Word count: 17,689
Gift for: gauriel (tis very long, love! I hope you don't mind)
Summary: Harry's Christmas isn't shaping up the way he'd imagined it would.
Disclaimer: The HP characters don't belong to me and I don't make any money off of them.
Part Two: Business As Usual
Harry stayed in his house for the next two days, tending to his plants and just generally not thinking about much of anything for as long as he could manage, which was why he did not see the papers until the third day, when he finally went into the spare room to check on the growing pile of post he'd tossed there over the last few days.
The first thing that he saw, over breakfast, third page, top left-hand corner, was:
Potter: Playboy's Pick for Pet?
Harry Potter, saviour of wizards and witches everywhere, was seen by incontestable sources leaving a recent elite gathering at the Malfoy Manor in Corinth, Greece, with none other than the lord of the manor himself. Speculations about the true nature of their obvious relationship abound…
It warranted an eye-roll: Nothing new for Witch Weekly, though it did leave a bit of a pang in his gut. He wished they had actually had such a relationship to speak of. It was the first he'd allowed himself to really remember that weekend's disastrous beginnings. Much easier to repress it. Harry waited, but the feeling didn't balloon into anything larger or more painful, and if this was all he was going to suffer through, then it mightn't turn out so badly after all. He'd been meaning to cancel his subscription to Witch Weekly anyway. The Daily Prophet was much more--
Harry Potter, Good Boy or Gold-Digger?
…The defeater of He Who Must Not Be Named has never been short on funds, but with all of Draco Malfoy's millions added to the mix, it's not hard to imagine our Boy Wonder wishing to make something more out of their “acquaintanceship.”
Harry's toast fell out of his mouth and onto his plate.
He grabbed the Prophet up. Read on about marriageable assets and scandalous public behavior and other swanky boyfriends hidden in numerous manors and the least likely couple to ever make the one-year mark, wagers being taken at the Leaky Cauldron starting today. Wished he hadn't read on at all.
It had just been easier to ignore the slim possibility of an owl from Malfoy after Friday night's fiasco, but now Harry hastened through his stack of mail, peering at each envelope. And indeed, there was one with the Malfoy Crest. It just… wasn't what Harry had expected.
The Estate of D. Malfoy: Making Elegance Our Business
Harry read it again. Perhaps it was just Draco's normal moniker, one he automatically put on everything. Harry wouldn't know; he'd never received anything from Draco Malfoy, save the occasional party invitation. He opened the envelope with unsteady fingers and pulled out a crisp sheet of parchment.
To Mr Harry Potter:
The Estate of D. Malfoy would like to convey its sincerest wishes for your continued health and well-being. During this most hectic of seasons, it is important to attend to business and keep one's head firmly upon one's shoulders.
In light of recent media coverage, we respectfully ask that you refrain from corroborating any and all allegations concerning Mr Malfoy.
We thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Should you have any final questions, a return notice would be appropriate.
J & J Boothby-Martin
It should have been impossible to feel so useless.
Only then did it all come back: fingers on his skin, a body hot and full of movement against his, an all-too-talented, all-too-enjoyable tongue in his mouth. On his neck. Laving his chest.
Harry grimaced at the tight feeling in his throat. He blinked rapidly. It hadn't been a promise of anything more, despite what his wayward imagination had come up with in the heat of lust and alcohol haze; there was no use crying over spilt pumpkin juice.
But for some reason, he wanted to.
* * *
The options were, of course, another day wrapped in his own bed-sheets (which smelled like himself, thank you very much), practicing his skills in moping, or a day wrapped in obscurity charms, practicing his skills in pretending to be a normal person. And, as Harry had promised himself to forgo the pleasures of moping back when he was still a child in the eyes of the law, he broke out his wand, layered four spells that would have made Minerva McGonagall applaud heartily, and found himself in Diagon Alley outside the new Muggle-style antiquity soda fountain shoppe, sipping a lime ricky and enjoying the sting of wintry air on his cheeks. Across the way, Florian Fortescue swept out his near-empty patio on arthritic legs, and it was just Harry's luck that the ice cream connoisseur kept winking his good eye at him as if he could see straight through his spells.
It was also just Harry's luck that the Owl Emporium's doors should fly open right down the street, releasing twenty joyous avian escapees, three screeching customers, and one extremely flustered salesgirl. It was just Harry's luck that the calamity cleared the street directly in front of him in two seconds flat.
And it was just Harry's luck that the next person to step out of the nearest side street, resplendent in voluptuous black velvet and the longest silver scarf Harry had ever seen, was Draco Malfoy.
Harry's first instinct was to duck under the table, taking his lime ricky with him. His second instinct - the one he usually followed these days - was that such an action would look incredibly stupid. Draco was immaculate, each shining hair perfectly in place to catch the rays of the sun. His robes hugged his tall frame with a fervor reminiscent of more money than any normal person possessed, and his profile looked chiseled and elf-like in the narrow light.
Gods, but he was gorgeous. Harry's heart ached. And the gorgeousness didn't stop there, he knew: no, it went on and on, over honed muscle and long, lean legs, sinuous arms, fragile-looking hands, arched throat and painfully precise jaw. Full, soft, incredibly kissable lips, deep-sea eyes, and spider-silk hair.
Harry got up slowly. He couldn't resist. And it didn't really seem so stupid now, not with Draco Malfoy practically within arm's reach again. It was all a big mistake, surely. Draco's owls had gotten lost, or he'd been too caught up in a business emergency, or something, and Harry decided to walk over and say hello.
Draco looked back over his shoulder down the alley he's just left, lips curved slightly, and then… oh.
A leggy blonde stepped into the street alongside Draco, one carefully manicured hand extended to perch daintily in his grasp. She laughed and cocked her head coquettishly, and Harry blinked.
Not just Tracey Davis. A very lovely, very curvy Tracey Davis. Harry watched as she leaned in, settling her other hand on Draco's shoulder, and murmured something. Draco smiled back and bent, kissing the slender hand he held.
Harry shut his eyes.
Of course. He'd been very much the fool, hadn't he? He shook his head hard. Perhaps Friday night had just been the tipping point, and it had simply been too long since Draco had been properly “seen to.” Perhaps Draco Malfoy wasn't even gay after all, but bisexual. And Tracey was an old friend already, straight out of Slytherin House, and why hadn't Harry paid more attention to the most recent threads of rumour instead of pretending like they didn't exist? If he had just given them a chance this time, he might have known more about what he was getting into.
Draco Malfoy scuttled through the Wizarding world like a Skrewt, blasting everything in his wake and leaving devastation behind. He always had.
Draco said something Harry couldn't make out, and Tracey Davis turned on her expensive-looking heel there in front of Flourish and Blott's and took Draco's other hand, laughing. They looked as if they were dancing, a carefree twirl in the middle of the street in costly robes and a burnished, fitted business suit where Tracey was concerned. Draco's face had a tired look about it; his eyes seemed a bit more hollow. Harry pictured what he might have been doing in his bed that kept him awake instead of asleep, and felt a little bit sick.
Oh, hells. He should never have let this sneak up on him, as if it hadn't already been obvious in the first place. Flinky and… Bulper, was it? Popping in and out of their vicinity with nary a blink or a surprised yelp at Harry's various states of undress. Or at Draco's, for that matter. As if it were commonplace to see a man - or woman - swooning nakedly in their master's arms, or stretched nakedly across their master's lavish bed.
How many others had they seen? How many other people did Draco Malfoy take to his bed? Or, now that he thought about it, to the other similar rooms in the other manors around the world? Merlin, Flinky had even been ready with a contingency plan including tea for when Draco left.
And at first, Draco had been perfectly content to let his business associates wait indefinitely in the lower regions of the manor while he dallied about upstairs with Harry.
It was a foolish thought born of baser emotions, but Harry couldn't help it: he wondered if Draco had had anyone else waiting for his attentions in his manor that night. In one of the empty wings.
Draco Malfoy stood not five yards from where Harry sat, and the crowd began to grow again as the owls were rounded up and the harried customers mollified. His face had gone serious at some point during Harry's uncomfortable reminiscing, and now he was speaking quietly to his lovely companion. The edges of his mouth were turned down in a grimace. Almost… sorrowful, if Harry had to put a name on it. The blond man gestured listlessly with one hand as he spoke, and for a moment, the sadness of the tableau grew.
Harry watched as Tracey's pretty face sobered, grew tender, and then grew much too close to Draco's. A shard of something bucked in Harry's chest as the blond man nodded, bending his head to Tracey's. Their noses were nearly touching. Draco nodded again.
Harry looked away.
Served him right for letting his guard down. It had been so solidly in place for years; it just figured it had to drop sometime. But he would have rather it had dropped during a less compromising situation. Heartache aside, Harry didn't think he would ever get over having unwittingly shown his bits to Malfoy's house elf.
Eventually Tracey Davis said something that raised Malfoy into higher spirits. They crossed the cobblestone street together, oblivious to the various veiled stares directed Malfoy's way by wizards and witches alike. Harry sighed anew, suddenly remembering the “news” articles all over again.
He waited until the couple had been lost in the bustle of shoppers before leaving his table and threading his way across the street himself. Harry made for the ice cream parlor and pushed the door open, setting off the merry tinkling of a small bell. The shop was bright and empty, and Harry exhaled and made his way to the counter.
“Florian? I need ice cream.”
Florian Fortescue smiled genially at him from the other side of the counter, leaning against it easily. He didn't even bother to pretend he didn't recognize Harry through the spells. Florian was just one of those people. His post-war eye patch barely hid the crinkling around the corners of his covered eye. “I'd wager you need more than that,” he said with a pitying sigh. “What would you like, Harry?”
“Lemon Lip-Slicker will do.”
“Mm, we're out.” Florian squinted at him.
Harry eyed the very full tub of Lemon Lip-Slicker right beneath his nose, and then eyed Florian. “Out, you say.”
Harry narrowed his eyes. “Pumpkin brittle, then.”
Florian clucked his tongue. “Oh, no. You don't want that. Gone bad, it has.”
Harry raised an eyebrow, suddenly very weary. “Right, and what do I want then?”
“Valerian Chocolate.” Florian grinned, looking quite a bit like a pirate. “Won't have a care in your head after a scoop of that.”
Harry fought down the smile that tugged at his mouth. “Fine. Valerian Chocolate.”
Florian gave him two scoops on a Sugar-Crisp cone. “That'll be… well, wouldn't you know it: free.”
Harry rolled his eyes.
* * *
When an owl bearing a letter from Draco Malfoy himself finally showed up the following day, Harry set the missive aside unopened.
He did the same the day after, and the day after that.
* * *
“…and then, Harry, my Da says that if I want to be in Ravenclaw, I have to answer the Sorting Hat's riddle. Do you know any Ravenclaws? Da says he thought for sure you'd be a Ravenclaw because, well, I can't remember why, but he says you're a shoe inn. What's a shoe inn, Harry? I went to a beach inn once, with Auntie Mimi. She's the one who doesn't like Quidditch. She told me broomsticks were--”
Once upon a time, Harry had felt like a real arse for tuning out Edwin Dunsbury. Until the day he realised that Edwin Dunsbury didn't really need anyone to listen to him in order to keep talking. Almost-eleven-year-olds were like that, apparently. Harry wasn't sure; he only knew one, nowadays.
He nodded absently and waved down his two future Chasers. “Delilah, Evaline. Bring it in, that Quaffle's dented.”
“They're all dented, Harry!” Delilah de Vayne called back. She was the oldest at twelve. Evaline Markham snorted out of her pretty little seven-year-old pug nose, tossed the ball to herself, hit her own forehead, and let out a shriek.
“…and I said, but I've always wanted this broom, and you can't have it, not even to give to your gnomes. What would gnomes do with a Comet Two Sixty anyway? Probably eat it. Wouldn't they eat it, Harry? Da says they ate Auntie's stole once, because it looked like a rooster with a ribboned bum. I told Auntie that and wowee, you should have seen her face, it went all purple--”
“Yes, Edwin, that's nice.” Harry shielded his eyes. “Have you seen Shannon?”
“--but I didn't really hear what Alyssa said back, and she's only a big sister after all. I've got three, anyway. But she's in Gryffindor, and she wants to paint her room at home bright red, but Da won't let her, mostly because last week she wanted it to be orange, and the week before that, she wanted pixies with yellow clouds--”
WOOSHSWIPECLAAAAAANG. “Owwww, you bloody git!”
Harry rubbed his face with one hand. “Language, Shannon! One lap around the pitch, without your broom! And bring that Bludger back here before I show you what an officially charmed one can do!” He reached out and grabbed the second broom that was in the process of swishing by him, twisted his fingers tightly into the tail, and yanked it back, pulling a sheepish looking girl with long dark hair and bottle-glasses along with it. “Amita Jodhpuri, am I going to have to bench you today?”
Mita, nine, blushed and fiddled with her pink hair-tie. “Oh, Harry, no, please, please, no, please, I didn't mean to, but Shannon said I liked Portree best, and he's a liar!”
“First off, there's nothing wrong with Portree. Second, you know the rules: no throwing Bludgers, especially near the goal posts. Put your broom down and run a lap.”
“...my sis had to run a lap once, carrying her broom over her head! And once she got hit in the face with a Bludger, and that's when Auntie said Nosireewilliamdunsburyyou'rethefather, and then I didn't get to play for a whole week!”
There was an insistent tug on Harry's trouser leg. He looked down and found Genessa Wembley, the baby of the group at five, dragging her too-large broom across the lawn behind her and yanking on his trousers, large eyes wide.
“Harry, there's a man here,” she whispered, cupping a chubby hand around her mouth.
Harry bent down. “A man, Nessa?”
She nodded, head bobbing furiously, sending her loppy golden curls flying. “A strange man. He's old.”
Harry glanced up at the stands, but couldn't see anyone. “How old?”
“Old like you,” she replied in a stately tone. “Really old. At least fifty.”
Harry rolled his eyes and lifted Genessa and her broom off the ground and into his arms. His shoulders gave a nasty twinge and Harry winced, then settled the little girl properly and willed the aches away. A curse he'd taken to the spine during the war hadn't quite agreed with him - as if any of it had. But today was cold and wet, and really, Harry was too young to be predicting rain with his shoulders.
It felt like a bloody thunderclap had smacked him into the dirt, though, when he turned around, Genessa on his hip and Edwin prattling along behind, and saw the really old wizard on the outskirts of the pitch.
With really old blond hair.
“…so I threw it at her new dress and she, ooh, Harry, Harry, do you know who that is? Wow, I know who that is, that's Draco Looshus Malfoy, isn't it, Harry? Isn't it?”
“It certainly is,” Harry said with a sigh. He wondered how long he could get away with ignoring his visitor before Shannon and Evaline started yelling about the 'weird bloke on the pitch.' Probably about three seconds. They wouldn't even get a proper warm-up finished.
“Well, well, Harry,” Malfoy said with a smirk. He nodded his head at Harry's gaggle of two ducklings and slid expensively gloved hands into his pockets. “I'd heard you were teaching Quidditch, but I'd no idea you had such skill with the younger ages.”
“Yes, well, there's a lot you don't know about me,” Harry said shortly. Draco raised an eyebrow, and then frowned.
“Harry, why is that little girl wiggling her eyebrows at me?”
Genessa took her thumb out of her mouth. “Are you fifty?”
Harry set Genessa, wiggling eyebrows and all, down on the ground. “What are you doing here?”
Draco shrugged elegantly, looking just as scrumptious and unavailable as he had in Diagon Alley. “Thought I'd pay you a visit. Seeing as my owls seem to be losing their letters.”
Edwin piped up suddenly. “I have a Wizarding trading card of you. It's green and silver, and you have a sack of gold and a snake, and a big, huge house behind you, with golden pillars--”
“That'll be the one in Prague,” Draco said smugly, eyeing Harry.
“--and you're frowning, and it's worth twenty whole Galleons!”
Malfoy's face hardened. “Only twenty,” he muttered. “Have to fire my PR agent.”
“--and I have Harry's too, and his is red and gold and has a broom and a wand, and he signed it, so now it's worth forty--”
“Oy, Harry, who's that?” Shannon Shornberg ran up, bringing not one, not two, but all three of the others with him, by broom or by foot. “Hey. You're rich, aren't you?”
“I should bloody well hope so,” Draco said flatly.
Shannon screwed up his freckly face. “Language. Harry'll make you run a lap.”
“Oh, that's what I'm counting on,” Draco breezed. Harry blushed. Evaline leaned on her broom handle, squinted hard at Draco for a moment, and then her eyes opened wide and she pointed a finger at him.
“My mum was talking about you,” she announced.
Draco's smirk edged into a sneer. “Was she?”
“Oh, yeah. Both of you, actually. She likes you mostly, except now she says what a shame, what a shame. Shame and a waste, and what are all the women to do now that it's all out in the open? Oh, I almost forgot!” Evaline turned abruptly and poked Harry in the side, blinking up at him. “Mum says you dig for gold. Do you, Harry? I like to dig, too.”
Harry nearly choked on his own tongue. He leaned down and pried Genessa's hands off her face, where she was twisting her nose and ears into interesting shapes for Draco's benefit. “Look, we have practice, Dra--Malfoy. So we'll just…”
“Oh, certainly. Nothing quite like a good game of Quidditch.” Malfoy smiled innocently at Harry. “Incidentally, I've been meaning to ask you about that Quidditch game last weekend. The one that never quite finished. You remember.”
Harry barely kept his jaw from dropping. He glared at Draco, and Mita glanced back and forth between them interestedly. “It never finished? What did they do, call a stalemate?”
“Oh, someone did,” Draco said in far too salacious a tone for Harry's liking. “I had some business to see to, and by the time I got back to my… box, wouldn't you know it, there was no one there.”
“I think someone dropped his Quaffle at an inopportune moment,” Harry muttered. Draco's eyes narrowed.
“Yeah, but that wouldn't stop a game,” Shannon broke in. “They'd just pick it up and start throwing it around again.”
“Yes, you'd think that, wouldn't you?” Draco answered brightly. “That's how I've always played. Seems the other player mixed up the game play for the evening. Honestly, athletes these days.”
Harry gritted his teeth. “Maybe if the first player had just played fair in the first place, the second player wouldn't have fumbled the ball.”
“If I remember correctly, the second player was handling the ball just right. Player One was certainly in good hands.” Draco's eyes glimmered playfully.
Harry caught movement out of the corner of his eye and found Delilah's gaze tracking back and forth between the two of them, a tiny, mischievous smile quirking her lips.
Curse Merlin for coming up with clever twelve-year-olds.
“Um, Malfoy.” Harry drew a steadying breath. “Perhaps we can discuss this later?”
“Ah, at the manor then.”
Harry felt the corner he'd backed into as if it were an impenetrable wall. “Yes,” he agreed grudgingly, hoping that the vagueness of the date would give him a loophole later.
“Then it's settled.” Draco smiled winningly. He spread his hands wide and took a small bow. “I'll leave you to your delightful pastime. Children.”
He nodded to them, turned, and departed with easy, graceful steps across the grass, his black cloak swishing behind him.
“Ooh, Harry, can he sign my card? If I brought it next week? Maybe he could sign it! It's my favourite card, I just love the nefarious ones, that's what Auntie calls them--”
Harry sighed, watching the blond man grow further and further away again. When he finally looked back at the kids, however, it was in the wrong direction: Delilah was staring straight at him, a crafty little grin on her face.
“You like him,” she said, snickering.
Harry glared at her. “What? I do not. He's Draco Malfoy.”
She nodded decisively. “That's why you like him.”
* * *
After that, it seemed Draco Malfoy went with everything, like milk went with cookies.
Draco Malfoy and Gringotts. Draco Malfoy and fundraisers. Draco Malfoy and holiday luncheons. And it was impossible for Harry to chalk it up to his overactive imagination anymore when Draco Malfoy actually showed up to one of Harry's kids' pick-up Quidditch games in the pouring rain, an entire entourage of media witches and wizards following in his wake.
Harry had never gotten so many wicked grins in his life. And only half of them came from Draco Malfoy.
“Honestly, Hermione, he's everywhere! I'd think he was stalking me, except he'd consider it a waste of his superior intellect.”
Hermione's head appeared in the open Floo connection. She had tinsel in her hair. “Well, Harry, isn't he pretty much everywhere on a usual basis? He is Malfoy, after all, dark lord of all that is magically corporate.”
Harry rolled his eyes as her head left the fireplace. He could hear her walking through the house. Tinny Christmas music warbled in the background. “Oh, come on, Hermione, even you can't explain away the Quidditch thing. He bloody well replaced all the kids' Quidditch gear!”
“Language, Harry,” Hermione called from somewhere in her living room. Harry cringed as he heard her two sons begin to sing “bloody well, bloody well, bloody well” in squeaky voices.
He could still remember his conversation with Malfoy. The first of two times he'd Flooed the man, and Harry had been careful to only use his head, just in case his body should get back into the manor and decide to handle things itself in a slightly less formal way involving the couch and a distinct lack of clothing.
You didn't have to do that, he'd gritted out. We're not destitute, you know.
Draco's eyebrow had gone up yet again. Oh, please, Potter. Your Quaffle was dented.
Hermione's head came back into the hearth, the green flames licking about her chin. “Maybe he's trying to buy you off,” she said, snickering in a very disturbing way for a language-conscious mother.
Harry sighed. “That's exactly what I think he's doing, though, Hermione. He asked when I was coming back over!”
Hermione's eyes widened. “When you asked about the Quidditch equipment?”
“Yes!” Harry strode about his own tiny living room, waving his hands in the air, and almost ran into his equally tiny Christmas tree. “Can't even believe he had the nerve! As if I'd drop everything and just fall through the fireplace into his arms.”
“No, sounds like you did that two weekends ago.”
Harry glared at her. “You know, if you're going to be flippant--”
She withdrew her head. “No, no, sorry, Harry. I just think maybe he likes you is all. And it's obvious where you stand on the matter, so--”
“Hermione, he paid off the newspapers!” It had been most unusual, seeing a column addressed specifically to him the previous morning in the Prophet. It had also been most unusual to have reporters groveling at his feet via newsprint. But what had been even worse was when Witch Weekly had run the same article, plus a photo of fifteen kowtowing reporters alongside it. “They sounded like they were positively in fear for their lives!”
Hermione's tittering could be heard yet again. “Well. I certainly would be.”
And hadn't that conversation been fun?
You really are something, Malfoy.
I'm glad you think so, Harry.
You can't just buy out Witch Weekly and the Prophet! Harry'd exploded.
Draco had given him a bewildered look from his comfortable perch in his high-backed armchair. Of course I can, Potter. I bought out all the others.
Harry had glared. The papers are supposed to be the voice of free speech. Not the voice of Draco Malfoy!
I really don't see what the ruckus is about. You never liked reporters, Harry.
Malfoy, it's the bloody principle of the thing! This is a democracy. You can't just… Harry gestured frantically. …own the media!
Draco shrugged and popped the slice of cheese he was fingering into his mouth. Well, why not? They wrote all that tripe about you.
Harry's teeth had been doing a lot of grinding lately, and that moment was no exception, partially because he was angry, and partially because it was very unfair that even Draco Malfoy chewing could turn him on. You used to revel in that, you know.
Draco's face took on a dreamy smile. Well, back then it was actually good tripe. It's not even creative anymore. And it obviously bothers you, I mean, look at the way you're carrying on.
Harry's ears heated, and it wasn't from the fire. I'm so sorry my gossip columns aren't good reading anymore, Malfoy. Bugger off.
Draco stared at him, genuinely curious. Oh, Harry, look, I still laugh over it from time to time, if that makes you feel any better. Now, do you have the evening free? It's rather dead over here.
“So he invited you over again.” Hermione's voice sounded thoughtful.
“Ordered me over is more like it.” Harry flumped down on his couch again, trying to get his fists to unclench.
“Well, you did promise him dinner.”
“Hermione, aren't you even the least bit indignant on my behalf that he only wants me when his work isn't getting in the way?”
“Oh, Harry, he only wants everyone when his work isn't getting in the way. You were expecting something different? Besides. I say if he's offering, maybe you should just take what he's got for a night. After all, he's not bad looking, and it will help you work off some stress. Who knows? You might enjoy yourself.”
“Might?” Harry rubbed his face. “Hermione, if I 'enjoy it for a night,' I might not ever be able to come back.”
“That good in bed, is he?”
“Hermione Granger-Weasley, may I remind you that you have children under the age of six in the room with you?”
“Oh, they've gone off to throw tinsel all over the kitchen. Ron's supervising. Ought to take at least an hour, and then another to clean up. That reminds me: You're still planning on coming to supper Christmas Day, aren't you?”
Harry sighed. Thought about his empty little apartment and his forlorn little Christmas tree that was currently twinkling yellow, pink, and green at him. “Yeah. Thank you for the invite.”
“Harry, you're family. We're always glad to have you. And you can tell me all about dinner with Draco. And afterward.”
“I'm getting you gay pornography for Christmas, Hermione, see if I don't. Then you can explain it to Ron.”
“It'll only phase him for a second,” Hermione called across the Floo. “The boys don't give us any privacy at all. It doesn't take much to get Ron in the mood these days.” There was a crash, and Hermione's voice came again. “Whoops, that'll be the light fixture over the stove. And… that'll be Ron screeching at the spider that lives inside it.”
Harry couldn't help smiling. But only for an instant; there were far too many dour things in his future to allow for more. “Hermione, I just…” It felt a little weird to be voicing these particular fears to her, but she had always gone out on a limb for him in the past. Harry took a breath. “I'm not the type to have a different partner every night. I've never been. I don't know if I can deal with it if he… Well, if he isn't in this for… well, the long haul.”
That just sounded stupid, didn't it? What were they, twitterpated teenagers? And when had it even been about a long haul, or a short haul, for that matter? Just one night. Without interruptions. He'd started out wanting that, and it would still have to suffice.
There was a scuffle, some muted yelling, then footsteps, echoing through the charm Hermione had used to keep the connection open. Her head appeared in the flames again. “Sorry, Harry, had to leave the room. What were you saying?”
Harry smiled weakly at her. “Nothing. Not important.”
“Look, just go. If you don't, you'll spend the rest of your life wondering. I know you. Just be home in time for dinner Christmas Day.” She grinned at him. “Now, I've got to go. The boys have abandoned the kitchen in favour of the bathroom.”
An exchanged farewell, and Hermione's Floo line winked shut. Harry sat there on the couch in the sudden quiet of his flat. The little tree blinked in the corner, and the red and green garlands he'd hung over the door frames looked lonely and brassy.
Harry heaved a sigh. Well. It would be better than spending another Christmas Eve alone, regardless of what came after. Wouldn't it?
* * *
The floating candles had been lit, the manor's dining room was all decked out in twinkling, iridescent globes, and there were singing wood nymphs in the massive pine tree by the roaring hearth. It wasn't Christmas Eve, but Harry figured the eve before Christmas Eve wasn't such a bad substitute. It seemed Malfoy's most lavish suppers were not confined to holidays, anyway. Harry allowed himself another bite of the seasoned lobster, but kept his hand well away from the Sauvignon Blanc at his left elbow.
No need to make things even more complicated for himself.
Draco Malfoy leaned back in his chair across the table, crossing one leg over the other, and swirled his wine flute gently. Just behind him, one of the large, frosted windows showed darkness and crystalline flecks of falling snow. The air outside had held the fresh scent of ice; inside, a blanket of warmth caressed Harry's face and shoulders.
Not that he was getting comfortable or anything.
And there was that patented, lethal Malfoy smile again. “You've been awfully quiet tonight.”
Harry shrugged. Toyed with his fork. Malfoy had a point. It wasn't as if Harry didn't have anything to say. There was plenty: house elves and expendable Galleons and familiar young women who shouldn't be hanging on the arm of a man who professed to be gay and house elves and newspaper articles and house elves.
“Nice weather we're having, yeah?” Harry finally said, in brilliant fashion.
Malfoy smirked. “All the more reason to stay cosy warm inside. Preferably bundled up in bed.”
And not alone. Harry would have had to be stupid not to understand the double entendre, and his current role in making it happen. Malfoy had never made any effort to hide that kind of suggestion, after all.
The question was, could Harry bundle himself up in Malfoy, and in Malfoy's bed, and not have it spiral out of his control again?
“I have to admit,” Malfoy said genially, “I was afraid you wouldn't come over tonight. You've been rather difficult to catch up with.”
Harry blinked. “You've been trying to catch up with me?”
Malfoy lowered his gaze at him, as if inspecting a piece of troublesome potions equipment. “Well, yes. We had unfinished business, if you'll recall.”
Harry blushed and looked away. “I… Well.”
His host smirked at him. “I'm glad you came though. This past month has been appallingly busy. But I've finally managed a free night.”
Something new spilled into Harry's consciousness, and it wasn't embarrassment, even though that was definitely there: No, this felt more like anger. And anger felt refreshing.
“So you invited me over.”
Malfoy cocked his head at him, smiling gamely. “Well, honestly, Harry. I do like to keep some things uninterrupted.”
Harry swallowed and met Malfoy's eyes, frowning. “Really. I don't remember that all too well on Friday.”
Malfoy's brow creased quizzically, and then he let out a laugh. Harry wanted to kick him. Still the quintessential paragon of confidence, even when the topic was dropping out of the range of Cheerful and into the realm of Prickly. “Oh, that was nothing. You should see this place at the turn of the year. Never a dull moment.”
“You know, I didn't think it was all that dull on Friday,” Harry forced out. Funny how his tongue turned up again whenever it had his more fiery emotions guarding its back.
“Trust me, Harry, you are anything but dull.”
Harry picked up his water glass and drank a large gulp from it, then set it down with a slightly more emphatic bang than he had planned, but really, it worked out for the best, didn't it? “So, what's on the agenda tonight? Dinner, a tour of wing number three, maybe a few more stilted getting-to-know-you sessions?”
This time Harry could detect the signs of a real frown in Malfoy's features. The other man set his wine down slowly, eyeing Harry. “Actually, I wasn't planning on a tour.”
“And how many business associates do you have coming over tonight?”
Malfoy's chin rose. “Just you.”
“I'm not a business associate.”
“Naturally,” Malfoy chuckled. “But you are an associate, and you are over here, and I must say, it's about time. You wouldn't believe how long it took me to figure out a day when you would be free. Between the two of us, we're so busy all the time, I really was at the end of my rope. And after you vanished inexplicably on Friday, I thought it was hopeless, but I spoke to my solicitor--”
“Wait, wait, you spoke to your solicitor about me?” Harry gaped at Malfoy. “About fitting me in? Oh, that's just wonderful, isn't it?”
Malfoy gave him a truly exasperated look. “What are you on about, Harry? She does all my scheduling, and she's quite good at listening when I've got a problem with my romantic life.”
It was hard enough for Harry to wrap his mind around the fact that he was having what amounted to a domestic argument with a man who wasn't his domestic anything. What was worse was the fact that half of him mourned that lack of domesticity. The other half, of course, was furious about the whole situation. “Well, that makes it all better, of course,” he snapped. “I suppose she's just another part of your firm. I especially enjoyed complying with your request to keep the press in the dark about us.”
For a moment, Malfoy looked blank. Then his eyes shut and he groaned. “Centaurs preserve us; those imbeciles at the firm sent you a bloody form letter, didn't they?”
Harry let out a snort and crossed his arms over his chest. Interesting, as much as he hated to acknowledge it: It didn't sound as if Malfoy were even aware of that letter. And Harry wasn't about to admit that that sent a few well-placed cracks through his fortress of fury. He wasn't giving Malfoy a chance to weasel out of it. No, he was just… listening. To what he had to say. Yes, that was it.
Malfoy's face was a study in irritation. He threw his napkin down on the table top. “Well, that is rich. As if I even needed them to cover my arse. That settles it, then.”
He rose from his seat, surprising Harry yet again, and sent him an apologetic smile. “Can't have this happening again, as you've made me give the newspapers back their autonomy, and there are sure to be more scintillating articles about us tomorrow. The press are like leeches. They wiggle into the strangest places. But that's fine. I'll just visit the firm and sack both the Boothy-Martins right now, before we--”
“No!” Harry chucked his own napkin down, sick with how tight his chest felt yet again. But the worst part was that it was so familiar a feeling. Same old story; had he really been naïve enough to expect anything different? “No, you just don't get it. Bloody hell!”
He shoved his chair out of the way, narrowly avoiding knocking his wine over onto the sleeve of his best shirt - and he felt plenty stupid for wearing that to Malfoy's, as if it mattered how much time he took with his appearance - and stepped away from the table. “Gods, you--You can't even stop for a moment! Always business. Business, business, business! And house elves, Merlin, your house elves! I'm not going to sit here and wait for them to start popping up and down and around and sideways and--because they will, I know they will. I'm just going to go now and beat the rush.”
Malfoy stared at him in a stunned fashion. “You don't like house elves? Harry, what on earth--”
“Look, Malfoy,” Harry sighed, “just… I was an idiot. Alright? I admit it freely, and I take full responsibility for my own shortcomings. I expected too much from you and I didn't have any reason to. Take care of your empire. I've got to go.”
And he did.
* * *
Harry rose on Christmas Eve morning, curled up with a blanket on the couch, and sipped a cup of chamomile tea as the weak sunlight steadily brightened the room. His flat was quiet; he could hear faint laughter from down the hall at the Carruthers' residence (six children there, goodness knew how they fit everyone plus relatives into the flat), and merry, piping carols from the Burkharts' flat next door. He sighed, blew across his tea, and tried to get into the spirit of things. He still had decorating to do, after all.
He got up around noon and strung several more garlands, pulled out the enchanted snowglobe Luna had given him two years back and set it on the mantle - watched the little ice-skating Flobberworms for a few minutes as the powdered snow swirled continuously inside the glass - and hung a few more light strings over his windows. He'd have to pick up a wreathe at the grocery later, provided they still had any left, and then figure out something to take to Hermione and Ron's the next day. Pecan pie, perhaps; Harry was really quite fond of that.
His back began twingeing again, however, all along the spine, so he eventually gave up on the lights and charmed them into position with his wand, and then levitated wood into the hearth so he could ignite a warm, crackling fire. It made him a little sad; he rather enjoyed doing it all the Muggle way. Told himself it was in honour of his mother, but he didn't really think that was the case. Just something to do with his hands. It was at times like these that he seriously considered taking Neville up on his offer to run his nursery with him. Harry liked plants after all, and it would be quiet, as well as something no newspaper in its right mind would ever consider writing an exposé on. Too boring.
At two, just as Harry was poking through a dusty old cookbook trying to remember exactly what went into a proper pecan pie (he didn't have any white sugar, but he could always transfigure some cane sugar if he had to, he supposed; there was nothing against that in terms of cooking), someone banged three times on his front door. Harry walked out into the hallway and was brushing his right hand off so as not to get any flour on the doorknob, when a very familiar voice came to his ears from outside and stopped him in his tracks.
“Potter! Harry Potter? Have I got the right door? Salazar, you really should put some sort of ward up. Anyone could walk right in.”
Harry's heart fell down into the vicinity of his belly. He shut his eyes and drew a deep breath, wondering why everything was conspiring against him this holiday season. “Malfoy?”
“Harry! Splendid. Took me ages to find this place. Why in Godric's name do you insist on living way out here, anyway? There are plenty of nice houses closer to Diagon Alley.”
Harry stepped up to the door and leaned his forehead on it. “Go away, Malfoy.”
“Oh, yes, that's just what I'll do, after clearing my entire schedule for the afternoon and finding my way through your shady Muggle neighborhood. I'm in a right state today, and I blame you for leaving last night without any sort of explanation. Now let me in!”
Harry scowled at the closed door. “It's not my fault you chose to come all the way out here.”
“Merlin, Potter! I just nearly got flattened by your stupid Muggle revolving door downstairs, the least you could do is let me in. Your neighbors are starting to look at me funny!”
Harry wrenched open the door with a hiss. “Bloody hell, come in here before the Ministry shows up!”
“Thank you,” Malfoy said huffily, sweeping in through the doorway with his cloak and expensive robes and what-have-you. Harry peered down the hallway and saw that there were indeed doors cracked open all down the corridor. Two of the Carruthers kids giggled at him from their doorway, and one of the crochety old men who lived at the end of the hall had actually stepped out of his flat and was glaring beadily at Harry with his arms crossed. Harry smirked back sarcastically and shut his front door. And only then realised who he had closed himself in with.
Harry sighed. “Happy Christmas,” he muttered to himself.
He padded past Malfoy and on down the short hall toward the living room. “Take off your boots. I just cleaned my carpets.”
There was shuffling, two bootish thumps, and then Draco Malfoy joined him in his living room, where they proceeded to stand across the small space, gazing at each other. Well, Malfoy was gazing. Harry was doing more of the glaring variety.
“Alright, what do you want, Malfoy?” Harry said, in his best clipped tone. He really was getting tired of this, and he'd just been pulling himself out of his funk again, and wasn't it just like Draco Malfoy to arrive in the nick of time and spoil it all?
Malfoy took a deep breath, looking somewhat affronted. “There's no need to be in a snit,” he said clearly. “I was only hoping that maybe you could clear up a little of my confusion as to why you keep storming out on me in the middle of whatever it is we're doing at the time.”
“Why I keep…” Harry found himself gripping the edge of the hearth mantelpiece, and forced his fist to unclench. “Oh, honestly, Malfoy!”
Malfoy took off his cloak and draped it carefully over the back of the couch. “Well, perhaps you could inform me why you are always so anxious to depart from my company, then! I rather thought it was all going along swimmingly, and then you just march out. One would think you didn't want to be there!”
“What are you talking about?” Harry shot back. “Of course I wanted to be there. Obviously, Malfoy. It's just--and then you--” There was too much to be said. It all threatened to upset the delicate balance of Harry's reality. He stuttered to a halt and Draco threw up his hands in exasperation.
“Then maybe you could act like it instead of constantly leaving! I'm honestly at my wits' end here, Harry. Here I am, Christmas Eve, trying to talk to someone who doesn't even want to explain his odd behavior, and I've just given all my house elves their socks, and I don't even know why! I'll probably be bankrupt by this time tomorrow!”
“You did what?” Harry said.
Draco stared at him as if he'd lost his mind. “Well, you seem to have some aversion to them, so I let them go! All except Flinky. Couldn't possibly do without her, but the others… And this is the first time in the history of the Malfoy family that anyone has done anything of this magnitude, so you can imagine the widespread ill-effects of it! My entire estate could flounder!”
Harry blinked again. “You sacked your house elves because of me.”
“Yes, Potter! Salazar, pay attention, you were only ranting about them last night! I didn't know what else to do. I want you to come back, after all.”
Harry glared at him, stalking over to sit down on his couch. “And what exactly do you want me to come back for, Malfoy, if I may ask? Besides the occasional romp in the sack?”
Malfoy snorted and flumped down on the other end of the couch, looking very ungraceful. “Well, dinner, for starters. Which you still owe me, considering that you up and left halfway through last night's attempt. You know, I spent a considerable amount of time preparing that menu. The least you could have done was stayed for dessert!”
“Well, excuse me if I had a change of heart!” Harry fumed. “A little hard to get in the mood when I'm afraid it'll be cut short in the next five seconds.”
“What are you on about, Potter?” Malfoy shot back. “I wasn't going to cut it short. I asked you to dinner! I'd do it again if I thought you might say yes.”
“Don't even tell me you're trying to ask me out, Malfoy,” Harry cried, completely unprepared for this turn of events. “Because you go about it in the weirdest, most bizarre--”
“Yes, that's exactly what I'm trying to do! Good Godric, Harry.” Draco clutched at his head with both hands. “Bloody hell, you must know I'm no good at this! I don't normally have to handle argumentative people in my line of work. Usually I just say it and it happens!”
“Then you should have said it!” Harry blurted out. Draco's wide eyes snapped up to his, and Harry suddenly felt all the repressed embarrassment of the past two weeks flooding into his cheeks. He looked down, then up, then down again. “And it would have…” Gestured lamely and felt like an utter fool. “…happened.”
Draco stared at him intently, lips parted. He lifted his chin slowly. Glanced away, then back again. “You would have stayed that first night?”
Harry nodded, feeling so much the desperate idiot that he could barely feel upset about it anymore.
“And what about the other nights?”
Harry glanced up. “What other nights?”
Draco shrugged, and for the very first time, Harry saw an echoing redness in the blond's cheeks. “The ones after,” he finished in an oddly soft voice.
“I…” It was a little too much to wrap his head around. “You wanted other nights?”
Draco pursed his lips, glowering at him. “Well, yes. Well… I mean, if you happened to be free. Not as if I always do this, you know. I simply thought we could manage a few days in each others' company. Seeing as we're both alone.”
“You wanted…” Harry immediately tamped down on the tiny blossom of hope that had sprung to life again in his belly. Draco looked up at him.
“Yes. Alright? Yes. I thought it was obvious, what with what happened at the manor and all. You seemed to be getting the picture quite clearly on Friday night.” The blond man shrugged his shoulders fitfully. Colour filled his face.
Harry stood up, intent on putting some distance between them so that he could think rationally. “Not really, when you kept jumping up to leave every five seconds! And what the hell does the manor have to do with it anyway?”
Draco's face twisted even further. “Well, I wasn't snogging you all over the manor for the hell of it, Harry,” he retorted icily. “I rather thought you were interested in me. I admit, the incident on the couch didn't have me convinced, but after the hallway, I figured there was at least a passing fancy!”
“Well, you didn't seem all that interested!” Harry shot back heatedly. “Bloody hell, Malfoy, I wasn't exactly fighting it, you know, but then you kept showing me where your priorities really were, and they weren't with me, they were with--” And there it was again, that feeling of, what was it again, oh yes, shame. Harry ducked his head.
When he looked up again, it was to find Draco staring at him incredulously. “Potter. I was trying to get them to leave, if you hadn't noticed. Gods, if I hadn't wanted you there, I would have gotten up and left much sooner. As it was, it took an hour to get them to go away! They're vultures.”
Harry let out a heavy sigh. “Malfoy, your house elves. I'm talking about your house elves. Couldn't you have just told them to leave you alone for the night? I felt like--”
But he couldn't say it. He felt like he was on display? He felt like he was being used. Just a plaything for Draco's free moments, all twelve of them.
Draco breathed out, looking more disbelieving than ever. “Oh, good Godric, Harry, you've really never spent time in a manor, have you? The elves can be a bloody nuisance. They just pop in and out, they don't ask when or where or why not!”
“Well, then how about the fact that they couldn't seem to care less that I was there at all? That I was… unclothed in their presence!” Harry countered. Well, well, wasn't this pit of humiliation endless? Just kept going down and down and down…
Draco blinked at him. “You actually want them to notice that you--” And then his face cleared rather alarmingly. “What are you getting at?” he asked in a careful voice.
In for a Sickle, in for a Galleon. “That this sort of thing seems to be a fairly common occurrence, if they don't even bat an eyelash anymore!”
Draco's face paled. “It's not a common occurrence. I-- Harry. They're house elves. They're trained not to notice those sorts of things. Can you imagine what a disaster it would be if you had weeping, blushing, self-mutilating house elves appearing and disappearing at random, screeching and wailing over the precarious positions they found their owners in? Merlin, the upper echelons on Wizarding society wouldn't exist! I wouldn't even have been born if that house elf twenty-four years ago had decided to throw a fit when she walked in on--”
Harry held up his hands. “Alright, alright, I get it! Stop.”
Draco collected himself in the new silence, clenching and unclenching his hands. His gaze on Harry never broke, however, and its intensity, its desperation, cut at Harry's heart. “Look. What I'm saying is that I don't bring people home like that. Left and right. I mean, I have, certainly. It's my home and… and sometimes one just has to-- but Harry, you…”
Harry rubbed his face. “Forget it. Forget I said anything.”
They sat there, breathing hard, not looking at each other for a long moment. Well, Harry did sneak a peek at Draco. Just a small one. The other man's lips had thinned, and his long eyelashes brushed over his cheeks, looking soft as satin. Harry wanted to touch with his fingertips, maybe do a bit more than touch.
But there was still a snag.
“Malfoy,” he said, clenching his jaw. “I know you see other people. It's no secret. I just wish I'd known beforehand. Maybe then--”
Draco inhaled, looking up at the ceiling. “Harry, believe me, if you really wanted to know, I'd have been happy to tell you, only there isn't really anything to tell.”
“Draco…” Goodness, but he was doing a lot of face-rubbing this week. “I saw you with Tracey Davis. You're… close. I'm not saying that's bad. But I just don't think that I, personally, can deal with that kind of arrangement at this juncture of my life.”
Draco's brow pinched. “I don't really see what the big deal is. I told you I'd talked to my solicitor about you.”
Harry exhaled and shot Draco a withering glare. “Yes, and I suppose you talked to your solicitor about Tracey, too. Just fixing up your scheduling--”
“Potter! Tracey is my solicitor!” Draco burst out.
Harry shut his mouth abruptly. Felt it fall open again, and managed to get it closed a second time. The only place he felt safe looking was at his hands, and so he did, but Draco was still there on his couch when he had gathered his wits. “Tracey Davis is your solicitor.”
“Yes!” Draco said. “She's been my solicitor for years, ever since she matriculated from that bloody Wizarding academy in Shropshire. She's the reason I have all of my family's belongings again.” And then a strange look crossed his features. “Godric's almighty balls, you didn't think I was shagging her, did you? Potter, she's… well, a she! That's just… Oh, that makes my stomach turn just thinking about where to put what and how, and what to do with my hands--”
Harry grabbed his wrist. “Merlin, could you just stop being so lewd for a second?”
Draco sighed, rolling his eyes. “Potter…” He reached down and touched Harry's hand, expression softening into something fragile. “Harry. She's my friend. Almost a sister, lately. She's just about the only one I have left, after the war. I was a mess that week, after you… After you just… And she had some ideas, some suggestions, if you will, and she's got so much blackmail material on me anyway, nowadays I just figure, why not add more? I wanted her advice about you, and--Hells, she's the one that figured out your schedule for me. Your Quidditch camp and all that.”
Draco gestured aimlessly and fell silent. Harry couldn't think of a thing to say. At first.
“Well, then what was with all that… you know, tossing around your money? Buying off the papers, and the Quidditch equipment.”
Now Draco really did look confused. “What? That wasn't enough? Because I have plenty of money, I can do more.”
And Harry blinked, and finally realized.
It was just how - and who - Draco was. Draco Malfoy viewed the world a little bit differently, in terms of time tables and mergers and… and there was nothing really wrong with that, was there, even if it was a little weird?
So what if house elves peeking in on various states of smut was the norm to him? Surely almost everyone who had house elves had to deal with that at one time or another.
So what if… well, if Draco Malfoy, billionaire businessman of the Wizarding world, didn't really know how to go about snagging dates? It probably explained why he was still available to Harry at all. And Harry wasn't exactly the ambassador of monogamous, committed relationships either, or any type of relationship, when it came right down to the nitty-gritty.
So what if this manifested as yet another form of business for Draco? It was probably a good way of looking at it, rather admirably unique at the very least. And Draco meant well, that much was obvious. He just had other resources at his beck and call than most people, and wasn't afraid to use them.
And… Well. No one had ever really effectively shackled the media for Harry before, and he supposed he could have done with that quite a bit earlier on in his life. Might have saved him some therapy bills. He cleared his throat.
“No, I think… I think I'm convinced,” he said.
Draco nodded, and the puzzled look slid away, to be replaced by something just a little more unsettling, a little more knowing than Harry was prepared to face right then. “Harry, were you really jealous of Tracey?”
There was no point in nodding, or not nodding. Harry knew the truth was as obvious as the flames in the fireplace before them. Draco went on in a cautious, tentative voice.
“Technically, you don't have the right to get angry for that reason.” The blond man shifted slightly, and Harry suddenly became aware that he was moving closer. Sitting closer. A hand slid into Harry's eyesight, almost touching his fingertips. “Do you want that right?”
Harry looked up, into Draco's grey, grey eyes, deep and tumultuous as clouds. “Do you?” he answered, hearing his voice crack.
Draco's throat worked. His eyes tracked over Harry's face. That same caress that Harry had felt the first night in Draco's extravagant bedroom.
“Very much,” Draco whispered.
Harry inhaled, tried to speak. Couldn't find any words. Draco's eyelids drooped and he leaned forward, just a tiny, tiny bit, and Harry couldn't hold back anymore. He wrapped a hand around the nape of Draco's neck and tugged him closer, until their lips met and he could taste that subtle, sweet flavour he'd been trying so hard to convince himself he didn't need. Draco let out a soft moan, and Harry opened his mouth and kissed him, deep and long and breathless. Draco's lips sought for his desperately, and Harry had little trouble giving over, letting the kiss lengthen and dip into level upon level of heat. He could feel Draco's hands in his hair, body heat through his thin t-shirt, and it felt… good. Very, very good. Like fresh water, or a warm blanket.
It was many, many minutes before they parted long enough to speak, long enough not to just call it the same kiss as the one that had begun the entire thing. Draco's hand lay flat against Harry's chest, fingers long and pale, and trembling just a bit. Harry was pressed back into the couch, legs asplay, Draco's tangled in them, and there was… really nothing else that he wanted to be doing with his Christmas Eve.
“Harry,” was all Draco said. It was enough. They rested quietly, and the fire crackled and popped on the hearth. Harry gazed at it, mesmerised by the flames and by the feel of a pliant Draco in his arms.
He supposed he'd have to teach Draco a bit about the eccentricity of going about a relationship as if it were a business arrangement. Later. Because he had a feeling that Draco Malfoy had no impediments of that sort when it came to the more intimate aspects of said relationship. It was just a hunch, but Harry had learned to give hunches their due credit. And Draco Malfoy had already proven just how well he handled the physical side of things, at least when he wasn't being interrupted by house elves.
Harry almost couldn't wait to let the state of things escalate. It was Christmas Eve, after all, and now he had a nice long list of wishes that he was sure would be fulfilled in time for the holiday tomorrow. But first things first.
“Mm,” Draco mumbled.
“I'm thinking about that dinner I skimped out on.”
Draco stirred. Gave him the only smile Harry had ever seen that was both lazy and fiendish. “Sounds smashing.”
* * *
“Well, well. And he pays,” Draco said with a smirk, as Harry slid the bill across the table toward himself.
Harry grinned sheepishly. “Least I could do. I'll let you have it next time.”
“You know, I think I will enjoy wooing you, Harry Potter.” Draco leered at him and took a poised sip of his chardonnay. “After all, it'll be just like a corporate takeover.”
Harry stared at him, aghast. Draco let out a laugh and winked.
“Joking, Harry. Oh, for the love of Godric…”