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."
"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.