Recipient: star_sailor13 —
Title: Deck The Halls
Pairing(s): Draco/Harry, mentioned Hermione/Ron (but really only mildly so)
Summary: After returning to Hogwarts for his final year, Harry finds a part of the castle that has been left untouched by the Christmas spirit. However, his plans to decorate—and perhaps heal some old wounds—are thwarted by Draco Malfoy, who has managed to find the one place that still feels like the past. Draco thinks Harry can eat an ornament if he thinks he can ruin Draco’s new refuge.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? NOPE! “Eighth-year fic” for the win!
Word Count: 9,665
Author's Notes: Happy Holidays to a talented artist in our fandom! I was both intimidated and excited to receive your prompt, star_sailor13! Although I couldn’t fit everything you’d suggested in here, I hope you enjoy your gift all the same.
There was a corridor in Hogwarts Castle down which one could find many rooms in disuse, and down which Harry Potter had never been in his long time attending the school. It was quieter than the others, ill-lit with a few sconces and decorated with long, sweeping tapestries and draperies that looked soft to the touch, almost like one could sink into them and never come out. These sweeping cloths were grey, but probably many-coloured in actuality, once one removed the thick layer of dust. A portrait or two hung gently against the walls, but no one posed in them.
Harry had only encountered this hall, or the end of it, once before, but he remembered it had occurred on an evening when much more important and likely dangerous things were afoot, and so he had left it alone.
As of today in December of 1998, this was the last nook of Hogwarts Harry had left unexplored. He knew all of the shortcuts, the hidden passageways, the magical, changing rooms like the back of his hand—or at least like the back of his intricate, magical map—and he’d thought this morning over coffee (over Hermione and Ron eating their toast while holding hands, and over Luna and Dean debating whether the best art stores were in Diagon Alley or London proper, and over Sally-Ann Perks and Terry Boot studying for Astronomy) that he’d like to check the neglected corridor off of his list.
Being back at Hogwarts after the Battle—even now only about seven months after the battle, at that—was a strange experience, indeed. There were several students who hadn’t the marks to complete their schooling in the proper amount of time, and funnily enough, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were all included in that group. Last year’s seventh years had encountered a conundrum, though, which the school board (after being thoroughly bullied by Professor McGonagall) had solved by sectioning off the unused classrooms on the first floor overlooking the Quidditch pitch and refurbishing it as an eighth year dormitory.
Harry would be lying if he claimed it wasn’t bizarre to be living in a dorm with Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws and Slytherins and purple décor, and he would definitely be lying if he said it wasn’t absolutely insane to be sleeping two purple, four-poster beds over from one Draco Malfoy.
Needless to say, this year had been both a soothing balm to the ache of what should have been Harry’s seventh year at Hogwarts, and as disorienting as a dream because of the sudden change to the world after Voldemort had crumpled, lifeless to the ground, in May. Even the weather had been less dreary—all across the U.K.—since the Battle, and now Houses were co-mingling and the Ministry was undergoing a massive transformation and Harry liked all of it. He did. Sunlight, equal rights, and inter-house friendships were all wonderful things. And anyway, House loyalties were hard to hold onto when one was running for their life for several months.
But living with Draco Malfoy…
Even though the git had inadvertently (or not not-so-inadvertently) helped Harry and the others when they’d been captured at Malfoy Manor, Harry hadn’t expected or wanted any sort of camaraderie when he’d found out Malfoy was repeating his seventh year with the 15 other witches and wizards in Harry’s year.
But for Malfoy to withdraw like he had for the past couple of months at school was even less desirable. Harry almost missed their mutual antagonism. Harry had run out of things to do other than study this term, and life was getting rather tedious.
What he wouldn’t do for a good old fistfight with the pointy, pasty git.
Harry shook himself and folded the map neatly, just after whispering, “Mischief managed,” into the crinkled folds with a tap of his phoenix feather wand. As Harry started down the corridor, with his thumb he rubbed at the little fission in the wood where the elder wand had repaired it.
Harry sneezed a couple times before he’d even reached the first tapestry, so he smashed his sleeve up against his nose as he unlocked the first door with a complex spell he’d learned on the run. He was right to guard himself, because what followed was a series of unfortunate and dusty displacements of the items stacked tall in the room.
After scrambling backward and slamming against a filthy tapestry opposite the door, Harry watched with dismay as chairs and cauldrons and rolls of parchment and other miscellaneous items tumbled out into the corridor, making the loudest racket imaginable.
“Hell,” Harry swore. And then he sneezed, before levitating the mess back into the room and shutting the door.
He moved on to the next couple rooms, discovering another bathroom, complete with a colossal bath and thankfully no creepy, lurking ghosts, as well as uncovering a room of oriental rugs, piled up like in a Muggle carpet store. Harry resisted the urge to jump atop them and go to town, and instead closed the door and advanced to the final room.
This time, there were no carpets, or piles of junk, or baths. The room at the end of the corridor had so many windows that the white light of winter cast the walls in a bright wash. There were bookcases lining many of the walls, some almost reaching the high ceilings, and there was a ladder climbing to a window, high up, where a cushion sat on the sill. It looked better taken care of than the rest of the hall, with less dust. It seemed timeless, like someone had just yesterday been sorting through the books or looking out over the grounds at Hogwarts. Harry doubted it, though. The room, for all its charm, was barren. There was a hearth, but no wood in it to kindle a fire. There were books, but some had likely remained untouched since they were shelved. And the walls, although bright and somewhat clean, were gloomy. It reminded Harry of a dungeon.
Since Christmas was approaching, the castle was bursting with holiday cheer by this point, as evidenced by the carolling ghosts, the shining baubles and the bells tinkling above the students in the Great Hall, as if the place had never been ravaged by war. Harry supposed Hogwarts was resilient in that way. Magic hadn’t reached this part of the castle, though, and certainly holiday cheer hadn’t either. There was something unsettling about the timelessness, and about the quiet. It made him remember how much effort it had taken to put the school back together. It gave Harry ideas.
After too much time staring around the room, planning, Harry checked his watch, realizing just how late he was about to be for Herbology in the time it would take to get down to the greenhouses.
Luckily he knew a few shortcuts.
“Luna, where do you think I could find spare holiday decorations?”
Luna Lovegood blinked and turned to Harry from her seat on the front steps of the castle, picking at the beads on her necklace and furrowing her brow under a big, fluffy hat that reminded Harry of candyfloss. Harry had been asking around all day, and found that as cold as it was, most students were spending their Saturday outside in the snow. He should have known not to assume everyone was following the Hermione-Ron trend and spending their weekend in bed. Together.
Not that he was assuming loads of Hogwarts students were piling into four-posters together, but since the war… since then, people liked to live life to the fullest. Harry preferred not to know how, even if he’d unwittingly been witness to it a time or two.
To be perfectly honest, Harry was more inclined to spend his time alone or with his close friends—Order members or Dumbledore’s Army veterans—than go about his days as the life of the party. Or as a celebrity to hoards of eleven-year-olds.
And if people called him a grandpa or a horrible person for hating the attention as much as he had before, then he could always sic Hermione on them. By now she had the hasn’t-he-given-you-enough-does-he-have-t
“I don’t know, Harry,” Luna said thoughtfully. “I’m sure Hogwarts uses up all of the supplies. Do you think your dormitory needs more decorations?”
Harry thought about the eighth years’ dorm, about the mistletoe in every doorway, and the jingle bells hanging in every window, and the singing snowflakes that flitted about the Common Room. He decided on, “Definitely not.”
“Trying to scare off the tufted ibberlops?”
Harry’s eyes were mid-roll when he realized that the funny grin on Luna’s face was because of her apparent (and newly acquired) facetiousness.
“Ibberlops don’t exist,” confirmed Harry.
Luna giggled manically in the only response Harry would get on the matter before sending him in Flitwick’s direction, as the professor tended to head the decorating party before the holidays came around.
Harry was walking quickly but absent-mindedly in the direction of the library, breathing warmth back into his fingers, when he ran into something rather solid. Before he knew what was happening, he was sitting on his increasingly sore tailbone and pointing his wand at the obstruction in his path.
Which… just so happened to be an equally flabbergasted and unnecessarily armed Draco Malfoy on the cold floor, surrounded by a halo of books.
“Watch where you’re stomping your stupid feet, Potter!” said Malfoy after the warring terror and resolution faded from his pointy face, leaving guardedness behind.
Harry let out a sigh. “Don’t… loiter in the middle of the hallway, then.”
Malfoy sneered, but he lowered his wand. The new hornbeam wood shone in the light of the candles above them. Harry lowered his wand as well. He watched Malfoy rise to his knees and gather the books around him, stacking them precariously before lifting them in his pale hands.
The words, “Need help?” were out of his mouth before he’d thought them.
Malfoy’s face was oddly expressive, Harry noticed. He was now half-incredulous, half-surprised. The things one learns after eight years of enmity.
“No,” was Malfoy’s final, short answer, just as Harry said, “I was heading to the library, that’s all.”
Malfoy shifted and started walking past him, but not before he’d said with grudging politeness, “They don’t belong to Hogwarts, Potter.” Well, it was sort of polite. For Malfoy.
It wasn’t until Malfoy was out of sight that Harry saw a small book that had escaped Malfoy’s notice. He picked it up and then stared at the cover.
“Jane Austen?” he muttered aloud. What was Malfoy doing with Muggle novels?
It had been a day or so before Professor Flitwick could let Harry into storage down near the kitchens, so the following free Wednesday afternoon found Harry wobbling up through the castle, barely dodging excitable Hufflepuffs and groups of giggling second-years as he rather noticeably carried a mountain of tinsel, wreaths, and other Christmas paraphernalia. He almost couldn’t see where he was going, so he’d knocked down a suit of armour and a lost Ravenclaw by the time he reached the corridor he was looking for, cursing his inattention with a few grumbles.
It was quiet, there, the grey walls still. Harry contemplated which room to conquer first, but the decision was made when he remembered the piles of junk in the rooms along the way to the end. That window room was his favourite, anyway.
He found the door open on a crack, and so he nudged it with his foot and teetered into the room, still bright as it snowed softly outside. He made his way to a table in one of the corners, eyes scanning the room for his first target. The bookcase could be a good start, or the fireplace… but the alcove in the far corner was pretty bare, and Draco Malfoy was sitting in the windowsill up high on the farthest wall—
Harry dropped the pile of decorations, because—Draco Malfoy was perched in the high window, reading a book with two sombre characters on the front, biting at his nails and curled up on the cushion like he’d made himself a home. And now he was scrambling against the window, wand pointed at the pile of decorations, and then quickly at Harry when he realized they weren’t all that threatening.
“Well, this is happening more and more frequen—”
“What are you doing here?” Malfoy snapped.
Harry raised his eyebrows. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m reading. What does it look like, scarhead?”
“I’m decorating for the holidays. But don’t mind me, you continue reading your romance novel up there.”
Harry could see the splotches high on Malfoy’s cheeks, but he leaned down and found a shrunken box of gilded holly boughs in the pile. He went to hang them up around the room, choosing where to put them on a whim while humming (likely tunelessly) to himself.
It wasn’t long until Malfoy was swearing and threatening that he’d hex Harry if he hung another one.
“You will not,” Harry said absently, hanging a bough from the table.
“What makes you so sure, Potter? When the Dark Lord killed you did a bit of your brains fall out of your ears?”
“I’m sure, Malfoy,” Harry said, leaning against the table and then deciding better of it because it was now prickly, “because if you were going to throw a spell at me you’d have done it by now. Our relationship has always been somewhat of a ‘hex now, ask questions later’ sort of thing. Don’t you think?”
Malfoy sneered, but he shoved his wand back into his pocket all the same.
“And his name was Voldemort,” Harry muttered. As Harry went to pick up another holly bough, he heard Malfoy grumble about ‘our relationship,’ or something like that. He’d hung three more boughs before Malfoy spoke up again.
“If this is your attempt to drive me out of my own space, good luck to you,” Malfoy said primly, before hiding behind Wuthering Heights.
As if by some miracle, Harry didn’t argue that this room was in no way Malfoy’s property, even if he thought it vehemently. He supposed they’d just have to take it one day at a time, because he wasn’t going anywhere either.
Malfoy would just have to learn to share.
Harry was thankful that Neville’s herbology books easily distracted him, because otherwise he’d still be listening to him rant about the Ministry’s regulations on ingredients collecting for personal potion-making use. Before sneaking off, Harry’d wondered aloud why Neville was so worked up about the regulations if he wasn’t making his own potions, and anyway hadn’t these regulations been in effect since the 1970s? It had worked, and Harry had tiptoed out of the eighth year Common Room while Neville went on about how he hated the rules on principle.
Nothing against Neville, but herbology wasn’t Harry’s passion by any means, and in any case Harry really wanted to visit what he was starting to call The Corridor. He hadn’t been back in a week, and had confirmed with the Marauder’s Map that Malfoy was in the baths, so he wasn’t going to have a Slytherin git nattering on about his territory if he went up now.
The room looked rather nice—more welcoming, definitely—when he shouldered the door open. The sun seemed sunnier and the walls were shining a little with the help of the holly boughs hanging around the room. Which were fewer than Harry thought he had hung, and silver. But Malfoy hadn’t taken everything down, so there was that. Harry would just have to come up with something better to get him back.
Harry took a big breath and began to gather dust from the floor, waving his wand like he was gathering candyfloss while he whispered, “Detergeo.” In answer, whirlwinds of grey tumbled about from every corner. The process gradually revealed dark, hardwood floors. It was looking nicer every moment, but when Harry looked at the mountain of dust bunnies, he understood a little more why Petunia Dursley dusted biweekly.
After tens of Evansecos, Harry was contemplating nicking a rug from the room down the way when the door burst open, revealing Draco Malfoy carrying yet another pile of books. He was rosy-cheeked and his hair was still damp, falling a little out of place as if he’d combed it in a rush. He looked more alive than he had in a while, and relaxed, before he noticed that Harry was there. To be honest, Harry thought he looked a little like he’d been… enjoying himself, and had wanted to skip off to do some light reading for afters.
With a shake of his head, Harry turned from Malfoy who was becoming steadily rosier (likely from irritation and not from the baths) as he watched Harry putter around and clean up the space.
“Why do you always have to ruin a good thing by constantly being in my presence?” Malfoy said finally, stomping in the direction of the emptiest bookshelf and placing the books with not a little bit of unnecessary force.
“I could ask the same of you!” Harry said a little less than mildly. “You weren’t even supposed to be here.” Malfoy leaned against the shelves and crossed his arms, and Harry noticed that he was wearing clothes more suited for… well, both outside and sleeping. Harry counted three pullovers, comfortable trousers and a pair of woollen socks that peeked out over a funny pair of boots. Wizard fashion was strange.
“What do you mean I wasn’t supposed to be here?”
Harry floundered, realizing that he might’ve been staring, but all he could think to say was, “You were supposed to be in the baths! You only went about twenty minutes ago!”
Malfoy’s eyes widened with incredulousness.
“I think Sally-Ann told me,” Harry blurted. “You know, Sally-Ann Perks?”
To distract Malfoy, or perhaps distract himself, Harry aimed his wand at the cobwebs up in the rafters, and may have directed a little bit of the debris in Malfoy’s general direction. Malfoy shielded himself with a whispered charm and began to climb up the ladder to his perch out of the line of fire. Once at the top, he took Wuthering Heights from his pocket and placed another book next to him. He looked about done with the one gothic heroine and was poised to move on to the next, it seemed, and apparently was going to ignore the fact that Harry had just a moment ago sounded a tad creepy.
Harry had cleaned what he could of the ceiling and had moved on to the walls before Malfoy spoke again.
“What do you think of the holly boughs, then?”
Harry looked around to see that Malfoy was peering determinedly at one spot in his book.
“Oh, it’s a nice touch,” Harry replied, not at all sarcastically. “What clever magic did you work to change the colour?”
“It’s a simple charm, really,” Malfoy answered, equally snide. “You just incant in Latin whatever colour you wish, with whatever object you’re trying to transfigure.” Harry imagined transfiguring the smug look off of Malfoy’s face.
“Sounds simple enough,” said Harry.
“It sounds simple, I suppose,” he agreed. “But you must repeat a Healburn’s Pattern three times while incanting. If you can remember that.”
Harry finished dusting the walls, all the while grinding his teeth and rehearsing the Healburn’s spell-casting pattern. He’d managed to time it so he was brushing dust off his clothes, just as Malfoy put his book down with a satisfied sigh.
With a smirk, Harry stepped just past the door before yelling, “Aureus cella!” with several flicks of his wrist. The following, unmanly screech was worth it, even if Harry had just turned the clean room (as well as everything else in it) completely gold. Harry chuckled to himself as he walked down the hall. The image of a gold-coloured Malfoy pouting over his Muggle novels in an equally gold-coloured room could be forever ingrained in his memories. If he ever again needed a good, long laugh, all he had to think of was Healburn’s Pattern.
The next time Harry visited The Corridor, he was a little disappointed when he found that Malfoy’s only retaliation was to remove the gold from the room and ward it so Harry spent twenty minutes trying to get in.
Harry was less disappointed to know that the racket he’d made trying to get past the seven wards had severely disturbed Malfoy’s delicate reading utopia, and would be continually less disappointed as he watched Malfoy twitch when he installed the gramophone he’d found in the room of odd things, complete with Christmas albums.
It should have surprised Harry that Malfoy didn’t leave, even when Harry was trying so hard to grate at his nerves. But it didn’t really. It made Harry think that perhaps Malfoy, too, had missed their animosity. Perhaps.
Even though Malfoy had cleverly brought his herbology earmuffs with him the next time they happened upon the room at the same time, Harry made sure he forgot them when he climbed up to his nook. And if he made sure it would be very difficult for him to get back down to retrieve them, perhaps by shoving the ladder away from the wall, let it be known that he never said he wasn’t childish.
While singing along to Celestina Warbeck, Harry took tinsel from the now permanently affixed pile of decorations in the corner by the door, and began to sprinkle tinsel as the mood struck him.
And the mood struck him often.
“Oh—do stop before I have to kill myself,” Malfoy wailed miserably when Harry butchered a particularly high note.
Harry glared at him from his spot at the mantel, applying tinsel liberally while he contemplated Malfoy’s words. Could he really joke about death? Already?
“Merlin, Potter. Relax. I’m not going to kill myself.”
Harry hummed under his breath, looking away and pretending that he wasn’t imagining Malfoy at his worst—at his very worst, dead. It wasn’t hard to imagine, considering how their sixth year had gone.
“I’m flattered, Potter, that my death is so disturbing to you,” Malfoy said after an awkward moment. “Didn’t know you cared!” When that comment garnered no reaction, Malfoy shut his book with a sigh summoned the ladder with a coaxing spell. He climbed down the ladder while Harry stared resolutely at the tinsel on the mantel. He shelved his books. “You can’t cover everything in tinsel, Potter. You’ve got to accept your problems as they are.”
“What do you know about it?”
Malfoy pursed his lips. “You’re more of an idiot than I thought, if you can’t imagine I have regrets about my choices in life.”
Harry had nothing to say to that.
“Merlin,” Malfoy said. “And I thought you were unbearable when you were being cheerful. I can deal with you when you’re like that, but I won’t deal with you when you’re being so ridiculously morose.”
Harry watched Malfoy leave, and Harry wasn’t all that surprised when he realized he wasn’t glad to see Malfoy go.
It was two weeks before Christmas when they saw one another again. (That is, when they saw one another in The Corridor again. They did their best not to see one another when sharing the same quarters.) Harry’d thought about what Malfoy had said, perhaps more than he’d like, and although he’d never admit it…
Malfoy was right. At least about Harry’s… difficulties… moving on. Harry just didn’t know how else to fix things.
When Harry spotted Malfoy in the window when he moved another rug from down the hall, Harry nodded (not a little awkwardly) in Malfoy’s direction, put on some quiet music and set about charming the dust from the rug he’d picked for the space in front of the hearth. All he received in the way of acknowledgement from Malfoy was an eye roll, and a tug of the large scarf around Malfoy’s neck up around his ears, so one could barely see his nose as he pored over The Count of Monte Cristo.
However, when Harry had remained quiet for nearly thirty minutes, siphoning dirt and stains from the weave of the rug, Malfoy grumbled, snapped the book closed and clamoured down the ladder.
Harry watched him as he went to the gramophone, augmented the volume with a twist of his wand, and began to remove all of the books from the shelves and organize them alphabetically by author.
“What would you say to some furniture? A divan perhaps?” Malfoy asked offhandedly after he’d conquered the first bookshelf.
“Finally accepted that I’m not leaving?” When Malfoy just snorted, Harry shrugged. “I’d say why not. It’d be nice to sit down and take a break every now and again.”
“I didn’t say the divan was for you, you entitled arse.” Harry could tell the words were said only for tradition’s sake, but Harry went along with it. Although he did go back to the decoration pile and grab more tinsel. He sprinkled it about while Malfoy tried to organize. The similarities between a disgruntled Malfoy and a wet cat were startling.
“Alright, I’ll get an arm chair, then. You can have your divan,” he said, cutting some ribbon with a pair of large scissors. He decided he would get better at tying bows—slowly but surely.
“On second thought, I’ll take the armchair. You have the divan. You’re always sprawling all over everything in the Common Room, anyway.”
“Do you often watch me while I’m in the Common Room, Malfoy?”
Malfoy rolled his eyes, but his ears were pink. “You wish, Potter.”
“Do you pine away like the girls in your romance novels?” Harry teased.
“Sod off.” Malfoy shelved five books, only to rearrange them once he’d realized he’d put them out of order. “Don’t act like you know more about Muggle literature than I.”
Harry guffawed, likely unattractively, until Malfoy’s pursed lips were more of a smile. “I know enough to know you sure enjoy your dark, tortured heroes,” he said.
Malfoy’s face was blotchier than ever.
“You just can’t be content with most of the population being in love with you, can you, Potter?” Malfoy said after a moment. “Everyone must be in love with Harry Potter because he’s so perfect—” His voice adopted a nasal, simpering tone. “—with his messy hair and his sparkling green eyes! Ooh!” He grabbed some tinsel from the shelves where Harry’d applied his decorating expertise quite liberally, and threw it in Harry’s direction.
“My sparkling—you’ll regret having said that,” Harry laughed.
Malfoy huffed. “I already do.”
The next few hours were actually companionably silent, and when Harry levitated a set of furniture in from some of the other rooms, stretching out on the couch when he’d removed enough dust, he saw Malfoy smirk to himself.
The next day, Harry thought up a plan, which he hoped wouldn’t fall flat or backfire, because it was a good one.
It began with tinsel, as Harry’s ideas often did, and it ended with piles of the shiny stuff in Malfoy’s bed, his drawers, his bag, his socks, anything that could possibly be an inconvenience to the Slytherin if he tried to use any of his things.
Harry was not disappointed. After classes that afternoon, he sat in the Common Room and chuckled to himself as the other eighth years vacated the boys’ dormitory, complaining of Malfoy’s loud swearing and the piles of shiny string that were still pouring out from Malfoy’s open drawers. And the swearing was indeed loud.
Anthony Goldstein had gotten a picture of it, even, and had pinned it on the message board by the porthole before curfew that evening.
Harry received an envelope over dinner, and inside were his note (‘Told you you’d regret it!’) and another, which said, ‘You don’t know the meaning of the word!’
Harry went to sleep happy, if a little nervy.
In the morning of the following day, he woke up to find all of his clothes missing save for one item of each needed piece of clothing. All, of course, were covered in tinsel.
“Bugger,” Harry swore loudly, waking quite a few of his roommates including Malfoy, who yawned, stretched, and padded to the showers wearing the biggest smirk imaginable while Harry held the shiny robes in reluctant, outstretched hands. “Yeah, you,” said Harry when Malfoy raised his eyebrows before pushing the door to the loo and disappearing with a quiet laugh.
After trying and failing for the hundredth time to remove the damned shiny strings, Harry went down to breakfast and joined the other eighth-years. He did not look up when the questioning looks came. Nor did he look up when they transformed into nervous giggles, and then full-blown laughter. He did look up, however, when Malfoy walked by to sit at the end of the table and began to fill his plate.
“New publicity stunt, Potter? I daresay it’s not a very good one,” Malfoy said, and Harry ignored him in favour of eating his eggs.
“Who did that to you, Harry?” Neville asked behind his hand. He was red-faced and chuckling out every breath.
“They won’t come off,” Harry said instead of answering. He gave the tinsel under his arm a good tug, but the shiny strings stayed put. Hermione took out her wand with a long-suffering sigh before casting several spells on Harry.
Nothing worked, to Hermione’s frustration (and perhaps a little bit of bruised pride).
Harry saw Malfoy look up, a wicked smile changing his face before he turned smugly to his plate. Harry shook his head at him, smirking despite himself. When he turned back to his plate, Hermione was staring at him. She had that look on her face, frustrated like she was attempting a difficult puzzle.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile at Malfoy before,” Ron said, startling both Harry and Hermione, who still looked like she was solving a riddle. Ron looked between Harry and Malfoy, then back at Hermione. “I feel distinctly uncomfortable, I just want you to know,” Ron added.
Harry asked Ron about Ginny’s new routine as Quidditch Captain, which changed the subject promptly, but even as Hermione tuned them out, Harry couldn’t beat the feeling that Ron was only indulging him.
Unfortunately, the spell only wore off once he reached The Corridor late that afternoon, but Harry was content to watch Malfoy doubt his sanity when Harry switched all of the book covers in the shelves.
“You complete arse!” Malfoy cried between frantically opening and closing books, looking for his latest obsession.
“I assure you, the feeling’s mutual!” laughed Harry, and he began to hang the rest of the Christmas bows.
He only had one book thrown at him in the end, so he called it a victory.
The pranks died down after that, leaving companionable afternoons spent decorating and reading as the winter sun shone through the many windows. Malfoy spent most of his time humming along to the music warbling out through the gramophone while reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame or some other Muggle novel from long ago. And Harry, well, Harry decorated and cleaned mostly, if he could manage any progress between watching Malfoy and swearing at him for sabotaging his decorating choices. Except now, Malfoy mostly allowed Harry his idiosyncratic artistic license. So, Harry mostly had himself to blame for not making a dent in his decorating, since he couldn’t outright blame Malfoy for being oddly fascinating. He was just so… pointy, and he bit at his nails when a scene in his book got particularly interesting, and half the time he wouldn’t wear shoes but would don thick, woolly socks and curl up in his nook in the window.
Harry wondered what it was like up there, since it was clearly so special. He wondered if he could decorate it, maybe as a last hurrah before they both ran out of motivation to bother one another and—heaven forbid—become actual friends. He’d been threatened out of using tinsel anymore, so he was running out of ideas.
Harry shook himself and turned to the pile of decorations, which had halved in size, even if Malfoy had likely Banished the decorations Harry’d been putting up for the last couple of weeks. It was bizarre to think they still had so much time left before Christmas. Harry found a wreath at the bottom of the pile, and although it wasn’t shiny, Harry sort of liked it. It was made of red berries, and it made him wistful for something he’d never had. Harry picked it up and took it to a patch of blank wall.
“Hey, Malfoy, what do you think of this wreath?” Harry called out, startling Malfoy from his perch in the window. There was a breathless moment where they both thought he was going to topple over and fall to his death—of the times Harry had saved him from absurd amounts of danger, for this to be the end—until Malfoy caught hold of the windowsill, knuckles white, and steadied himself again. They needed to put a railing up there, if this was to be a continual thing. Harry looked back at the wreath, picking a bit of fuzz from the berries and readjusting the bow. “Does this one make you want to be sick as much as the gold walls did?”
Draco glanced at the wreath that Harry was about to attach to the wall next to the fireplace.
“You’re a moron,” said Malfoy.
“Oh, thank you, I appreciate the input,” Harry shot back, feeling a little disappointed. He tried not to let his shoulders fall. Every now and then Harry forgot that their default conversations contained slurs and more violence than words. Not that it wasn’t comforting in a strange way, but sometimes…
Malfoy sighed, then. “Put the wreath over the hearth.” Harry stared at him for a moment. “Well?” said Malfoy. “You’re not helping your case just standing there with your mouth hanging open.”
Harry attached the wreath above the mantelpiece with a simple spell.
They both looked at it for a moment.
Then, Harry blurted, “I think it needs—”
“It does not need tinsel, Potter, for Merlin’s sake!”
Harry detected a bit of laughter in Malfoy’s voice. It was strange how used to it Harry had become. Harry continued to bother him with decorating advice until Malfoy abandoned his reading perch to sit in the armchair nearest to the hearth. He proceeded to boss Harry about, spouting out rules of interior decorating and shouting at Harry when he did something (deliberately) stupid.
If Harry enjoyed himself, he’d admit it only in the laugh lines on his face.
It was snowing outside the next time Harry saw Malfoy, who was wrapped up in so many layers he looked a stone heavier, with red ears and nose and a hat atop his head. He was reading, curled in the armchair furthest from the windows, and his foot tapped along to the orchestral music playing on the gramophone.
“Warm enough?” joked Harry as he made his way to the decorations pile.
“Not at all,” grumbled Malfoy through his scarf. “I feel like a hibernating bear.”
Harry snorted. “You look like a hibernating bear.”
Malfoy sighed and stretched, watching Harry comb through what was left of the surplus décor. “Well, at least I don’t look like an idiot.”
Harry worked quietly, listening to Malfoy’s humming along to the music, and then his eventual complaints about the school’s lack of heating systems. Harry got so used to the oddly comforting sounds that he didn’t realize that Malfoy was expecting him to respond.
“Hm, sorry?” Harry looked up from examining a smaller wreath, made from woven twigs.
“Can I say something?”
“Were you not saying something before?”
Malfoy closed his book and leaned back against the chair, watching Harry contemplatively.
“Why are you decorating?”
Harry looked down at the small wreath. “I think you know the answer to that one already.”
“Yes, I suppose you have to fix things.” Malfoy tapped a finger against his lips thoughtfully.
“Why don’t you want me to decorate?”
“Besides my hatred of your horrid taste?”
“Yeah,” Harry laughed. “Besides that.”
“It’s not just aesthetics, Potter. I don’t want to fix this room, because fixing it means covering up what it used to be. You understand?”
Harry furrowed his brow.
“You want it to be more like Hogwarts before the war, I assume, or at least underneath your wild enthusiasm for ribbons and ornaments and things you do. I want it…”
He trailed off, cheeks reddening a little bit, and Harry hoped he’d just say it.
“Change it if you must, but I want this place to have its own story. I want this place to be my own.”
“You mean our own,” Harry amended quietly. Malfoy glanced at Harry briefly, before adjusting his scarf around his neck. After too long of a silence, Harry blurted,
“I wonder if we’ve got a Weird Sisters album.”
Thankfully Harry was able to drown out the churning feeling in his stomach with a raucous rendition of the Weird Sisters’ hit “Mistletoe (Kiss Me I’m Drunk)” until Malfoy’s gaze turned into one of exasperated amusement instead of embarrassed curiosity.
Two days before the holidays, everyone was clearing off their desks in Professor McGonagall’s classroom as the bell chimed for next period. Harry, who’d sat between Lisa Turpin and Charlie Spencer at the back of the class (most of which he’d spent staring at the curling edges of Malfoy’s hair over his collar, because of course he’d sit at the front of the class) hung back when he noticed Malfoy hovering by McGonagall.
“Want to play a game of pick-up later, Harry?” Dean asked as he passed by. “We thought we’d go into Hogsmeade after for a pint.”
Harry waved him off, muttering about catching up on homework and otherwise being as noncommittal as possible when he was really just planning on heading to The Corridor, and would everyone just leave please so he could hear what Malfoy was saying?
“What an interesting concept, Mister Malfoy. You want to stain glass?”
“I know that a typical colouring spell won’t work. I need the glass to remain translucent.”
McGonagall explained the spell work to him until she noticed Harry was organizing his papers and had been for the last five minutes.
Harry, embarrassed, thankfully didn’t see Malfoy until they both arrived in The Corridor at the same time that afternoon. Malfoy carried a stack of Transfiguration books and Harry carried firewood he’d permanently borrowed from Hagrid.
“Long time, no see,” Harry joked awkwardly. There was a moment where he was sure Malfoy would call him out on his (albeit well-meant) spying earlier, but Malfoy just kicked the door open and commanded Harry aid him in staining the window panes up in the nook after Harry kindled a fire in the hearth.
“I just thought I’d inform you, Potter, that you sound like you’ve had one too many hits with a bludger when you misuse the English language like that.”
Harry was fairly certain that what he’d said was a common Muggle phrase, but he didn’t argue, choosing instead to ignite the dry wood in the fireplace and watch the flames lick at the bark.
The new warmth in the room was comforting, and Harry supposed he was not just thinking about the fireplace. Once Malfoy had coaxed him up the ladder, they both stood and realized that this nook really wasn’t meant for two people, if it was meant for anyone at all.
They ignored it for a while, Malfoy choosing to teach Harry the complex spell and Harry choosing to let him, before they’d bumped elbows twelve too many times.
“Well, this is cosy,” Malfoy muttered as he tapped a pane until the colour blossomed into a bright green.
“Yeah,” Harry croaked out.
“Is my closeness getting to you, Potter?” Malfoy asked around a smirk. Harry noticed him glance away from his work briefly, blonde eyebrow quirked.
Harry gathered himself. “It’s harder to pine when I’m so close. You’re the one who moons over my sprawling, perfect self, so…”
Malfoy’s cheeks heated. “Well, you’re the one who stalks me, so I believe I win this argument.” Harry spluttered out a protest, but Malfoy cut him off. “You’ve been doing it since sixth year. Don’t worry, I’ve got used to it.”
“Oh, shut it,” Harry elbowed Malfoy purposely that time.
Malfoy pushed back, and soon they were shoving each other, trying to disrupt the other’s work until Malfoy shouted, “Merlin’s pants—look what you’ve done!”
Harry leaned back to see what Malfoy was pointing to, and promptly stepped off the ledge.
There was a moment where Harry was falling, but Malfoy was shouting his name and had grabbed at his pullover in white-knuckled hands, and next thing Harry knew he was being scraped up and over the sill and into Malfoy’s lap until his head was right against a red window pane and he was looking up at Malfoy, who hadn’t let go, and was breathing harder than Harry was.
“You said my name,” Harry said dazedly, after watching Malfoy take a steadying breath, watching his grey eyes relax, until they were just two boys tangled up in a window sill.
“Yes, well,” Malfoy broke the silence. “Your last name got boring.”
“Does that mean I can call you Draco, then?”
Malfoy looked away, swallowed, and then looked back with a long-suffering sigh. “If you insist.”
“Thank you for bestowing the privilege on me, Draco,” Harry huffed out on a laugh, until he realized how much it hurt. He pulled up his shirt and poked at the large scrape over his stomach, pushing at his lower ribs just in case.
“Honestly, you die an epic death in May, and come back to life only to fall to your death while decorating for Christmas,” Draco said, eyes flicking over Harry’s stomach before he looked up at the window. “I was about to inform you that your windowpane up there looked more vomit brown than red. You took me by surprise by almost snuffing it off of a ten foot drop.”
“Looks like the glassblower had one hell of a night,” said Harry.
They laughed themselves breathlessly until Harry forgot the ache. And Harry couldn’t bring himself to be off put when their legs tangled up and their shoulders brushed as their laughter died down. Eventually all they could hear was the crackling of the hearth down below.
“Are you,” Harry began, and then pressed down on his stomach as he sat back against the opposite wall, facing Draco. “Are you staying over Christmas?”
Draco nodded. “I didn’t much fancy returning to the Manor. It’s not exactly a place to celebrate anymore.” Harry watched the sadness change into acceptance, all in Draco’s eyes. “I feel more at home here, anyway,” he admitted after a while. Harry supposed it went without saying that Harry felt the same way.
“Come on.” Harry rearranged himself so he could start back up on their task. “Let’s get these window panes done and then join the other eighth years at the Three Broomsticks.”
Draco looked taken aback at first, but joked rather warmly with Harry as they worked side by side until the sun was low in the sky.
Harry was searching through his drawers for a spare sock when he found the Jane Austen book, nestled between his dress socks and a stray pair of pants. He figured it was okay to give it back now, since he and Draco were on better terms. Harry even called him Draco in his head, and they’d managed to walk down to Hogsmeade without so much as an insult.
Well, an insult that either had taken personally. Harry didn’t think they’d ever get past the banter, but he couldn’t bring himself to care too much.
It was a week before Christmas, a Saturday, but Harry didn’t usually visit The Corridor on Saturday mornings in favour of getting a lie-in. But, for some reason, he hadn’t been able to sleep too much, even with the pleasantness of the butterbeer and firewhiskey in his stomach. Instead, he’d woken up before most of his roommates, and had decided on working in the library while thinking on last night’s pub run.
He’d forgone his Friday night study time to go to the pub, and hadn’t been disappointed. Even when the whole table of eighth years fell silent as Harry and Draco arrived together, Draco trailing a little behind Harry before taking a detour to the bar to get them drinks, all that anyone said (or that Hannah Abbott said, specifically) was a warm hello to them both. Things went smoothly from there, with talk of classes and memories and gossip and the future. And even though Harry was pressed up no closer to Draco in the booth than he had been in the windowsill earlier that day, he felt closer than ever to him, their shoulders brushing and once, even, Malfoy’s nose touching his ear as he whispered a little tipsily that he thought Terry Boot fancied the hell out of Anthony Goldstein.
Harry remembered laughter, seeing Draco for once unguarded in the company of their fellow eighth years, and he remembered wobbling back in a happy crowd, watching Draco’s hair blow about in the wind as they exchanged barbs and complained about their holiday assignments on the way back to their beds.
But now Harry’s plans would have to be changed, because he had the book, and Malfoy was off wandering somewhere. The next logical step was to return it. Wasn’t it?
After spreading the Marauder’s Map out on his bed, Harry set off for the edge of the lake.
He found Draco leaning against a tree near the shoreline, his expression pensive and his robes dark as the crows in the leafless branches above him. He was looking out at the half-frozen lake, puffing out clouds of air in long, relaxed breaths, but he was rubbing the knuckles of his gloved hands as if he were tamping down anxiety.
“Hey, Draco,” Harry said awkwardly, and Draco jumped.
“You really are stalking me,” Draco said automatically, but he seemed generally unperturbed by Harry’s presence. A crow cawed above them.
“Yeah, sorry, I just—I had something to return to you.” Harry crunched through the snow, pulling his hands reluctantly from his pockets to hold out the book when he’d reached the shade of the tree.
“You really had to return it right now, didn’t you? You’re not dressed at all for how bloody frigid it is.” Harry shrugged with a smile, grinning wider when all Draco said was a fond, “Idiot.”
Harry held out the book. Draco took it in his hands before reading the cover.
“You arse! I was looking for this one. You stole it from me, didn’t you?”
“Do I look like I read Jane Austen as a hobby?” Harry asked flatly. “Just say thank you. You couldn’t go through the Brontë sisters without reading at least one Austen book, anyway. Pride and Prejudice is her most famous, so good pick.”
Draco looked at him with just a hint of curiosity, but eventually let it slide, slipping the book into the pocket of his overcoat.
“Do you want my gloves?” Draco asked, and Harry was caught off guard. He looked down at his hands and realized he’d been rubbing them together.
“I have two pairs on. Here, just—” Draco took Harry’s hands and enclosed them in his own.
Harry cleared his throat when all Draco did was look at him and radiate heat into his fingers.
“Um, thanks, mate,” Harry mumbled.
“Thank you. For the book, I mean,” said Draco to their clasped hands.
“Yeah,” Harry croaked. “Not a problem. I forgot I’d picked it up when we ran into each other that time.” He stepped closer.
“I’ve read this one before. It’s what got me started, actually. I’d wanted to read it again.”
“Why all the Muggle novels?” Harry asked, and Draco looked up. They were much closer than Harry’d thought.
“It’s simpler,” Draco said quickly, and then amended, “but it’s also just… different. Newer.”
“And how about those dark and handsome heroes?” Harry joked, but he regretted it immediately when Draco’s eyes flicked to Harry’s lips.
What were they doing?
“I was surprised to enjoy your quaint little gathering in the pub last night,” Draco said after a moment.
Harry chuckled, cocking his head to the side. “Is that your way of saying ‘thanks for the drink’?”
Draco seemed to lean in, and Harry took a breath, hands squeezing into fists against Draco’s stomach and—
The crows went wild above them, and Harry cursed them fluently in his head as Draco backed away, shaking his head as if he’d been daydreaming.
Harry could almost feel lips on his as they backed away from one another. They’d been so close.
“I have to go. I realize I forgot to send a letter to my mother—I’ll… I’ll see you, Harry,” Draco said, and then he was trudging quickly up the path to the castle, leaving Harry with cold hands and warm cheeks.
“Fucking crows,” said Harry.
They didn’t talk to one another, or acknowledge one another, for quite a while. But Harry thought about talking to Draco. He thought about more than talking to Draco, but what he missed most was how it hadn’t been uncomfortable, before the… well, it hardly counted as a kiss.
Because he was avoiding The Corridor, Harry hung about in the mostly empty Common Room in front of the fire mostly, slumped in the armchair nearest the fire and cursing the existence of crows and his apparent inability to have normal relationships.
“All right, Harry, what the hell is wrong with you?” said a familiar voice.
Harry startled, and looked about to see Ron and Hermione on the couch opposite him. He’d honestly forgotten they were sitting there with him.
“I’m going to meet Mandy in the library for our Potions project,” Hermione said carefully, but the pointed look she gave Ron spoke volumes. Volumes along the lines of, ‘Fix this or I’ll fix you.’
Once Hermione’d crept out of the room leaving only the crackling of the fire behind, Ron sat forward in his spot on the couch, and looked Harry dead in the eye.
“Are you seeing someone?”
Harry sat up. “Uh—”
“Because if you are, you can tell me, Harry. You’re just—since winter hols started you’ve either been acting like Neville when his plants die or like a blast-ended screwt. I’ve noticed something’s up, Harry. And if I’ve noticed, then everyone and their pygmy puff has noticed.”
“Ron, it’s fine.”
“You’ve been sneaking off, for hours, all month. So, I know you’re going somewhere. You were happier for a while. And now you’re miserable and I’m going to be honest, mate, it’s miserable to be around.”
“Ron, for Merlin’s sake—”
“Are you seeing someone? Did you break up with them?”
“It’s just Malfoy, Ron. Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”
There was complete and utter silence. Not even the firewood would give Harry a break. Harry turned wide-eyed to the ceiling and cursed his existence.
“Harry,” Ron began slowly and with barely concealed horror, “what do you mean it’s ‘just Malfoy’?”
Harry could feel his face heating despite himself. “No, I don’t mean—shit, that’s really not what I’m trying to say.”
“Are you honestly telling me that you’ve been seeing Draco Malfoy for the past month?”
“No!” Harry shouted, and then, when his face couldn’t get any redder: “We barely even kissed.”
“Okay,” Ron said dazedly. “All right. Okay, okay.”
Harry watched Ron gather himself.
“Okay,” said Ron again.
“It’s weird, isn’t it?”
“All right. What do you mean by barely even kissed, then?”
“What? First day of hols, we almost kissed, and it was horrid, and I hate crows. Why do you want to know?”
“I told Hermione that I’d fix it and I will. Why didn’t you kiss him? Do you like him?”
Harry dropped his face into his hands. “Damn it, yes.”
Ron sighed, long-sufferingly. “Do you want to kiss him?”
“Did you try to kiss him and he pushed you away?”
Harry thought about it. “…No.”
“I don’t see what the problem is, then.” Ron sat back and folded his arms. “Besides the obvious fact that you fancy Malfoy. We’ll have talk about that later.”
“I don’t know that there’s anything to talk about anymore,” Harry said.
Ron ran his fingers through his hair, clearly exasperated. “Harry, I’m going to ask you something.”
Harry grunted into his hands.
“You know how I was in love with Hermione for ages? Yeah? And she was in love with me for ages?”
Harry looked at Ron through his fingers. “Yeah,” he admitted glumly.
“But neither of us talked about it for ages?”
“I’ll leave you with that thought,” said Ron, and he stomped away, wide-eyed, leaving Harry to that thought.
It still took him a while to work up the courage to go to The Corridor, but after a lengthy pep talk about his Gryffindor nature on Christmas Eve, Harry trudged up to the room and only hesitated a little before knocking the door open.
Draco was sitting on the couch facing a crackling fire, wearing a throw around his shoulders and resting an arm across his knees. Pride and Prejudice hung from his fingers as he stared into the fire. That is, until the door handle banged against the wall and drew his attention to Harry.
The speech Harry’d prepared flew out of his mind the moment Draco looked at him.
“Hi,” Harry said instead.
“You’re just in time,” Draco said. “Just finished my book.” He waved it in the air before tossing it into the chair across from him. He seemed to regret it after, though, as he began to wring his hands.
“Do they live happily ever after?” Harry asked, coming into the room and hovering by the couch. Draco just looked up at him, as if they hadn’t been avoiding one another. Well, as if Harry hadn’t been avoiding Draco.
“I’ve been avoiding you,” said Harry. It wasn’t at all what he meant.
“Yes, well,” Draco began. He picked at a loose thread on his trousers. “I figured as much.”
“I’m sorry, for what happened.”
Draco looked away from him, then. Could he say anything the right way?
“I mean,” Harry said, sitting gingerly on the edge of the couch. “I’m sorry that crows exist.”
That startled a laugh out of Draco, who looked incredulously at him, throw falling behind him as his shoulders shook.
“I didn’t stop coming here, you know,” Draco said after his laughter died down. “I wasn’t avoiding you, I just wasn’t sure what you wanted.”
“Yeah. I wasn’t sure what I wanted before—all that. And after I wasn’t sure what you wanted.”
“Well. This has all gone really well so far,” Draco said. “Really, bizarrely well.”
They looked at one another. Harry’s gaze kept flicking back to Draco’s grey eyes, even though he couldn’t quiet meet them. He chose instead to look at Draco’s hands. One of which lifted to rest on Harry’s knee.
“There aren’t crows here, I’ve noticed,” Harry said abruptly, and he met Draco’s eyes.
Harry felt Draco’s hand tighten its grip on his knee.
“There aren’t crows and I want to kiss you, if that’s alright.”
Draco nodded, even as Harry leaned in. There was a moment where their noses brushed, where Harry breathed in and reached forward, touching the side of Draco’s neck, and just as Draco’s breath hitched, Harry pressed his lips to Draco’s.
He was very much lost after that, especially when Draco’s hand slid up his thigh, and the other buried in his hair, angling him this way and that and Draco’s tongue was at his lips and Harry was leaning so far that he was on top of Draco, pressing into his stomach and cradling his head as they kissed, and kissed.
Harry’s lips were buzzing by the time they broke apart, and the sun was low in the sky, the stained glass from the window dotting the room in red and green. Harry lay with his head tucked under Draco’s chin and his hand on resting on Draco’s stomach. He felt unable to let go of him, and was planning how next he could get Draco to kiss him again.
“So,” said Draco, his voice gravelly from disuse. “What would your reaction be, if I were to suggest staying here until Christmas morning?”
Harry’s heart skipped in his chest, and he clung tighter to Draco. “It would be rather enthusiastic,” he replied, and gasped a little when Draco’s fingers teased at the small of his back, under his shirt. Draco pressed him closer.
They were quiet for a long while, and Harry got to thinking about the room, and how it had changed. How they had made it change. How they’d made it their own.
He couldn’t help but laugh a little to himself.
Harry giggled. “We sure made this room our own, if you catch my meaning.”
“I want to shove you off this couch right now, but you’re warm and I’m receiving quite a few benefits from your close proximity, so I will refrain.”
“How good of you,” murmured Harry.
“Indeed,” said Draco, leaning down and brushing his lips over Harry’s. “Indeed.”
Harry leaned up and returned the favour.