“What are you doing out here, Potter?”
Harry looks away from the starry night sky he has been admiring in the solarium to see who has left the party to come out and join him. Deep down Harry already knows who it is, would recognise the voice anywhere, but he has to see it for himself before he can believe it.
The glass of wine nearly spills down Harry’s shirt in his haste to gulp it down to calm his nerves. Draco Malfoy, his Auror partner, stands in front of him holding two glasses of wine. In the dim moonlight, Harry can barely make out the man’s features, despite the fact that Draco is very pale and should stand out in the darkness like the few fairies that are flying in the solarium.
The room is filled with awkward silence, like in the beginning when they were first appointed partners by Robards. In the years since, whether in the office, or out on the field, they are the best Aurors at the Ministry. Yet if you take them out of the workplace, Draco will talk to anyone and everyone about anything. Meanwhile, Harry struggles to make polite conversation with anyone other than his closest friends. Which shouldn’t be difficult, but it is, despite the fact that he considers Draco a friend.
Of course, that can also be because Harry has just admitted to himself the crush he has on Draco Malfoy. He isn’t stupid; he can see how handsome Draco is, how the man is never without any offers of dates, but it wasn’t until this past Halloween that Harry wished he was more than just co-workers with Draco.
On Halloween night, while Harry had been hiding away in his office in hopes that he wouldn’t have to attend the annual Ministry masquerade ball, Draco had entered with a plate of food and had said, “Eat.”
“What?” Harry had said, his eyes wide.
“Have some dinner, Potter, before we go get drunk. I know how much you hate Halloween, but it’s no good for you to just sit there brooding alone in the dark.”
“I am not brooding,” Harry had said, even though he had been doing just that, thinking about his parents like he always did on Halloween.
The look Draco had given him then was so reminiscent of a younger Draco at Hogwarts that Harry had rolled his eyes, muttering “I’m not,” before picking up his fork and knife.
Draco had taken them to a pub out in the middle of the country where there were more sheep than people. Harry doesn’t remember what they talked about, but it didn’t matter. Once Harry had made Draco laugh, he just wanted to do it again and again, to see Draco’s cheeks become redder and redder after each pint. Draco seemed freer when his shirtsleeves were rolled up to his elbows, his hair disheveled, and a smile fixed upon his face.
Most of all, what Harry remembered from that night was thinking, I really want to kiss Draco Malfoy.
“Potter?” Draco asks, taking Harry away from his memories.
The wine glass is very cold under Harry’s fingers and he has to clasp it with both hands to make sure he does not drop it. Harry clears his throat and says, “I had to get away before I felt suffocated. There’s so many people inside and everywhere I turn, there’s someone else coming up to talk to me. I don’t know why, since you’re hosting this party at your house. I’m a guest here, not a guest of honour.”
Draco raises an eyebrow. “That can’t be true. I invited the entire Auror department, not the Ministry, Potter. You see these people every day.”
Harry shrugs his shoulders. He hasn’t had many people to talk to at work since Ron left to help George out at the joke shop. In fact, Draco, Robards, and Kingsley were mainly whom Harry interacted with on a daily basis unless they were at the Monday Auror meetings. “Besides, it’s very calm out here and there are so many stars in the night sky. I never realised how beautiful it was. It’s perfect for making wishes.”
“You don’t need to make wishes on stars when you have magic, Potter,” Draco says, shaking his head. Still, that doesn’t stop him from gazing up at the night sky, the wisps of smoke leaving his mouth every time he exhaled.
“I know that, Draco. Still, this is tradition. I’ve made wishes on shooting stars on Christmas Eve ever since I was a child because there were so many things I desperately wanted to come true,” Harry says quietly. He can feel Draco’s gaze on him, and Harry doesn’t move, doesn’t take his eyes away from the sky, because that’s the only way he can tell someone about what he suffered through as a child. He doesn’t want pitying looks, especially not from Draco.
“Is this a Muggle tradition that I’ve never heard about?” Draco says at last and Harry nods.
“Well, not really. Muggles believe that if you make a wish on a shooting star, then it would come true,” Harry says, smiling.
“What did you wish for when you were younger?”
Harry takes his time to gather his thoughts, watching the fairies fly in and out of the holly and mistletoe that decorated the room. “You see, the Dursleys had a Christmas party every year with friends, co-workers, and sometimes even my Aunt Marge would be there. From where I was hidden away in my cupboard, I could see all of them enjoying the party, laughing and eating throughout the entire evening. I was ignored until everyone had left and I was taken to the kitchen to clean, wash dishes, and take out the trash. Once I had finished with all the chores, then maybe I was given food to eat, if there was still any left over, that is.”
Out of the corner of his eyes, Harry can see that Draco has gripped his wine glass so hard that his knuckles have turned white. His jaw is clenched as if to prevent any words from spilling out. It fills Harry’s body with warmth that Draco has such a strong reaction to what Harry is telling him, is concerned about Harry’s treatment by the Dursleys as a child, even when there is nothing that Draco can do about it.
Harry goes on to tell his story before he loses his nerve. “I would take out the trash last, because I wanted it to be dark enough to easily find a shooting star and make a wish. I never expected anything from the Dursleys, who would give Dudley more presents than he could ever need. Making a wish was the only present I would get every year. For as long as I could remember, I always had the same wish: that I would find someone who would take care of me and love me.”
While he’s speaking, Harry can clearly picture himself as a young boy taking out the trash. He would have his overgrown cousin’s clothes and he would be pulling a black trash bag that was almost too heavy to heave into the trash bin. But as always, he would take a glance at the sky and most of the time he was lucky to see a shooting star. He would say his wish and hurry back inside before his aunt decided to lock him out of the house.
Draco has said nothing, but instead of it being awkward, Harry is relieved that he has finally told someone. It is liberating and he has a feeling that Hermione, who has always thought that it would be best for Harry to have someone to talk to about his past, would be so proud of him. She probably did not expect it would be Draco that he would be spilling his heart out to. So feeling that way, Harry musters up the courage to glance at Draco. What he sees leaves his mouth wide open.
Draco is standing with his back straight and his hands clenched deep into his pockets. His wine glass is on the ground, making a huge stain on the carpet, but none of that seems to matter as Draco’s eyes are furious and his lips are drawn into a thin line. It’s a stark contrast to how Draco looked when Harry had first walked into his home, back to when he was all smiles and charming to all of the guests. And to think this changed because of Harry’s confession.
“Damn it, Potter, how can you be so nice after your family treated you so awful?” Draco says at last. “I could never do that. I would want revenge.”
“Nice? It’s not about being nice. There are some people I would gladly never talk to again for as long as I live,” Harry says, thinking about Rita Skeeter. “But I think the key is forgiveness. If you can forgive, then whatever happened in the past becomes less relevant. It’s still there, but doesn’t define who you are, as long as you have learned from your mistakes.”
“That’s where I still struggle with, Potter. You, out of all people should hate me--“
“If anything, these past few months have given me more than enough to justify why I forgave you, Draco,” Harry interrupts quietly. “You, and my cousin Dudley, and my Aunt Petunia, because it’s easier to forgive than to keep this hate all bottled inside. It’ll be inside me until I’m old and bitter and then I’ll never have enough room to be happy and to love. This world could use a lot more love. At least, that’s what I think.”
It is very quiet in the solarium and Harry fidgets a little, trying to think of something that could steer the conversation into something lighthearted. He opens his mouth to ask about Draco’s mother when Harry hears Draco speak at last.
“Thank you,” Draco says, and that places a smile on Harry’s face. The smile becomes wider when Harry sees a streak in the night sky and he follows it for a few seconds before closing his eyes and making a wish. He opens his eyes when he hears Draco chuckling at him.
“So what did you wish for? I still haven’t bought you a Christmas present and I need all the help I can get,” Draco says, turning to look down at him. It’s really a shock to see how a smile changes Draco’s face, makes his features less pointy, his eyes more compassionate. It’s the expression Harry sees the more time he and Draco spend together outside of work.
This is it, Harry thinks. He says the next words in quite a rush and he refuses to look at his Auror partner. “I was wondering what it would be like to kiss you.”
Out of all the things Harry expected, to hear Draco laugh comes as a shock. “Ah, but many people would say the same thing about you, Potter. After all, you are the Boy Who Lived--”
“Harry,” he interrupts, scowling. “My name is Harry.”
“I know what your name is, Harry,” Draco says. “I hear it constantly at work. Harry Potter, this. Harry Potter, that.”
At any other time, Harry would be ecstatic to his name fall from Draco’s lips, but the way he drawls it out reminds Harry of when Draco was younger and a bully. He knows better, that Draco is a good man now, who has been an Auror for years in order to keep the Wizarding world safe. Still, it stings to hear his name being sneered.
Harry nods once in Draco’s direction, saying a quiet good night, and is about to twirl on his toe to Disapparate when he feels Draco’s hand on his arm.
“Stop! Harry, I’m sorry,” Draco says and Harry can’t help the look of shock that comes over his face. When was the last time that Draco apologised? Apologised to Harry of all people. Usually they are bickering over everything, from what to write on the report, to witness interrogation techniques, to where to go eat lunch. In the end, they usually compromised, but never apologised.
“What for?” Harry says, trying to keep his voice steady. It’s hard when Draco is close enough for him to smell sandalwood soap and nothing more.
“I shouldn’t have laughed at your wish.”
Harry shakes his head. “It’s quite all right. It is rather foolish, even with the excuse of a glass of wine or two. Forget I ever said anything.”
“No!” Draco says in desperation, and the urgency behind that one word is enough for Harry to look at him.
Draco’s eyes are wide, and his cheeks are really red, but what gets Harry’s attention is the way his fingers are shaking as he cups the side of Harry’s face. “You were honest with me, so I think it’s time I return the favour. Why should your wish be foolish when it’s the same thing that I’ve wanted for a while?”
“What?” Harry says, unable to believe his ears. It was too good to be true and yet here Draco was standing in front of him, his hand on Harry’s cheek, leaning in so close that his lips are brushing lightly against Harry’s.
“I wanted a kiss, too, Harry,” Draco whispers, before bending down just to do that.