'Oh, the weather outside is frightful...'
Draco turned his attention away from the expensive-looking advent calendar he was eagerly tearing into. “What?” he demanded, as clearly as a mouthful of Belgian chocolate would allow.
Harry shook his head slightly, forced himself to ignore how adorable Draco looked in his warm, winter pyjamas, and focussed on the matter at hand. “Christmas music? Already?”
“It’s December, isn’t it?” Draco replied defensively. “And anyway, it’s your CD.”
“It’s been December for all of --” Harry glanced at his watch, “eight hours. You’ll be sick of that album by the end of the day, never mind the month.”
Draco beamed back at him and proudly held up a sleek, silver object. “That won’t be a problem. Hermione has kindly lent us this Apple-pod thingie. It’s got hundreds of Christmas songs on it, and you can just plug it right into our CD player.”
“iPod,” Harry corrected reflexively, whilst fondly reminiscing about the days when Hermione used to refuse to be in the same room as Draco, rather than bond tighter with him to torture Harry into Christmas-related insanity.
“Remind me to thank her next time she’s round.”
“Oh, you can do that on Friday,” Draco replied, returning his calendar to its prized location on the kitchen wall, next to the fridge. “I invited Goldstein and her over for dinner.”
“Wonderful,” Harry replied, wishing for the hundredth time that Draco would check with him first before making these invitations, especially as Draco’s contribution to dinner usually consisted of telling him what wine to buy.
Draco finally picked up on Harry’s tone and pouted slightly. “C’mon, Harry,” he whined. “Don’t be like that. Didn’t I promise you I’d make this the best Christmas ever?”
“You did, and I believe you, Draco. I do,” Harry replied with a sigh. “I just didn’t expect it to start quite so early.”
Draco opened his mouth to reply, but whatever he had planned to say was lost in the noisy clatter that sounded from their living room.
“Damn,” Harry cursed. “We must have left the Floo open again.”
Draco carefully avoided eye contact - they were both more than aware that he was the guilty party, as always. Saturday nights, without fail, would see Draco return home completely sozzled, before making random, drunken Floo calls to his friends - some of whom were more receptive to Draco than others.
“Harry! You about?”
Harry sighed softly; it really was far too early on a Sunday for visitors. “In the kitchen,” he shouted back in resignation.
Moments later Ron ambled into the room, his relaxed movements belied by the expression of outrage on his face.
“Weasley,” Draco acknowledged, casually skipping through tracks on the CD.
“Malfoy,” Ron replied, with equal disinterest.
Harry couldn’t help but smile at their antics. Despite the fact that they now got along perfectly well, both Ron and Draco still insisted on using each other’s surnames and maintaining a charade of ambivalence.
“You’re not going to believe what’s happened,” Ron declared, taking a seat at the table and casually snagging a piece of toast off Harry’s plate.
Harry got up and pointedly slid another couple of slices in the toaster. “What?” he asked finally, taking pity on his friend who was clearly about to burst.
Ron swallowed quickly. “I’ve just spoken to Percy, and he reckons that Dad’s taking Mum on holiday over Christmas.”
Harry frowned slightly. “What’s wrong with that?”
Ron grabbed a sausage from Harry’s plate this time, and narrowly avoided being speared by his best friend’s fork. “They won’t be here for Christmas day,” he declared, his voice slightly muffled by the mouthful of food.
Draco wrinkled his nose in distaste. “Nice table manners, Weasley.”
“Bite me,” Ron retorted.
Draco got to his feet and retreated to the other side of the room before replying. “Sorry, but you’re not my type,” he replied. “I don’t do Weasels, or any other rodent for that matter.”
Harry glared at Draco in exasperation, whilst simultaneously holding Ron down in his seat. However much the two of them got along nowadays, there was no one who could get a rise out of Ron quite like Draco.
“I don’t see why that’s put you in such a bad mood,” Harry interjected, ignoring the glares that were passing across the room. “I bet your mum could do with a break, instead of running round after everyone else.”
“But it’s Christmas,” Ron spluttered, clearly surprised he hadn’t found a sympathetic audience in Harry. “What are we going to do Christmas day?”
“C’mon, mate, that’s a bit selfish. Your mum’s always…Hang on, what do you mean we?”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Where exactly were you planning to go for dinner that day?”
“Same place as always. Your parents…” Harry trailed off here as a look of glum realisation crossed his face.
“Exactly,” Ron replied, a touch smugly. “Not so selfish now, is it?”
Harry allowed himself to wallow for a few moments, then gave himself a mental shake - nothing could be worse than those lonely Christmases he had spent at the Dursleys'.
“We’ll have it here,” he said eventually. “You and me. We’ll have Christmas here.”
Ron’s expression clearly showed his scepticism. “I don’t know, mate. It won’t be the same.”
“No, it’ll be great,” Harry enthused. “We won’t have to pretend to like sprouts, or cranberry sauce, or play parlour games because Percy sulks if we don’t. We can have pizza, and beer, and watch football. We don’t even have to change out of our pyjamas if we don’t want to.”
“I don’t think there’s any football on,” Ron said slowly. “But there’s bound to be something decent on with all those bloody scatlite channels you’ve got.”
“You like the idea then?” Harry asked, relieved by his friend’s enthusiasm.
“Like it? I think it’s bloody brilliant. It’ll be like the anti-Christmas. We can do all those things we secretly wanted to, but Mum wouldn’t allow.” He paused and grinned. “Heh, we can even watch those naked women channels if we want.”
Harry coughed pointedly, a wry smile on his face.
“Or naked men, in your case,” Ron amended hurriedly. “I’m sure we could take it in turns,” he continued, though his tone and expression said otherwise.
Draco, who had been leaning on the worktop, shamelessly ear-wigging their conversation, let out a snort.
“What?” Harry demanded defensively. “It’ll be fun.”
“What?” Draco repeated. “You’re actually serious about this? You really want to spend Christmas day eating stodgy pizza, drinking fizzy piss that’s masquerading as lager, and watching het porn with the Weasel? Can you say the words poor white trash?”
Harry shrugged. “Sounds fine to me. And it’s not like I have anywhere else to go, is it?”
Draco’s mocking expression softened considerably at these words, but his horror at their plans wasn’t fully quashed. “But it’s Christmas,” he protested. “You can’t not have turkey - it’s traditional. Merlin! It’s practically the law.”
“There’s no point in cooking that much food just for the two of us,” Harry pointed out. “Not even Ron can eat that much.”
“Maybe I could…” Draco tailed off thoughtfully.
Harry smiled at his flatmate - wild horses wouldn’t drag it out of him, but he adored the way Draco’s nose scrunched up when he was deep in thought.
“Maybe you could what?” he encouraged gently.
“I was thinking that maybe I could invite you to the Manor for Christmas,” Draco said, sounding more than a little dubious.
Ron let out a disbelieving snort, but cut it off at the quelling look Harry shot him.
“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea,” Harry replied slowly. “I know it’s the season of goodwill and all that, but I think it’d have to be a cold day in hell before your father sits down to dinner with Harry Potter and a Weasley.”
Even Draco was forced to admit the truth of this statement - though secretly he thought that it would have been Ron’s inclusion in the party that pushed his father over the edge. “You’re probably right,” he agreed reluctantly, before his face brightened. “I’ll just send one of the house-elves over with dinner for you.”
“Honestly, Draco, you don’t have to do that. We’re two grown men,” Harry ignored the raised brows this comment garnered, “I’m sure we can manage to take care of ourselves for one day.”
Draco’s expression clearly showed his scepticism at this claim, but he just shrugged. “Fine,” he said, pushing away from the worktop he’d been lounging against. “Don’t say I didn’t offer.”
Some time later, when Draco had left for his weekly family dinner at the Manor while Harry had desperately tried to ignore the way his flatmate’s robes brought out the colour of his eyes, Ron lay sprawled on the sofa, can of lager in one hand, remote control in the other.
“There’s this new bloke at work,” he said casually as he flicked between various cooking programmes.
“Ron,” Harry said warningly through a mouthful of crisps.
Ron angled his head away from the TV and looked at his best friend. “What?” he asked, his expression the picture of innocence.
“You know damn well what,” Harry said tersely. “Don’t start.”
Ron turned back to the TV and resumed his channel surfing. “I was just saying,” he muttered. “Forgive me for thinking you’d be interested in my life.”
He really should stop Ron hanging around with Draco so much, Harry reflected. For all that people considered him to be the archetypal Gryffindor, every now and again there would be these bursts of Slytherin-like manipulation - and even though Harry knew exactly what his best friend was up to, he found himself being sucked in nonetheless.
“Fine,” he muttered mulishly. “I’m listening.”
Ron gave a quick smirk - no doubt another trick he had learned from Draco - and then hauled himself into an upright position. “Name’s Felix,” he commented, whilst snagging the bag of crisps from Harry’s lap. “He’s a mate of Viktor’s.”
Ron’s friendship with Viktor Krum had been another surprising post-war development. Once the barrier of Hermione was removed, the two men had become surprisingly close. Viktor had given Ron his first contract when he set up his own security company, and Ron happily took full credit for introducing Viktor to his now-wife - Lavender Brown.
Harry gave a soft sigh and then took a deep drink from his bottle. He knew Ron meant well, but…
“He’s a good bloke,” Ron continued, warming to his subject. “Works hard, friendly, great sense of humour - and real jokes too, not that snarky stuff that Malfoy’s into.”
Harry resisted the urge to confess that Draco’s biting sarcasm was one of the things he loved most about him. All he said was, “that’s nice,” as noncommittally as possible.
“Yeah, he is,” Ron agreed. “Gay, too,” he added with a wink at his friend.
Harry resisted the temptation to roll his eyes - obviously Ron’s Slytherin instincts didn’t run to subtlety. “You don’t say,” he replied, not quite able to keep a lid on his sarcasm.
“Single as well,” Ron continued, shooting a hopeful look at his best friend.
“No!” Harry said firmly, determined to stop Ron before he got too carried away. “I know you mean well, mate, but please stop trying to throw me at every gay man you meet.”
“It’s hardly every one,” Ron protested, a few stray crisp fragments landing on his rumpled shirt.
“This is the third one in as many weeks.” Harry ran a hand through his hair. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but it’s just not that easy.”
Ron twisted in his seat so that he was fully facing his friend. “Harry, I’m just suggesting you give them a chance - go on a date, have a few drinks, get to know them a little - not bond to them for all eternity.” He paused and took a swig of his drink. “It’s got to stop, mate,” he said finally. “It’s not healthy.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Harry replied stiltedly, clearly wishing the conversation were over.
“Harry, this is me you’re talking to. I know, remember?”
Harry flushed and scowled at the same time. “We’re not having this conversation.”
“Yes, we are,” Ron retorted. “Someone needs to say it, and as I’m the only other person who knows, it’s going to have to be me.”
Harry slumped back in his seat, arms folded across his chest, a stubborn expression marring his boyish face. “Fine. Whatever.”
Ron watched his best friend warily. No one knew better than he just how volatile Harry’s temper could be, and the last thing he wanted to do was upset him. But things needed to be said, and Ron had already let it slide for long enough.
“You have to move on,” he said quietly. “It’s been nearly six months since Hermione’s wedding.”
“But nothing,” Ron interrupted. “Nearly six months, Harry. Don’t you think Malfoy would have said by now if he wanted a repeat performance? You need to forget about it and move on. Living here, with him, feeling the way you do - it’s just not healthy.”
Harry looked at him horrified. “You’re saying I should move out?”
Ron shook his head quickly. “No, I don’t think that - I know this is the first real home you’ve ever had. But you have to make some kind of effort to get over him; otherwise it’s going to get to the point where the only solution is for one of you to leave.”
“I don’t want that,” Harry said softly, more to himself than anyone else. Draining the remnants of his drink, he turned a determined gaze on his friend. “Okay, so tell me more about this Felix.”
Ron grinned. “There’s a few of us going for a drink on Saturday night - why don’t you join us and you can find out for yourself.”
Harry eyed his friend warily - he knew what Ron was suggesting was tantamount to agreeing to a blind date. Harry wasn’t as confident as Ron when it came to his readiness to move on, but the prospect of not being able to live with Draco was too bleak for him not to try.
He gave a small nod. “Okay.”
“Think you’ll manage to muster a smile by then?” Ron teased.
“Harry, you’re going for a drink, not to your death. Try not to look quite so terrified.”
Harry gave a weak smile and turned his attention back to his fingers, which were mindlessly plucking the label from his beer bottle.
Ron stifled a sigh. Despite his original smugness at having been the first (and so far only) person to discover Harry’s secret, at times like these he wished desperately that Hermione would figure it out - if only so he could shove the responsibility for Harry’s emotional turmoil onto her. After all, he reasoned, girls were genetically better equipped to deal with this sort of thing.
The awkward silence was broken by loud crackling and spitting noises coming from the fireplace.
“Someone’s using old powder,” Ron observed, just as the flames burned a bright green.
Draco emerged from the fireplace with a grace that Harry couldn’t help but admire. He watched as his flatmate brushed imaginary soot from his immaculate robes, and wanted nothing more than to run his own hands over the expensive fabric and feel the play of lean muscles beneath.
It took a moment for Harry to realise that Draco had ceased his preening, and now stood watching him expectantly. Harry gave himself a mental shake. “Sorry, what did you say?”
Both Ron and Draco rolled their eyes, and Harry had to stamp on the urge to point out just how alike they were in that moment.
“I said, you’d better set another place for Christmas dinner.” Draco shrugged off his outer robes, revealing the tailored black trousers and thin-knit cashmere jumper ensemble that made Harry’s stomach do funny, twisty things.
“You fancy slumming it for a change?” Ron teased. Harry shot him a warning glare - he knew Draco well enough by now to spot the brittle edge to his tones that spoke of strained self-control.
“It would seem, Weasley,” Draco began coolly, “that your parents aren’t the only ones who have decided to take a holiday this festive season.”
Harry reined in the laugh that threatened to erupt, along with the unbidden image of Lucius Malfoy attired only in Speedos, and clutching his pimp cane.
“I wouldn’t have thought your parents were the sunbathing types,” Ron commented, not bothering to hide the broad grin that split his face.
Draco took possession of the vacant armchair; long limbs hooked over the arm in a fashion that made Harry swallow heavily. “Whereas you redheads were just built to sun worship, right, Weasley?” he sneered.
Harry snorted at this, drawing a glare from his best friend. “Where are they off to?” he asked hurriedly to deflect attention.
Draco gave a dismissive shrug. “Some great aunt of Father’s is on her last legs. We aren’t particularly close to her, but it’s the correct thing for them to do, especially when there’s a Loire Valley chateau at stake.”
“Charming,” Ron muttered, hauling himself to his feet and heading off in search of a fresh drink. “Think you can handle a day of beer, junk food, and sport then, Malfoy?” he asked, casually throwing a fresh can in Harry’s direction.
Showing he had lost none of his old Seeker skills, Draco’s hand shot out and intercepted the drink, much to Harry’s dismay.
“If you think for one minute that I am foregoing my traditional Christmas fare in favour of your planned fest of artery-hardening stodge, then you’ve clearly had too many of these already.”
“But you can’t cook,” Ron shot back, his stomach rolling slightly at the memory of Draco’s last foray into the kitchen.
“Maybe not,” Draco assented reluctantly, “But Harry can. He does a roast that would have the Manor’s house-elves wailing into their tea towels with jealousy.”
“That’s true.” Ron spun to face his friend, eyes wide, his mouth already watering at the prospect. “Can’t believe I didn’t think of it before.”
Harry reached out and plucked his drink from Draco’s hands. Giving it several taps first, he tugged on the ring pull and quickly sipped at the emerging froth. “Do I get a say in this?” he asked finally.
“Aww, c’mon, mate,” Ron coaxed. “It’s a great idea. And Malfoy’s right, you do make a cracking roast.”
“Ignore him, Weasley,” Draco advised. “He just likes playing hard to get.”
Harry choked on his lager and forced himself to bite back several rather revealing remarks on the subject of people playing hard to get.
“So you’ll do it?” Ron queried.
“Of course he will,” Draco answered before Harry could speak. “This’ll be the perfect opportunity to crack open that Nigella cookbook that you’ve been practically sleeping with recently.”
“Okay, fine,” Harry answered huffily. “I’ll do it. But you two are helping.” He paused here and glared meaningfully at his two companions. “And by helping, I don’t mean hovering round the kitchen like a dog begging for scraps, or peering over my shoulder giving a running commentary like you’re the Times’ food critic.”
“I still can’t believe you talked us into eating here,” Pansy complained bitterly. “Does anyone even know what this is supposed to be?” She prodded disdainfully at her food.
“I’m not certain,” Blaise said, peering closely at the contents. “But it looks uncommonly like something Mrs Norris once coughed up.”
There was a loud clink as Pansy’s cutlery was swiftly dropped. “That’s it. I can’t eat this swill.” She pushed the tray away and scowled at Draco. “I said we should have gone for sushi, but oh no, someone couldn’t bear to miss out on the chance to ogle Potter some more. As if seeing him over the breakfast table ouch!” Pansy yelped loudly and massaged her abused shin.
“Shut the fuck up,” Draco snarled, in a low voice that never failed to remind Pansy why she once dreamt of becoming Mrs Malfoy.
“Bastard,” she hissed. “That fucking hurt.”
“It was meant to,” Draco retorted. “Perhaps in future you’ll remember to watch your tongue.”
“A little too close to the truth for comfort, was I?” Pansy sniped.
Draco’s eyes narrowed and he opened his mouth to give his friend a patented Malfoy tongue-lashing. However, Blaise beat him to it.
“Do you two think you could rein it in a bit, please? It’s bad enough that I’ll have to spend Christmas listening to my mother’s constant bitching, without you two taking me for a trial run.”
Draco smirked slightly. “And how is husband number nine?”
“Still breathing,” Blaise replied neutrally.
“For now,” Pansy added, earning herself a sharp dig to the ribs. “Merlin, Blaise! I’m going to be black and blue by the time you two have finished with me. And neither colour goes particularly well with my complexion.”
“You might want to try being a little more tactful then,” Draco suggested, glancing pointedly at Blaise who was now morosely picking at his stew.
Pansy huffed. “Well, I’m sorry. But it’s not my fault that you two aren’t getting the Christmases that you want. I offered you the chance to come with me.”
“And spend the week listening to you and your latest boy toy screwing each other senseless? No, thank you.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“No,” Draco replied calmly. “I just have a very good memory. Remember, I had the bed next to Theo’s at school, and he was never very handy with the Silencing Charms.”
Pansy flushed, and even Blaise dragged himself out of his mood to laugh at her discomfort.
“How did it go again, Blaise? I’m sure you remember.”
“Something like this.” Blaise grinned broadly, before grabbing the edge of the table, throwing his head back and moaning (a little too loudly), “Oh fuck, yes! Oh fuck, yes! repeated ad nauseum, and then followed up by a noise that sounded uncommonly like a honking sea lion.”
“Bastards!” Pansy’s cheeks flushed even brighter, especially when she noticed a large portion of the canteen was looking her way. She took a small sip of her tea, wrinkling her nose in distaste at its pungent flavour. “Did you hear about Millie and Greg?” she queried, keen to change the topic.
Draco shifted uneasily, as he always did at any mention of his former friend. They had barely spoken since the end of the war - it was as if Vince’s death had destroyed their one common bond.
“She’s not trying to get pregnant again, is she?” Blaise enquired. “I thought the Healers told them it was a waste of time.”
“Unlikely,” Pansy replied, wearing the smug expression of one who knew they were about to impart a good piece of gossip. “She’s left him.”
A momentary hush fell over the table as all three occupants processed this piece of news. Draco couldn’t help but feel sorry for Greg. Millicent had been Vince’s on-off girlfriend back at Hogwarts, and with his death, she had almost instantly transferred her affections to his best friend.
“Who?” Blaise asked finally, voicing the question that Draco couldn’t quite bring himself to ask.
“Marcus Flint,” Pansy replied, the distaste clear in her voice. “It seems his ability to get her pregnant far outweighs his less…pleasing qualities.”
“Poor Greg,” Blaise empathised.
Pansy snorted softly. “Poor Millie, you mean. You do realise she’ll actually have to have sex with Marcus in order to get pregnant?” She wound up with a noise of revulsion and a distinct shudder, which was repeated around the table.
“It’s time Greg moved on,” Draco commented finally. “He’s been mooning over Bulstrode since second year. Everyone apart from him knows she only married him on the rebound from Vince."
Blaise and Pansy both shared a look of suppressed mirth.
“Imagine that,” Pansy commented causally. “Obsessing over someone for so long. You’d think people would have the sense to know when to give up, wouldn’t you?”
Draco’s grip on his cup tightened as he fought the impulse to retort in kind - he was under no illusions about the point Pansy was trying to make.
“Talking of moving on,” Blaise said, with a watchful look at his friend. “I hear Potter’s got himself a date this weekend.”
“Who told you that?” Draco winced at how hoarse his voice sounded.
“I was talking to Weasley earlier. It seems he’s trying to pair Potter off with some bloke who works for him.”
“Harry wouldn’t-” Draco began.
“Harry is,” Blaise interrupted, his tone calm but firm.
Draco’s chair scraped loudly in the silence that followed. “I need to get back,” he said. “There are several press releases that need to go out this afternoon, and I can’t trust my halfwit assistant to deal with them.”
Pansy reached out and grabbed his wrist, her brightly painted nails digging lightly into his flesh. “Draco, we’re telling you this for your own good. Potter is clearly getting on with his life, and so should you. You’re far too pretty to be sat home alone in the evenings - you can do much better for yourself.”
Draco carefully extricated his hand from her grasp. “I appreciate the sentiment,” he said softly, then the shutters came down, and the closed expression that the outside world got to see was firmly in place. “But we are not having this conversation, ever.”
As she watched her best friend make his way purposefully across the Ministry canteen, Pansy let her head rest lightly on Blaise’s shoulder. “Well, that went well, don’t you think?”
Blaise snorted softly and tilted his head until it lay atop hers. “I told you we were wasting our breath. Draco never takes kindly to advice, and certainly not on the subject of Potter. Besides, he’s a big boy now, Pans.”
“He’s an idiot,” Pansy replied with a sigh. “Always has been where Potter is concerned.”
Blaise sat upright and gave her hand a gentle pat. “C’mon, how about I take you for a proper lunch, instead of this muck?”
“Sushi?” Pansy perked up noticeably.
Blaise stood and offered her his hand. “My treat.”
Pansy took the proffered hand and grinned broadly. “Keep this up and I might just marry you after all.”
“We’d kill each other before the week was out,” Blaise responded wryly.
“But we’d have one hell of a wedding night.” Pansy leered and winked at her friend, all thoughts of Draco’s problems forgotten.
The dust had barely settled from the final battle when Harry made up his mind that there would be no more battling the Dark Arts in his future - a decision that Ron was surprisingly in agreement with. Kingsley, who had still been busily making the role of Minister his own, was loath to let the Boy Who Lived escape the Ministry’s clutches. Granted his purpose wasn’t as nefarious as Fudge’s or Scrimgeour’s, but his efforts were just as tenacious. Harry comforted himself with the knowledge that he had made a good showing in his N.E.W.T.s, and so wasn’t entirely unqualified for the positions that were being touted.
In the end, he had settled for a fairly junior position in the Department of Magical Games and Sports. His love of Quidditch, and the recent departure of Ludo Bagman, had been the deciding factors in his acceptance of the post.
To this day, Harry considered it the best decision he ever made. Not only did it allow him to attend numerous Quidditch games under the guise of work, but it also brought him into daily contact with Draco.
When he had first discovered Draco’s presence on the same floor of the Ministry building as his own offices, Harry had been overrun with mixed emotions. The two of them had reached a sort of understanding during their last year at Hogwarts - mainly that they ignored each other’s presence whenever possible, and were painfully polite and correct when contact was unavoidable.
But they were out of school now. They were in the real world and Harry was determined not to let past hostilities carry over into his adult life.
Surprisingly, Malfoy had been open and receptive to Harry’s overtures, and before too long a fledgling friendship had sprung up between them. What started out as brief chats over a mid-morning tea break progressed to a standing lunch date in the Ministry canteen, and ended up as regular nights in the pub, interspersed with the odd Quidditch game.
It had been a revelation to both of them just how much they actually had in common. Harry found Draco surprisingly easy to talk to, and quickly grew to appreciate his biting wit. Sharing a flat had seemed a natural progression in their friendship - although most of their friends had animatedly disagreed at the time.
Throughout their final years at school, Harry had always assumed that he and Ron would end up sharing a place. But things with Ron and Hermione had escalated quicker than anyone imagined, and pretty soon the two of them were out looking for flats together, while Harry rattled around Grimmauld Place on his own.
Draco had still been living at the Manor but regularly confided in Harry just how stifling and oppressive he found it, not only because his father’s fall from grace had caused both parents to turn their thwarted hopes and ambitions onto him, but also because of the vivid and terrifying memories Draco had been left with as a result of Voldemort’s residency.
Harry smiled to himself now as he slid under the bubbles, recalling Draco’s excitement at the suggestion that they live together. Everyone else had thought that Harry was crazy, but three years on they had proved all doubters wrong. He couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, or indeed with anyone else.
A frantic knocking on the door pulled Harry from his reverie. Despite the noise being muffled by the water, Harry could still make out the vague sound of his name being called. Clearly, Draco, too, had returned after a busy day at the office, and was keen to stake his claim on the bathroom.
Neither Harry nor Draco was able to suppress the soft snorts that escaped them in response to this comment. However, at Hermione’s expression, Harry quickly schooled his into one of neutrality, leaving only Draco still merrily chuckling to himself.
“I cook.” Hermione’s tone raised a notch and sounded most put out. “Don’t I?” She turned to her husband for support.
Not for the first time, Harry saw exactly why the Hat had put Anthony Goldstein into Ravenclaw. Hermione’s cooking could be described as inedible at best, but a few soothing words and gentle encouragement from her husband had her beaming like she’d just received her first Michelin star.
“And what exactly was your contribution to the meal?” she asked sharply, with a pointed glare at Draco.
He smiled lazily, slowly swirling the wine in his glass before taking a sip. “I invited you,” he said simply. “If it was left to Harry to observe basic social niceties, you'd still be waiting for your first invitation three years on.”
“Hey!” Harry protested. “Don’t drag me into it.”
“Draco has a point, Harry,” Hermione teased gently.
“Yeah, well, he might’ve invited you, but if it wasn’t for me you would be sitting down to cheese on toast à la Malfoy right now.”
Draco chuckled, and yet again Harry marvelled at the changes the years had wrought in his friend. The Draco Malfoy of old would never have been able to laugh at a joke made at his expense.
“I’d have just asked Mother to send over a few of the house-elves for the evening,” Draco replied, with a sly smile at Hermione.
As expected, she bit.
“Draco Malfoy! If you think for one minute that I’d sit down to a meal prepared-”
“He’s just winding you up,” Harry interrupted, cutting her off mid-stride and earning himself grateful looks from the table’s other occupants.
Hermione huffed, but forbore the rest of her rant.
“I’m surprised you two don’t have a tree up yet,” Anthony commented, clearly looking to steer the conversation into safer waters.
It was Draco’s turn to huff now. “I wanted to put it up last Sunday, but someone wouldn‘t let me.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Stop being so melodramatic. I said I’d go with you tomorrow to get one, didn’t I?”
“Huh.” Draco took another sip of his wine. “Only under protest.”
“What about you lot, are you having a tree?” Harry asked their guests. “I mean, I know you used to celebrate, Hermione, but what with you being…um…you know…”
“Jewish?” Anthony supplied helpfully.
“Yes.” Harry nodded gratefully, relieved he hadn’t caused offence.
“Tactful as ever, Potter.” Draco smirked at him across the table.
“No, it’s fine,” Anthony reassured as he saw Harry flush uncomfortably. “I don’t mind you asking.”
“It’s a perfectly natural question,” Hermione put in, as she topped up her wine glass. “This wine is lovely, Draco. Your choice, I take it?”
Draco snorted. “Since we’re not drinking it out of a box I think it’s fairly safe to assume Harry didn’t choose it.”
Harry chose to ignore Draco’s remark, suspecting that his flatmate was still smarting from the lack of hot water earlier. “So?”
“So, what?” Hermione frowned slightly. “Oh, the Christmas tree?” She shook her head. “Not this year. But not because we aren’t celebrating it or anything. We just decided not to bother. We’ll celebrate Hanukkah with Anthony’s parents next weekend, and we’re going skiing with my parents over Christmas itself.”
“There didn’t seem much point decorating the house for it to stand empty,” Anthony added.
“Hmm. At least someone will be getting a white Christmas,” Draco muttered, stabbing viciously at his food.
Hermione looked at Harry questioningly. He smiled in return. Then, seeing Draco did not intend to expand on his comment, he took it upon himself to explain.
“Apparently the wards over the Manor have some kind of weather control charm woven into them. Between that and Hogwarts, Draco’s never had a snow-free Christmas.”
“Until now,” Draco grumbled, getting up out of his seat. “Excuse me, I’ll just get us some more wine.”
Harry watched him go, trying hard not to let his eyes linger overly on Draco’s rather pert behind.
“I take it he wants to put that ward up over here?” Hermione asked as soon as Draco was out of the room.
Harry nodded. “He wasn’t too happy when I pointed out the rest of the building might object to a sudden, and rather localised, snow storm.”
“Is there no way to just cast it over a small area, like your roof terrace?”
“If there is, Draco can’t find it. And believe me, he’s tried. If he keeps this up, I’ll end up having to hire one of those damn snow machines.”
Draco returned at that point, putting an end to any further discussion. He uncorked the wine and topped up their glasses, before seeing to his own needs.
“So, Hermione,” he said, retaking his seat, “how are things coming along with that dangerous creatures bill of yours?”
As much as he longed to roll back over and resume his dream, his bladder was rather persistently demanding his attention. Flinging back his duvet, Harry stumbled to his feet and headed to his en suite bathroom. It was at this point that he realised two things. One, he was completely naked, and two, he had no recollection of going to bed the night before.
Try as he might, Harry could not coax forth the barest hint of a memory. He remembered leaving the pub with Ron and - Harry stilled momentarily - Felix! He peered warily back into his bedroom but nothing in there gave any sign that he had done anything more than sleep.
Harry sighed with relief. Even though there was nothing between Draco and him, he couldn’t bear to think he had cheapened his feelings with a drunken one-night stand.
Conscience satisfied, Harry set about relieving himself, musing over the previous night as he did so. If he was honest, Harry had to admit it hadn’t been as bad as feared. In fact, after an incredibly frustrating day spent Christmas tree shopping with an increasingly snarky Draco, it had actually been quite a pleasant change.
Felix had turned out to be okay. A little broader than Harry liked, and his hair too dark, but he was genial enough and Harry found it refreshing for once not to be on the receiving end of barbed remarks. Ron, to his credit, had made it feel very much like a group outing, for which Harry had been endlessly grateful. So he had been able to chat to Felix without any pressure and they had soon bonded over a shared love of Quidditch.
But, for an evening designed to help him move on, it had done nothing more than reaffirm his knowledge that Draco was the only one for him - barbed remarks and all.
Dragging on a pair of jogging bottoms, Harry headed out of his room in search of caffeine. Draco was already up and seated at the table, his usual black coffee in his hand. Before Harry had the chance to speak to him, he heard a shrill voice coming from the living room.
“Is that Hermione?” he asked, absently scratching at his bare stomach.
Draco nodded. “Yes. She’s been making that awful row for the last few minutes. I was beginning to give up hope of you ever waking up.”
“You didn’t think to see what she wanted?”
Draco shrugged and sipped at his drink. “It’s not me she’s after,” he replied coolly.
As if on cue, Hermione’s voice could once again be heard echoing through their flat.
“Harry James Potter! You get out of your bed this instant!”
Harry was torn between finding out what had prompted Draco’s mood and seeing to Hermione. The pounding in his head made the decision for him.
He made his way into the living room and was confronted with a rather red-faced Hermione, who appeared to be taking a deep breath in readiness for her next tirade. At moments like this, Harry understood what Ron had meant when he said that marrying Hermione would be like marrying his own mother.
Harry smiled wearily at her and held up one hand. “Don’t, please. I’ve just woken up and my head is killing me.”
Hermione tutted disapprovingly, but surprisingly left off the lecture on the evils of drinking. “I was beginning to think you were dead,” she sniffed. “Where’s his lordship, anyway?”
“Draco? He’s in the kitchen worshipping at the altar of the caffeine gods, as usual.”
Hermione’s face reddened further. “Then why the bloody hell didn’t he —" She cut herself off and Harry could see the level of effort it took. Finally, she gave a small shake and let out a deep breath. “Never mind,” she said, sounding rather more calm than Harry suspected she felt. “I will not let his behaviour spoil my mood today.”
“Okay,” Harry replied slowly, entirely unsure which mood exactly she was talking about.
“Can we come through?” she enquired. “There’s something I have to tell you, and I’d really like it if my head and body were in the same place when I do it.”
“Of course.” Harry stepped back from the fireplace, his mind racing as he tried to second-guess his friend’s news.
Hermione quickly emerged, followed swiftly by her husband. Before either of them spoke, their eyes were automatically drawn to something behind him. Harry turned around to follow their glance, and saw they had noticed the six foot, Norwegian spruce currently residing in the bay window.
“Going for the minimal look this year?” Anthony queried in reference to the tree’s bare branches.
Draco had been quite impatient for them to get a tree, so Harry was more than a little surprised not to find it already adorned with the countless decorations that had been purchased for the job. “Oh,” he said finally. “I’m not sure what’s going on with that. Draco’s in charge of the decorating and stuff.”
Hermione rolled her eyes but made no comment. She took a seat in the nearest chair, carefully smoothing her skirt under her as she did so. Harry opted for a seat on the sofa, but Anthony remained standing, hovering almost protectively in his wife’s orbit.
“For goodness sake, will you sit down,” Hermione said to him in exasperated tones. “You’ve been buzzing around me like a particularly annoying fly for the last day, and you’re driving me to distraction.”
Anthony meekly seated himself next to Harry, who was secretly grinning with relief that he was no longer the main target of Hermione’s daily tongue-lashings.
“Can I get either of you a drink?”
“No,” Hermione answered, and Anthony quickly closed his mouth. “We can’t stay for long; we’re off for lunch with my parents.”
“So…um…what was it you wanted to tell me?” Harry prompted, hoping to speed up the visit so he could reacquaint himself with the finer points of a Hangover Potion before too long.
At that, Hermione beamed, but also flushed slightly. She cleared her throat. “We were wondering whether you would have room for two more on Christmas Day?”
“Oh,” Harry replied, somewhat stumped. He had been expecting something more…well, just something more. “Of course you can come,” he added hurriedly when his silence caused his guests to shift uneasily. “But what about your holiday? You were really looking forward to it on Friday.”
“Healer’s orders,” Hermione replied happily, though Harry couldn’t see what there was in that to smile about.
“You’re not sick?” he asked in alarm.
Hermione shook her head and laughed softly. “No. At least, not in the way you mean.”
“So what is it then?” Harry demanded, becoming frustrated by her oblique answers.
“I’m pregnant,” Hermione replied simply, and then sat back in her seat, hands clasped over her stomach as she watched realisation dawn on her friend’s face.
“You’re…Sweet Merlin! I don’t believe it.” Harry sank back on the sofa looking somewhat gob-smacked.
“It’s true,” Hermione replied. “Almost twelve weeks, so the Healer tells us.”
Anthony chuckled. “Exactly what I said when they told us.”
Harry grinned and reached over to clap him on the shoulder. "Well done, mate."
Anthony grinned proudly, but the exchange left Hermione spluttering.
"Well done? It's not like he's..." She trailed off, shaking her head. "This is some kind of male virility crap, isn't it?"
Harry and Anthony grinned at each other, then nodded at her in reply.
Hermione shook her head again. "Do I get congratulated for being fertile then?"
Harry scrambled to his feet. "Of course." He held out his hands, and when she took hold of them, he pulled her to her feet. Hermione leant in ready to hug, only for Harry to hesitate at the last minute. "Is it okay to hug you? I mean, I'm not going to squash the baby or anything?"
"Idiot," Hermione replied affectionately, wrapping her arms round him and squeezing tight.
"If I'd known there was a Hufflepuff reunion in my living room, I would have worn my yellow jumper."
At the sound of Draco's voice, Harry instantly pulled out of Hermione's embrace. He turned to see his flatmate lounging against the doorframe, looking sexier than it should have been possible for anyone to do in faded tracksuit bottoms and an old white t-shirt.
"Draco," Hermione acknowledged a little stiffly. "You've recovered from your earlier bout of deafness, then?"
Draco grinned. "It comes and it goes," he replied airily.
"Never mind that," Harry said impatiently. "Draco, you'll never guess what."
"Well, don't keep me in suspense then," Draco drawled, affecting his best disinterested tone.
"You could at least try and guess." Harry's bottom lip pouted ever so slightly - he hadn't lived with Draco all these years without picking up a few mannerisms.
"I could," Draco agreed. "But as we've already established that I won't get it right, it would be less painful all around if you just told me."
Harry huffed. "I don't think-"
"Oh, for goodness sake," Hermione interrupted. "I'm pregnant."
At this news, Draco switched into charming mode. "Congratulations," he said warmly, stepping forward and kissing Hermione's cheek then turning his attention to Anthony and holding out his hand. "Well done," he said, ignoring Hermione's disgruntled snort. As Anthony took hold of his hand, Draco leaned in slightly and murmured "I hope for the baby's sake it has your hair."