Chapter 1: Chapter One
'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."
Chapter 2: Chapter One
Dracos determined to make this their best Christmas ever and Harrys not about to stop him even if it does mean carol concerts and late-night shopping!
The flat seemed unusually quiet for a Saturday. Normally it echoed with the sound of Draco's running commentary on his favourite TV programmes, plus his relentless demands for caffeinated beverages.
Harry smiled to himself as he gazed at the empty sofa. No one would believe that the Draco Malfoy who once reigned over Slytherin house with an iron hand liked nothing better than to spend his Saturdays clad only in his pyjamas, snuggled under a fleecy throw, watching various reality shows interspersed with American sitcoms.
This thought prompted Harry to click the DVD recorder into action. Draco would be peevish enough when he returned from working overtime - missing his favourite shows on top of that would make him almost unbearable.
Harry moved his gaze away from the sofa over to where their Christmas tree now dominated the room. He'd been sceptical at best upon seeing the tree that Draco wanted. But much cajoling and threatened sulks had him acquiescing in no time at all. Now, as he ran his inexpert eye over the ornament-laden branches, Harry was forced to admit that Draco had done an amazing job.
And it wasn't just the tree. There wasn't a part of the flat that had escaped Draco's attention, except for the bathroom, and Harry wasn't entirely convinced that wasn't next on the list.
Harry's own participation had been minimal - Draco was far too dismissive of his creative talents to allow him anywhere near the jewelled baubles, swags of evergreens, or assorted decorations that had been purloined from the Manor. Harry's role had consisted mainly of untangling endless strings of fairy lights and fixing garlands on the walls under Draco's critical, and somewhat dictatorial, eye.
Draco had always enjoyed Christmas. In previous years, Harry had always felt that that enjoyment stemmed more from the prospect of receiving numerous gifts than from any kind of holiday spirit. But this year there was something different about it. This single-minded determination, the constant striving for the perfect Christmas had started even before his parents had announced their impending absence, so Harry couldn't help but wonder what had prompted this festive zeal.
Not that he objected. This year looked like being the closest Harry had come so far to that idyllic Christmas he had watched in films, seen on copious Christmas cards, and dreamt of as he had listened to the sounds of the Dursleys' merriment filling his lonely, cramped cupboard.
Even the years spent at the Burrow, whilst full of fun and good food, had never quite hit the mark. Something was always missing, and he'd never quite shed that feeling of being a guest, of not quite belonging.
This year would be different, he was sure, not only because Draco had made it his personal mission - and Merlin knew that Malfoys always got their own way - but because he would be in his own home, his and Draco's home, surrounded by the people he loved most. It might not have seemed like much to an outsider, but to Harry it meant the world.
And if he chose, in a quiet moment, to imagine that he and Draco were actually a couple celebrating the holidays together rather than just friends, well, he wasn't doing any harm. Draco would never have to know, and the idle daydreams gave Harry many a happy nights' sleep.
Harry had given up all pretence of being ready to move on from Draco, much to Ron's chagrin. Felix's name had been dropped into their conversations on a regular basis, until Harry had politely, but firmly told his best friend to leave it.
Felix himself, no doubt egged on by a well-meaning Ron, had owled him a very sweet note asking him to dinner. Harry had considered it for a split second before his conscience reminded him that it wouldn't be fair to lead someone on who was obviously interested, when his heart was already engaged elsewhere.
So lost was Harry in these musings that he didn't notice the fire in the grate flicker green. Nor did he notice when Hermione emerged from the flames. It wasn't until she crossed the room and placed her hand lightly on his arm that Harry woke to her presence.
"Bloody hell!" Harry pressed one hand to his chest. "You frightened the life out of me."
"You might want to consider locking your Floo occasionally," she told him primly. "Anyone could come waltzing in here."
"We went out for a few drinks last night," Harry replied, as if this explained everything.
Apparently it did. "You let Draco drink cocktails again, didn't you?" There was definitely a hint of accusation behind Hermione's tone.
"I think let is stretching it a bit, Hermione. Have you ever known anyone be able to stop Draco when he's made up his mind? Besides, they had Christmas themed drinks on the menu - I didn't stand a chance."
Hermione nodded, conceding his point. "Who was last night's lucky recipient of the drunken Floo call?"
Harry smirked. "Blaise. Apparently he has the fireplace in his bedroom connected to the Floo network. His...um...companion was less than happy when Draco interrupted them."
"Can't say that I blame her," Hermione said; obviously the memories were still vivid from the times Draco had paid her a call in the wee hours. "You really should put a child lock on that thing." Then, seeing Harry's expression, she clarified "The fireplace, not Draco."
Harry grinned. "Not that I'm not always pleased to see you, but what are you doing here? I thought you were spending the weekend with the in-laws."
"Oh, we are. Right after I'm done here. I just wanted a quick word with Draco - is he up yet?"
"He's been up and gone for a couple of hours. He's working overtime - some public relations crisis apparently."
Hermione snorted softly. "They'll have an even bigger one on their hands if they let a hung-over Malfoy near the press. God only knows what awful things he'll come out with this time."
"C'mon, Hermione, it was just that one time. And you managed to talk the Centaurs around eventually. How was Draco supposed to know that they could understand French?"
Hermione gave a slight shrug and let it go. "I just wanted to give him these," she said, rifling through her handbag and producing a sheaf of glossy leaflets and flyers.
"What's all this?" Harry questioned curiously.
"Just some information he asked me to get."
Harry reached out and took them, glancing briefly at the top one. "This is for church services," he said sceptically.
"It's actually for a concert - it's just being held in a church."
"A concert," Harry repeated. "In a church?"
Hermione scowled at him. "Yes, that's what I said. My parents went last year and loved it. They said the acoustics in there were amazing."
"It's classical music," Harry commented, scanning the leaflet further.
"It's a performance of Handel's Messiah. Draco was really keen when I suggested it to him. There's also some information on Christmas markets, carol concerts, and late-night shopping events."
"Do you have to encourage him?" Harry asked plaintively. "You know he'll make me go with him to all these places. I've already been manipulated into going to some outdoor ice rink later - which I suppose I have you to thank for."
"Honestly, Harry, don't be so miserable. You're starting to sound just like Ron did when we were dating."
"I'll remind you of that when I'm nursing a broken leg," Harry replied gloomily.
Hermione just smiled. "You'll be fine. Just make sure you give those to him. No hiding them down the back of the sofa." Harry tried his best to look injured at the accusation, but it was a little hard to manage when he knew she spoke from past experience. "Talking of Ron," she continued, "I bumped into him yesterday."
"Really?" Harry watched her expectantly - she was never one for idle observations.
"Yes." Hermione clicked her handbag closed and placed it back on her shoulder. "He was going on and on about how he had introduced you to the perfect man, and how you wouldn't even give him a chance. Felix, wasn't it?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah." He waited for the lecture that was sure to follow.
Instead, Hermione gave a sniff of irritation. "It's all a bit rich coming from the man who hasn't had a relationship since we broke up over two years ago."
Harry gaped in surprise. "I thought you'd..."
"What? Agree with him?" Hermione shook her head, now-tamed curls bouncing softly with the movement. "Your private life is just that." She leant forward and pressed a light kiss to his unshaven cheek. "I'd better be off. Anthony's mother will have a fit of the vapours if I'm late."
Harry walked to the fireplace with her and held out the bowl of Floo powder.
"Besides," she continued, stepping into the grate. "I think you're doing the right thing, holding out for the one you really want."
Then there was a whoosh of green flames and Harry was left staring open-mouthed at an empty fireplace.
Usually Draco wasn't one to lie in on the weekends, but he'd made an exception that morning. Alcohol-blurred sleep the night before had done little to help him feel rested. On top of that, he'd been practically forced to spend his precious Saturday in the office trying to minimise the scandal created by some junior Minister sampling the less-than-savoury delights that Knockturn Alley had to offer.
After that, all Draco had really wanted to do was take a hot bath and curl up in bed with the latest episode of X Factor. Instead, he'd spent several hours on an outdoor ice rink watching Harry do a passable impersonation of Bambi on ice.
Draco took a sip of his coffee and chuckled to himself as he remembered Harry's fumbled efforts to stay upright. He almost hadn't minded being pulled down as well, not when it had the added effect of crushing Harry's body against his own.
Though it hadn't been his intention when suggesting it, the evening had seemed almost romantic. The setting sun behind Hampton Court had provided a beautiful backdrop, and Draco had felt his self-control straining to the point where he was on the verge of throwing Harry down on the ground himself - general public be damned.
And considering Harry's apparent level of obliviousness to his feelings, Draco was starting to think it would take that kind of drastic action to wake him up.
Just as Draco was debating the merits of changing out of his pyjamas, the Floo sounded, quickly followed by Blaise's arrival in the kitchen.
Draco's eyes followed his best friend around the room, watching as he scowled darkly and helped himself to a cup of coffee. No words were spoken between them until Blaise was also seated at the table.
"Morning," Draco commented lightly, one brow slightly raised in query.
Blaise grunted something that could -- barely -- pass as a greeting, then put his cup down forcefully and eyed his friend. "I don't suppose you've got room for another body on Christmas Day?"
Draco's other brow shot up in surprise at this. "I don't see why not," he replied measuredly. "But what happened to Christmas in Italy?"
For reply, Blaise slapped a copy of that morning's Prophet down on the table, narrowly avoiding the marmalade.
Draco made a long arm and snagged the paper. Unfolding it, he read the front page with growing concern. It described with gleeful relish the untimely demise of Blaise's stepfather, and the Italian Aurors' hunt for his mother's whereabouts.
"You didn't know?" Draco asked, more for something to say than as a real query, because it was clear from Blaise's face that he hadn't.
"That's the first I heard of it," Blaise responded gruffly. "Shortly followed by a very brief owl from my mother. She thinks I'd be tracked by the Aurors, hence the rescinding of my Christmas invite."
"She's probably right," Draco agreed, taking a long drink of his coffee, and watching his friend carefully over the rim. "I wouldn't put it past them."
Blaise shrugged. "I guess." He paused and fiddled aimlessly with the salt cellar. "I'm not surprised," he blurted out suddenly. "I mean, it was bound to catch up with her eventually."
"These things have a way of doing that," Draco agreed.
"I've always known what she is," Blaise continued. "I've heard what people say about her, and I know a lot of it's true."
Draco just nodded - really, what else could he do? Aurora Zabini was notorious the wizarding world over. The only wonder was that she could still find willing...victims.
"But she's my mother, you know?"
And Draco nodded again, because he did know, only too well, what it was like to have an infamous parent. One who seemed heartless and cruel to the outside world, but who was loving and kind to his son. Lucius Malfoy might be a cold-hearted killer to most, but to Draco he was still the man he had grown up idolising. And not even the destruction his actions had brought to their family name could change that.
They sat in thoughtful silence for the next few minutes. Only the occasional clink of cup against saucer broke the quiet.
Eventually Draco got up. Stretching his aching muscles, he let out a groan as they protested the motion vociferously.
"Hard night?" Blaise teased, and Draco was relieved to notice a faint smile curving his lips, even though it came at his expense.
"Harry and I went ice skating," he answered shortly.
Blaise let out a low chuckle. "How romantic. Did you skate around hand in hand?" Draco fixed him with a meaningful glare that Blaise chose to ignore. "Was Potter aware he was on a date?"
"Shut up, Blaise." Draco scowled.
"Oh, come on, Draco. D'you really think he'd do things like that with you if he weren't in the slightest bit interested? Why don't you just tell him? What's the worst that could happen?"
"Blaise," Draco began through clenched teeth. "We're Slytherins. We don't blurt out our feelings like some first year Hufflepuff. We plan and scheme to get what we want."
Blaise shook his head. "School's over. There are no Gryffindors and Slytherins in the real world. Only people. Do us all a favour and just come clean."
Whatever Draco might have said in response died on his lips at the sound of the front door opening, followed by Harry's voice.
"Draco! You in? Have you seen this morning's paper? It's..." Harry entered the kitchen and immediately spotted their guest. "Oh, hi, Blaise," he said awkwardly.
"Harry," Blaise replied, then returned his attention to his coffee.
"Yes, Harry, we've seen it. We'll need to set another place for Christmas dinner - Blaise will be joining us."
"Okay," Harry replied, setting his shopping bags down on the worktop. "It might be a tight squeeze round the table, but the more the merrier, right? There'll still be plenty of food to go round - I always cater for large numbers when Ron's invited."
Draco didn't reply - he was too busy scanning the contents of the numerous carrier bags. "What's this?" he demanded suddenly, thrusting the offending item at Harry. "And this!" he added, producing another.
Harry leant closer and inspected the boxes. "Stuffing," he replied, pointing to the first one. "And I believe the other one's bread sauce."
"From a packet?" Draco's voice rose to almost a shriek, so much so that even he found himself wincing.
"Well, yes," Harry answered defensively. "Where did you expect them to come from?"
"From fresh. You make them, not use this rehydrated crap."
"Like you've ever made bread sauce," Blaise commented.
Draco fixed him with a glare. "You know, they say Christmas is a terrible time to spend alone," he snarled, before turning back to Harry with a smile.
"Seriously, I can't eat this. Mopsy, our old house-elf, makes the best stuffing ever. It's bad enough I can't spend the day with my parents, but it just won't feel like Christmas if we have this." He wound up with a slight pout which had a disturbing effect on Harry's peace of mind.
"Fine." Harry huffed, snatching the packets and stuffing them back in the bags. "I'll make them. But you're helping."
Draco was all sweetness now. "Of course I'll help." He beamed, choosing to ignore Blaise's disbelieving snort. "In fact, I'll Floo over to the Manor right now and get you the recipes."
He was gone from the room before Harry had chance to protest that this wasn't quite the help he had in mind.
A low chuckle sounded from the table. "Could you be any more whipped, Potter?"
Harry shook his head. "Tell me something I don't know."
The concerts Harry could tolerate. In fact, if he was honest, he quite enjoyed them, and found himself humming various carols throughout his working day.
The shopping however, was something he could definitely live without. He considered it torture at the best of times and Draco usually had the sense to leave him at home, but suddenly all that changed and attendance became mandatory. He spent several stressful evenings fighting his way around crowded Muggle department stores, being elbowed and jostled at every turn. For someone usually so concerned about his personal space, and certainly about close contact with Muggles, Draco remained remarkably unfazed by it.
Normally Harry dreaded shopping at Christmas more than any other time, simply because he could never think what to get Draco. His flatmate had just about everything he could possibly want, and enough money to buy the rest. For someone with Harry's limited present-buying skills, this usually presented something of a problem. This year Harry was feeling slightly smug, however. Draco's present was already bought, wrapped, and hidden away at Hermione's house where Draco's Accio spells could not affect it. And for once, Harry was fairly confident that he would love it.
As the main event loomed nearer, the cupboards in their kitchen bulged with various foodstuffs. Harry had been intent on cooking a standard Christmas dinner, but the menu grew alarmingly due to the many extras that Draco insisted were essentials in the effort to recreate his usual Christmas Day. Harry began to suspect that even Ron would struggle to consume the volume of food that would be on offer - even after he had talked Draco out of having a fish course.
But despite all the hard work that he knew was ahead of him, Harry was looking forward to this Christmas with an almost childlike glee. And Draco, too, was beyond excited at the prospect.
There was hardly a bare surface or wall left in their flat, such was the extent of Draco's decorations. Harry had to admit he'd done a good job. All the colours coordinated; it looked like something out of one of those home magazines that Aunt Petunia had been obsessed with. Secretly, Harry's favourite part was the large silver star atop their tree. Made by Teddy Lupin, Harry had been very surprised when Draco consented to use it without even a murmur of protest. It didn't necessarily match the rest of the decor, and was a little lopsided, but the fact that his godson had made it for him, made Harry love it all the more.
One thing Harry had to admit was that Draco had opened his eyes to new experiences, things he would have never considered doing before. A prime example of this was the last outing they went on before Christmas – a classical music concert.
Harry had been sceptical when he’d first seen the leaflet in Hermione’s hand, and even less keen when Draco had suggested they attend. Fun to Harry was a night in the Leaky with his mates, or a Saturday game of Quidditch. It did not, in any way, include spending an evening in a draughty church listening to music that had no lyrics, and no discernable beat.
However, Draco had wanted to go, and in a pattern that had become all too familiar to Harry throughout their friendship, Harry was unable to say no. There was very little he wouldn’t endure to be the one who made Draco smile.
The church itself was beautiful. Harry knew virtually nothing about architectural styles, but even he could appreciate the picture it made, brightly lit against the dark city sky, the lights of the surrounding Christmas trees twinkling merrily.
Hermione had clearly been reading up on its history, and insisted on relentlessly imparting snippets of information to them. Harry nodded politely, long used to faking interest in Hermione’s lecturing, Anthony managed to show slightly more interest, having more of a vested interest in appeasing his wife, but Draco was far too enthralled by the sights of Trafalgar Square to pay her any heed.
Although he had scoffed at it, classical music was not really something with which Harry was familiar. The Dursleys weren’t exactly cultured, for all his Aunt Petunia’s pretensions to the contrary, and it wasn’t like music figured on the curriculum at Hogwarts.
But there was something about the combination of setting, time of year, music, and the look of sheer joy on Draco’s face that had Harry revising his previously held prejudices.
The swell of the music as it reached out to every corner of the building gave Harry goose bumps. He didn’t fully understand it, but he could hear the pathos and emotion resonating loud and clear with every note and as he looked to the side, could see it reflected in Draco’s face also.
Acting completely on instinct, Harry reached out with his hand and covered Draco’s, which was resting on his thigh. He watched Draco intently for some form of reaction, but the expression on his face remained the same. Just as Harry was about to pull away, Draco turned his hand palm up and laced their fingers together.
Harry had to remind himself several times to breathe. The effect the music was having on him paled into insignificance in comparison to the feelings that raced through him at the simple act of holding Draco’s hand. And neither of them let go. Not as they exited the church under Hermione’s gleeful gaze, nor in the taxi ride across London. Even the short walk along Diagon Alley did not cause them to separate.
It was only upon arrival back at their flat, when they were confronted with a drunken Pansy Parkinson sprawled outside their front door, that Draco let Harry’s hand fall.
“Pansy!" Draco strode forward and confronted his drunken friend. "What the...?”
Pansy let out something halfway between a laugh and a sob and took another swig from the bottle of wine she was clutching.
“I think maybe we should leave you to it. We’ll have coffee another time,” Hermione murmured to Harry as they stood back a prudent distance.
“Coward,” he accused. He leant in and kissed her on the cheek. “I don’t blame you really. I’ll see you on Christmas Day.”
Hermione nodded, and then began digging in her handbag. “I almost forgot,” she said, handing over a piece of parchment.
Harry unfolded it curiously and read. His eyes widened in surprise. “You did it?”
“Of course,” she replied, in a tone that clearly said ‘was there ever any doubt?’
Harry pulled her into a brief hug. “Have I told you lately how utterly brilliant you are?”
“You may have mentioned it once or twice, but it always bears repeating.” She grinned. “That ought to win you a few brownie points,” she teased, glancing over to where Draco was hauling an uncooperative Pansy to her feet. “Not that you need the help judging from tonight.”
Harry flushed and fidgeted awkwardly with the paper in his hand, but was saved from having to come up with a reply by Draco's call for help.
“Harry! Do you think you could give me a hand here? She’s like a dead weight.”
Harry turned round to see Draco, one arm struggling to keep Pansy upright, while the other fumbled to open the door. He looked back at his friends. “I’d better go,” he said ruefully. “I’ll see you two on Wednesday.”
Between them Harry and Draco managed to get a struggling Pansy inside their flat and into the spare room, where it was clear she would need to spend the night. At this point Harry left Draco to it. Pansy appeared to be teetering somewhere between manic laughter and hysterical crying, and Harry rather suspected that while she would not object to Draco seeing her in that state, come the morning she would be less than pleased at the prospect that he had witnessed her drunken antics.
Harry retreated to the kitchen, seeking refuge in a strong cup of coffee. He pulled out one of the stools and perched at the worktop. The sounds of Pansy’s shrieking and Draco’s softer, more rational words, echoed through the flat, but Harry was oblivious to them. All his attention was focussed on what had passed between Draco and him earlier that evening – he was sure he could still feel the ghost of Draco’s palm against his own – and he couldn’t help but torment himself with “what if”s.
What if Draco was just being polite, not wanting to offend him by shrugging off his hand? What if Pansy hadn’t been there when they got home? What if Draco came out of that room and pinned him down on the worktop right now?
Harry rubbed his hands tiredly over his face. There was only one place those kinds of thoughts were going to end up, and it wasn’t somewhere he wanted to go with Draco’s ex-girlfriend in the next room.
Dragging himself to his feet, Harry dumped his half-drunk cup of coffee in the sink before heading off to bed – hopefully he would see things a bit more rationally in the morning.
“Harry! You about?”
“In the kitchen,” he replied.
Ron ambled in carrying a large overnight bag. “I see Malfoy’s helping you out then?”
Harry smiled wryly. “About as much as I expected him to. Though to be fair, at the moment he's over at the Manor borrowing some fancy plates and cutlery for us to use. We don’t have enough matching stuff, and apparently that’s unacceptable.”
“Well,” Ron said, “I might not be much for cooking, but there’s one thing I learned growing up with mum, and that’s how to peel veg. Let me just go and dump this bag in my room, and then I’ll come give you a hand.”
Harry nodded in agreement and never gave it another thought, until an ear-piercing scream rent the air.
“Shit!” He dropped the knife he was holding and looked up just in time to see a red-faced Ron hotfooting back into the room.
“Harry! What the hell is Pansy Parkinson doing in your spare room? Naked?”
“Naked?” Harry repeated, blindsided for a moment. “You mean, you saw...”
“Everything,” Ron answered. A broad grin crossed his flushed faced. “Fantastic set of tits.”
“Don’t even think about it,” Harry warned.
“What?” Ron was the picture of injured innocence.
Harry laughed. “I’m not Hermione, Ron. I know what the grin means, and I also know that Draco will kill you if you start hitting on his best friend.”
Ron shrugged. “We’re both adults. I don’t see what it’s got to do with Malfoy.” He climbed up on a nearby stool, picked up a knife, and began to help with the sprouts. “What’s she doing here anyway? I thought she was off to some island somewhere with that Greek bloke of hers.”
“I’m not entirely sure,” Harry admitted. “She turned up here last night, drunk out of her brain. All Draco could get out of her was that she'd broken up with what's-his-name, and that a rather unpleasant impotence curse had been involved.”
Ron winced involuntarily. “Ouch. Poor bloke.”
“Poor bloke, my arse, Weasley.” Harry and Ron looked up as a now fully-clothed Pansy entered the room. “He was a gold-digging parasite who got what was coming to him.”
“Fair enough,” Ron replied, clearly not wanting to argue with a woman who was handy with such spells.
Pansy turned her attention to Harry. “Where’s Draco? He’s not gone in to work, surely?”
Harry shook his head. “Flying visit to the Manor to pick up some essentials for tomorrow.”
“I’m just going to pop back home to pick up a few 'essentials' myself,” Pansy said. “If he gets back before I do, let him know where I am, will you?”
“Essentials,” Harry repeated in confusion.
“Yes, Harry, essentials,” Pansy answered, using the tone that Harry was convinced all Slytherins were taught upon Sorting. “Draco said it was okay for me to join you for Christmas, seeing as my other plans have...fallen through. So I’ll be stopping in your spare room tonight.”
“Okay,” Harry replied, fairly certain his permission wasn’t being asked.
“Hey!” Ron protested. “That’s my room. Where am I supposed to sleep now?”
“You can have my room,” Harry placated him quickly.
“I can’t do that,” Ron answered. “It’s yours.”
“It’s fine, honest,” Harry replied. “I’ll probably be up late tonight anyway, so it makes more sense for me to take the sofa bed.”
Ron huffed but made no further protest.
“Well, if that’s that all sorted, I’ll be on my way.” Pansy picked up her handbag from the counter. “Oh, and Weasley, if you could manage to stop staring at my tits by the time I come back, that would be great.
“Don’t ask me,” Harry shrugged. “Last I heard they were at each other’s throats because Ron walked in on her naked.”
“Well, if they keep up at this rate we’ll be having water with Christmas dinner,” Draco grumbled. “That’s the third bottle they’re on and it’s still early.”
Harry looked at his watch. “Draco, it’s nearly eleven. It’s hardly early.”
Draco snorted. “Trust me, where Pansy’s concerned, this is early.”
“She certainly seems to have got over her break-up rather quickly,” Harry commented, as Pansy’s throaty laugh sounded through the flat.
Draco finished loading the dishwasher before replying. “I think it’s more her pride that’s hurt than anything,” he answered finally. “That and the fact that she’s missed out on a Caribbean holiday.”
“So what happened anyway? Was he cheating on her?” Harry wasn’t usually one for gossip, but this was the first time he had been alone with Draco all day and he wanted to prolong the moment.
“Not as such,” Draco replied, drying his hands on the tea towel. “It turns out that despite his rather illustrious pedigree, he was, shall we say, rather impoverished and looking for a meal ticket. The idiot thought our Pans had more in the bank than she actually has. He got quite the nasty shock when he found out.”
“That wasn’t the only nasty shock he got by the sounds of it.”
Draco chuckled. “She always was good at the Impotentio hex. It was perfect for keeping Crabbe and Goyle at her beck and call back at Hogwarts.”
Harry laughed and then tried unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn.
“Why don’t you go to bed? You look knackered.”
“I can’t till they do,” Harry answered, with a rueful look in the direction of the living room. “I thought everyone would be having an early night so I volunteered to sleep on the sofa bed.”
Draco hesitated for a moment. “You could always share with me, as long as you promise not to snore.”
Harry didn’t miss the definite flush that coloured Draco’s cheeks, and he was fairly sure that his own were a similar shade. He tried his hardest not to read anything into the friendly offer. After all, neither of them had mentioned the hand-holding incident, nor had either of them made any effort to take things a step further.
Before the silence became awkward, Harry nodded. “Okay, as long as you keep your cold feet off me.”
Draco grinned. “I’m making no promises, Potter.”
Rolling over to the side, he smiled at the familiar messy head occupying the other pillow. Harry looked so peaceful when he was asleep, almost childlike, and Draco reached out a hand to touch his face before he realised what he was doing.
No sooner had Draco’s fingertips feathered lightly over the surface of his lips than Harry’s eye lashes fluttered open. Draco quickly snatched his hand back and tried to feign innocence.
“Draco?” Harry mumbled sleepily. “What’s up?”
“Not sure,” Draco replied honestly. “Something woke me.” He tried his hardest not to focus on the feel of Harry’s breath ghosting over his skin.
“What time is it?” Harry rubbed at his eyes with his fists, an action that Draco found almost irresistibly adorable.
Draco glanced over Harry's shoulder at his alarm clock. “Just after three."
A loud bang from the next room diverted them from further conversation. They lay there in the darkness, each of them reaching under the pillow for his wand.
“What the hell was that?” Draco whispered, his words almost drowned out as the banging started again.
Harry listened intently for a moment and then began to laugh.
“I don’t see what’s so funny,” Draco muttered sulkily. “We could be murdered in our beds.”
“I don’t think there’s much danger of that,” Harry replied, a little breathless from laughter.
Draco opened his mouth to refute this statement, but Harry placed a finger on his lips. “Just listen,” he said softly.
Draco did listen. And after a while he noticed that there was some kind of rhythm to the banging noise, and that there was an accompanying squeak also. Moments later, realisation of just what was going on began to dawn on him, and by the time Pansy’s breathless oh fuck, yes could be heard, Draco had a look of horrified outrage on his face.
“I don’t know what you’re laughing at,” he said, glaring at a now hysterical Harry. “You do realise that’s your bed they’re shagging in.”
Draco had commandeered the dining room several hours earlier, refusing to allow anyone entrance until it was time to start dinner. There was rather a lot of noise sounding from the room which made Harry nervous, but Draco had point-blank refused to allow anyone else near the table arrangements.
Ron and Pansy had yet to surface from Harry’s bedroom. Which, considering their late night activities, wasn’t really that surprising. Such had been their enthusiasm that Draco had been forced to cast a Silencing Charm on his room so that he and Harry could sleep without being further traumatised.
If he was honest, Harry was secretly pleased that neither of their guests had joined them yet. Although he and Draco had lived together for almost three years, this was the first proper Christmas they would spend in their flat. That the day had started with them practically curled around one another in Draco’s bed was possibly the best present Harry could have dreamt of.
Nothing had happened, but just enjoying the closeness of being in the same bed as Draco had been a wonderful experience for Harry. Intimacy was not something that came easily to him – having been starved of affection during his formative years, Harry had struggled to learn how to show it to others. But with Draco it seemed to be second nature.
Ironically, for someone whom everyone had thought of in their school days as cold and unfeeling, Draco was actually rather demonstrative. Harry had learned that though the Malfoys portrayed a reserved front in public, in private they were surprisingly loving. It was this revelation, more than anything else, which had helped Harry come to terms with Draco’s family and their history.
The feel of Draco’s warm body pressed up against his had been the perfect start to the day for Harry. And it had only got better as he and his flatmate exchanged gifts around their stately tree, to a soundtrack of Bing Crosby. Unashamedly, Harry spent the entire morning fantasising that he and Draco were a proper couple, not just good friends who danced round the edges of romance from time to time.
Harry ran his eye over the various pots and pans that littered the kitchen surfaces. Everything was on track – the turkey was sizzling away in the oven, releasing mouth-watering aromas, the vegetables were sitting in cold water just waiting to be cooked, and the pâté was chilling in the fridge.
Finding himself with a surprisingly free moment, Harry decided to treat himself to a glass of wine. He had barely filled his glass before the doorbell rang.
“Harry! Get that will you?”
Harry shook his head and smiled. Obviously Draco had no intention of leaving the dining room any time soon, so it was up to him to entertain the guests.
“Okay,” he shouted back, though he knew Draco didn’t really expect a reply, and made his way to the front door to welcome the first of their many guests.
The dining room itself had been a revelation once Draco had allowed him access. Not satisfied with purloining various items of tableware from the Manor, Draco had actually taken the liberty of transporting the dining table also. He’d spent the morning commanding a small army of house-elves as they recreated Malfoy Manor, complete with candelabra and drinks cabinet. Only Hermione’s presence had stopped him from having the elves serve them as well.
Harry sat back in his chair and ran his eye over the assembled guests at his table as they slowly picked over the cheese board that Draco had insisted on. This was a collection of people he had never thought to see in a room together, much less on Christmas Day. People who, a few short years ago, could have been counted upon to hex each other on sight, were now laughing and joking, as they pulled crackers and wishbones.
It was a gathering made even more unusual by the last-minute inclusion of Greg Goyle, who now worked for Ron; Ron had invited him and then forgotten to inform anyone. There was some initial awkwardness, as it had been years since Draco had spoken to his former schoolmate. But after a few glasses of wine, they found common ground on the subject of Greg’s ex-wife, whom Draco had never liked in school and whom Greg clearly held no lingering fondness for. Blaise joined in happily, simply glad to be surrounded by people who weren’t covertly watching him or busily discussing the more tawdry aspects of his mother’s marital affairs.
Ron and Pansy had finally surfaced just before dinner, and had promptly been treated to a volley of teasing with they handled with surprising aplomb. As he watched the looks that passed between them, Harry had a sneaking suspicion that it might be more than a one-time thing. Not that he was particularly bothered – Pansy was a long way from the pug-nosed cow she had been in school, and if nothing else, it would certainly make things easier for Draco and him when they finally got together.
And Harry was determined that it would be when, not if.
He looked down at the other end of the table and found that Draco was watching him, a soft smile on his face. Harry felt warmth suffuse his body at that smile, and he idly fantasised about crawling the length of the table, in front of all his friends, and kissing it right off Draco’s face.
Of course he didn’t, but that didn’t stop the coil of desire that unfurled in his belly at the thought.
As his eyes travelled further around the table, Harry noticed that Hermione was also watching him. She looked at him intently and gave a discreet nod in the direction of the window. Glancing outside, Harry realised that it had gone dark already – the conversation had flowed so well over dinner that afternoon had faded into night before any of them had noticed. He gave her an almost imperceptible nod of acknowledgement. No one else noticed this exchange, so the others thought nothing of it when Hermione excused herself from the table only moments later.
Harry waited impatiently for the few minutes it took her to return, and was out of his seat as soon as she sat down. He made his way to the end of the table and stopped by Draco’s chair. He smiled at his flatmate who stared back at him in surprise.
“You’ll have to excuse us for a moment,” Harry said, addressing their assembled guests. “I need to borrow Draco for a moment.”
Draco got to his feet, curiosity written all over his face. “What’s going on?” he muttered quietly.
Harry grinned. “You’ll see. Come on.”
When they got out into the hallway, Harry stopped and waited for Draco to draw level with him. He could hear the chatter of the others, no doubt discussing their disappearance, but paid it no heed – all of his focus was on the man in front of him.
“What are you up to, Harry?” Draco asked, a smile curving his lips.
“I’ve got one last present to give you,” Harry admitted, enjoying Draco’s delight that showed plainly on his face. “But I need you to put this on.” He held out something in his hand and Draco looked at it askance.
Harry nodded. “Trust me.” He turned Draco round gently and tied the silky black fabric over his eyes, then guided him towards the kitchen.
“Can’t you give me a hint?” Draco begged. “You know I hate surprises.”
Harry laughed. “It’s not surprises you hate, Draco. It’s the waiting you can’t stand.”
“You’re mean,” Draco muttered, and Harry was sure that if he looked, there would be a pout on Draco’s face. But his actions belied his words as he placed his hands atop Harry’s, tightening the grip on his waist.
They came to a stop in front of the French doors that opened onto their roof terrace. The doors were ajar and a cold breeze was blowing through them.
“This present must be huge if you’ve had to put it outside,” Draco said.
Harry leant forward so his lips were a hair’s breadth away from Draco’s ears. “You’ll see,” he murmured, and did not miss the shiver that ran through Draco’s body in response.
A few short steps further and they were outside.
“Harry! It’s raining,” Draco protested. “My hair will kink.”
In response, Harry reached up and removed the blindfold. “Happy Christmas, Draco,” he said softly, and then stood back to await the response.
He watched with anticipation as Draco opened his eyes, discovering that it wasn’t rain landing on his skin, but the softest, whitest snowflakes ever. He stood there for a few moments in silence, arms outstretched, a look of wonder on his face. Harry thought he’d never seen Draco look more beautiful than at that moment, but seconds later, he found himself with an armful of snow-covered blond, and the ability to think was swiftly lost.
Harry wasn’t sure who kissed who first. All he knew was that Draco’s lips were soft and warm, and fitted perfectly against his own in a way that surely meant they belonged together. Then Draco’s hands were in his hair, and his body was pressed close, and Harry thought that his chest would burst at any moment, such was the force of the emotion he was feeling.
When Draco finally pulled back, it wasn't far -- he moved only inches away from Harry and gazed at him intently. “How?” he asked breathlessly.
Harry’s hands cupped Draco’s cheeks, warming them from the cold. “Hermione,” he answered, not feeling capable of coherent sentences.
“Remind me to thank her later,” Draco replied, before turning his face up to the sky again.
Harry watched for a moment, taking in the way the snowflakes clung to Draco’s eyelashes, and slowly tracing his thumbs along his cheekbones. “Not like this, I hope,” he teased, leaning in and nuzzling against Draco’s neck.
“Definitely not like this,” Draco agreed with a throaty chuckle, and to illustrate his point he pressed his body firmly against Harry’s, leaving no doubt as to his intent.
“We have guests,” Harry protested weakly.
“Don’t care,” Draco muttered, sliding cold hands under Harry’s jumper and over the smooth, warm skin of his back. “Waited too long already.” He pulled Harry into a bruising kiss that seemed to go on forever -- or at least until the whistles and catcalls sounded from their kitchen, interrupting the moment.
They pulled apart breathlessly, foreheads still pressed together.
“About bloody time, too!” Ron shouted.
“Here, here,” Pansy and Blaise chorused.
“Can’t we send them all home?” Draco whispered. “We’ve already fed them.”
“Sadly not,” Harry replied. “But it’s only for a few more hours. And there’s always tomorrow.”
“Not tomorrow,” Draco replied. “We’re busy tomorrow.”
“Doing what?” Harry said, puzzled. “Christmas is over.”
“Yes,” Draco agreed. “But the sales are just beginning.”