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Christmas Presents

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Draco's first memory of Christmas is of presents. He remembers Grandfather Malfoy trying to draw his attention to the realistic details of the model Hogwarts Express he had given Draco, but Draco had been too enamoured of his new toy wand. The wand didn't really channel his magic, and he wasn't really casting spells, but the sparks that shot from the end when he waved it felt like an omen of the powerful wizard he would grow to be. Draco had never once worried he might be a Squib because his father had always assured him that the Malfoy line couldn't make Squibs. Squibs were what happened to families that mixed with Muggles: a worthy punishment for those who did not appreciate the superiority of their heritage.

Draco's first Christmas home from Hogwarts held new meaning. It was still about the glut of presents and sweets, but it was also about returning to his rightful place at the centre of attention. After four months of his peers and most of his professors fawning over stupid Potter, it was a relief to be fussed over by his mother and questioned by his father. Mother had the elves make all of his favourite meals, convinced as she was that the sub-par Hogwarts food would ruin his palate. His father, as Chairman of the Board of Governors of Hogwarts, now viewed him as a font of information about the ridiculous Headmaster and the goings on at the school. Draco felt a rush of pride at being a private spy, checking up on the quality of the institution in a way the Governors themselves could not.

The next year was Draco's first Christmas away from home. He had been proud that his father had told him about the Chamber of Secrets and tasked him with monitoring and reporting on the situation at Hogwarts. He didn't let his father see how disappointed he was not to go home to his own room, the obedient elves, and his mother's adoration. He knew what his father thought of mummy's boys, and he dared not let him think he might be one.

He had no idea how much worse things would get. The year his father wasn't home because he was in Azkaban. The year he stayed at Hogwarts to try to fix the cabinet in a desperate attempt to save his parents' lives. The year the Carrows were at Hogwarts, but he had still wanted to stay there because it was far less terrifying than what was waiting for him back at the Manor.

The Dark Lord did not celebrate Christmas, but he did not seem to care that, as Headmaster, Severus had maintained the Hogwarts holiday schedule. Draco had returned on the Hogwarts Express and been met by his mother at the station. She had then spent every day of the holiday making up excuses for them to be away from the Manor. She took Draco to select several different trees to decorate the Manor, to visit her friends and distant family, to buy gifts for every person she could think of, and to select groceries from all over England. Whenever the Dark Lord's followers questioned why she did not send her elves on some errand, she would scoff about the poor judgement of lesser beings. No one dared argue with that.

That year there been more food, sweets, and presents than any other, but it had been the worst Christmas of Draco's life. Terror had hung over him, saturating the very air so that each breath poisoned him. The fear had made the food taste like ash and the sweets burn in his stomach. He hadn't want the new broomstick that was waiting for him under the tree. It only reminded him that, as the fastest flyer, he was now required to play for his House team. Not that there was any chance of Slytherin being allowed to lose. And the new dress robes his mother gave him had simply accentuated how thin and pasty he had become. That Christmas he had gotten everything he would have wanted as a younger boy, but he finally saw how useless it all was when the lives of his family were on a knife's edge.

This Christmas, he sits in stained, threadbare robes on the hard stone floor of his cell. There are no decorations. His cell has nothing more than the hard bed, a thin blanket, and a bucket to catch the little waste his body can produce. There will be no feast, although Draco thinks his bowl of porridge that morning might have been slightly fuller than usual. Perhaps the kitchen staff are feeling soft. Perhaps Draco's mind is going. That might be for the best.

What use is his mind in the endless tedium? Each day passes the same: three meals and a disinfecting charm to reduce the spread of disease but that never lets him feel clean. His only pleasure is knowing that his mother isn't there with him, and yet that is the only pleasure Draco needs.

Each day, his mother writes to him, telling him what she had for breakfast and where she went on her morning walk. He closes his eyes and can almost taste the buttered crumpets and sweet tea. He imagines her walking among her beloved roses or along the brook at the east end of the grounds, the sun shining on her hair, and her face finally free from the worries of war. Draco had made her promise not to worry for him and Father. They would be uncomfortable, but they are finally safe. The Dementors are gone and the food is sufficient to keep them alive.

Once a week, when Draco is allowed access to parchment and a quill, he writes to her. He never mentions the maddening tedium, only thanks her for her letters and asks after her friends and the Manor. He doesn't ask after his own friends. He doesn't want to know. The last time he had seen Goyle, there had been very little sign of sanity left. Pansy had written one letter to say she would be leaving the country. No one else had written him.

The first few weeks, Draco had foolishly believed that he might hear from Potter. The Boy-Who-Wouldn't-Die had visited Draco at the Manor just after the war to return his wand and warn him that the Aurors were considering arresting him. Draco's father had been arrested while they were still at Hogwarts, but Draco and his mother had been permitted to return to the Manor.

Draco had worried that his mother would be arrested as well, but Potter had made certain her name was cleared. The Prophet had run an article the very next day on the unexpected heroes of the war. The focus was on Severus, but the article included a quotation from Potter about how Draco's mother had deceived the Dark Lord to save his life. That one act proved enough to keep her free. The article also quoted Potter as saying that Draco had lied to his family to keep Potter safe, but Aurors came for him anyway.

Draco's hearing's was near the end of June, three weeks after his birthday, and Draco hated himself for the rush of relief he had felt as Potter had marched into the courtroom with his careless grace and declared himself to be a witness for the defence. Draco wanted to feel embarrassed to be seen shackled to the chair as if he were any threat without a wand. Or any threat at all. He wanted to still have enough pride that he would rather be sentenced to life in Azkaban than be helped by his former rival. Instead, he could only try to keep his face impassive when Potter turned to nod at him.

Potter had objected when the prosecution asked for ten years in Azkaban. He cited Draco's age and the threat to his family, and Draco hadn't been able to look away from the burn in Potter's eyes as he defended him. He could feel his pulse race and the magnetic pull that Potter had on him. And when Draco was sentenced to five years, Potter looked outraged even as Draco sighed in relief. He could survive that.

As the Aurors led Draco away, his hands bound in front of him, Potter stepped forward to stop them. He placed a warm hand on Draco's shoulder and leaned in close enough for Draco to smell him. He smelled like soap, fresh air, and sunshine: everything Draco wouldn't know for five years.

"I'll keep fighting," Potter promised, and Draco didn't know why he cared. Draco cared—more than he should—by why did Potter? And maybe he really didn't. Maybe that is why Draco is still in his cell.

Draco had almost thanked Potter as they stood staring at each other in the courtroom. There were people moving and talking all around them, but Draco had seen no one but Potter. He wanted to speak, but his mouth was dry and his head was muddled. In the end, he just gave a nod before the Aurors dragged him out the doors to the long hallway beyond. He had thought Potter called something after him, but the words were swallowed by the crowd.

Draco was taken to a holding cell where he stripped and put on the grey robes of an Azkaban prisoner. He took one last breath of freedom and then an Auror pressed his hand to a Portkey. Leading him into the prison, the Auror had taunted him about the living arrangements not being what he was used to, but Draco said nothing. He simply followed the Auror and an Azkaban guard to his cell, laid down on the bench that was to act as his bed, and had his first restless night of sleep.

Six months later, he is almost able to sleep through the night. And when he wakes to the dull grey walls, he no longer has to fight back tears. He has accepted his fate. He will sit here alone until his five years are up. And when he is finally freed, he will begin to gather the shards of his life and see what he can rebuild. Maybe he will find the courage to thank Potter for his help.

Humming a Christmas carol into the silence, Draco finds himself smiling. It is a tired and weak smile, but he feels it in his bones. A year before, he would have traded everything to know he and his parents would survive the war. Now he has that comfort. And he has the hope that some future Christmas will grant one more present: his freedom. Free from the responsibilities of the Malfoy name, the lunacy of the Dark Lord, and the walls of this wizarding prison. On that Christmas, he thinks he might finally understand the season of joy.