The sweet smell of hot cocoa and fresh ginger cookies filled the kitchen as Harry sat down by the old, worn table, sighing in contenment as he looked out of the small window over the sink, watching the storm that was brewing outside of his warm, softly lit kitchen as evening bagan to set over London. He shivered, glad he didn't have anywhere he had to be that day. This year, he'd gotten all of his Christmas shopping out of the way as soon as sales started. This year, he had more exciting things to worry about.
There was less than a week until Christmas, and Harry was already ready for his first time hosting a Christmas party. He's been living in no.12 Grimmauld Place for a little over three years now, and this year, after finally finishing the last touches in turning the old, gloomy house into an inviting home, after the trials were over and the wizarding world was finally ready to find some sense of normalcy, he's decided it was his turn to host, as a way of saying thank you to the Weasleys for all the years they've been treating him as family.
Taking a sip out of his steaming mug, Harry closed his eyes, savouring the sweet, hot drink that settled in his stomach, warming him from the inside. Three years. Voldemort was gone for three years. Things were finally starting to look normal. The ruins and the demage that were left in his wake were slowly being fixed and rebuilt. It seemed like everything was falling back into place, but Harry, who had the misfortune to always find himself in the middle of a mess, knew it was just a facade.
Right after the war, the Ministry was in a frenzy. Desperate as always to present a functional front, every person who had anything to do with the war was brought into questioning, and more than a few of the cells in Azkaban - now far more tolerable without the dementors there to keep guard with inhuman torment - were filled with people who were not at any fault. Harry, on his part, had done his best to spare as many of them a life in prison as he could by providing his statement as the Boy-Who-Lived, testifying for those who did not deserve such harsh punishment.
One of those he spoke for, was Draco Malfoy.
Harry sighed, dipping the tip of his pinky into his hot cocoa and licking it off absenmindedly, thinking of the Malfoys' trials. It was one of the cases where even his testimony had not been enough, even with everything he told the aurors about that day at the manor, and how he would have never been able to end the war if it wasn't for Draco Malfoy and the courage he found to defy Voldemort as he had. Draco Malfoy was still thrown into Azkaban along with his parents, but the sentence had been so short and petty, Harry knew it was only set in place to serve as an example. He remembered the way those troubled grey eyes found his as Draco was led out of the room, and, amongst the resignation and the shame he saw in them, there was also a hint of wonder as they nodded at each other, and gratitude.
Harry shot a glance at the cooling tray of freshly baked cookies, and bit his lip. It wasn't all that bad, he thought. He'd heard Malfoy and his mother have been released a few months ago, and while the public's attitude towards anyone who was associated with Voldemort and his Death Eaters was less than favorable, at least he was free. Harry has been thinking about contacting him, some part of him desperately wanting to talk to him in person, if only to return the wand that was resting in the plain wooden box in the back of Harry's nightstand drawer. But Harry didn't know how.
Harry shook his head. There was no use thinking about such gloomy thing right now. It was almost Christmas, and he should be in a festive mood, make preparations for the party, and bake more cookies. His gaze landed on the tray on the counter once more. It was true that they've been meant for the party, but... surely, one cookie wouldn't hurt, right?
After a few more minutes of a much lighter internal arguement, the younger voice in Harry's head that didn't get to enjoy a lot of sweets - or any kind of food - as a child won, and the chair scraped noisily against the wooden floor as Harry got up. He barely managed to stretch a greedy hand toward the cooling tray when a loud knock coming from his front door made him jump, like a little boy caught with his hand inside... well.
A little embarrassed at his reaction, Harry gave the sweet smelling cookies one last, forlorn glance, before he pouted to himself with a quiet grumble and moved out of the kitchen to answer the door.
There was a louder, more inssintant knock on the door, and Harry frowned, quickening his pace. He didn't know who it could be. Ron and Hermione were still away on their honeymoon, although they did promise to come back in time for Christmas. Ginny lived far enough that she would never come through anything but floo, and George... well, George has never been quite as social as he'd been before the war. There was no one Harry could think of that would bother him that late, and years of standing on guard made him draw out his wand, holding it in a ready position, just in case.
Another loud knock, more desperate than the ones before, and Harry tensed, his hand squeezing the knob. He tightened his hold on his wand, took a deep breath, and opened the door.
A gust of freezing wind blew into the house when the door flew open, bringing swirling snowflakes and wet leaves with it. But Harry barely even noticed. Because in front of him, stood Draco Malfoy.
A shivering Draco Malfoy.
Draco Malfoy... with a bruise on his cheek.
"What-" Harry started, but then, two stormy grey eyes lifted up to meet his own, and he couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Potter," Malfoy said, and his voice was hoarse and more defeated than Harry had ever heard it, and Harry's chest tightened as he thought, This isn't right.
"I'm sorry." Malfoy whispered. "I just... I didn't know where else to go."