Length: 22,165 words
Summary: Draco Malfoy is nearly finished his Auror training. However, something comes up in his character testing which may prevent him from qualifying: he is required to befriend an old enemy.
Gift for: emmagrant01
A/N: Happy Holidays, Emma! I hope you like this! Betas, thank you!
Potter returned all of his owls unopened.
Even the one where Draco gritted his teeth and said that he loved him.
The week leading up to Christmas was the opposite of what the past two had been. The cold seemed colder, and Draco resented everyone in the world who was happy when he so very patently was not. His bed was colder and bigger without Potter snoring lightly beside him in it, and suddenly his days had become unspeakably empty. He avoided Pansy like the plague and refused to go out when he didn’t have to. Potter had only been in his flat a handful of times, but even so Draco had memories of him all over it. In the kitchen, fiddling with his espresso maker. Examining his inherited china in the cabinet in the hall. In the shower. On the sofa, watching some movie that they only saw parts of. In the bed, of course. The time when they had gone to the Indian place and Potter had wanted to wear his scarf. Draco hung the scarf over its hook and smelled it to see if it still smelled like Potter. It did, and he slept with it that night, angry at his own weakness but not angry enough to put the scarf away.
His life was bleaker than it had ever been. No doubt Potter had told the Aurors already, seeing as he was one himself. No one had contacted him yet, however. No doubt everyone was just busy with Christmas. Draco had personally hated the holiday since he was about fourteen and Christmas had become synonymous with meetings and revels. The childhood magic had disappeared, reappearing briefly when Christmas became temporary respite from the war. But the magic had not returned until very recently. It was as though he had lost it a second time now. As for Potter, it hurt far more than he could have guessed it might. Strange how quickly he had come to feel such deep things for him. He remembered little things, and the week seemed to take forever.
It wasn’t difficult to imagine how Potter had found out, even without knowing the details. No doubt someone had said something where they shouldn’t have, and Potter had caught a whisper of it or something. He was remarkably perceptive, more than Draco would have given him credit for. The thought was no comfort whatsoever. Potter would never forgive him for this. It was that simple. And why, now that Potter once again had very good reason to hate him, did Draco have to feel just the opposite?
He hated everything and became so taciturn even in the smallest of interactions that people seemed to instinctively given him a wide berth on the streets and in the shops. He was so miserable he barely knew what to do with himself. If Potter wouldn’t even read his apologies, what was he supposed to do? Go to the door and beg?
He was just walking up Long Acre in the direction of the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley as he thought this, and stopped cold. Perhaps Potter would listen if he showed that he cared enough to come in person and rail at Potter until he listened. Maybe once that temper of Potter’s had settled a little, he would be willing to hear the truth. Draco was about to Apparate then and there, but first realised that he was still in Muggle London, that he wanted to clean up a bit first, and finally, that it was Christmas Eve. Potter might not even be home. God forbid, he might be with the Weasleys at their tiny hovel out in Devonshire. He gritted his teeth. Well. If needs must, he would hie himself to Devonshire and refuse to leave until they’d stopped throwing hexes at him and pushed Potter out the door to hear him out.
Indecision hit. Should he buy Potter a gift? Draco thought for a long time, paying no attention to the people jostling around him, and finally decided against it. If Potter rejected him again, he would just feel foolish. Well, he would feel worse than foolish for more things besides, but having a gift that Potter didn’t even want would just make the entire sorry affair pathetic. But if he was going to the Burrow, then he might have already left. Draco checked the time. It was already past five! It was getting dark. Galvanised into action, Draco combed his hair with his fingers and abandoned the idea of going home first. He Apparated directly to the front doors of Potter’s building. Confronted with the board of numbers, Draco gazed in confusion for a moment, but fortuitously, an elderly woman departed at that precise moment and held the door open for him. Draco thanked her hurriedly and bolted into the lift, whose doors were just closing.
Inside, he tried to gather his wits and figure out what to say to Potter. It didn’t help; nothing came to mind. On the eighth floor, Potter’s, the lift stopped and the doors opened. Potter stood there, his winter robes on, bags of what were obviously gifts in both hands. He froze, staring at Draco. Startled, Draco could only stare back, his heart suddenly pounding.
“Draco,” Potter said numbly. “What are you doing here?”
“Harry – listen to me,” Draco said, not caring how desperate it sounded. “Just let me talk to you. Please.”
Potter shook his head. “I have to leave. I’m already running late.”
“No – please don’t go!” Draco found the “door open” button and held it down with one hand. “Just hear me out. Ten minutes, no more. Then if you’re not convinced, you can go wherever you’re going.”
“I don’t need your permission,” Potter said stubbornly. “Get out of the way. I told you, I’m in a hurry.”
“This is important!” Draco said, though there was ice in the pit of his belly at Potter’s coldness. “I gave you time to cool down, and you won’t read my owls, so I thought maybe I should come in person.”
“Your timing,” Potter said defeatedly, “stinks.”
He seemed to have given in. Draco seized upon the opportunity. “Come on,” he said firmly. “We can’t have this conversation in a lift. Let’s go inside.”
“I don’t want you in my place,” Potter said softly, not looking at him.
Silence fell. Draco’s eyes stung and he blinked despite himself. Potter did hate him. It was too late.
“We’ll have this conversation in the lift,” Potter said, still very quietly, “and then I’m going to go to the Burrow and try to forget this.”
Draco swallowed hard. “All of it?” His voice was not quite steady.
“I need to.” It was very clear and still very soft. Potter didn’t touch him, but Draco found himself standing back to let Potter into the lift. Potter pressed the button for the eighteenth level, the highest. Terse, he said, “Talk quickly.”
“Harry, I – it was my assignment to get to be friends with you.” Draco didn’t know what to do with his hands and it showed. He stuffed them into his pockets and tried not to think of touching Potter. “I didn’t want to. I’ll admit that. I didn’t know what to make of you at the Minister’s Ball, but after, when I found you outside with that bottle of champagne, something changed.”
“You’re a very good storyteller,” Potter said, exhaling, eyes on the ascending numbers.
“It’s true,” Draco said, angry. “I didn’t lie to you!”
“Oh, and not telling me you were in training – finished your training, whatever – wasn’t a lie of omission?” Potter returned, colour staining his cheeks darkly.
“I told you, I wasn’t allowed to talk about the assignment or that I’m – that I was a candidate,” Draco retorted. “Did you have a character testing assignment? I bet you didn’t – I’ll bet they figured the entire war was your character testing right there. And maybe they were right, but it was for me, too. Why can’t you give me any credit for having changed?”
Potter set down his bags and crossed his arms over his chest, looking as immovably stubborn as only he could. He looked as though he was regretting not having just gone straight down to the street level. He didn’t answer.
Draco decided to press on, just for the sole satisfaction of at least saying what he needed to say. “So, things changed that night,” he said quietly. “I actually wanted to get to know you better, and we did. I started fighting whatever this is from then on, until I found out that you had been, too. It had nothing to do with my assignment, Harry.”
Potter still didn’t speak or look at him. The lift chimed for the eighteenth storey and the doors opened. Potter got out, taking his gift bags with him. “Come on,” he said briefly, and went down the corridor. Draco followed, his hopes lifting slightly. Unless Potter just wanted a convenient place to push him off a roof or something, surely this meant he had more time to try to change his mind.
Potter silently led the way through the door at the end of the corridor and onto the roof. In the summer, spring and fall, it was evidently a patio of sorts. Chairs, tables, and folded umbrellas dotted the snow-dusted patio stones. Potter set his gifts down on a table and went to lean against the wall. It came as high was his mid chest and he leaned his arms against it.
“That,” Potter said, “was one of the best days of my life.”
Draco went over, standing a careful distance away. He didn’t face out to London but stood looking at Potter instead. “Mine, too,” he said. “I was surprised by all this. But I… liked it. A lot.” Potter said nothing, and he added, hardly audibly, “I’ve missed you.”
Potter’s expression thawed a trifle. “I’ve missed you, too,” he said, looking down.
“I wish you had read my owls.”
“What did they say?”
“Just what I said. That it wasn’t about the assignment. That it was more. That I had almost forgotten that it began because of my training. That I wanted to see you and talk to you.” Draco hesitated, but made himself say it. “And that I… loved you.”
Potter went very still. Then he said, so quietly that Draco could barely hear him, “You did not say that.”
“I have the owl at home somewhere, if you need proof.”
Potter still didn’t look at him. “Did you mean it?”
Draco took a deep breath. “Yes.”
Potter didn’t move a muscle for the longest time. Then he lifted his head and looked out toward the Thames. “You don’t know that. We’ve hardly been together three weeks, if you count the part right before we actually got together. You’ve probably never even been in love before.”
“I haven’t.” Draco shrugged. “But now I am.”
Potter shook his head. “Sometimes, things are just too complicated for that to work. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“You can accept it and do it anyway,” Draco said. He took a step toward Potter. “Come on, Harry. I know you feel the same way. I’m sorry. I fucked up and that’s the last thing I wanted to do. But I never lied to you about wanting to be with you. I do. I want to.”
Potter resolve wavered visibly. Biting his lip, he said, “I heard Kingsley talking about it. I wasn’t supposed to have heard.” He glanced at Draco. “I guess I made a big deal out of something that wasn’t fair for me to know about in the first place.”
Exactly, Draco wanted to say, but didn’t. “It’s understandable. You did hear, whether or not you should have, and I would have been upset, too.”
Potter began a slow smile and finally turned toward him. “You really love me?” he asked again.
“How many times are you going to make me say it?” Draco could hear how annoyed he sounded.
Potter laughed. “A lot more, now that I know!”
The laughter was magic. The warmth came back into Potter’s eyes. “I do feel the same way,” he said. “Come here.”
Draco came obediently. He tried not to clutch at Potter but lost the battle instantly. The urge to babble grots of nonsense returned with a vengeance and he settled for the longest single kiss he had ever had with anyone. Potter’s arms were all the way around him, despite his cloak and Draco’s coat, his magic embracing Draco like a warm ring.
After, Draco said, rather wistfully, “You have to go. I’ve made you late.”
Potter put a gloved hand in his. “Come with me,” he said.
“To the Weasleys’ house?” Draco couldn’t hide the dubiousness.
“Yes,” Potter said adamantly. “It’s time they met you properly.”
Draco kissed him again.
Late that night, an owl arrived at the Weasley twins’ old bedroom window. Draco heard the tapping and went to retrieve his package. The seal was the Ministry of Magic Auror Department’s. He opened it with nervous anticipation churning through his veins.
A single sheet of parchment fell out.
~ Draco L. Malfoy ~
Certified, Class A Honours
Kingsley J. Shacklebolt
Senior Aurors and Administrators
Something heavy seemed to click into place within him. Potter hadn’t said a word to them. And now, despite everything, he had achieved what he had been working toward for the past three years. Draco experienced a brief glimpse of himself out in public, somewhere with Potter, perhaps, the headlines the next morning about Aurors Potter and Malfoy and whatever else people wanted to say, the stigma of his past fading into obscurity. And Potter beside him. Yes. That was important.
The narrow bed was warm with both of them squeezed into it, and as Draco felt himself drifting back into sleep to the steady cadence of Potter’s breathing, he thought that life could only get better from here on in.