Length: 3200 words
Summary: With just three days left until Christmas, Draco's never found it so hard to keep a secret from Harry.
Author's Notes: Kisses to the little elves that beta read and kept me on track.
Draco kicked the door closed behind him, stomping the snow off of his boots as he made his way into the kitchen of the country home that he shared with Harry. They had to do something about getting someone out there to fix the Floo. Draco didn't care if it was just three days before Christmas; this Apparating to the end of the lane and walking the last quarter mile in the snow was ridiculous. Of course, none of this would have been necessary if Harry hadn't insisted on trying to fix the Floo himself.
Draco could vividly remember running into the kitchen, full of fear at the sound of an explosion that rocked the glass panes in the windows of his second floor office. He'd taken the stairs three at a time, skidding to a halt at the sight that met him in the kitchen. Dust and dark ash filled the air, gently settling on every surface. Harry was sitting against the wall opposite the hearth, covered in ash from head to toe. He had taken off his glasses, attempted to clean them on his shirt, blinking his bright green eyes and looking a bit stunned. Harry proceeded to very calmly tell Draco that he thought they should probably call someone out to look at the floo. Draco had been furious at the time, but before he could start shouting, the nervous laughter took over and soon they were both sitting on the ash-covered floor, clutching their sides as tears of mirth cleaned tracks down their cheeks. It was the kind of thing that Harry would be telling stories about for many Christmases to come.
Draco went over to the fire to thaw his fingers a bit. Satisfied that he wasn't going to be losing any digits to frostbite, Draco began rummaging through the basket where Hedwig dropped the post when nobody was home. He sifted through handfuls of colorful holiday cards from their friends, a few bills, and a couple of adverts. But what really made Draco pause was a simple folded parchment bearing the seal of the Ministry of Magic.
The cards and the bills were dropped back in the basket as Draco walked over to the kitchen table, dropping heavily into one of the chairs. He flipped the envelope over and over, trying to work up the nerve to open it. This- It looked official. It was from the Department of-
"Oh bugger me sideways."
Draco felt his skin crawling with the first prickling of a cold sweat. If this was what he thought it was, it could change everything. The future of everything that he and Harry had worked so hard to build for themselves was resting on a single sheet of parchment. Draco swallowed nervously, looking around the home that they shared while he found his nerve. Draco was sitting at their kitchen table made for two. Rubbing his hands over the smooth wooden finish, he thought of all the quiet mornings that him and Harry had started their days together, sharing their breakfast at this table. They'd fight over the Prophet and who got to read the Quidditch section first. Draco would steal drinks out of Harry's juice glass and then Harry would complain that Draco put too much sugar in his coffee when he tried to retaliate.
Draco was going to miss those mornings.
His eyes strayed to that hideous burgundy sofa in the front room and he couldn't help but picture him and Harry sitting on it together. Harry would be reading one of those Muggle mystery novels that he fancied and Draco would be going over paperwork from the office. He'd throw his feet up in Harry's lap and Harry would whine about Draco invading his space and push his feet back off again. They'd repeat this dance and on the third time, Harry would relent, roll his eyes, and rest his hand on Draco's ankles.
Their simple life together was like a dance, one that they both knew the steps to and danced them with practiced ease. Draco had grown quite attached to his simple life with Harry. The thought that one piece of paper had the power to bring everything about their comfortable existence together tumbling down around him, well, to be honest it scared the shite out of Draco. If he were honest with himself, he wasn't entirely sure that he could handle seeing it change.
Maybe he should wait for Harry to get home and they could read it together. After all, this affected both of them. But just then, the heavy silence is broken by footfalls running up the walk. In a panic, Draco stuffed the letter deep into the pocket of his coat and stood to put away the groceries just as Harry burst through the front door, stomping his boots and shaking the snow from his cloak, making loud and rather comical brrr-ing noises. His cheeks were flushed bright pink and droplets in his dark hair were sparkling where stray snowflakes had already begun to melt in the warmth from the fire. Harry had never looked more alive.
The growing sense of guilt threatened to tear Draco apart.
"Hey, you." Harry leaned in and kissed Draco's cheek as he brushed past him. The sharp cold of his lips on Draco's flushed skin made his shiver. Draco knew that he was expected to make some sort of protest at the cold lips, but he couldn't seem to find the right words.
"How was your day?"
"Um, it was good. I got the groceries."
"I see that. Are you going to help me put them away or should I just tell Molly that I couldn't make the pies for the family dinner because my husband let the milk spoil?"
"No, I got it." Draco put the letter to the back of his mind and pulled the milk out of the sack closest to him. "And where's your hat?" Draco asked, anxious to find some safe topic of conversation. "What's the point of owning a hat if you're just going to leave it at home? If you catch a fever, I'm still going to Molly's for dinner without you."
Harry chuckled and the conversation moved on, and Draco struggled to quiet the little voice inside his head screaming Liar!
Harry had always enjoyed the holiday build up more than Draco. Every year, he waited until the last minute before joining the mad rush to buy and wrap his gifts. Draco suspected that it was because Harry failed miserably at the art of subterfuge and couldn’t keep his gifts a secret for more than a few days. Harry also loved to take charge of decorating their home, while Draco sat back and shot the odd bit of tinsel into Harry's hair. Oh, Harry was quick to tease Draco about him not wanting to get sap on his hands from the tree or get dust in his nose from unpacking all the ornaments. But Draco saw how his face lit up as he levitated each bauble and bulb into place. As much as Harry favored the integration of Muggle and Wizarding lifestyles, Christmas decorating was always something from which he excluded the Muggle influence; instead favoring fairy lights and charmed icicles over the plastic decorations one could find in the Muggle shops.
Harry called it the one truly magical holiday and Draco couldn't help but think back on all the Christmases that Harry had spent at Hogwarts; his first real chance to celebrate the holiday.
Draco felt horrible keeping secrets from Harry, especially this close to Christmas. But he just didn't know where to begin. This wasn't the kind of thing that you just blurted out over breakfast. Draco could picture it in his head. So, Harry. I got a letter from the Ministry of Magic the other day. Pass the milk. No, this required careful thought and planning. If he could only-
"You're icicles are melting," Harry said without looking up from the box of glass bulbs whose purple color seemed to swirl like smoke in the breeze.
Draco stared dumbly at the branches of the evergreen tree that Harry had needed to charm just to get it to fit through the front door. "Sorry," he apologized, sending a more concentrated freezing charm at his dripping icicles. Draco had found himself increasingly distracted ever since he opened that envelope. Already today, he'd cut himself shaving – you weren't even supposed to be able to do that when you used the charm. And then he'd poured juice in his tea and then had to pretend that it was intended so as not to raise Harry's suspicion. Although, keeping Harry in the dark had turned out not to be as hard as Draco might have imagined. He was wrapped up in a blanket of pre-holiday bliss and was largely oblivious to Draco's state of distraction. Draco might have thought to have been insulted at the lack of Harry's attention, but really he welcomed the opportunity to put off the inevitable round of questioning Harry's notice would bring.
"Draco? Are you alright?"
"What?" Shit! "I'm fine." Think fast. "Why do you ask?"
"You seem a bit- I don't know- distracted, lately."
"Oh. That. Yeah, well-" Draco shook his head. "It's nothing, Harry."
Harry set aside the box of ornaments and came up behind Draco, wrapping his arms around him. "It's not nothing, Draco. I can tell. I'm not blind." Harry voice vibrated against Draco's neck and lulled him into a felling of security. "You can talk to me. You know that."
"I just-" Draco dropped his head. "I wouldn't know where to begin."
Harry sighed against Draco's shoulder. "What if I told you I already know."
"What?" Draco tried to turn around but Harry just tightened his arms around him.
"It's okay. I know you're uneasy about having Christmas dinner at Molly's tomorrow."
"Dinner? What? No, Harry. No that's okay. I don't mind."
"You've been on edge ever since I told you last night that I wanted to go."
"It's okay, Harry. Really." Draco's urge to reassure Harry fought with the desire to cling to such a ready excuse. "It's not like I've never had Christmas dinner at Molly's before."
"No, but this is the first time that you will since your mother died."
Draco froze. With all the stress of going behind Harry's back, he'd forgotten the one year anniversary of his mother's death. It didn't matter that he hadn't seen her in years. They had both made difficult choices a long time ago. Narcissa Malfoy chose to stand by her husband and follow through with their commitments to the Dark Lord. Draco had chosen Harry.
Draco drew a shaky breath. "Can we just not talk about this right now?" He closed his eyes and fought down the wave of emotion that accompanied the tightening of Harry's arms around his chest.
"Sure." Harry gave a quick kiss to Draco's cheek before releasing him. "If we finish up here, you can help me bake the pies for tomorrow's dinner."
Draco snickered. "I think you mean watch you bake the pies. I am not spending the rest of the holiday break picking chunks of dough out from under my finger nails again."
"Ponce," Harry tossed out affectionately.
"Git," Draco returned with a small smile.
Dinner at Molly Weasley's turned out to be a welcome distraction for Draco, for whom two days of constant worrying and insecurity was taking its toll. Although the woman had lost much in the last war, arguably as much in terms of family as Draco had, she had opened her heart and table to an extended family; finding more love and kindness for her family of "strays" than anyone had ever thought possible. After the passing of his grandmother, Neville Longbottom had made a habit of joining Molly for the holidays. He always gifted her with some new plant at the holidays and the front room of the Burrow was slowly filling itself with beautiful and exotic plants. Luna Lovegood had wandered in the Christmas that her father had disappeared, and a place had always been set for both him and Luna ever since. Without Fred around, Lee Jordan always accompanied George to the family dinners. And even though she had moved back to France after Bill's death, Fleur still brought their six year old daughter to her grandmother's for Christmas. Hermione had never quite been able to bring herself to do the same, though.
Draco had always insisted that he came to Molly's table as a guest of Harry's and not because the walls of Azkaban prevented him from supping with his own parents, and Molly had always played along. She always greeted him as a proper guest and saved her motherly hugs for times when no one was around to see.
"Harry!" Molly cried as they stepped out of the cold and into the warm embrace of cinnamon and cranberries and home. "I'd swear to Merlin that you've never stopped growing," she said as she wrapped her arms around Harry's neck and pulled him into a tight hug.
"You just won't admit that you're shrinking," Harry teased.
Molly released him with a smack on the arm. "Nonsense. Go hang up your coats and warm yourselves by the fire."
"I told you that our Floo wasn't working and that we'd be Apparating –"
"Posh. Now off with you." Molly shooed Harry from the kitchen and turned her attentions to Draco. "My dear; how do you put up with him?"
"It's a constant chore, Mrs. Weasley, I assure you." Draco clasped her hands and allowed Molly to kiss his cheek. "But if he's gained any weight, I lay the blame solely upon your fudges."
"Oh do stop it." Molly's smile softened. "I'm so very glad that you're joining us, Draco. I know that this Christmas must be hard for you."
"Thank you, but I'm alright. Truly. I'm just a little pre-occupied right now. That's all."
"Harry still keeping you up at nights?" Molly offered with a lascivious wink.
"Mrs. Weasley!" Draco gaped as color quickly rose to his cheeks.
"I'm teasing you, my boy." Molly took Draco by the arm and led him away from the door. "Let me fix you a hot cup of tea and one for Harry. You can take it to him and get out of my kitchen. I have a house full of people to cook for."
Molly Weasley's family might not be as large as it once was, but her table was just as full and her cooking just as wonderful. Draco let himself get lost into the jovial atmosphere; occasionally reaching into his pocket to check that his letter was still there. He'd touch it gently and think about Harry; wondering what would happen when Molly wasn't there to give him the family that he'd always wanted. This seemed to be the one thing that Draco was incapable of giving Harry; a proper family like this.
After dinner, Molly shooed everyone from the dining table except for Harry, the one person stubborn enough to stay to help clean up and the only one that Molly was absolutely incapable of saying 'No' to. Draco joined the crowd in the front room, but had trouble concentrating on Charlie's stories and soon he found his mind wandering. He slipped into the hall with the intention of making a half-hearted attempt at offering to clear the table. Molly would of course refuse, but it would give Draco an excuse to sit in the kitchen with a cup of tea and watch them work.
Draco could hear Harry and Molly conversing on the other side of the kitchen door, but he stopped short when he realized that they were talking about him.
"I just don't know what to do, Molly. He's getting more distant and I'm really not so sure that this is about his mother. Something's wrong. I know it. And I'm really getting worried."
"Now don't you be jumping to conclusions. This is a difficult time for Draco. His parents are gone now and you are all that he has left. He's not leaving you, Harry."
Draco hastened away from the door; guilt twisting his insides. He hadn't been aware of just how much he had been ignoring Harry lately; causing him to worry. Draco was essentially lying to him, even if it was a lie by omission. Firming his resolve, Draco went to retrieve his and Harry's coats from the closet. It was high time that Draco stopped the lying and just talked to Harry; before things between them could get any worse.
Harry paced nervously around their living room while Draco sat quietly on the sofa, watching the flickering of the fairy lights on the tree. He patted the cushions next to him. "Sit with me?"
"I'd rather stand, thank you."
"You're making me nervous," Draco huffed.
"Couldn't imagine what there might be to be nervous about."
"Will you just sit and talk to me for a moment? I have something I want to give you."
Harry stopped his pacing to stare dumbly at Draco. "You mean to tell me that you pulled me out of Christmas Eve at Molly's house just to exchange gifts early? Draco, could you have not done this at the Burrow and saved me worry?"
"It's not you Christmas gift, Harry. Or at least I don't think it is. I don't know." Draco was speaking fast as his anxiety rose. "Here," he said, pulling the letter out of his pocket and holding it out to Harry. "I didn't want to do this at Molly's because this is between you and me. And I wasn't sure how you were going to take it."
Harry took the letter and Draco clasped is hands in his lap to avoid biting his nails. He closed his eyes as Harry unfolded the parchment, holding his breath as Harry read it. It felt like forever before Harry finally broke the silence.
Draco looked up to see Harry's eyes wide with confusion or fear or hope or a whole host of emotions that Draco couldn't read.
"Is this real?"
"Yeah," Draco breathed. "I didn't –" he swallowed hard, buying himself time to find the right words. "I thought that maybe this was what you wanted, but I wasn't sure. I had to try and – Is this okay?"
Harry dropped the letter onto the floor and pulled Draco up and into a crushing embrace. "Oh Draco," he sobbed. "This is wonderful. Thank you."
Draco closed his eyes and held onto Harry for all that he was worth. "Happy Christmas, Harry."
Ministry of Magic
After review of all application materials, it is with great pleasure that I inform you that your request for adoption privileges has been granted. I will be contacting you after the first of the year to set up an appointment for you and your partner to come in and begin filling out the necessary paperwork.
Congratulations and have a wonderful holiday.
Secretary of Adoption Placements
Department of Family Services
Ministry of Magic