Draco scowled forlornly at the signup sheet as he wrote his name down. It wasn't that he minded staying at Hogwarts for the holiday. With both of his parents in Azkaban, he had only escaped jail time himself after a certain golden boy’s testimony. Even then, Draco’s was under strict watch for his eighth year at Hogwarts. He met with Headmistress McGonagall once a week to make sure he was on track, though he had grown quite fond of the kind, motherly professor.
With the Manor vacant and haunted by memories that Draco wished he could escape, staying at Hogwarts had been an easy choice. The others would be leaving the eighth year dorm, which had once been the forbidden third floor corridor. They would be off with their families and he would be free from their silent hatred if only for a few days. He had been looking forward to his time alone.
Until he saw the sheet, which provided concrete proof that he would have less alone time than he had hoped. He had been worried about the rooming situation when he first returned, but he was surprised to find that someone had volunteered to be his roommate. He had resented Potter's relentless need to save people, but he supposed putting up with Potter was better than being entirely alone on a normal day. How bad could Christmas be?
It wasn't that he disliked Potter. Quite the opposite, actually. The more time he spent around Potter, the more he found they had in common. Draco had been pleasantly surprised by how neat Potter kept his side of the room and how courteous he was as a roommate. He wasn't overly loud and didn't let his friends stay too late. Draco had never caught him sneaking the Weaselette in, and was very thankful for it.
On the rare occasions that they actually got to talking, it tended to be about classes, assignments, or events in the castle. He learned that Potter had a wicked sense of humor, a mix of cheek and sarcasm that Draco found refreshing. Draco didn't interact with the others much, keeping to himself. It was clear that they merely tolerated him, and he didn't push it. But Potter didn't seem to mind his presence at all. Sometimes he sat beside Draco in classes, making witty comments about their professors as Draco stifled his snickering.
He found Potter both highly confusing and ridiculously intriguing, and it was driving Draco mad. He couldn't figure out why, but along the way he had come to consider Harry Potter as a strange type of friend. The only friend he currently had. He had intended to sort his mind out over the holiday and hoped he still could with Potter there. But with all of the adoring Weasley’s, Draco couldn't help but wonder why Potter was staying behind.
As the final week of classes passed, Draco noticed something normal yet strange. Granger was eyeing him, but her usual wary, detached tolerance had been replaced with a razor sharp focus that set him on edge. It seemed he was central to her latest puzzle, and she was determined to solve it. Draco notices her approaching Potter several times that week for an exchange of sharp whispers and rolling eyes. Potter endured a few times, but soon wore a blank face, flat out ignoring his friend if he couldn't distract her.
The morning the Express left, Draco caught her final glare at breakfast and met it head on, his expression impassive. He had no idea what she was thinking or what she wanted, but he was getting quite sick of backing down to even the slightest of challenges. He wasn't rising to her bait or raising the stakes, merely questioning what her problem was as he raised a single eyebrow.
He hadn't expected the confused look that crossed her face as if he were supposed to know something. Anger, hatred, disgust: all of those he could have handled. But confusion? It only fueled his own. His brows furrowed as Weasley and Potter led her around the corner and Draco returned to his meal with a mind full of questions.
It was nice to be able spend some time in the common room. He had been the only Slytherin to return, though they didn't really have houses now. The common room had felt hostile with the others returners there, but now he curled up in a chair by the fire, content to read his book on rare potions ingredients. He was after his Mastery after all, and Draco had always found potions fascinating. There were endless possibilities, endless creations if one only had the mind to imagine them and a knowledge of the ingredients properties and reactions.
Two hours went by before Potter joined him. He had a large yellow packet in his hands as he flopped into the opposite chair. Draco had seen similar ones before, and Potter was always irritable and snappish when they appeared. The fire crackled as Potter pulled out a stack of papers and began flipping through them. He kicked his feet up, crossing them on the table.
“I'm surprised you stayed behind,” Potter said after a long while. “I figured you'd be ready to get out of here in a heartbeat.”
Draco weighed his words before he answered, his voice rather soft. “I haven't really got anywhere that I want to go. Not within the country, and under the terms of my parole, I can't leave. Besides, holidays at Hogwarts aren't that bad. The decor is always top notch.”
Potter nodded as they fell into another strange silence. It wasn't overtly awkward, but it wasn't comfortable either. It seemed that Potter was waiting for him to speak next. “Why did you stay, then?”
“That's none of your business, Draco,” Potter said sharply. Draco scowled, hating that Potter insisted on using his first name. It was a relief to be more than just Malfoy, but it seemed strange coming from Potter's lips.
Draco deadpanned as he snapped his book shut. Normally that simple question wouldn't have phased Potter. At the very least, he would have just not answered instead of being short. Draco glanced at the papers Potter held as he stood, making to retreat to the steady silence of the library.
But as he passed, Potter caught his wrist. His left one. Draco jumped away, tugging the sleeve of his sweater down further on instinct as he glared at Potter. Green eyes were wide in surprise as Potter did a lovely impression of a fish.
“What, Potter?” Draco barked in irritation.
“I-I don't remember,” Potter muttered, slowly returning to his papers. Draco snorted, bolted for a place where the world made more sense, and got lost in another book.
But he couldn't avoid Potter forever. It was nearly midnight before Draco headed back to his room. Sure enough, Potter was sitting on his own bed, upright and wide awake. Verdant eyes snapped up and Draco froze for a split second in the doorway before closing the door behind him. Draco eyed Potter warily, set his book down and gathered a set of clothes. Ducking into the bathroom, Draco got ready for bed before returning to slide under his blankets.
“I couldn't deal with the grief,” Potter murmured so softly that Draco nearly missed it. He poked his head up to send Potter a speculative look.
“What are you on about now, Potter? ”
“I stayed because I couldn't deal with the grief. It's one thing to face my own, but to be around so many people and grieving all together… It just makes it all feel worse. I cope better alone. And how many times do I have to say it? Please call me Harry.”
Draco studied him for a while before he laid his head back down and ignored the last. “I don't blame you. While misery loves company, seldom does company cure misery. It's a quick fix; a stasis charm. Everything goes away. Then it comes back full force.”
“Sorry I snapped at you,” Harry mumbled. He shot a furtive glance at Potter, just able to see him over his own blankets.
“Happens every time those yellow monstrosities arrive. I've come to expect it.”
“That still doesn't make it right of me.”
“No, but you're forgiven nonetheless.”
Ha-Potter sighed and Draco heard him lay back. When they actually spoke, it was hard to remember why they weren't on a first name basis. But when the year was up they would part ways as cordial acquaintances. He saw no reason to complicate that simple fact.
“They just show up at the worst times. Why Kingsley sent a case on a Holiday, I'll never know.”
“Case?” Draco ventured cautiously.
“There's still a lot of people unaccounted for. He keeps sending me pictures and files in hopes that I'll recognize them from… well you heard in your trial.”
And Draco had heard. As awful as Voldemort had been as a houseguest, Draco couldn't imagine the monster lurking around in his mind. He had invaded it enough, breaking down Draco's occlumency. “Sounds rather optimistic of him.”
“Sadly it's worked, so he keeps sending them. They drag up the worst memories. Ones I really don't want to relive about now… or ever.”
“Sorry I'm not much of a distraction. I had thought that Weaslette-er-Ginny would have stayed with you at least.”
“Nah, she's meeting Dean’s mum this holiday. She didn't want to go home either, and he wants them to get on.”
Draco blinked at the ceiling, feeling a bit lost before it clicked. “Huh. I missed that memo.”
“What, that Ginny is dating Dean? They've kept it pretty mum. She and I are still close, but nothing like before the war. Dean is content to let people think what they want. He knows it never would have worked between her and I anyway.”
“Why's that? You two always seem so happy around each other.”
“Because she accepts me and I don't treat her like a child.”
Growing more confused by the minute, Draco sat up to study Har-Potter. “After all you've been through, what could there be that Weasley and Granger don't accept?”
Harry smirked at him lazily. He laid across his bed with one hand on his stomach and the other beneath his head. “Ron's always been more closed-minded. Being that homosexuality is still frowned upon by muggles, it's taken Hermione an inordinate amount of time to come around and bring Ron with her. It's slow progress.”
Draco blinked owlishly as he gathered his thoughts. “Well that explains all of the lectures you've ignored, but it doesn't explain the confused look she gave me this morning.”
“Oh, that? Well, at first she was convinced you hexed me into believing I was gay, even though I told her over the summer. Then she decided that we had a relationship going on that I hid from her out of fear and that was why I was really staying behind. And after the… what was her wording, ‘inquisitional,' look you gave her for sticking her nose where it didn't belong, she came to the conclusion that she was wrong. She currently has no idea what to think. You've left her with no option but to accept that it's a part of who I am or pass off the blame to a place where, deep down, she knows it doesn't belong. You broke her entire argument with a look. I have to say, I was quite impressed,” Potter rambled with that goofy grin on his face. He always got that look when he spoke of his friends. It was strange to see it when Potter spoke of him.
With lots of new information to process, Draco laid back down. “Glad to be of service.”
“It… it doesn't bother you, does it?” Potter queried.
“Does what bother me?”
“That I'm gay?”
Draco snorted as he rolled over, getting comfortable. “I am a lot of things, Harry, but I'm no hypocrite.”
The lack of a rambling reply was enough for Draco to know he had stunned his poor roommate with that off-hand admission. But he said nothing as he snuffed out the nearby candlelight and went to sleep.
Potter was avoiding him; that much was clear. It had been nearly two days since their late night conversation. The only time Draco had seen him was when he woke early and Potter was still sleeping. Considering he had been looking forward to his time alone, Draco wasn't particularly bothered, but the awkward glances he got whenever Potter darted through a room he could live without. They were exactly what he had wanted a break from.
So by Saturday afternoon, Draco had taken refuge in the clock tower. He sat on the ledge beside the giant glass face and laid back against the curved stones. A simple warming charm kept out the chill from the glass as the hands moved between the two panes. He had long since transfigured his mitten into pillow and tucked it beneath his neck. It was an oddly comfortable place. He enjoyed watching the snowfall across the grounds with his book laying forgotten in his lap as the second hand ticked by again.
It was an easy place to get lost in thought, wrapped up in his own internal world. He could understand Harr-Potter's distance: Draco needed it himself. He'd spent far too long ignoring his attraction to Potter. Potter didn't like men, so it hadn't mattered what Draco felt. Nothing could have happened between them, anyway.
It was amazing how thoroughly a late night conversation could turn his world upside down. All of the little reasons and rational explanations Draco had used to keep that attraction at bay had fallen in one fell swoop. There was nothing left to keep him from trying to win Potter over.
Nothing but himself.
Despite Potter’s life-saving testimony and his unexpected, yet welcomed, kindness, a bottomless pit of bad blood lay between them. It would take a miracle for them make a relationship last, and Draco didn't want to give up their wary friendship in hopes of a slim miracle. He had received far too many in the last year; surely there were no more in store for him.
But he couldn't ignore the small voice in the back of his mind that whispered to him at every turn. That part of his mind that always craved bigger, better, more. Any fool could tell you that there were few men out there better than Harry Potter, regardless of the weight his name held. Ha-POTTER! was a gentleman through and through. His warm laughter was infectious and his sense of humor was endearing. Not to mention the bloke was bloody fit. But those thoughts just fueled that voice, each whisper growing louder.
It's possible, if you're willing to fight for him.
But was he willing to fight? Draco was sick of fighting. He was sick of screaming at the top of his lungs for no one to hear. The only person who seemed to hear him was Potter, and Draco wasn't sure what he would do if he lost that. If he lost the only person who saw some good in him. Ha-Pot-fuck it. Harry had believed in him when Draco couldn't believe in himself, and it had spared him from Azkaban. Perhaps Harry was the one thing Draco should fight for after all. Perhaps he should try to walk the wire over the chasm of their past and pray he kept his balance.
At least then he would know he had given it his all. It would give him one decision he could never regret. Without Harry, Draco's life would be filled with anger and hatred, his own and others. But their friendship was tentative at best. They could lose it all with or without a relationship. If it all went to shit, at least he could collect himself at rock bottom and try again. Because the only three things he had left to lose were his sanity, his life, and Harry.
But did Harry even feel that way about him? Was his distance due to confusion, disgust or uncertainty? Draco had no idea, but he knew it wouldn't be long until he found out. Harry and never been very good about keeping his emotions to himself. Whatever he felt, it was bound to come out eventually.
Draco sighed and stretched, his back growing sore from keeping the same position. Arching slightly off of the wall, he raised his arms out and extended his left beyond the ledge. He had a moment of shock when his hand connected with fabric before he smirked, clutched the cloak and ripped it away.
“Thanks for the blanket, Potter. It was getting a tad nippy in here.”
“Uhhh… I… um… call me Harry.”
Draco snorted. “You’ve been avoiding me and yet here you are, stalking me from the safety of your cloak all over again. The stories this cloak could tell!! I do wonder, do you stalk everyone or just me? Merlin, please tell me you're not some voyeur!!” he teased, glancing over at Harry who looked absolutely dumbstruck. His face was flushing bright pink and Draco laughed. “Easy, Pot-Harry. I'm taking the piss.”
Harry deflated, snatched the cloak back and rolled his eyes. “Wanker,” he muttered as he leaned against the wall opposite Draco. They fell into an awkward silence in which Draco watched Harry as Harry looked at anything but Draco. It was rare to really see Harry get so flustered anymore. His cheeks flushed and he scratched the back of his head absently. Draco took pity on him and picked up his book, flipping idly through the pages.
“So were you coming up here for a specific reason or just to stand a foot away from me and stare?”
“You are such a git.”
“Some things never change,” Draco replied easily. But he didn't break the silence this time, instead letting Harry gather his thoughts.
“You're going to think I'm insane, bu-”
“That's nothing new. Do continue, though,” Draco interjected as he casually flipped his page. He saw Harry fighting a smile in the corner of his eye.
“But,” Harry continued, “I kinda freaked out.”
Draco raised an eyebrow at him. Dropping all pretense, he snapped his book shut, dropped it to the floor and crossed his arms over his chest. “No shit. The question is: why?”
“It's going to sound silly, but I've never actually met anyone else who is gay.”
“Well you met Dumbledore and shared a room, with Finnegan, so that's not true.”
“Dumbledore doesn't count. I meant around my age but... Seamus is gay?!”
“He's dating Goldstein.”
“Wait what?! How do you know that?”
Draco glanced out the window. “You learn a lot of things as an observer.” As an outsider. He didn't need to say it for the words to be clear. Frowning, Harry sank down onto the ledge near his feet and Draco crossed his legs to make more room.
“I suppose that's true. I've never been great at observing people. Situations I do well, but people? If I had a knut for every time Hermione has told me I'm ‘thick' or ‘dense' I- oh stop your snickering- I'd have a considerably larger amount of pocket change.”
“Maybe then I could hear you lurking about.”
Harry sighed, planted his elbow on his knee and rested his head on his hand. “Can't you be serious for just a few minutes?”
Chastened, Draco nodded. “Sorry. Second nature I suppose,” he muttered.
“Most of the time I don't mind. Anyway, I overreacted and I'm sorry for that. I needed time to think.”
Draco hesitated. “About?”
“How I felt. What I want. But I don't want to mess things up like I usually do.”
“Well, you're welcome to tell me whatever conclusions you came to,” Draco said, masking a small wince. His tone was far too hopeful.
“You know, I was on the run when I realized I was gay,” Harry began, pulling a rumpled stack of papers from his pocket. Only, it wasn't a stack. Draco leaned forward curiously as Harry expanded the map across their knees. Draco poured over it, watching Peeves move through the Transfiguration corridor on the first floor.
“This is amazing…. Where did you get this?”
“Fred and George nicked it from Filch, but my Dad was one of the creators. Him, Remus, Sirius and Peter Pettigrew. They finished it sometime after their fifth year and put their animagus nicknames on the front. It helped them get Remus out of the castle when needed, and it’s been used for plenty of mischief.”
“I’d bet,” Draco breathed, slowly folding the pages in to view the cover of the map. He opened it back up, idly flipping pages as Harry continued.
“We stayed all over the place. Forests, camps, cliffs…. All over England and Scotland. We always kept at least one person on guard duty, just in case someone got past our wards. I sat up every night for hours, watching the dark and watching the map, just staring at the names. Hogwarts is the only home I've ever known. I missed it horribly, and the map gave me a way of feeling connected when we were entirely isolated.”
“At first I watched Ginny. She was familiar, a friend. It made sense and was easy enough to imagine myself there in the common room, or flying on the pitch or joining her for prefect rounds. But it didn't last for long. As-as the visions got worse, I saw more and more of you. Sometimes it was just meetings but… it was enough to know you weren't there by choice. That you hated every moment of it.”
“I hate a lot of things,” Draco replied shiftily, hoping for a change of topic.
“Sorry I brought it up, but it's necessary,” Harry assured and swiftly moved on, which Draco was thankful for. “Once that started, I found myself watching the dungeons more than the tower. Watched the footsteps with your name circle for hours in the corner of the common room.”
“At first I was confused as to why I was watching you. Why was I so concerned when I had no reason to be? It was like sixth year all over again, but I wasn't even there! I told myself I was just watching out for trouble, ignoring that there was literally nothing I could do even if there was.”
“Typical,” Draco muttered under his breath, flipping another page.
“Pretty much. But the more I saw, the longer I watched, the more I thought. The more I cared. ”
Draco blinked at the paper, looked at Harry and blinked again. “About me?”
“Well, yeah,” Harry admitted with a vague hand gesture towards Draco. “You know, you were just as much of a constant in my life as Ginny or Neville for the last seven years. Not always in the same way, but a constant nonetheless. With everything I was facing, the high pressure, I wished I could go back to when, tournament aside, my biggest concern was you climbing trees and taunting me with badges.” His smile was fond and amused.
Draco chuckled. “I'm still quite proud of those badges. Got a whole stash of them somewhere,” he informed.
Harry rolled his eyes. “Of course you do.”
Draco smiled and looked back at the map. Filch was wandering one end of the fifth floor and Mrs. Norris was inspecting the other. “Go on.”
“As it all continued, I eventually realized I was more concerned about you than I was about Ginny. That I cared in a way I hadn't for Ginny. Growing up the way I did, being gay was a choice my cousin and I were not make. Not that I believed that rubbish, but I had never considered that I could be gay until then. It was a real epiphany, let me tell you. The few observations I had made of people suddenly had a name, because I had noticed far more men than women.”
“After what I saw, I hope you know I would have testified for you regardless of how I felt. Though Ginny laughed and called me a masochist when I told McGonagall I would room with you, because, ‘You're wasting your time. Malfoy isn't gay, Harry,’” he mimicked. It was a near perfect imitation of Ginny and Draco snorted.
“That impression is terrifyingly accurate.”
“So I've been told. But I didn't care if you were gay or not. I had realized just how little of a chance I had given you. That you weren't a bad person and you were just as stuck as I was. Regardless of my feelings or your supposed sexuality, I wanted to get to know you better. You sure as hell made me work for it with your month of one word replies, but I'd like to believe we've at least become friends of some sort.”
“I think we have,” Draco admitted in a murmur. He flipped the page again and stared at the layout of the clock tower. There by the wall were four little feet, two sets facing each other, and two large banners.
“And I'm afraid to ruin that,” Harry confessed.
“So am I,” Draco replied, finally looking up. Harry's face was unreadable beneath his glasses, but there was no hiding the hope in those veridian eyes.
“I'd like to think it's worth the risk, but that's just me. What is it that you want, Draco? You've barely said a word.”
Draco was quiet for a moment, scrutinizing Harry as he deliberated. “The only thing I want is to live the rest of my life as fully as I can with no regrets. I've already got plenty.”
Harry nodded, looking dejected. “I get it. It was a long shot anyway. Lots of messy fights and emotionally exhausting conversations. I'm fine with things the way they are.”
Harry was a horrible liar. His eyes darted around the room frantically as if looking for an exit and he shifted uncomfortably. Plucking up every bit of courage he could find, Draco reached forward and gently caught Harry's chin. Green eyes snapped to him and searched his face with curious surprise.
“Well, I’m not,” Draco confessed and leaned in before he could change his mind. As Harry met him halfway, Draco slid his hand to the base of Harry's neck. For the first time in a long time, Draco held nothing back. He let go, giving his all in a way that only Harry brought out of him. In quidditch, in contention, in snarky badges, Harry brought out the his strongest emotions and the best of his ambition. The best and worst of him all at once. Not once had Harry shied away from that. He had never backed down. Instead he fought back and challenged Draco to up his game.
So he had. He had taken the risk and laid his heart on the line as his lips brushed Harry’s. Any hesitancy Draco had melted away as he captured Harry's lips in an unhurried, sensual kiss. Their tongues danced in a relentless battle, a fervent, demanding union. It was a promise of more. An unspoken agreement that this, they, were worth fighting for. It was a vow to work together, pushing each other to the brink of insanity and the edge of brilliance.
A nearby meowing had them pulling apart, eyes darting to the door. Harry scrambled, tossing the cloak over Draco who swiftly folded the map.
“Hold the top,” Harry hissed and Draco obeyed. Harry dropped to the floor and flicked the cloak over him with practiced precision. It pooled on the floor as Draco shifted, leaning against the glass and pulling the cloak around his sides as Harry tucked the bottom under Draco's calves and his own feet
Mrs. Norris appeared at the top of the stairs as Harry muttered a spell to mask their scent. The cat looked around, sharp eyes scanning for anything out of the ordinary. She lingered for over a minute before she turned, trotting back down the stairs. They stayed there for two minutes more and Draco quietly scanned the map.
“She's gone down to the sixth floor,” he reported, letting the cloak drop with a relieved sigh. No one liked dealing with Filch, no matter the circumstance. Harry carefully folded the cloak as Draco refolded the map. As Harry took it, he tapped his wand to the front.
“Mischief Managed,” he muttered as the map slowly went blank and was tucked into his pocket.
“That's wicked. No wonder you never got caught,” Draco muttered, assessing their new position for the first time. His knees were on either side of Harry’s shoulders. Harry leaned against the wall and had one knee drawn up with the other curled on the floor. He tipped his head back, smirking up at Draco with vibrant, playful eyes. Draco knew he could get lost in that gaze for ages if he weren't careful.
“There's a reason I nearly sorted into Slytherin.”
Draco's lips pursed and his brows furrowed in a look of disbelief. “There's no way.”
“Honest. Hadn't heard anything decent about Slytherin with my whole two days in the Wizarding world. Apparently fighting the hat makes you a Gryffindor.”
“It's certainly a bold move to make, fighting with the a magical artifact.”
Harry grinned cheekily. “And yet that smirk tells me you approve.”
“I love a good fight if it's for the right reasons.”
Harry stretched his hand up, tangled his fingers through Draco's hair and pulled him down until they were mere centimeters apart. Draco couldn't see the sprig of mistletoe forming above them. All he could see was Harry.
“Then fight me,” Harry challenged.
So he did. When they finally drew apart, soft smiles tugged their lips.
“Happy Christmas Eve, Draco.”
“Happy Christmas Eve, Harry.”