimes he couldn't help but take the bait, and Malfoy knew it.

"He didn't say," Malfoy told him. "His memo said I had to find you as soon as you showed up this morning and we both had go to his office straight away. Come on."

He turned and began to walk back the way he'd come, and Harry hurried to keep up behind him.

"Why did he send the memo to you and not me?" he muttered as he fell into step beside Malfoy.

"I assume he knew I'd be here already," Malfoy commented slyly, slanting a glance at Harry. Harry narrowed his eyes in reply and made a mental note to set his alarm half an hour earlier tomorrow.

Kingsley's office was in the very centre of the Ministry, a huge square room with one completely glass wall. He said it represented the transparency he wanted to have as Minister, that he didn't want to be closed off from his staff and wanted to be approachable to everyone. Harry thought it was commendable, but personally he was quite glad for the privacy his own office afforded, and thought he would go a bit mental if he didn't have somewhere quiet to himself where he could retreat throughout the day, especially after a stressful case.

Kingsley was sitting behind his desk writing, his door open, when Harry and Malfoy approached, and he gave them a warm smile when Harry knocked on the door jam.

"Harry, Draco, good to see you both. Happy December first!" he boomed happily. His office, as Harry had known it would, matched the rest of the Ministry — red, gold, and green decorations plastered across every surface, a freshly cut tree propped in one corner, and Celestina's voice floating through the air from a wireless radio somewhere in the Ministry that was enchanted to make sure everyone could hear it all the time. Kingsley could probably give Ron a run for his money for the title of King of Christmas. The jumper he was wearing — a red knitted thing with a huge reindeer on the front — was certainly much brighter than any jumper should be, and Harry suspected it was charmed to look that way.

"Malfoy said you wanted to see us, sir," Harry said as he sat down on one of the plush guest chairs opposite Kingsley. "Everything alright?"

"Of course, it's Christmas after all!" Kingsley replied, smiling wider. It wasn't, not technically, but Harry didn't point it out. "I've got a special assignment for the two of you, and I think you'll be quite excited for it."

Harry sat up a little straighter. December was always a quiet month for him and his team. He'd never understood why, and joked that maybe criminals took the holidays as seriously as the Ministry did, but whatever the actual reason was, the few cases that did come across his desk were delegated to his team, and Harry was often left bored, wishing something would happen. If Kingsley had extra work for him, even if he had to work with Malfoy, he'd gladly take it.

"There are no major sporting events on until the new year," Malfoy pointed out. "Why do you need me?"

"This is nothing to do with either of your departments," Kingsley assured them, leaning back in his chair and grinning. "I picked the two of you because I know you both have a lot of free time at this time of year, and I trust you both to take this as seriously as the occasion requires. It's a big deal, and a lot of staff would be banging on my door to do this if they knew the opportunity was available, so I wanted to come to you both first before anyone else found out."

Harry frowned in confusion, and waited for Kingsley to continue. Before he could though, Malfoy surprised him by letting out a loud groan.

"Oh my god, no," he said dramatically. "This is about Mary McTafferty being in St Mungo's with Dragon Pox, isn't it?"

"It certainly is," Kingsley agreed happily, as though Dragon Pox was not a terrible thing. "I wasn't sure how we'd manage this year without her when I found out — so many other staff are too busy to commit the time to it — but then I thought of you two."

Harry racked his brain to remember who Mary McTafferty was. He thought she might have worked in Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, but he was pretty sure he knew her name from somewhere else as well...

"I want you both to plan the Ministry Christmas party," Kingsley announced grandly. His eyes were bright as he grinned at them expectantly, like he was waiting for applause or a fireworks display to start. Harry didn't quite share his excitement

"What?" he deadpanned. "Kingsley, I hope you're joking."

He remembered Mary now. She was the energetic witch who planned all of the Ministry parties. She'd bothered Harry more times than he could count, banging on his office door to make sure he didn't forget to RSVP to whatever the latest event was, because apparently it was "so important people see him there, for morale, you know?"

"Not at all!" Kingsley assured him, his spirit not dampened at all by Harry's reaction. "This is a big deal — the Christmas party is the event of the year, and I know the two of you will make it the best one yet. Plus, you've both worked hard this year. You've earned this."

Harry blinked at him in disbelief.

"Kingsley, with all due respect, this is a really terrible idea," Harry told him. "I don't know anything about party planning, and Malfoy and I, well, we're not exactly friends."

He glanced at Malfoy, who nodded in agreement.

"Loathe as a I am to say it, Potter's right," he said. "Surely there's someone else who can do this with him."

Harry shot him a glare for trying to throw him under the bus. Prat.

"You'll be fine," Kingsley said, as though he hadn't heard their protests. "The date will be the twenty-third. Everything you book can be charged straight to the Ministry's Finance Department, and I'll check in with you both in a week or so to see how you're progressing."

"Kingsley," Harry protested. "I really don't think—"

"Harry, listen to me," Kingsley cut in, his smile faltering. "I need you to take this seriously, alright? I wouldn't have come to you both if I didn't think you could do it. Mary has said you're welcome to use her notes — they're in her office in her desk drawer — and if you need help, I'm happy to work with you. But every member of the Ministry looks forward to the Christmas party every year, and there's really no one else I'd want to hand this over to. So please, just work together, and get this done, alright?"

Harry wanted to argue more, wanted to say he had absolutely no interest in planning a party of this scale, but Kingsley was watching him with an arched eyebrow and his arms crossed, and Harry knew that look meant there was no use in protesting anymore.

"Merlin, fine," he conceded reluctantly. "But if it's rubbish I am not taking responsibility for it. I want it noted on the record that I am protesting this decision."

"As long as you get it done, you can put whatever you like on the record," Kingsley said, grinning again. He stood up and gestured towards the door. "I'll leave you both to it."

"I suppose there's no point mentioning that we are both department heads and should not be made to do this sort of menial labour?" Malfoy drawled as he stood up.

"None at all," Kingsley agreed. "I'm the Minister and if I had the time, I'd do it myself."

"Yes, but—"

"Come on," Harry cut in. He knew there was no point arguing with Kingsley, especially about Christmas. If it was possible to change his mind, Harry wouldn't have Celestina playing in his office right now. He grabbed Malfoy's sleeve and tugged him to the door, ignoring his protests. "Thanks Kingsley, see you later."

"Potter!" Malfoy growled as they made their way back down the hall. "I was just about to convince him not to make us do this."

"You weren't," Harry assured him. He stopped and rounded on Malfoy. "Look, how do you want to do this? I've never planned something like this before. Sometimes I plan Christmas drinks to catch up with people from Hogwarts, but that's normally just a few of us at the Leaky, and I—"

"Potter, we are not doing the Ministry Christmas party at the Leaky Cauldron, so you can forget that right now," Malfoy sniffed, his accent getting posher the way it did when he was being a stuck up prat. Which was most of the time, Harry thought.

"I wasn't suggesting we do," Harry retorted. "I was just letting you know I haven't had to plan something like this before."

"Yes, well," Malfoy replied, turning his nose up slightly, "obviously I'll be taking the lead, so don't worry."

"Why obviously?" Harry demanded indignantly. "You don't just get to decide you're in charge. We're supposed to do this together."

"You just said you don't know what you're doing," Malfoy pointed out, and Harry hated him when he was right. He hated that even though he'd been Head Auror for three years, even though he was a grown fucking man with his own flat and a staff who respected him and a goddamn beard, all it took was something ridiculous like a Christmas party to reduce him to a petulant, arguing teenager bickering in a hallway with Draco Malfoy.

"You're not just taking over," he insisted, rather than agreeing with Malfoy and being mature.

"Fine," Malfoy said, crossing his arms. "Where do you want to start then, if you want to be involved?" He looked at Harry expectantly. He was such a posh bloody prat.

"Er. We should, uh… book the venue?" Harry suggested tentatively.

When Malfoy narrowed his eyes and didn't say anything, Harry relaxed and knew he'd guessed right.

"Fine," Malfoy sniffed. "But I can't start this today; I need to prepare my department's assignments for the holidays."

"Wow, you've left that late," Harry commented seriously. "I prepared mine weeks ago. But you know me — I like to be organised." Which wasn't true, but the way Malfoy scowled and stalked away made Harry grin, and he hummed 'I'll Floo Home For Christmas' a little louder as he made his way back to his office.


Chapter Text

Harry was bored. For a very brief moment when he'd arrived at work this morning and seen a small stack of case files on his desk, he'd been really excited — tossing his cloak away and not bothering to pick it up when it missed the hook on the wall and ended up a crumpled mess on the floor — too eager to get to work to care. To his disappointment though, the most interesting case out of the lot had been a complaint from Gringotts — someone had managed to set a Niffler loose in the lobby. None of it would take long to deal with, and so after delegating the assignments out to his team, Harry was left alone in his office. He leaned his chair back precariously onto two legs, propping his feet up on his desk, and began tossing a paper ball up in the air and catching it, wondering if he should shave his beard or not this weekend.

Harry hated not having anything to do. He wanted to be active, to be out in the world doing something — not stuck in his office trying to break his record of six hundred and eleven catches in a row while he waited for the other Aurors to come back and submit their reports so he could close the cases. He loved being Head Auror most of the time, and he was pretty damn good at it too, but when it was quiet and he had to keep his Aurors busy rather than be out in the field himself, he missed just being one of the team.

He glanced at the calendar over his desk; it was only December second, and things usually didn't pick up for him again until the New Year. He wondered if it was possible to actually die of boredom, and made a mental note to ask Hermione. If it was, he should be prepared for it.

He'd just caught the paper ball again for the six hundredth and ninth time, and was only three catches away from breaking his record — and possibly some sort of world record — when his office door banged open and startled him. He dropped the paper ball, and only just caught himself before he toppled backwards off his chair.

"Malfoy, what the fuck?" Harry demanded, righting himself and planting his feet firmly back on the floor, glaring at Malfoy stood in his doorway. "Don't you bloody knock?"

Malfoy rolled his eyes, like Harry's question was ridiculous rather than completely reasonable. "I need to talk to you," he announced.

Harry summoned the paper ball from where it had landed on the floor and tossed it onto his desk beside the package he'd received from Molly this morning. "You can't just come barging in here demanding to talk without even knocking," Harry grumbled. "It's rude. I'm too busy right now anyway," he lied. "Come back later."

"I have a potential venue for this party," Malfoy said, ignoring him. "Celeste Murphy from my department; her wife is a manager over at the Wellington Grand Hotel, and Celeste mentioned that the event they had booked for the twenty-third cancelled. You and I are going there tomorrow at ten to see if it's suitable, so be ready."

Harry considered arguing and putting up a fight, but sitting around all morning had made him weary, so instead he just threw Malfoy a dark look and muttered, "Fine, whatever."

Malfoy nodded. "Good. What's that?" He pointed to Harry's desk, to the package Harry'd left half-open and abandoned when he'd realised what it was.

"The start of Molly Weasley's Christmas baking," Harry told him. "She goes a bit overboard and sends us all way too much food as soon as December hits. She always starts with fruitcake though, which I hate." He made a face at the offending parcel. Fruit and cake just did not belong together under any circumstances, in his opinion, and he would not be a part of that particular Christmas tradition.

"I love fruitcake, it reminds me of Christmas with my parents," Malfoy said with a faraway look in his eye, and then blushed when he noticed Harry watching him with an arched brow. "I mean— nothing," he said hastily. "Fuck off, Potter, you idiot."

Harry snorted. "You can have it, if you want," he offered, and then when he realised he was being sort of friendly with Draco Malfoy, he added, "You know, because I'm not going to eat it anyway. You may as well."

"Ugh," Malfoy replied snobbishly. "I don't want your secondhand food, Potter."

"It's not secondhand," Harry argued. "I haven't touched it. Look, I've not even finished opening it. I'm just… sharing it with you."

"It's not sharing if you don't eat any," Malfoy sniffed, eyeing the package with poorly disguised interest.

"I don't want to eat any, it's gross."

"If it's gross, why are you offering it to me?"

"To be nice, I don't know!" Harry said, exasperated. "Don't worry, I'll just give it to someone else."

"Fine, I don't want it anyway," Malfoy snapped.

"Fine," Harry snapped back, crossing his arms and not really sure how they'd suddenly ended up fighting over fruitcake. "Are we done here?"

"Be ready at ten tomorrow," Malfoy said, glaring at Harry. "And pick up your damn cloak, you look like a slob!"

"Pick up your own cloak," Harry yelled after him as the door slammed shut. He frowned. Not his best comeback, not by a long shot, but he was glad to have had the last word. That was something, at least.

This party was going to be an actual disaster. There was no way the two of them could sit down and plan this together if they couldn't even talk about bloody fruitcake without getting annoyed. Harry didn't even hate Malfoy, and he was pretty sure Malfoy didn't hate him either, but it was just habit now to bicker and argue. What else were they supposed to do? Besides, fruitcake was disgusting. Maybe if they found a less horrible subject, they could talk without dissolving into bickering.

Maybe.

Probably not.

Although... there had been that one time a couple of years ago, when they'd managed to get along alright. They'd been seated next to each other at a charity ball, and it'd been pretty tense for a while — at least until they'd both started drinking. Once they were tipsy enough to forget they were meant to be arguing, they'd ended up betting on which of them could steal more forks from the other tables. By the end of the night, they'd ended up giggling in a stairwell, leaning into one another with a bottle of Firewhisky, drinking until Ron had found them and dragged Harry home.

That had been a one off though, and Harry didn't spend any time thinking about that night, or about waking up the next morning on Ron and Hermione's couch with a pocketful of silver forks, the smell of Malfoy's cologne lingering on his shirt from where they'd been pressed up close on the stairs.

Harry supposed he could just spend the next three weeks drunk and that might help things along, but he really wasn't much of a drinker, and he wasn't sure he had the stamina to be intoxicated for that many days in a row.

He sighed and used his wand to push the offending fruitcake further away from him. He'd give it to the Aurors later; they never said no to free food, and they'd probably appreciate his gesture, unlike some people. Bloody Malfoy. Why did he have to be such a prat? Harry leaned back in his chair, balancing it on two legs again, and he propped his feet up. He began to toss the paper ball again, determined to put Malfoy out of his head for the rest of the day and focus on the important task of breaking his record.

Chapter Text

The Wellington Grand Hotel was probably the fanciest hotel Harry had ever been in. Not that he'd stayed in many — the Dursleys had certainly never taken him with them on their family vacations — but it definitely outclassed the shabby inn he'd had to stay in that one time during an Auror mission. It'd been called Medusa's Snake Pit or something like that, and he still wasn't entirely sure what had been going on on the top floor, though he'd seen a lot of wizards coming and going up the stairs and suspected he wouldn't want to know. He'd gotten out of there as quickly as he could the next morning after one of the witches who worked there kept leering suggestively at him.

This was nothing like that. Harry felt immediately underdressed when he stepped into the lobby. It was all polished marble and gold trimmings and furniture that looked too expensive to actually use. The kind he imagined Malfoy had in his house. Malfoy, naturally, strolled in like he owned the place and made his way straight to the long reception desk while Harry followed behind him, smoothing down his Auror robes that, until thirty seconds ago, he had always thought were quite fancy.

"Draco Malfoy to see Bridget Murphy," Malfoy announced pompously to the witch behind the counter. Harry would have been really annoyed if someone practically swanned up to him and used that posh voice, but the witch looked sort of impressed, and Harry supposed he was outnumbered in a place like this. The witch's hair was blonde and sleek, sort of like Malfoy's had been in school, and the disapproving way she pursed her lips when she glanced down at Harry's scuffed boots made him think it was unlikely he'd be welcome here if it wasn't for Malfoy, and that was a very strange feeling. Malfoy himself was watching her as she made a call, and Harry used the opportunity to glance over at him. He was quite glad Malfoy didn't wear his hair all slicked back anymore; it looked much better loose and falling over his forehead the way it currently was. He hadn't actually realised until now that he had any strong feelings on Malfoy's hair, but apparently he did, because the thought of him starting to slick it back again made Harry want to pull a face.

"Mr Potter! Mr Malfoy! I'm so glad you could make it!"

Harry turned and saw a tall, fair-haired woman striding towards them. She was wearing casual trousers and a simple button-down shirt, nothing fancy at all, and Harry wondered why the snooty reception witch didn't look at her with disdain too. That seemed unfair. The woman — Bridget — was much friendlier than her colleague. She had a thick Irish accent and a toothy smile, and as she led them to the Hotel's function room she told Malfoy no less than four times how lucky he was to work with Celeste, and Harry thought it was lovely that she bragged about her wife so much.

"Awful, obviously, for the lads who were planning their Christmas do here," Bridget was saying, looking back over her shoulder at he and Malfoy. "The two gents who ran the company fell into some sort of drama - turns out they were both sleeping with each others wives! Huge scandal, obviously, but it worked out well for the Ministry, didn't it. Now." She stopped in front of two huge white doors, gave them both an excited grin, and then pushed them open. "This is our best and biggest function room," she said as she led them inside the enormous room. "It's the only one we have available for the date you've requested, and if you'd like to book I would suggest you do it today as it's very popular."

Harry gazed around the room, at the huge windows framed with gold and white curtains, at the sparkling wine glasses and china that was placed carefully on each table, not a piece out of place, and at the huge sparkling chandelier that hung over the centre of the room. Then he thought about the last couple of Ministry Christmas parties he had been to, and he remembered how rowdy everyone had been by the end of the night, how much alcohol had been slopped on the dance floor and how many witches and wizards had stumbled their way home that night, barely able to stand.

He grimaced. "Maybe this isn't the right-"

"It's perfect," Malfoy declared. "We'll book it now."

"Malfoy," Harry said, eyeing the plush, light coloured (and very expensive looking) carpet. "I think we should talk about this first. This might be a bit… lavish for a Ministry party."

"Nonsense, Potter. It's exactly what we need," Malfoy said dismissively. He turned back to Bridget. "I'll need the invoice sent directly to the Ministry's finance department - they'll arrange the full payment immediately."

"Excellent," Bridget said happily. "Now, you do understand the total price of three hundred galleons does not include catering or beverages? Celeste mentioned you would be organising that yourself."

"Three hundred galleons?" Harry gaped. "Just for room hire? Isn't that a little much?"

Malfoy and Bridget both stared at him like he'd grown a second head, but Harry didn't think it was an unreasonable thing to ask.

"Apologies," Malfoy said to Bridget. "He's unfamiliar with event planning, or this kind of establishment, obviously."

"Don't apologise for me," Harry said irritably. "I just didn't expect it to be so much."

"Mr Potter, this is the Wellington Grand Hotel," Bridget said kindly. "I think you'll find our prices very reasonable, considering the inclusions you get with your booking."

Malfoy was glaring at him, but Harry ignored him.

"Okay," he replied slowly. "So what are the inclusions?"

Bridget smiled as she gestured broadly to the room, and Harry glanced around again, and then back to her.

"Just the room. Right. Of course." Three hundred galleons. Harry wouldn't even pay that much for a brand new racing broom, let alone for a single evening in a bloody function room. It was ridiculous, but... well, he supposed Kingsley would be all for it, wouldn't he? Anything for Christmas. "I guess once we put up some decorations and-"

He was cut off by Bridget's yelp of shock.

"Mr Potter, the room is already decorated. What could you possibly need to add?"

Malfoy looked just about ready to hex him, so Harry just sighed and gave up.

"Right. Of course. Stupid of me," he said wearily.

"I think that's all we need, thank you, Bridget," Malfoy said loudly. Harry suspected Malfoy was trying to draw attention away from him. "If you could owl me the paperwork we'll have the Minister sign off on everything by tomorrow, and I'll send you the information of the suppliers we select for the catering."

The three of them stepped out of the room, the doors closing behind them. Bridget shook both their hands, gave Harry one last wary look, and then said her goodbye. Harry got the distinct impression she wouldn't trust him alone in the function room.

"Well, she was… interesting," Harry said as they made their way back through the lobby and out onto the street. Harry dug his hands into the pockets of his robes and ducked his head against the sudden chill of the December air.

"She was a professional party planner, Potter," Malfoy said. "And you made a total fool of yourself. I hope you know that."

"I hope you know that the people we work with are going to absolutely trash that place once they get some Firewhisky into them," Harry retorted.

"Firewhisky," Malfoy scoffed. "We cannot serve Firewhisky in a venue like this. We'll be arranging champagne and red wine."

Harry wrinkled his nose. "Malfoy, sorry, but people will have a totally shit time if that's all you're going to serve. Champagne and red wine are what people drink after they're drunk enough from other things that they don't mind the taste anymore."

Malfoy looked completely offended. "That's preposterous," he said. "Champagne is classy. People want to be classy.'

"Not at their work Christmas party, they don't," Harry told him with a bemused smile. Malfoy seemed genuinely confused, and despite himself, Harry kind of thought his baffled expression was a little bit endearing. But only a tiny, minuscule amount, and after letting the feeling sit for a few seconds, he pushed it away and focused instead on his rumbling stomach.

"Are you hungry?" he asked without thinking, glancing at his watch and determining it was probably late enough now to have lunch.

"What?"

Harry looked up. Malfoy was watching at him warily, like Harry had just said something suspect - like that he wanted to decorate a room for Christmas or something equally terrible.

He considered backtracking, but they had to get used to talking while they sorted this party out, so he thought fuck it and said, "I'm starving. Do you want to come get some Yorkshire Pudding with me? I know a place nearby."

"Yorkshire pudding?" Malfoy repeated slowly. "With you?"

"Yeah, I mean. It's basically lunch time," Harry said, shrugging. "And I love it - it's one of my favourite dishes. Do you like it? You can get something else if you want. They have all kind of food. Obviously, I mean it's a restaurant so of course they do, but I thought if you preferred something else you could get that, and I'll just have a couple of Yorkshire puddings."

He was rambling a little bit, so he snapped his mouth shut and shuffled his feet trying to pretend he couldn't feel Malfoy's eyes burning into him.

"You want to have Yorkshire pudding," Malfoy said carefully. "You want to have lunch with me. Like a…"

He cut himself off abruptly and Harry glanced up. "Like a what?" he asked curiously.

Malfoy was blushing and Harry wasn't quite sure what to make of that.

"Nothing," Malfoy snapped, turning even redder. "I'm much too busy. I'm going back work. Bye."

He turned and strode away, his coat flapping in the wind behind him, leaving Harry with the feeling that something significant had just happened. He didn't have time to dwell on it though; he was starving. He needed to get Yorkshire pudding as soon as possible or he'd probably die right here on the footpath. Then all the poor Ministry workers would be left with nothing but Champagne and red wine at the Christmas party and have a totally rubbish time.

Chapter Text

Meredith - that was the name of the lady who ran the Ministry cafeteria and had dislocated Harry's shoulder that one time. She was currently eyeing Harry from across the room while Harry ate his second lunch for the day. He wasn't even particularly hungry, but he hadn't had a chance to ask Hermione about the dying of boredom thing yet, so he was trying to keep busy, just to be safe, and eating was an easy enough way to do that. Meredith was watching him like he was doing something wrong. He was pretty used to it, though; their relationship had been strained ever since that Quidditch game when she'd cost him the win against Malfoy, and she'd been convinced ever since that Harry was plotting to have her fired. Which he probably could, if he wanted, but he'd never do something like that. Even if he did think her retaliations, such as always giving him smaller servings than everyone else, were passive aggressive and unfair.

There were a few other people scattered around the cafeteria, but no one bothered Harry as he took his time to finish the slice of quiche Meredith had reluctantly served him. It was a little bit cold in the middle still — she obviously hadn't heated it properly — and he was wondering how she rationalised that annoying the person she imagined was plotting against her was a good idea when Malfoy appeared in front of him and dropped wordlessly into the seat opposite.

"How the fuck," Harry demanded, eyeing the plate Malfoy had brought with him, "did you get such a big piece of quiche?"

Malfoy glanced at his plate and then shrugged. "Merry and I are good friends," he said, flashing a smile over to where Harry knew Meredith was stood. "She's always very generous."

"Merry," Harry scoffed, stabbing his own quiche a little too hard. "Of course you two are friends. I bet you loved her after she made me lose that game."

"It certainly helped our relationship, yes," Malfoy smirked.

Smug bastard, Harry thought, and then for good measure, he said it out loud as well. Malfoy just rolled his eyes and began to eat, like it wasn't fucking weird that they were sitting together in the Ministry cafeteria eating quiche.

"Why are you here?" Harry asked. "Are you up to something?"

"Yes," Malfoy agreed, not looking up. "I am, and I'm not going to tell you what it is so you'll go mental trying to figure it out, like you always do when you think I'm being suspicious."

"I don't do that," Harry muttered, and then when Malfoy gave him a disbelieving look he added under his breath, "anymore."

Malfoy snorted, and then reached for a white folder Harry hadn't noticed beside his plate. "Here," he said, sliding it across the table. "I did look for you this morning to give you this, but I suppose you'd not arrived yet."

Harry snatched the folder. "I was here at seven thirty," he replied. "You clearly didn't look hard enough."

"Oh, well," Draco said cooly. "I was looking at seven, so I suppose that's why I didn't see you."

Harry glared at him as he flipped the folder open, and then glanced down the paperwork inside.

"What's this?"

"A copy of all the paperwork for the Christmas party," Malfoy told him. "The invoice for the Wellington Grand, suggested vendors, et cetera. I knew you wouldn't actually care about seeing any of it, but I assumed I'd have to deal with another of your tantrums if you weren't included."

"I do not have tantrums," Harry retorted petulantly, dropping the folder back on the table. "And why didn't you come to me before putting all this together? I could have helped."

"They're just ideas, Potter," Malfoy said irritably. "I've not gone and booked anything other than the hotel. Why do you have to turn everything into such a drama?"

Harry bit back his irritation. Malfoy had backed him into a corner; anything he argued now would sound like he was causing drama and prove Malfoy right, and as much as he wanted to call him an annoying git and demand he be included in all decisions for this stupid party, Harry much preferred proving Malfoy wrong.

He reached for his can of cola instead, somehow managing to splash it on the table when he pulled the metal tab back to open it. He cast a cleaning charm and then glanced back at Malfoy as he took a drink.

"That," Malfoy declared, "is disgusting."

"I cleaned it up!" Harry protested. "Which is a lot more than some people do in this place - I see tables left filthy all the time."

"Not the spill. I know you're actually a six year old in a man's body and can't eat or drink without making a mess. What's disgusting is the fact you're drinking that swill."

"I like it," Harry said, taking another sip for emphasis.

"What do you like?" Malfoy drawled. "The health problems or the dental rot?"

"The fizz," Harry told him. "I like that it's fizzy."

"That's disgusting," Malfoy repeated. "You're going to end up with yellow teeth, if they don't fall out first."

"Why are you so obsessed with my teeth?" Harry asked irritably. "Just let me enjoy my fizz in peace."

"I am not obsessed with your teeth," Malfoy sniffed defensively. "I just find the whole concept of carbonated sugar drinks vulgar. Not to mention they come out of that awful contraption Granger had brought in."

He gestured to the vending machine on the far wall, throwing it a dark look.

"Of course you hate vending machines," Harry said flatly. "I bet you only hate it because you don't know how to use it."

He'd just been joking, but then he noticed a flush creeping up Malfoy's neck as he scowled at Harry, and Harry had to bite back a grin.

"Malfoy," he said, setting his can down. "Do you just hate the vending machine because you don't know how to use it?"

"Don't be fucking absurd, Potter," Draco snapped. "I can do anything I want."

"Merlin, you don't!" Harry exclaimed, leaning forwards and propping his elbows on the table. He grinned. "Have you ever even tried a fizzy drink?"

Malfoy's face was red now, and he dropped his fork. "I'm leaving."

"Oh my god, you haven't," Harry said. "You might like it, you know. Do you want me to show you how to use the machine? It's really easy."

"Fuck off, Potter," Malfoy huffed, and then he was gone, weaving his way through the tables and out the door, trying to get away from Harry the same way he had yesterday.

Harry shook his head, an amused smile on his face. It was sort of… sort of sweet, actually, how flustered Malfoy got, and fuck, Harry wasn't sure why his thoughts about Malfoy were so all over the place recently. Perhaps Celestina's song was getting to him early this year and he was slipping into madness, because thinking of Draco Malfoy as sweet was definitely not a sign of wellness. Neither was the fact that the idea of showing him how to use the vending machine and introducing him to fizzy drinks made Harry grin even more.

He glanced up and saw Meredith still glaring at him. He vanished both his and Malfoy's plates and made his way back to his office with the party paperwork, determined to go through it thoroughly and get a leg up on Malfoy.

Chapter Text

Saturday morning found Harry at Ron and Hermione's place. Hermione had lured him over with promises of hot chocolate and biscuits but had failed to mention that to get those things he'd be helping them put up all their Christmas decorations. It was their first Christmas in their new flat and they were both just a bit over excited about it.

There were eight huge cardboard boxes (Harry counted twice to make sure) full of tinsel and stockings and various ornaments. Eight. That seemed kind of excessive to Harry, but he supposed Ron was a bit mental about all this stuff, and Hermione always made the best hot chocolate, so Harry was willing to suck it up and help pull decorations from the boxes and untangle lights and listen patiently while Hermione and Ron deliberated about where everything should go.

Ron took it all very seriously, of course. Hermione always made him wait until December to decorate and denied she was anywhere as extreme as he was, but the sparkling Christmas tree earrings and the muggle reindeer antlers she was wearing made Harry doubt her claims. It was only the fifth, after all. Was there really any need to be wearing Christmas things yet?

Harry was sat on their couch with a stubborn pile of tangled fairy lights in his lap. Hermione and Ron always gave him that job because he rather enjoyed untangling things. They both thought he was a bit odd for liking it but Harry found it therapeutic. He'd managed to successfully free about three feet of knots when Ron came and dropped down beside him with two hot chocolates in hand.

"Break time," he announced, passing a mug over to Harry.

"Since when," Harry said, pushing the lights away and accepting the drink, "do you take breaks from Christmas decorating?"

Ron made a face at Harry over the top of his mug. "Hermione says I have to talk to you," he admitted.

"Oh, god," Harry muttered, peering around Ron to try and catch sight of Hermione who was suspiciously absent all of a sudden. "What?" he asked Ron. "What did I do now? If she's going to try and set me up on another date you can both forget it right now. I've still not recovered from the trauma of the last one."

"Hey, Ernie wasn't so bad," Ron argued. "I mean, he's a little intense, but he's not a bad person or anything."

"A little intense," Harry repeated disbelievingly. "A little intense? Ron, he was ready to bloody move in with me after an hour. He smelled my hair at one point! And he tried to sit in my lap in the middle of a restaurant!"

"He's… friendly?" Ron offered. "Look, okay. Ernie was a bad idea, I admit that now. His boundary issues are a little problematic. We're sorry about it, alright?"

"Good," Harry huffed. "You should be."

"Anyway, it's not about a date," Ron continued. "It's about Malfoy."

Harry froze, his fingers around his mug tightening. "Why? What about him?"

There was no way Ron could know about the dream he'd had last night. The one where Malfoy was eating fruitcake, bloody shirtless, in the middle of the Wellington Grand. Harry'd barely managed not to freak out when he jolted awake; if Ron had known he'd be much less calm about the whole thing.

It wasn't weird, Harry kept telling himself. Malfoy and fruitcake and the hotel had all been floating about in his mind recently; it was totally normal for day to day things to manifest as dreams. What he was less certain about was Malfoy's distinct lack of a shirt. Besides being completely confused by what he saw, Harry was pretty sure if Bridget Murphy saw someone traipsing about the Wellington Grand half-naked eating fruitcake she'd throw them out, so it wasn't as though it was something he was hoping to see or anything like that.

Maybe he was stressed. Or maybe Malfoy was trying to ruin his life. Harry wasn't sure, but both seemed equally likely.

"Harry!"

Harry was pulled from his thoughts by Ron's voice and glanced over at him.

"Huh?"

"I said are you all good doing this party with him?" Ron said."Hermione was worried it might be hard for you two to work together."

"Oh." Harry exhaled in relief. He was being ridiculous - of course Ron didn't bloody know about some stupid dream that probably meant nothing! "Was that all you wanted to know?"

Ron frowned at him. "Yes?" he replied uncertainly. "Why? Is there something else?"

"No," Harry said quickly. "No, nothing. Everything is really boring in my life right now. Mundane, really. Nothing to report. Planning the party is rubbish, obviously, but I'm fine. I just get annoyed with Malfoy because he bloody wants to do everything on his own, even though I know he doesn't even want to plan it!"

Ron shrugged. "Neither do you though, right? Just let him do all the work if he's so keen on it."

"I can't," Harry sighed. "Then he wins."

"Who wins?" Hermione appeared from the kitchen, a tray of biscuits in her hands, and she set it down on the coffee table.

"Malfoy," Ron explained. "He wants to plan the Ministry Christmas party without Harry, but Harry won't let him because then Malfoy wins."

Hermione frowned. "Wins what?" she asked Harry.

"I— well I don't know exactly, he just wins!" Harry exclaimed. "So I have to help."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "You're both adults now," she told him. "You're being ridiculous."

"Am not, you are," Harry muttered, snatching a shortbread biscuit from the plate.

"Very mature, Mr Head Auror," Hermione commented dryly. "So what are you going to do? Just fight with him the whole time because you're too stubborn to let him plan it alone?"

"We've barely fought at all, thank you very much," Harry retorted. "We ate quiche together in the cafeteria yesterday and everything. I think he's just being nice to lull me into a false sense of security, though."

Ron choked on his hot chocolate, coughing loudly and spilling a bit on the couch. "You're having lunch together now? And not fighting?"

"Well, I mean, we bickered a bit," Harry conceded, remembering the way Malfoy had blushed when Harry realised he couldn't use a vending machine. "But I think he knows I don't want him to win, so I… well, I don't really know what his plan is, but I won't let him beat me."

"You know you're absurd, right?" Hermione asked him seriously. "I just want to make sure you do know that."

"Yes, well," Harry replied, jutting his chin out, "takes one to know one. I just want to make sure you know that."

Ron snorted and Hermione rolled her eyes again. "Come on then," Ron said cheerfully, standing up and setting his mug down. "Harry's fine, so let's get back to this, shall we?"

He didn't wait for them as he hurried back to the kitchen, where the decorations were waiting for them. Harry drank the last of his hot chocolate and then reached for the tangled lights again.

"Are you going to decorate your flat this year, too?" Hermione asked.

"Nah, no point," Harry told her.

"What the fuck?" Ron exclaimed, appearing back in the doorway. "Why the fuck not?"

"Oh, it's Christmas, Harry! Get in the spirit!" Hermione said to him.

"I'll hardly even be there anyway!" Harry argued. "I'm always at work or here or at the Burrow."

"I can't believe you," Ron muttered darkly, looking thoroughly offended. "This is the worst thing you've ever done."

"Is it, though?" Harry mused. "Is this event really the number one terrible thing I've done in my life?"

Ron narrowed his eyes. "I hope Malfoy plans this whole party without you," he announced. "He's probably planning it right now, in whatever posh place he lives these days and having a great time because he's winning."

"Oh my god, please don't encourage him," Hermione said, exasperated, as Harry's eyes went wide. "You are not going to check on him, Harry. Finish your lights!"

"I won't," Harry assured her, though from the looks she kept giving him, she definitely didn't believe him.

Chapter Text

Harry listened to Hermione, and he did not go to check on Malfoy. Not on Saturday, anyway. He also did not stay up late stewing over what Malfoy might be doing, and he most certainly did not dream about him again.

He trudged around his apartment most of Sunday morning, feeling restless. He took an extra long shower to try and kill some time, then tried to read one of the books collecting dust on his coffee table that Hermione had given him, and he even considered pulling out his Christmas decorations and putting them up, just for something to do.

He couldn't get Ron's comments out of his head. Obviously Ron had just been trying to mess with him after Harry had offended him with his flippant attitude towards decorating, but what if he was right? What if Malfoy was off finishing the party plans without him, only buying fancy champagne that everyone would hate and laughing about how stupid Harry was not to realise?

Harry briefly considered that his obsession was getting a bit ridiculous, and he wondered if he should spend a bit more time thinking about why he was acting so irrationally — but he pushed those thoughts away in favour of apparating to Malfoy's flat to confront him instead. It was the only thing to be done, really.

He knocked loudly on the front door and waited expectantly. Malfoy took a very long time to answer it, and Harry was about to make a fist and knock again when it finally swung open. Malfoy's eyes widened in surprise when he saw Harry, and he stood holding the door wide and looking very confused.

He was wearing a soft looking grey jumper and jeans. Jeans! Harry hardly ever saw him in anything other than robes, and he found himself oddly fascinated by this casual version of Malfoy.

"How do you know where I live?" Malfoy asked suspiciously..

"Hello to you too," Harry replied. "You'll notice I knocked, and did not barge in unannounced."

Malfoy did not think this was as funny as Harry did. "How do you know where I live?" he repeated.

"I'm Head Auror," Harry told him smugly. "I know where everyone lives." When Malfoy only stared at him with his eyebrows raised, Harry sighed and added, "It's in your personnel file at the Ministry."

"That file is confidential, Potter. You can't just go accessing things because you feel like — oh, who am I kidding? You'll do whatever you bloody well like," Malfoy muttered unhappily. "What do you want? Why are you here?"

Now that he was there, standing at Malfoy's front door in front of Malfoy and his bloody jeans, Harry felt a little ridiculous, and he didn't want to say out loud that he'd come to investigate if Malfoy was party planning without him.

"I'm… visiting you," he offered lamely.

"Visiting me," Malfoy repeated. He let out a low, frustrated breath. "You're so bloody weird," he told Harry.

"Are you going to invite me in or what?" Harry asked him. "It's bad manners to leave someone at the door when they come to visit."

"It's bad manners for you to be here at all," Malfoy shot back. Harry didn't say anything. He waited, watching Malfoy expectantly, until Malfoy made an annoyed sound and moved to the side. "You have five minutes, and then I want you to go away."

Harry stepped inside, grinning at Malfoy. "Are you cooking something?" he asked, sniffing when he caught the scent of something sweet.

Malfoy closed the door, definitely shutting it a bit harder than he needed too. "None of your business," he said irritably.

He just stood there, arms crossed, frowning at Harry. He didn't offer to show him around or anything, so Harry took it upon himself to glance around the living room he had stepped into. It was all very warm and welcoming, and Malfoy even had a Muggle television. Harry hadn't exactly been expecting everything to be Slytherin green, but he was just a tiny bit surprised at how… normal it all was. It wasn't all that different to Harry's own flat. The furniture definitely looked useable, he thought, remembering the comparison he'd made at the hotel the other day.

From the living room, he could see through an open door into the kitchen. There were pans and what looked like flour strewn across a bench, and Harry decided to investigate.

"Potter, wait, what the fuck!" Malfoy protested, striding after him. "You can't just wander around my house!"

"You're baking!" Harry said, immensely happy that he'd caught Draco Malfoy baking on a Sunday afternoon. "Is that — are you making gingerbread?"

Malfoy waved his wand to tidy up the mess he'd left behind, vanishing the flour and cinnamon he'd evidently spilled. "It's been five minutes. You need to go."

"It has not," Harry laughed. He crouched down to peer into the oven. "You are making gingerbread. How do you know how to do that?"

"Because I can read a cookbook, Potter, and I'm not a total idiot," Malfoy said. "It's not all that different to potions."

Harry stood up and continued to look about the kitchen. "It's pretty cool," he said, "that you can do that." When he glanced back, Malfoy looked torn between confusion and exasperation.

"It's for my mother," he finally replied, and Harry could feel Malfoy's gaze on him as he trailed his fingers over the spines of a line of cookbooks. "I'm seeing her tonight, and I— Potter!" he barked suddenly. "Do you mind? Why are you touching my things?"

Harry glanced up from where he was inspecting the little notepad with Malfoy's elegant handwriting on it that he'd found on the bench . It was just a grocery list, nothing particularly exciting, but Harry found himself completely fascinated by all these tiny details that made up Malfoy's life here. He'd never really considered what Malfoy got up to when he wasn't at the Ministry being a menace.

Of course, he couldn't exactly tell Malfoy that, so he went for the less embarrassing: "I'm checking to make sure you aren't trying to plan the party without me."

Malfoy rolled his eyes dramatically. "You made it very clear I wasn't to do anything without you, Potter, so you can stop being nosey and poking about my kitchen. It's very rude."

"I didn't think you'd actually listen to me, though, when I said that."

"Well," Malfoy offered with a shrug, "that's because you're a bit of a prat."

"You're a prat," Harry shot back, and he wondered why his comebacks had been so completely rubbish lately.

"You can go now," Malfoy said again, "I can only handle so much of your strange behaviour in one day, and I'm very busy."

"Making gingerbread, yes," Harry said with a grin as he made his way back to the living room.

"Merlin, just go away," Malfoy huffed from behind him. "And forget my address. And if you tell anyone what you saw here today, you'll be unbelievably sorry."

"I won't tell anyone," Harry said happily as he pulled the door open, "but I expect a sample sometime, deal?"

"Oh my god, just go," Malfoy muttered.

Harry couldn't stop grinning as he made his way out the front door, the warm comforting smell of gingerbread staying with him for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

Harry chuckled happily to himself as he unwrapped Molly's second holiday treat. He might be twenty-nine and Head Auror, but he didn't think he'd ever grow out of enjoying her holiday biscuits. As the soft wrapping fell away, he was met with the warm, comforting smell that reminded him so much of the Burrow. She always personalised the biscuits; Harry's were decorated to look like Christmas themed snitches and little broomsticks, and when he bit into the first one, his eyes closed in bliss as all his favourite flavours seemed to explode on his tongue.

He sank back in his chair contentedly. He'd raised the temperature in his office when he'd arrived this morning to help fight against the chill of the early morning December air that'd seemed to seep straight to his bones the moment he'd stepped outside, and now it was toasty warm. Celestina was crooning softly in his ear, her version of 'Have Yourself a Magic Little Christmas' playing today. Harry thought he could probably fall asleep right now, he was that comfortable. His eyes slid shut slowly again, and he told himself he'd just have a quick kip, only for a few minutes, but then he was jerked back to consciousness by the sound of his door slamming open.

"Potter!" Malfoy practically shouted at him.

"Seriously? You still won't knock?" Harry sighed, setting down his half-eaten biscuit. He swivelled his chair around and paused; Malfoy was a bit of a mess. His hair was in disarray, sticking up at odd angles, and his robes were sopping wet. "What happened to you?" he asked.

"Jones and Simmons got into a bloody argument over Puddlemere's new Chaser and ended up trying to fucking hex one another!" he ranted, making overly large dramatic gestures with his arms. He looked a little bit unhinged, Harry thought. "I don't know who did it or how they managed it, but one of them misfired and their spell hit the water cooler, and now I have a giant fucking magical jellyfish sitting in the middle of my department and nothing we've done will get rid of it!"

"A jellyfish?" Harry repeated, lips quirking. "How did they manage that?"

"I literally just said I don't fucking know, Potter! Just get down there and fix it!"

"I— Wait, what? Why do I have to fix it?"

"You're the Head Auror!" Malfoy half shouted. "And you're not doing anything!"

"I could be busy," Harry told him defiantly.

"Are you?" Malfoy shot back.

"Well, no…" Harry reluctantly admitted.

"Come on, then." Malfoy turned and strode out, and Harry supposed he was meant to follow. He'd been looking forward to that little nap, but he sighed and got up, looking back longingly at his biscuits before making his way to the Department of Magical Games and Sports.

He'd expected more chaos — if his Aurors had been duelling in the office there would probably be fires and all sorts of mayhem — but Malfoy's team were all stood around the offending jellyfish, which was quite enormous and eerily transparent, chatting casually about what to do with it. The only one who seemed frazzled was Malfoy.

"There it is," he told Harry, pointing, as though Harry might not have seen it in the middle of the floor, a wet puddle around it. "Get rid of it."

Harry rolled his eyes at the command, but he slipped his wand from his sleeve and gestured for the other staff to move away. The jellyfish did not have a face, but Harry got the distinct impression it was watching him as he aimed his wand and cast a vanishing spell.

"Oh yes, because I wouldn't have thought of that," Malfoy muttered.

Harry shot him a glare, and Malfoy looked defiant but he didn't say anything else. Harry tried transfiguring it next, back into a water cooler, but nothing happened except the tentacles rose a little and fell, like the jellyfish was sighing.

"What the hell did you do to this thing?" Harry wondered aloud.

"My staff are very creative with their spellwork," Malfoy said, equal parts proud and annoyed.

"Is this a regular thing in your department?" Harry asked as he tried levitating the jellyfish with no success. He glanced up as Malfoy shrugged.

"What do you expect when a group of sports fanatics are thrown together? Disagreements happen. Usually the results are not so permanent, though." He glared over at two men who were watching Harry with amusement, though their smiles faltered when they noticed Malfoy watching them.

Harry didn't know what to say to that, so instead he tried a couple more spells, huffed in frustration when none of them worked, and then finally decided to just try and make it smaller. To his surprise, his shrinking spell worked, and the jellyfish went from being the size of a dog to about the size of his hand. Malfoy's team cheered while Harry grabbed a tissue box from a nearby desk and transfigured it into a tank filled with water. He picked up the jellyfish, cringing at the slippery, gelatinous feel of it, and dropped it into the tank.

He grinned at Malfoy as he walked over and shoved the tank into his hands. "You're welcome."

"You didn't technically get rid of it," Malfoy grumbled, looking down as the creature bobbed contentedly through the water. "What am I supposed to do with this?"

"Name it," Harry suggested. "He can be your pet."

"I don't want to name it," Malfoy growled. "Look what it did to my robes!"

Harry could still see the sopping wet mess on Malfoy's chest and tilted his head to the side. "Did you try to pick up the giant magical jellyfish, Malfoy?" he asked seriously.

"I— it doesn't matter," Malfoy replied haughtily, not meeting his eye. "Am I questioning your methods?"

Harry laughed and shook his head. "Alright. I have to get back. See you 'round."

"Potter— wait a moment."

Harry paused and turned around. "Yes?"

"Come with me," Malfoy said curtly, walking into his office.

Harry followed him. He was eager to go back and eat his biscuits, but he was too curious to say no. Malfoy set the tank down on his bookshelf, eyeing the jellyfish disdainfully.

"Did you want to talk more about the Christmas party?" Harry asked him.

Malfoy snorted. "I have jellyfish… goop all over me, Potter. I'm going home to shower." He peeled off his robes carefully, holding them between his forefinger and thumb before vanishing them. He was wearing muggle clothes again — dark trousers and a white button-down shirt with a crisp collar, and Harry did not find him attractive. He didn't

"Jellyfish don't really have goop or secretions. That's squid," Harry informed him, cringing internally as he said it and wondering why he was like this. He didn't even know if it was true or where it had come from. Malfoy looked very unimpressed by the fact, and Harry self consciously cleared his throat and crossed his arms. "What was it you wanted?" he asked, trying to sound casual.

Malfoy walked over to his desk and picked up a small package. "Here," he said gruffly, holding it out. Harry reached for it, but Malfoy pulled his hand back suddenly. "Do not," he said warningly, "make a big deal about this, or be weird, and do not ever show up uninvited at my house again."

"Does that mean I can show up invited?" Harry teased.

"Just take it," Malfoy growled, thrusting the package at him. Harry accepted it and began to untie the brown string that was holding it together, but Malfoy grabbed his arm suddenly and pushed him towards the door.

"Wait, Malfoy, is this—"

"I said not to say a word, Potter," Malfoy snapped, and then he shut the door in Harry's face. Harry stood staring at it for a moment, and then looked back down at the half-open package, at the hint of gingerbread peaking out from beneath the wrapping, and a slow smile slid across his face.

Molly's cookies could wait, he decided.

Chapter Text

Harry was dying. Not of boredom; Hermione had assured him that wasn't possible. No, he was dying of some sort of treacherous flu that had claimed him in the early hours of Tuesday morning. He'd woken while it was still dark, head throbbing, feeling too warm and completely freezing all at once. He had no Pepperup Potion left, and it had been much too early to Floo Ron and Hermione to ask them for some, so he'd sat in the shower with his head in his hands, willing it to stop pounding until the water ran cold, and then he'd crawled back into bed, wrapped himself in his blanket, and somehow managed to fall asleep again.

He was woken a few hours later, feeling no better, by the persistent sound of pecking at his window. He groaned loudly and flung an arm over his eyes. He'd left his curtains open the night before, and the early morning sun streaming through made him wince. His head still ached fiercely, and he felt sweaty and uncomfortable. He tried to ignore the noise, not feeling like he had the energy to get up and open the window, but the incessant noise against the glass just got louder — were there two owls now?

He rolled onto his side, cracking one eye open to stare over at the window. It was only a few strides to reach it, but the distance felt like an uncrossable chasm to him right now. He'd left his wand across the room when he'd dragged himself to the shower earlier, so he couldn't even magic it open. He tried to will it to happen, and when that didn't work he tried wandless magic, but then he remembered he couldn't do wandless magic and groaned pathetically again.

Resigning himself to his fate, Harry pulled himself upright. His head protested angrily, throbbing painfully as he moved, and he winced against the pain again. He dragged himself across the room, taking his blanket with him, and fumbled with sweaty hands to open the latch of the window.

Two owls swooped in and perched on his dresser, sticking their legs out so he could untie the notes attached. When he'd successfully undone the knots, the owls hooting only once each in impatience, he expected both birds to leave, but they sat watching him expectantly.

Harry really wasn't in the mood to write to anyone, but he glanced down and noticed Kingsley's handwriting on one of the letters, and realised he was supposed to be at work right now. He quickly unrolled it, scanned it — Kingsley was just asking if he was alright and would he be in today — then grabbed a quill and wrote a hasty reply. He apologised for not showing up and assured Kingsley he would be back tomorrow, then sent the first owl away.

The second note, to his surprise, was from Malfoy.

Potter,

Did you quit or are you just slacking off again?

I don't actually care either way.

Draco Malfoy

Malfoy wanted to know where he was? Despite his whole body currently aching uncomfortably in protest of being upright, Harry smiled.

He reached for his wand and sent two Patronuses — one to his team with instructions for the day, and another to Ron and Hermione asking them to owl him some Pepperup — then he climbed back onto his bed with the letter from Malfoy and his quill in hand.

The remaining owl was watching him and seemed to be glaring, and Harry wondered if it was Malfoy's own personal owl. It certainly had the right temperament.

He thought carefully about how to reply, and then he asked himself why he was spending so much time trying to figure it out and ended up scrawling back quickly:

Malfoy,

I'm sick. Must have been the gingerbread.

Harry

He motioned for the owl and attached the letter to its leg. When it flew away, he sank back down into his pillows with a small grin on his face. The gingerbread had actually been incredible, and Harry had finished eating it before he even got back to his office. He'd meant to find Malfoy today to try and get some more from him, but that would have to wait now, until he wasn't dying quite so much.

He closed his eyes and listened to the soft sounds of distant traffic through his open window. It was probably much too cold to have it open, but the breeze felt nice on his forehead. He dozed on and off, and was pulled from sleep again when the same unimpressed looking owl swooped back into the room. Harry pulled himself into a sitting position. There was a package attached this time, along with a note, and he eyed it curiously as he opened the parchment.

Potter,

Your health is of no concern to me, but if this is some sort of attempt to get out of helping me with the Ministry Party, I won't stand for it. You're a bastard and don't deserve this, but I've enclosed something to make you feel better. Boil and eat it, and you'll be fine by tomorrow.

Draco Malfoy

Something… sort of warm and fluttery seemed to be happening in Harry's chest — at least until he opened the package and found a single, green pickle inside. He frowned as he picked up and examined the vegetable. It was just a normal pickle. As far as Harry could tell there was nothing magical or medicinal about it.

Harry set it down and wrote back.

Thank you, but that's disgusting, so no.

He wasn't as surprised this time when he didn't have to wait long for Malfoy's response, and he shook his head with a grin when he read it.

Stay sick then. I don't care.

He was only a tiny bit disappointed after he replied with, you do care a little though — you sent me a get well pickle, and didn't get any more owls from Malfoy.

He stared at the pickle for a long time. Hermione and Ron still hadn't replied, and he was starting to think he might be feeling worse. He definitely felt warmer. He supposed that… well, it couldn't really hurt, could it? It certainly wouldn't make him feel worse, anyway. And he'd feel like an idiot if it turned out he had the solution to his sickness sitting right there in front of him and didn't take it.

With that thought in mind, he wrapped his blanket around his shoulders and trudged out to the kitchen. He boiled the pickle, wrinkling his nose when he leaned down to sniff it. When he fished it out of the water and set it on a plate on the bench, he prodded it once. It had gone sort of soggy and gross. His stomach rolled a little at the thought of eating it, but then his head gave another tremendous thud, so he picked it up and took a bite.

He wanted to vomit immediately. He forced himself to swallow and take another, then another bite, until the whole pickle was gone. It tasted worse than it looked, and Harry managed to stand there for another ten seconds before he dashed to the sink and threw up.

As he stood, shuddering and shivering, blanket pooled at his feet and brow lined with sweat, Harry cursed Draco Malfoy right to hell.

Chapter Text

 

Despite his certainty that he had actually been dying, Harry survived his flu, and he felt well enough to go back to work the next day. When he'd looked out his window early in the morning, though, and seen the bleak grey sky and the trees shuddering against the wind, he'd gone back to his dresser and fished out a thick woollen jumper to wear under his robes. He didn't want to risk making himself ill again, and when he glanced in his mirror and realised he'd picked out the jumper Hermione had made him one Christmas with 'Merry Xmas!' knitted across the chest in red and green, he just shrugged and decided he may as well start getting into the spirit. Kingsley would be happy about it, at least.

He still looked a bit pale,his eyes had dark circles under them, and he definitely didn't feel 100%, but the Pepperup Ron had eventually sent him had perked Harry up considerably, and he didn't like to take too much time off, even when it was quiet.

The Ministry was all but empty when he arrived at 6:45; there were a couple of cleaners wandering about, and an intern dashing through the hall with a half-spilt coffee in his hand. Harry wanted so badly to go to the cafeteria and get some caffeine for himself, but instead he made a beeline to the Department of Magical Games and Sports.

He knocked twice on Malfoy's door when he got to it, and he was just about to open it and stick his head inside to see if Malfoy was there and ignoring him when he heard footsteps behind him. He turned and saw Malfoy heading towards him, a takeaway coffee cup in one hand, and a pile of precariously stacked folders in the other. He paused when he saw Harry, let out a small noise that sounded both annoyed and exasperated, then strode forward.

"Get the door, would you?" he said to Harry.

Harry obliged, stepping aside so Malfoy could get into his office, and then followed him in.

"I wondered when you'd get here," Harry said casually, taking the seat opposite Malfoy's as Malfoy dumped the folders on his desk. He pulled out his wand, and they began sorting themselves as he looked over at Harry.

"I'm sure you weren't waiting long," he replied stiffly.

"A while, actually," Harry said seriously, trying not to grin. "It's fine though."

"Hmm," was Malfoy's only response, and Harry didn't think he'd bought Harry's lie at all, but that was okay. The fact he was now winning their silent war wasn't what he'd come to talk about.

"You sent me a get well pickle," he said.

Malfoy's lips quirked as he sat down in his chair and leant his elbows on his desk. "Yes," he said, his voice strained, like he was trying not to laugh. "You're not looking all that ill. I do hope it helped."

"It did not," Harry confirmed, jutting his chin out and crossing his arms. "I think you're a liar and you were messing with me."

"You did it?" Malfoy asked, eyes widening. "You boiled it and ate it?"

"Yes," Harry said. "And then I threw up in my sink."

Malfoy burst out laughing, and Harry wanted to be furious with him, but he'd never seen Malfoy laugh like that before, and he forgot to be mad for a second.

"Fucking hell, Potter," Malfoy wheezed. "I didn't think you would actually listen! You weren't supposed to eat it!"

"You told me it would help!" Harry argued.

"Why would you believe me? You had just insulted my gingerbread!"

"I was joking!"

"Oh my god," Malfoy said, still chuckling. "I can't believe you did that."

"I can't believe you tricked me while I was ill! That's low!"

"Bet you felt better though, after you were sick," Malfoy mused, and Harry absolutely would not admit that at all. Even if it was marginally true.

"You're such a dick," he grumbled instead. "Why did you even have a pickle so readily available to send anyway? That's weird. Did Merry give it to you?"

Malfoy just shrugged, infuriatingly casual.

"You have to make this up to me," Harry told him. "You were horrible to me when I was sick, and that's awful."

"Oh my god, Potter. Are we children? I'm sorry, alright? It was unkind of me, and I shouldn't have assumed you would take my gesture seriously, and I won't do it again."

He sounded like he meant it too, but still. "You have to make it up to me," Harry insisted. "That's just how these things work."

Malfoy rolled his eyes and began to look through the paperwork on his desk. He didn't tell Harry to leave though, so Harry let himself wander around the office. He noticed that the tank he'd transfigured the other day was sitting on the bookshelf, the jellyfish still bobbing about. "Hey, you kept the jellyfish," he said, gesturing to the tank.

Malfoy glanced over. "Yes," he said. "I find watching Keith to be rather relaxing."

"Keith?" Harry repeated in surprise. "You named it Keith? How do you even know if it's a boy or a girl?"

"Why does that matter?" Malfoy asked. "I can call my jellyfish Keith regardless of its gender."

"But… But 'Keith' is so… It's not a proper name for an animal."

"A jellyfish," Malfoy said, "and especially a magical jellyfish that isn't even really a jellyfish, is an entirely inappropriate and absurd pet, Potter. It deserves a name that is equally absurd."

Harry blinked. He got up to inspect Keith closer. It was almost completely transparent, like a jellyfish ghost. It was bobbing up and down in the very centre of the glass tank, like it was making sure it could be seen. Harry was pretty sure Malfoy had taught it that.

Harry turned back to look at Malfoy. "You're the absurd one," he said.

"I'm not the one wearing that offensive jumper, though, am I?" Malfoy said, eyeing the words on Harry's chest.

"I'm getting into the holiday spirit," Harry told him. "And Hermione made this for me, so don't say a bad word about it."

"I wasn't going to," Malfoy said, but the look on his face said he definitely was.

"I've been ill," Harry said. "I need to stay warm. It's an actual method for making sure I get well, not a made up one."

Malfoy gave him an amused look, which made Harry's chest feel sort of warm and fluttery.

"We should probably get a move on with this party, don't you think?" Harry said, feeling slightly panicked about the odd things happening to his chest and needing to fill the silence. He congratulated himself on not spouting off any other fact about jellyfish secretions like he had the other day. "We're running out of time, and we've only planned the venue."

"We should," Malfoy agreed, "But the Wasps' seeker walked out on the club last night, which completely throws into question the charity game we have planned for New Year's Day. I'm going to be swamped today." He paused and gave Harry a thoughtful look. "What about tomorrow night?" he ventured slowly. "You could come 'round to mine, and we'll figure out the rest."

"You're inviting me 'round?" Harry asked, fighting to remain calm despite his heart's sudden need to try and jump out of his chest. He couldn't stop the smile on his face even if he wanted to.

Malfoy nodded. "Consider it me making it up to you," he said, and Harry thought Malfoy almost smiled back.

Chapter Text

Harry wasn't nervous about going to Malfoy's flat again. His stomach was just performing some sort of complicated, uncomfortable twisting motion constantly because of… other reasons. Leftover symptoms of his flu, maybe. It was why he had avoided going near Malfoy's department all day — so he didn't make anyone sick. Not because he was nervous. He wasn't.

He paused before leaving his bedroom and glanced in the mirror, smoothing down his pale blue shirt for the fourth time and running a hand through his hair. He looked alright, he thought. Not terrible, at least. His beard was getting pretty thick now and he definitely liked that. He absently ran his fingers through it, glad he hadn't decided to shave it off. He'd trimmed it a little after work today to tidy it up, though. Not because he was going to Malfoy's. That would be ridiculous, and he reminded himself that he didn't care what Malfoy thought even as he smoothed down his shirt one more time.

"Merlin, what the fuck is wrong with me," he muttered, shaking his head. He apparated before he could talk himself out of it, ignoring his stomach, and landed outside Malfoy's flat. He stared at the slightly ajar door for a moment; there was a Christmas wreath stuck to it now. It had pinecones and holly berries artfully entwined around it, a big red and white bow at the top with a light dusting of snow all over. It was very pretty, Harry thought.

He reached out to knock, but then the door was wrenched open and Malfoy was there.

"Why are you lurking out here?" he demanded. "Come inside before my neighbours call the police."

He ushered Harry in, and Harry caught the faint scent of cinnamon as he brushed past Malfoy. When Malfoy closed the door, Harry's eyes needed a moment to adjust to the onslaught of colour that suddenly hit them.

"Did Christmas throw up in here?" he asked incredulously, craning his neck to take in as much of the room as possible. The living room was now covered in red and silver decorations, and Harry suspected Malfoy might have even more stuff than Ron.

"I beg your pardon?"

Harry glanced back at him. "I didn't have you pegged as the Christmassy sort," he said.

"It's my favourite time of year, Potter," Malfoy replied shortly.

"Hmm," Harry mused, inspecting the huge Christmas tree in one corner. "I should have worn my Christmas jumper again. I'd fit right in."

Malfoy scoffed, and Harry gave him a warning look. "What?" Malfoy asked defensively. "Oh come on, Potter. As lovely as it is for a friend to make you a gift, you know it's an awful jumper."

"You're awful," Harry muttered, turning away and catching sight of Malfoy's television. Some sort of Christmas program was playing, though the volume was down too low for Harry to hear. "You really are into this whole holiday season thing aren't you?" he said. He didn't mean to sound so… fond when he said it; it just sort of slipped out that way, and he hoped Malfoy didn't notice.

"I thought perhaps it would assist us getting into the Christmas spirit while we work out the details for the Ministry party," Malfoy told him. "I only got a television a year and a half ago, and I rather enjoy listening to the Christmas films while I work. Would you like a drink?"

"Do you have any cans of fizzy drink?" Harry asked seriously, and when Malfoy scowled at him he laughed and said, "A Butterbeer is fine, if you have it."

Malfoy disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Harry to look around his living room some more and wonder how he never knew that Malfoy liked Christmas this much. There was even a string of tinsel wrapped around the edge of his television. His tree was laden with red and silver baubles and fairy lights to match the rest of the room, and there were tiny decorative reindeer on his mantle, complete with a sleigh full of candy canes.

"Was that why you put all this up?" he called out. Malfoy appeared again suddenly with two glasses of Butterbeer. "The decorations, I mean," Harry clarified, accepting his drink. "Did you put them up to get us in the mood?"

Malfoy choked on his Butterbeer, and Harry felt his cheeks heat when he realised what he'd said.

"I told you, Potter," Malfoy said between coughs as he wiped his hand over the back of his mouth. "It's my favourite time of year. I put this all up after you left the other day."

"Right," Harry said. He lifted his glass to his lips to give himself something to do and took a long, slow drink, suddenly feeling incredibly awkward and unsure of what to say. "What, er…" He glanced back at the television. "What is this movie anyway?" he settled on.

Malfoy gave him an odd look. "Miracle on 34th Street," he said slowly.

"Never heard of it," Harry informed him flippantly.

"You've never— Potter, what the fuck is wrong with you?" Malfoy demanded, looking completely scandalised, which seemed like a bit of an overreaction to Harry. It was just a movie.

"What?"

"It's a classic!" Malfoy fumed.

"Didn't you only get a television a year and a half ago?" Harry wondered aloud. "I don't think you get to call things classics if you've only seen them once or twice."

"I've seen it plenty of times," Malfoy replied, then flushed, like he'd said too much.

Harry grinned. "How many times?" Draco blushed harder and oh Merlin, why was that making Harry feel this way? "How many?" he repeated.

"A… few," Malfoy admitted. "I enjoy it, alright? It doesn't need to be Christmas for me to watch a film I like, and so I put it on quite often."

Harry could have teased him. He could have said any number of things, but his mouth and his brain had apparently decided they were no longer working together, so despite his internal protests, what he said was, "Well, let's see it then."

Malfoy'd been lifting his Butterbeer to his mouth, but his hand froze halfway. "What?"

Say it was a joke, Harry's head beseeched him. Laugh it off. Stop being so fucking weird.

"Let's watch it," Harry said to Malfoy. "If you love it so much, I want to see what it's about."

You're an actual moron, Harry Potter. I hope you know that, his brain supplied.

Malfoy was staring at him like he'd grown a second head. "You want to watch a movie with me?" he asked, sounding confused.

Harry shrugged and dropped onto Malfoy's couch. "Come on," he said. "It'll be fun."

He thought maybe Malfoy would be the smart one and say no, say that they had too much work to do, but after murmuring something that sounded suspiciously like "what the fuck" under his breath, he joined Harry on the sofa and restarted the movie.

Harry knew, from the moment Malfoy used his wand to switch the lights off, that this had been a phenomenally bad idea.

He tried, really fucking tried, to pay attention to the story, but how the hell was he supposed to focus on a television screen when he had Draco Malfoy sat less than a foot away from him, leaning forward during the bits of the movie he liked, smiling at the screen, and even mouthing along during certain parts? He was a complete distraction, and Harry was hyperaware of every tiny movement he made. He lost count of how many times his eyes darted over to look at Malfoy, and was thankful Malfoy seemed so engrossed in the story that he didn't notice Harry being a total creep by staring at him.

At one point, Malfoy paused the film to go and get them fresh drinks, and Harry exhaled in relief to get a minute of reprieve. He used the time to give himself a quick lecture, telling himself to get a fucking grip and stop acting like a total lunatic — he was just watching a bloody movie with Malfoy; it wasn't a big deal — but then Malfoy came back, and when he sat down again, he was close enough that his fucking thigh was pressed against Harry's.

Harry was not okay.

What the fuck was Malfoy playing at? Could he not feel how close he was? Harry felt… sweaty. And nervous. Like a bloody teenager on a date. But this, this was certainly not a date. This was just two former enemies turned party planning partners watching a nice Christmas movie together in a dimly lit room on a casual Thursday night. Harry needed to stop being so damn weird and get a hold of himself.

The problem was that Malfoy smelled bloody wonderful, like cinnamon and Butterbeer and something else sweet, and his thigh was so warm and firm against Harry's, and Harry bloody liked it. He liked all of it — the feel, the smell, the whole damn situation, and that was… that wasn't okay, was it? He didn't even know if Malfoy was available to have someone… enjoying the way it felt to sit next to him. Because that was all it was. Harry just… liked sitting beside him. Right?

He swallowed nervously, realising that he didn't actually know how to answer that, and the moment the final credits began rolling across the screen, Harry was on his feet.

"This was fun, but I have a, er, a thing I have to go and do now," he said quickly, making his way to the door and purposely not looking at Malfoy at all. He had absolutely no clue what the movie had been about and if Malfoy tried to talk to him right now he had no idea what he'd say. "So I'll, uh, I'll see you soon. Thanks for the drinks, have a good night, bye."

It probably wasn't his smoothest exit out of an uncomfortable situation ever, but the second he was outside and free of Malfoy's scent and warmth, Harry was able to breathe again.

And who knows, his brain supplied as he prepared to Apparate home, maybe Malfoy didn't notice you being a total fucking weirdo.

Chapter Text

Harry was having a crisis.

No, not a crisis — he didn't want to make a bigger deal of it than he needed to and freak himself out more — but he definitely was not okay.

Something was happening, and he wasn't sure exactly what it was, or when it had started, or even how to name it. But it was there, and it was unexpected, and he was just the tiniest bit panicked.

He'd left Malfoy's in a rush the night before and then gone home, had two shots of whiskey, and gone to bed. He'd been determined not to think about the strange way he'd acted again, opting instead to just pretend it had never happened. That was the healthy way to deal with things, right? Out of sight, out of mind.

Unfortunately, his brain was now in overdrive and seemed determined to analyse everything about the evening, and the events leading up to it.

Harry hadn't eaten in his rush to get home last night and then again in his rush to get to work early this morning, so he pulled out the Advent Calendar Ron had sent him a couple of weeks ago. He always forgot to eat the chocolates on the right days, but at least when he had a time like this and was hungry, he had a backlog of chocolate to snack on.

He began to pop open the little cardboard doors, taking his time to go in the correct date order, his thoughts wandering as he ate the creamy chocolates.

His mind had just begun to drift dangerously back to what he was now referring to as 'The Thigh Incident' when a loud knock on his door startled him.

"Potter!"

Harry swore under his breath and grabbed the closest paperwork on his desk to try and make himself look busy. He wasn't avoiding Malfoy exactly; he was just… not replying to the memo Malfoy had sent him this morning

He glanced down at the offending note on his desk. It already looked worn, despite only zooming into Harry's office a few hours ago. He may or may not have unfolded it about thirty times to read the message inside, before finally tossing it aside when confusion bubbled up inside him and made his chest feel tight.

I hope you enjoyed the film.

What did that mean? Did Malfoy know that Harry had been on the verge of freaking out last night? Did he know that Harry had owled Ron this morning to ask if he knew the plot of the film, in case Malfoy asked? Or did he just… genuinely hope Harry had enjoyed it?

"Potter! I know you're here today! Unlock the door!"

Right — he'd locked his door so Malfoy couldn't barge in again and catch him off guard. He slipped his wand out and cancelled the charm, and Malfoy stepped into his office. He was in muggle clothes again, and Harry really thought he should be getting used to this by now, but the effect of Malfoy in pressed trousers and crisp shirts kept catching him off guard every time. He had a fancy-looking coat draped over his arm, and he was giving Harry an irritated look.

"Why is your door locked?" he asked. "None of my memos have been able to get through.

"Oh, sorry," Harry said, gesturing to the stack of papers he'd hastily dragged forward, which were actually for a case from weeks ago that he hadn't archived yet. "Got busy, didn't want to be disturbed. Did you need something?"

"Yes," Malfoy replied. "We're going to— Potter, what are you doing?"

He was staring at the advent calendar in front of Harry. Harry was currently pulling out the chocolate for the twelfth of December.

"I'm hungry," he said, popping it into his mouth and silently hoping Malfoy would leave soon so that Harry had no further opportunities to embarrass himself. "Did you want one?"

"You're supposed to eat one a day, on the correct day," Malfoy informed him.

Harry shrugged. "Yeah, I know. But who can remember that everyday?"

Malfoy let out a shuddering breath and ran a hand over his face. "Merlin, you're impossible," he said, sounding vaguely offended at Harry's audacity to do something so terrible. "We'll deal with this—" he gestured to the calendar,"—later. Right now we need to go to the Leaky and order the alcohol for the party."

In some other universe, Harry was probably a more dignified and calm person; but in this one, he was a bit of an idiot, so he scrambled out of his chair and grabbed his cloak much too eagerly. Thankfully, Malfoy didn't comment, just arched his eyebrows in amusement, and then gestured for Harry to follow him to the Floos.

The Leaky Cauldron was relatively quiet for a Friday lunchtime, and Tom was able to sort out their order in fifteen minutes. Malfoy made faces the whole time Harry was listing what he considered the good alcohol they needed — Firewhisky, mead, muggle vodka — and so Harry made faces right back when Malfoy started listing the fancy wines he wanted, whose names Harry thought sounded very fake.

They signed off on the final price, and Harry was preparing to leave, but Malfoy grabbed his arm suddenly.

"Wait, Potter."

Harry looked down at the pale fingers wrapped around his forearm, and then up at Malfoy, who was frowning and looked equally as confused as Harry felt.

Malfoy let him go and took a step back. "Do you want to grab a drink before we go back?" he asked casually, though Harry noticed he looked a little nervous.

Harry nodded, because he wasn't sure he could speak right now without blurting out that he was once again thinking about The Thigh Incident. Malfoy took a seat at the bar. Harry followed suit, grateful but also mildly disappointed Malfoy had chosen here to sit here and not at one of the more intimate booths by the roaring fireplaces.

"So," Harry ventured after Tom brought a white wine for Malfoy and a mead for Harry. "You're pretty into this whole holiday business, right? How come you were so against planning the party?" He was definitely not feeling as confident as he sounded, but he figured he should at least try and make some sort of conversation.

Malfoy sipped at his wine, and Harry's eyes were drawn to his throat when he swallowed.

"I don't like planning parties," Malfoy finally replied. "I enjoy attending them, but I find the task of organising them rather tedious. My mother used to insist I help her do it when I was younger, and I never enjoyed it."

Harry realised he was supposed to say something now, because that was how conversations worked, and he pulled his gaze away from Malfoy's throat. "Me too," he said quickly when he saw Malfoy was watching him expectantly. "I like attending them, I mean. I didn't mean I find it tedious— I don't really plan many events though, but, I mean, this hasn't been that tedious. It's been okay, I think. Not awful. We haven't killed each other; that's a plus, right?"

He laughed awkwardly and too loudly, trailing off and wishing the floor would open up and swallow him. He took a long drink of mead, because if he was a little less sober he would probably feel a lot less stupid. When the fuck had Malfoy started affecting him like this?

"We also haven't done all that much," Malfoy pointed out. "Kingsley really made it seem like this would be more work."

"Hmm, that's true," Harry murmured in agreement, which felt like safer than saying anything else.

The top buttons of Malfoy's coat were undone, and so were the top two of his shirt underneath. Harry wasn't trying to look at the exposed skin peeking out, but was it his fault if it was right there every time he glanced to his left?

"Are you alright?" Malfoy asked suddenly. "You're being stranger than usual."

"Yeah, I—" Harry ran a hand through his hair and exhaled. "I'm fine, sorry. Tired, I guess," he lied.

He suspected Malfoy knew he wasn't being completely truthful — he always seemed to get this look when Harry lied to him, like he saw straight through it — but he didn't press.

"What did you think of the movie?" he asked instead. "I didn't get to ask you last night."

"It was good," Harry said quickly, cursing himself for not studying Ron's notes on the plot harder when he'd received them this morning. "I liked it a lot."

"Good," Malfoy replied, lips quirking. "It's a beautiful film."

"It is," Harry agreed. "So what are you doing for Christmas then?" he asked quickly, hoping to distract Malfoy from asking him about the movie anymore.

Malfoy took another long sip of his wine before answering. "I'll be spending Christmas Day with Mother," he told Harry after a moment.

"I'll be at the Burrow," Harry offered when Malfoy didn't ask. "I go every year." Draco only nodded politely, and Harry recognised the familiar bubble of panic he felt when he needed to fill a silence. "Do you, er... Do you go to your mother's with your… partner, or…?"

He trailed off, but when he glanced up at Malfoy again, expecting him to be horrified, he saw that Malfoy's lips were turned up into a half-smirk. "Potter," he said slowly, amused, "is that your awkward and slightly backwards way of asking me if I'm single?"

"No!" Harry insisted at once. He hesitated, though, then added, "Why? Are you?"

"Why do you care?"

"I don't."

"Then why did you ask?" Malfoy countered, and he was obviously enjoying this judging by how bright his eyes were, the prat.

"I was making conversation," Harry grumbled. "I… I don't know a lot about you outside of work."

Malfoy snorted. "You're rubbish at this," he said, and Harry wasn't sure if he imagined that it sounded just a tiny bit affectionate.

"At making conversation?"

"Sure," Malfoy agreed, huffing out a small laugh. "Come on, let's get back," he said, pulling some coins from his pocket and leaving them on the bar for Tom.

Harry followed Malfoy back to the Floo in the back. They took a handful of powder each, and Malfoy stepped forward to go first. His hand hovered over the fireplace, but before he scattered his powder, he glanced back over his shoulder at Harry.

"I am, by the way," he said in a low voice, looking at Harry in a way that made Harry's heart beat much too fast. "Single, I mean," he clarified, and then he was gone, stepping into green flames, and Harry felt his whole body heat in a way that had nothing to do with the fire.

Chapter Text

December 12th - Smoulder

Ron made a roast chicken for dinner on Saturday night, and though he was a great cook, he could never get his portions quite right — a leftover effect of having learned to cook for an enormous family — so Harry had received an invite to eat with him and Hermione. The kitchen table was already laden with bowls of peas and pumpkin and other vegetables when he arrived, and there were two different kinds of gravy. It all smelled heavenly, and Harry was glad he'd slept in this morning and skipped breakfast.

Ron had switched the normal white plates to red ones with flashing lights painted on them when Hermione wasn't looking, though she smiled a bit when she noticed. They were charmed to sparkle as you ate, and Harry found them a little bit distracting as he poured gravy on his chicken. He wondered if Malfoy, with his secret Christmas obsession, would like them.

That thought reminded him of the thing he'd been wanting to talk to his friends about. He'd been thinking of Floo'ing over before they'd contacted him anyway, to ask for their thoughts on his current predicament. He wasn't sure how well they'd take the things he had to say, but they were his friends and they loved him, and he was pretty certain they'd give him the answers he needed.

He waited until they'd chatted about work a bit, and about the current state of Molly Weasley's kitchen as she attempted to single-handedly bake enough to feed all of Britain (she had owled Harry nearly two kilos of fudge just as he was leaving home earlier in the evening), before he cleared his throat and set down his knife and fork.

"So, I went to Malfoy's the other night," he announced. He'd expected gasps of shock, maybe some sort of protest or outrage, but Hermione only rolled her eyes and kept eating, while Ron just muttered, "I knew that was why you asked about the movie," under his breath.

Harry waited, but when they didn't comment further he added, "And then we had a drink at the Leaky yesterday after ordering the alcohol for the party."

"Oh!" Ron said, looking up and quickly swallowing his mouthful of pumpkin, "I meant to ask— can I come this year?"

"No," Harry replied firmly without pausing to think about it. "You asked last year as well, and the answer is still no."

"Aw, come on," Ron pressed. "Please?"

"Nope, sorry," Harry told him. "It's not happening."

"Why not?" Ron whined.

Harry narrowed his eyes. "You know why," he said darkly. "You know what you did."

"I'll behave, I swear," Ron insisted. "I won't even talk to Malfoy if you want."

"Nope," Harry repeated. "You're not invited."

"I really think you're overreacting, Harry," Hermione interjected. "Ron was just joking when he said it, and you and Malfoy are friends now."

"He said we were acting like an old married couple and should start dating already!" Harry argued. "In front of Malfoy! It was embarrassing!"

"To be fair," Hermione countered, "you were so drunk and intent on collecting more forks that you didn't even remember him saying it until we told you the next day."

"I— that doesn't matter!" Harry argued.

"Come on, mate," Ron said, jutting his bottom lip out a little. "You know Christmas parties are my thing."

Harry sighed. "Are you going to show up even if I keep saying no?" he asked wearily.

"I definitely can't rule out that possibility," Ron confirmed seriously.

"Ugh, yes, fine, you can come," Harry conceded in exasperation. "But can we get back to what I was trying to tell you both? This is important."

"About you being friends with Malfoy now?" Ron asked, reaching for the bread rolls and offering one to Harry.

"We're not friends. But something happened yesterday," Harry said slowly, accepting a roll and dropping it onto his plate. "And I'm... not sure what it means."

Hermione made a small noise of surprise, and Ron closed his eyes and rubbed at the bridge of his nose.

"What happened?" Hermione asked in a strained voice. "Did you and he…"

"I asked him by mistake if he was single," Harry told them. "And... he told me that he was."

"How did you ask him by mistake?" Ron wanted to know with a thoughtful look on his face. "Did you mean to say 'hey Malfoy, pass the chips' but it came out as 'do you have a boyfriend'? I imagine that kind of thing happens to people all the time."

Harry scowled at him. "Stop taking the piss— we didn't even have chips," he said. "And no. I just sort of… panicked, and it was the first thing that popped into my head."

"Okay," Hermione said slowly, exchanging a look with Ron. "So… he's single? That was it?"

"It's weird, right?" Harry said emphatically. "That he would tell me that."

"Well, you asked him," Ron pointed out. "He was answering your question."

Harry shook his head. "No, you don't understand," he said. "It was the way he said it."

"Alright, well, how did he say it?" Hermione asked.

Harry took a breath, remembering Malfoy's look right before he'd stepped into the Floo, and he felt goosebumps on his skin again. "His voice was all low and he kind of… well, I think he... smouldered at me."

"Excuse me?" Ron said as he and Hermione both frowned in confusion. "What does that mean?"

"You know—" Harry half closed his eyes and pouted his lips a little in what he hoped was an accurate imitation.

"You look sick," Ron commented, wrinkling his nose. "Are you sure he didn't have an upset stomach?"

"It's meant to be attractive," Harry huffed, stabbing his chicken in irritation. "I just can't do it like he can."

Ron made a face at him. "You thought he was attractive when he smouldered at you," he said. He looked over at Hermione helplessly. "It's happening now, isn't it?" he said. "You were right."

"What's happening?" Harry wanted to know, looking between them.

"Well, we knew it would eventually," Hermione sighed, pushing her peas absently around her plate.

"What are you two talking about?" Harry demanded.

"Nothing," Hermione replied. She smiled at him. "Tell us more about how Malfoy smouldered at you."

"Or don't," Ron offered. "That's good, too."

"Hush, Ronald," Hermione scolded.

"There's nothing else," Harry said, eyeing his friends suspiciously. "He left, and I avoided him for the rest of the day."

"Oh, Harry, why?" Hermione pressed.

"Because… because it was weird. I don't know," Harry said, shifting in his seat. "It made me... I just felt weird about it."

"When are you seeing him again?" Hermione asked sweetly, and there was something in her tone that told Harry she was digging for information.

"Monday, I suppose," he replied. "At work."

"Maybe you could go and see him tomorrow," she offered, making Ron groan and push his plate away. "You could ask him what the look was about."

"I'm not going to just ask someone why they smouldered at me!" Harry protested in horror. "What if he says that he… that he…" He trailed off, unsure of how to finish, and Hermione gave him a smug smirk like she knew just how jumbled up and confused his thoughts were.

"Be careful, though," Ron warned. "Don't accidentally propose if you ask him."

Harry tossed his bread roll at Ron's head.

Chapter Text

Harry wanted to do something productive with his day. He'd been debating between clearing out his spare bedroom — which, through the years, had somehow turned into more of a junkyard than a place to sleep — and cleaning his bathroom.

His bathroom won out in the end, but only because he had been avoiding his junkyard for so long now that he figured maybe it would be better to tackle something like that in the new year. He may or may not have thought the same thing last year as well, but that was irrelevant.

He changed into an old pair of joggers and a faded blue t-shirt. Cleaning charms were good, but every few weeks he liked to do things the muggle way, just to give everything that proper clean, disinfected feel. He'd just walked into the bathroom and begun to rummage in the cupboard for the supplies he needed when he heard a knock on his front door.

He furrowed his brow; Ron and Hermione had gone to visit Hermione's parents, and Harry was pretty sure he didn't have any other plans today. He made his way out to the hall and yanked his front door open, and gaped when he saw Draco Malfoy was standing there, wearing a smart, fitted grey coat buttoned up to his chin, with slightly wind-swept hair, and a takeaway coffee in his hand.

"Malfoy," Harry said, blinking in surprise and standing a little straighter. "You're at my house."

"Am I?" Malfoy frowned and glanced to his left and right. "Are you certain? I thought this was Hyde Park."

He smirked, and Harry scowled. "Don't be a prat, I'm just surprised. What do you want?"

"The Christmas party," Malfoy announced. "I had an idea, so we need to go and sort it out, and before you get pissy about it, I haven't done anything yet— I came straight here when I thought of it."

Harry leaned against the door frame and groaned. "It's Sunday, Malfoy. I don't want to do work stuff today. Can't it wait?"

"No," Malfoy insisted. "It has to be today. We need to organise the dessert. Do you want everyone to starve to death at this thing, Potter?"

Harry seriously considered it for a moment, but he supposed that was a bit mean of him. "I have things to do today," he said, even though the idea of an outing with Malfoy was a bit tempting.

"Not in public, I hope," Malfoy sniffed, looking him up and down. "What exactly are you wearing?"

Harry looked down at his shirt and joggers, then back up at Malfoy. "Cleaning clothes," he said, shrugging. "I was going to do some work around here today."

"You should get changed," Malfoy instructed. "They won't appreciate you being slovenly."

"Who?"

"Potter," Malfoy said impatiently. "We really don't have time for a round of twenty questions. Are you coming or not? If you are, get changed and let's go."

Harry thought about arguing for the sake of it, but he wanted to find out what this was all about, and, well… he wanted to see what Malfoy was like on the weekend. "Fine," he muttered. "But I'm having this." He took the coffee from Malfoy's hand before Malfoy could protest, and strode away. "Give me two minutes," he called over his shoulder.

When he was in his room, he sipped the coffee and pulled a face at the taste. It was way too bitter — not nearly enough sugar — but he'd committed now so he'd have to finish it. Malfoy's name was written on the side in thick black marker, and Harry's thumb traced over it for a moment before he realised what he was doing and hastily set the cup down to grab some clothes.

"You owe me a coffee, you bastard," Malfoy said when Harry emerged from his bedroom and came back to the front door a short time later. "I hope you spill it when we Apparate."

Harry just grinned and accepted the arm Malfoy offered. There was a tug behind his navel when Malfoy spun on the spot, and a moment later he breathed in the fresh, crisp air of the countryside.

They landed on the edge of a field under the cover of huge sprawling trees. There was a tiny cabin just ahead of them, with a woodshed and a clothesline on one side, and an old cart on the other. Beyond the house, further down the hill, there were horses and sheep and cows meandering along the grass.

"Where are we?" Harry asked, glad he'd thought to pull on such a thick jumper as a gust of wind whipped into him and made him shiver. The coffee in his hand hadn't spilled a drop when they'd Apparated, he noted smugly. He downed the rest quickly, wincing at the taste, and then Vanished the empty cup.

"Come on," Malfoy said, not waiting for Harry before he strode across the grass. He was knocking on the door of the cabin before Harry could catch up and ask again what was going on, and then there was a woman in front of them, yelling Draco's name happily and pulling him into a hug. She wore a long navy blue dress and a white bonnet on her head, her dark hair pulled neatly back off her face.

"You haven't been to see us in so long!" she exclaimed to Draco, her accent almost as posh as Malfoy's. "We thought you'd forgotten about us!"

"Like you would let me," Malfoy laughed, and Harry forgot that this strange meeting was happening for a moment as he watched Malfoy's expression transform from severe and serious into soft and happy. The harsh lines on his face disappeared and his eyes became bright and excited as he pulled back from the hug with the woman.

"Oh, hush, you! Who is your friend?" she asked, drawing back Harry's attention. "He's very handsome."

Harry smiled at her while Malfoy spluttered beside him. "I'm Harry," he told her, holding out his hand. "Malfoy and I, er… work together."

"Do you, now?" she mused, shaking Harry's hand with a firm grip as she glanced between him and Malfoy. "Well, it's very nice to meet you, Harry. I'm Mavis. Why don't you both come in?"

Inside, the cabin was small but warm and welcoming. A fire burned in the kitchen, heating up the space. Harry felt a bit like he'd stepped back in time as he accepted Mavis's offer to sit down at the wooden table and glanced around.

"Melvin will be along soon, he's just down in the back paddock," Mavis was telling Malfoy. "You wouldn't believe the storm we had last night— knocked a whole section of our fence down like it was a feather caught in the breeze! He's gotten very good at handy work though, so he shouldn't be much longer."

"You realise it would be much faster to just cast a Reparo," Malfoy drawled, and Mavis swatted his arm.

"Enough of that," she scolded. "You know we don't use magic here anymore."

"Yes, yes, I know," Malfoy sighed. "You went rogue and abandoned the wizarding world. I've not forgotten."

"You what?" Harry asked, and Mavis laughed.

"He's being dramatic. My husband and I did not go rogue; we just chose to start living an alternative lifestyle a few years ago."

"They're Amish," Malfoy announced.

"Are you really?" Harry asked eagerly. "I've never met anyone who was Amish."

"I mean, technically we weren't born into any kind of Amish community or anything," Mavis explained. "Like Draco said, Melvin and I are magical, but after years of being miserable in the wizarding world, and after exploring the muggle world and seeing how chaotic it was there, we decided to pack up and move to the country and just… let go of everything. It's very rewarding, you know, knowing we rely on nothing and no one but ourselves."

"I was going to clean my bathroom the Muggle way, before Malfoy interrupted me today," Harry supplied, ignoring the look Malfoy was giving him. "I don't know how I'd go living without magic all the time, though."

Mavis laughed. "We researched how Amish folk live for a long time before we decided to do this, and Draco was very helpful, of course."

"He was?" Harry looked at Malfoy, who was blushing and not meeting his eye.

"I didn't do anything," he muttered.

"Nonsense," Mavis dismissed. "You were a wonderful friend to us and encouraged us to live the life we wanted to live, even when our other friends and family were judging us."

Before Malfoy could reply, the door banged open, and a tall, bearded man walked in. His face was streaked with dirt and his shirt had a tear, but the grin on his face pulled focus away from any other part of him.

"Draco Malfoy, you sodding prat! Where've you been?" he boomed, striding across the room to shake Malfoy's hand.

"Working, which is more than I can say for you, Melvin," Malfoy drawled, though there was no bite to his words like there was when he spoke to Harry.

"You don't know what real work is," Melvin chuckled. "Look at the poncey coat he's wearing, Mavis. Like some sort of fancy Ministry worker."

"Stop teasing, love," Mavis laughed. "Draco's brought a friend, look, and they want me to cook something for them."

"I didn't say—"

"You think I don't know why you come to see me, Draco Malfoy?" Mavis said, raising her eyebrows at him and poking his chest with her finger. "I know your game."

Malfoy gave her a sheepish smile. "I mean, you used to own the best bakery in London. I don't trust anyone else with desserts."

"As well you shouldn't," Mavis agreed proudly. "I am the best."

"She is," Melvin agreed, nodding before he gave Harry a broad smile. "I'm Melvin, by the way," he added.

Harry wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but he didn't want to be rude, so he shook Melvin's hand and offered him a faint smile in return.

"Tell me what you need and when," Mavis instructed.

Malfoy pulled a folded piece of parchment from his coat and hesitantly held it out. "It's a lot," he warned. "If you don't have the time, or don't want to—"

"Hush," Mavis said, snatching the parchment and unfolding it. Her eyes scanned the page quickly, her lips quirking as she did. "All your old favourites," she murmured. "Right, this is easy. I'll have it ready by lunchtime on—" She checked the parchment again. "—the twenty-third. And I don't know what this note about payment is, but if you think I'll accept a thing from you for this, you'll be in all sorts of trouble."

"But Mavis—"

"I wouldn't," Melvin warned, watching Mavis fondly. "She doesn't need magic to put you in your place if you try to offer her Galleons."

Malfoy sighed. "You're both impossible," he huffed. He stood up and looked at Harry. "Let's get going, Potter. Mavis doesn't like to be bothered once she has a project."

"But we just got here," Harry said quietly. "Isn't it rude to just... ask them for something and go?"

"They don't like people to hang around for too long," Malfoy muttered under his breath. "They're very... private."

Harry glanced over at Melvin and Mavis, who were watching each other intently and, judging by the way Melvin raised a suggestive eyebrow at Mavis, oblivious to him and Malfoy still standing there. Harry realised what was happening and stood up quickly. Malfoy made his goodbyes, and Harry was hugged twice by Mavis before they got back outside, the door of the cabin closing with a firm thud behind them.

Back out in the cold, Harry shivered and pulled the sleeves of his jumper down over his hands. Malfoy glanced at him, then smoothed down his coat unnecessarily. "What?" he said when he noticed Harry staring at him.

"Want to tell me what that was about?" Harry asked. "We could have gone literally anywhere for food, and you brought me to Mavis and Melvin."

Malfoy shrugged. "I don't trust anyone else to make desserts," he said. "Mavis and Melvin do the best pies, Potter, and I won't stand for subpar pies at any party I'm planning."

His chin jutted out defiantly, and Harry couldn't help but grin. "You're so weird," he said. "They were really nice people, though." He paused, then added, "Thank you for introducing me to your friends."

Malfoy expression morphed into one of surprise. "Shut up, Potter, don't make it weird," he mumbled, a hint of colour in his cheeks as he turned away from Harry to Apparate them back.

Harry smiled to himself; Malfoy had surprised him today, and he liked that he'd been allowed to see this little glimpse of his life outside the Ministry. Maybe Hermione had been right, maybe they were friends now, or at least, on their way to being. He'd like to learn more about Malfoy, if Malfoy would let him.

As Harry stared after him, watching the wind mess up his blond hair and the long, confident strides he took back towards the tree line, that familiar, warm feeling settled in his chest again.

"Oh my god," he murmured to himself, closing his eyes as realisation crashed over him. "I am completely fucked."

Chapter Text

Harry pressed a hand to his mouth, trying to stifle a yawn, but it was no good. He rubbed at his face as he reached for his coffee mug, blinking wearily down at the stack of paperwork on his desk. He couldn't focus. He'd only managed to get a few hours of sleep last night, his thoughts such a jumbled mess that he'd spent most of the night staring at the ceiling of his bedroom.

He lifted his cup to his lips, then sighed dramatically when he realised he was out of coffee, staring irritably at the emptiness. The Aurors on call last night had been summoned out to Surrey, where it had been reported that a pair of dark wizards were up to no good. When they'd arrived, however, it was to find a couple of drunk men in black capes, pretending to be bats to scare the locals; yet somehow, one of them had managed to stun one of the Aurors. Unfortunately, it was Harry who had to review and sign off on all the reports before the case could be closed, and though Auror Jenkins was fine and had joked about it this morning, there was a lot of paperwork to get through.

He wondered briefly if it would be considered an abuse of power to get one of his Aurors to fetch him coffee, and then, deciding it was, he heaved himself up from his desk and trudged down the hall towards the cafeteria. Paperwork could wait; he needed something to wake him up.

Mary from the Finance Department smiled gratefully at him when he held the cafeteria door open for her, and then before he could get two steps inside, Kingsley was there, a grin on his face and a reindeer on his jumper.

"Harry!" he greeted, clapping Harry on the back. "Get everything sorted with the Surrey case?"

Harry gave a humourless laugh. "It was barely a case— just a couple of old blokes who'd had a few too many. Jenkins copped a stunning spell, but I think he was more impressed than anything that the guy was even able to hit him, given how drunk he was."

"Keep an eye on him, though, just in case," Kingsley warned. "If he needs to spend any extra time training, pull him from the rotation and send him to me."

"I will," Harry nodded. "I think he was just excited to get out there, to be honest. December's a bit too quiet for our liking."

"Ah, well, it just gives you more time to focus on other things," Kingsley said joyfully. "Speaking of which— how are party plans coming along?"

Harry eyed the coffee machine across the room, but forced himself to drag his gaze back to Kingsley. "Good, I think. We, er, went out yesterday to sort out the desserts."

"Working on a Sunday!" Kingsley boomed approvingly. "I knew you were the right men for this! I was just saying the same thing to Draco." He gestured behind him, and Harry noticed Malfoy sat at a table, reading an old and dusty book. Harry's chest suddenly felt tight again. "How are you, though?" Kingsley added, his smile faltering for a moment. "You look tired."

"I'm fine," Harry assured him, though as he glanced at Malfoy again, he wasn't so sure that was true. Was it considered fine to not sleep and try to survive the day on coffee alone due to confusing feelings for the dope currently sitting in front of him with a dollop of milk on his top lip?

Kingsley was saying something else — goodbye, maybe — and Harry nodded distractedly before making a beeline across the room, not even thinking about what he was doing. Before he reached the table though, Malfoy stood up. He didn't notice Harry as he gathered up his book and wiped a napkin over his mouth, and Harry slowed, watching as Malfoy pushed his chair back and moved away. He hesitated when he passed by the vending machine, eyeing it suspiciously.

Oh, Merlin, Harry sighed to himself, resigning himself to his fate. He really did like the prat.

Despite the butterflies ricocheting around his stomach — a sensation he hadn't experienced in years and wasn't sure he enjoyed — he sidled up behind Malfoy.

"Want some help?" he murmured quietly so as not to spook him.

Malfoy jumped anyway and spun around. His eyes were wide for a moment before he regained composure, and Harry thought he smelled quite nice — sort of sweet, like apples.

God, he was so fucked.

"I wasn't doing anything," Malfoy protested, and Harry laughed.

"I meant it before, you know," he said, gesturing towards the vending machine. "I'll show you to use it if you want."

"I don't want your fizzy cavities in a can," Malfoy scoffed, rolling his eyes.

"Don't you, though?" Harry teased, delighting in the way Malfoy flushed. He could feel himself grinning, but he didn't seem able to stop himself. "I liked your friends, by the way. How do you know them?"

"Mavis and Melvin?" Malfoy said. "I've known them for years. I used to go to their bakery in London every day, and we became friends."

"And you helped them become Amish," Harry added. "Because you're a good friend."

"I did not," Malfoy grumbled. "And I'm not. Be quiet, someone will hear you. You're being weird, Potter."

"Me?" Harry laughed. "I'm not the one with secret Amish friends."

"You have Weasley friends— that's much stranger," Malfoy retorted, smirking a little. He was teasing Harry, and it made Harry want to reach out and just… touch him or something.

He didn't, thankfully, but he did blurt out, "You smell nice. Like apples."

Malfoy blinked. "Thank you," he said slowly. "It's my shampoo. It's scented like green apples."

"I like it," Harry replied. Malfoy didn't look freaked out or like he was going to hex Harry — just a little confused. But the fact he was still standing there was definitely promising, so Harry crossed his arms and leaned casually against the vending machine. "So, have you watched that movie again?" he asked.

Malfoy hugged his book closer to his chest. "Maybe."

"Do you ever watch any others?"

"Other Christmas movies?"

"Any movies," Harry said, shrugging. "Is it just that one you like, or are there others?"

"Of course I like others. I have a whole collection of movies now," Malfoy said proudly. He reminded Harry a little of Ron when he'd begun learning to use Muggle things. He made a mental note to tell Ron that, to see what he had to say. Maybe he and Malfoy could bond over it or something. He shook himself mentally when he realised that he was already making plans to hang out with Malfoy and his friends, together. He was getting way too ahead of himself.

"Do you want to watch one tomorrow after work?" Harry asked him, and what the actual fuck? Where had that come from?

Malfoy's eyes went wide. "What, with you?"

Harry's heart was racing and his palms suddenly felt clammy, but he managed to reply, "Yeah, why not? I like movies." And I realised I want you to touch me, and being alone in the dark seems like a good way to make that happen, his brain supplied, remembering The Thigh Incident. Merlin, what if that whole thing had been on purpose and Harry just hadn't realised?

Malfoy narrowed his eyes slightly. "What are you playing at, Potter?" he asked suspiciously. "You're being stranger than normal."

"Nothing," Harry said quickly. "I just… I had fun the other night." Not completely true, as he'd been in a mild panic, but Malfoy didn't need to know that.

"You bolted when the movie ended," Malfoy pointed out, though his expression softened slightly and he looked less wary.

"Yes, well, I'm very strange," Harry told him.

"I know," Malfoy sighed, then added, "I was going to go Christmas shopping after work tomorrow, though."

"Oh, good," Harry said. "I need to do my shopping as well. I'll come with you."

He had no idea where this confidence had suddenly come from, and Ron's warning about blurting out the wrong thing was still in his head, but he figured as long as he wasn't accidentally proposing, he was probably doing okay.

"You can't just invite yourself on my shopping trip," Malfoy said, though he sounded a little amused.

"Sure I can," Harry replied happily. "I need a coffee, but I'll see you later, yeah?"

"Yeah," Malfoy replied, his brow furrowed and a bemused look on his face as Harry turned away. "You still me a coffee, by the way," he called out. "Don't think I'll forget."