Title: Hogwarts for the Holidays
Summary: Everyone’s spending Christmas at the castle; will Harry get his secret Christmas wish?
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): AU humor; fanon!Draco.
Deathly Hallows compliant? No.
Word Count: 6000
Author's Notes: peaseblssm, you asked for humor, angst, Harry pining while pursuing, and H/D clichés without fluffy girliness. I enjoyed writing this for you—I hope you like it! ♥
“Oh my GOD! Are you hurt?? SPEAK to me, man!”
Harry blinked dazedly where he was slumped to the ground, with barely the strength to gaze up at the blond crouching over him, clutching his front with frenzied eyes.
“I’m…” Harry began. Malfoy leapt up like a platinum panther.
“…fine,” he finished weakly as Malfoy jumped over him and launched himself full tilt across the snowbank.
Harry pushed himself up and brushed the snow from his cloak. His hands were totally numb so he let the flakes on his glasses stay there, unmelted.
“Hey, you ready to go inside?” he called to Seamus, who was giggling insanely a few yards off and whipping up a small mountain of snowballs with his wand. “What are you—I thought we said no magic!”
Seamus continued whipping away gleefully. “These are for later!” he called back without a pause.
Harry raised a brow—or tried to, but it wouldn’t budge on his cold, cold face—and went to rally the other troops.
“Hey!” he shouted to Ginny and Pansy, who huddled against a broad tree trunk with armfuls of snowballs. “You guys wanna go in?”
Ginny darted around the tree and pitched a snowball out. Two more came back, smashing against the trunk where her shoulder had been not a second before.
“In a minute,” Pansy said briskly.
“Not now!” Ginny snapped. Harry watched as she dodged out again and let fly three snowballs in rapid succession, barking “Go!” as the last one streaked through the air. Instantly Pansy spun out and unleashed her own, all of them, in a lightning attack the likes of which Harry had never seen.
In the distance, an anguished wail rose up.
“Yessss!” the girls hissed in unison, readying their next round.
Harry huffed on his hands somewhat irritably, and marched from the tree toward the whoosh-fszz of snowballs elsewhere. He wound his way beneath spindly snow-heavy branches, crunching over nuggets of ice that lay scattered over criss-crossing paths of much-trampled snow—and came upon Ron, Goyle and Baddock slinging snowballs. At Malfoy.
“Oi, are we running out?” Ron hollered, grunting as he threw.
“I’ll make us more!” Goyle dropped to his knees and starting pushing together a pile of snow, while across the short clearing, Malfoy was hunched over as if he’d fallen to the ground.
Harry strode to him quickly, eliciting yells from the attackers.
“Get down!” the blond shouted, raising his head at the sound. Harry ducked and three unnaturally round snowballs shot over his head in a single burst, making powdery splats as they found their targets.
“Ha HAH!” Malfoy crowed, grabbing Harry’s wrist. “Take THAT, blackguards! Villains most vile!” He yanked Harry behind him, ignoring the sputter of his opponents. “Courage, my love,” he said determinedly to Harry, then bent to scoop up another set of projectiles.
“You’re a fucking cheater, Malfoy!” Ron shouted. “I saw you take out your wand, don’t even—”
He coughed on the rest as a snowball hit his chin.
“Ron, you wanna go inside?” Harry called out.
“Get him!” Ron screamed, brushing off the snow. Goyle and Baddock launched twin snowballs and Malfoy shoved Harry down. Harry struggled to stand back up; Malfoy threw himself on top.
“It’s not you they want, it’s me,” he muttered earnestly, retrieving a snowball that had fallen to the ground. “Save yourself, Harry—run and don’t look back—”
“Ron!” Harry hollered, pushing hard at Malfoy’s chest. He was surprisingly heavy for someone so silver. “I said, do you want to—”
But there was an ARGHGH! that sounded just like Ron’s and Malfoy was hauling him from the fat indentation their bodies had made in the ground.
“We haven’t much time,” Malfoy said grimly. “Those bastards are quicker than they look and my Confundus won’t last—”
Harry jerked his arm from Malfoy’s grip. “I’m going inside for hot cocoa,” he said abruptly, then turned to do just that.
A moment later Malfoy was shouting behind him. “Harry and I are going in for cocoa!”
Harry kept walking.
“You may join us!” Malfoy shouted. “If you like!”
Harry frowned as the warlike bellowing stopped and agreeable noises ensued, followed by the crunch-thud of many booted feet.
“Grand idea,” he heard someone grunt—Baddock?—when they drew alongside him. “It is getting a bit nippy.” Yes, Baddock.
“Yeah,” Ron agreed. “And I think we’ve beaten you guys far enough into the ground, for one day.”
“You did nothing of the sort!” Malfoy said loudly. “We totally owned you, right from the start. Remember I got Granger twice, early on?”
“In the BACK, thanks!” came a heated voice. Hermione, Crabbe and Daphne Greengrass were coming up behind them.
Malfoy shrugged. “Might I suggest—CONSTANT VIGILANCE?” he intoned, spinning around.
His Mad-Eye voice and matching scary-hands made Hermione’s mouth twitch and the rest of them grin.
“Well, we got Potter,” Daphne pointed out. “He was running scared.”
“I was not!” Harry protested. He’d been running for cover, true, but he hadn’t been scared. Much. Until Malfoy had found him taking a breather behind the snowbank and had pulled at his cloak, bringing their faces too close for comfort. Those wide gray eyes had been terribly wide and Harry’s heart had thumped excruciatingly beneath Malfoy’s fist. He’d very nearly said something he was certain to regret. That’s when he’d decided it was time to go in.
“That’s gotta be worth at least, what, a thousand points,” Daphne said.
“A thou—in what world are you living?!” Malfoy retorted.
“Besides, you only grazed him—I saw.” That was Ginny, trotting along with Pansy and Millicent.
“So you admit I got him,” Daphne crowed.
“That hardly counts!” Pansy began. “You barely—”
“Let’s ask the scorekeeper, hm?” Malfoy interrupted, glancing sideways where Neville had appeared several paces off, trailing a broom as he plodded around the trees. The blond broke from the group and glided toward him.
“Neville!” Malfoy called warmly, spreading wide his arms. They all paused and watched the blond enfold Neville in a hearty embrace, then step back slightly and flick snow from Neville’s hair. Malfoy’s gloved hands squeezed Neville’s shoulders briefly before he started to steer Neville toward the rest of them, gesturing with one arm, tilting his fair head toward the dark one, murmuring things no one but Neville could hear.
Harry’s chest tightened; Ginny and Pansy were tittering. Neville’s cheeks were pink by the time they reached the group.
“Hey Neville,” Ron said, with a touch of suspicion.
“Hey,” Neville replied, looking somewhat uncomfortable. He shouldered his broom and started on the path toward the castle.
“So we were wondering who won,” Ron said as they resumed walking, following him. Neville stepped over a particularly high snowdrift, stumbled a bit and sank a leg knee-deep in the snow.
“Malfoy’s team,” he answered, shaking it off.
“What!” Ron burst out. “Are you fucking blind? We had more hits and played a MUCH stronger defense, I’m sure of it! How could they have won?”
Neville re-adjusted his broom without meeting anyone’s eye. “They did. I was watching from the sky.”
“Are you sure?!” Ron hollered. Neville started striding faster. “What was Malfoy whispering to you, anyway? You do know he’s the devil, right? He’s got a forked tongue—”
“Fair is fair,” Malfoy cut in smoothly, putting a hand on Ron’s shoulder. “Neville’s made his decision. We all agreed he’d keep score—”
“Yeah, and we agreed not to use magic too, wanker,” Ron said, whirling about with narrowed eyes.
“If that’s a veiled reference to my personal charm,” Malfoy replied airily, “I don’t think it’s—”
“That’s bloody well NOT what I meant!” Ron’s eyes bulged a little. “Ooh, I could throttle you. In fact I think I shall.” And his gloved fingers shot out to Malfoy’s scarfed neck.
“Ron!” Hermione admonished, and extreme mock-throttling commenced. Malfoy gurgled and gaped quite convincingly; Ron turned an admirable shade of enraged orange.
“Enou—ack! Enough!” Malfoy’s tongue lolled out; he grabbed the sides of Ron’s face while everyone laughed. Harry’s stomach clenched—he managed a crooked smile.
“No,” Ron growled, still in throttling mode. “Not until you’ve properly learnt your lesson.”
The blond patted Ron’s cheek. “How about if I play on your team next time?”
Ron’s fingers paused in the folds of silver scarf. “Okay,” he said, and let go of Malfoy’s neck.
“Splendid,” drawled Malfoy. They resumed the trek to the castle; the blond adjusted his scarf and offered Pansy his arm as she passed.
“The villagers will find sleep easy tonight,” he said to her, half under his breath, “now that I’ve purged their township of the fearsome Ginger Giant.”
“You’re mean!” Pansy laughed, taking his elbow and hooking together their hands.
Just behind them, Harry’s hands remained warm and toasty, stiffly crammed in his pockets underneath his cloak.
“Your turn,” Colin Creevey said.
Harry looked at the carpet and wished he hadn’t agreed to play. Games like this only ended in utter humiliation that remained indelibly stamped upon the mind, like the dumb thing you said when you were about eight and all the adults laughed and sometimes you remember it with a nasty sting of embarrassment, like when your mind wanders in the shower or while brushing your teeth.
“Harry, it’s your spin,” Colin repeated.
He’d been ready to vacate the common room in favor of the library (!) or maybe the dorm, but then a voice had drawled, “Is this where the bottle spinning is to take place?” Harry had looked across to see a blond head ducking in through the portrait hole, and on a deranged impulse he’d nodded and said, “Sure, why not?”
“Come on,” someone prompted impatiently.
Harry glared at the speaker (Ernie MacMillan—not surprising) and moistened his bottom lip. He studied the glass bottle and tried to gauge how hard he’d have to spin it for it to stop at Malfoy. Crabbe sat on Malfoy’s left; Goyle on his right. Harry wasn’t sure which of the three he truly feared worst. He stretched out, fingers hovering near the bottleneck. He gave it a firm spin.
Round and round it went, sparkling a merry rainbow of color that faded into blue as it gradually slowed…and stopped directly at Goyle.
Harry went green.
“Spin again,” Ron urged. “You don’t have to kiss blokes.”
That was the Ernie MacMillan rule—no kissing someone of the same sex. Unless you were a pouf. That was the Justin Finch-Fletchley exception.
“Technically, he’s right,” Malfoy said. “But do you really want to hurt poor Greg’s feelings? I mean, look at this face—can you bear to say no?” He cupped Goyle’s square jaw (most of it) in a gentle palm and clucked sympathetically while Crabbe sniggered and Goyle’s eyebrows gathered menacingly.
“Just spin again,” Ron said, choking down a guffaw. Harry did, quickly, and was both relieved and disappointed when it landed on Hannah Abbott. He smiled and got up, walked around the circle to where she sat, then crouched down and nodded.
“All right?” he asked, his palms only slightly damp. He could feel everyone’s eyes on him—especially Malfoy’s.
Hannah gave a nervous laugh. “Hi there.”
Harry leaned in and gave her lips a polite kiss, counting three seconds and not quite closing his eyes. He pulled back; Hannah was smiling brightly at him.
“Very nice,” she said.
“No problem,” Harry answered, feeling fairly pleased. That hadn’t been bad. Probably his best kiss to date. As he rose to go back to his space in the circle, he couldn’t help but glance in Malfoy’s general direction, trying to see his face without making eye contact.
Malfoy was looking right at him with his knees hugged to his chest, his mouth an open crescent of teeth and thorough amusement.
Harry felt the blood drain from everywhere in his body and rush straight to his head.
It was still locked there, sloshing loudly between his ears, when Malfoy crept to the center of the ring for his go at the bottle. He flicked it carelessly, sending it into a fast spin. Harry didn’t dare raise his eyes though he wanted badly to see if the blond was looking at him again. Instead he stared at the flashing glass, his fingers going cold, hoping yet dreading each time it winked by that it would stop on him—stop on him—stop on him…
It stopped, of all people, on Ernie bloody MacMillan.
“Ernie, my sweet,” Malfoy crooned, slinking forward on hands and knees. “Ready for the most incredible experience of your—”
“I don’t think so,” Ernie said shortly. “The rules explicitly say—”
“The rules, dear Ernest, apply to the spinner, not to the spinnee,” the blond purred, crawling closer. “And I’m delighted to oblige the terrifically ironic whim of The Bottle—”
“I won’t do it,” Ernie said, standing up.
“Come on, MacMillan, be a sport, will you?” Seamus put in, obviously snickering.
“Let’s see you get snogged by Malfoy then,” Ernie said stonily, crossing his arms.
The blond shrugged and started crawling toward Seamus. “Oh very well, I could use a bit of luck…Seamus, my sweet—”
“Mate, it didn’t stop on me,” Seamus grinned at Ernie. “It stopped on you, so why don’t you sit down and take it like a man?”
Everyone was chuckling. Malfoy shrugged again and turned back to Ernie, who was getting red in the face. Harry was concentrating on keeping his heart in his chest.
“No,” Ernie said, working his stubborn jaw. “The whole purpose of the rule was to prevent—”
“For fuck’s sake, my knees are starting to hurt,” Malfoy interrupted sharply, swiveling his shoulders around. “Surely someone would adore a kiss from me?” he asked in a suddenly hurt and pleading voice. His gaze swept left and right—Harry couldn’t breathe—passing through Harry without the slightest pause.
Once more, twin jolts of relief and disappointment coursed down Harry’s spine. Then they turned into a single massive column of despair as Justin Finch-Fletchley cleared his throat and said, in a teeth-grittingly hesitant and disarming sort of way, “I—I wouldn’t mind.” He offered Malfoy a shy smile; Harry kept his face neutral. It wasn’t easy, as he had to avoid tearing a hole in the floor rug at the same time.
“That is, I think—I’d rather like it,” Justin went on. “If you wouldn’t mind, of course, I don’t mean to impose—”
A low murmur of aww rippled around the circle, overlaid with a few snorts from the less delicate of the group.
“Justin, my sweet,” Malfoy crooned, putting an end to the stammering by slinking toward Justin. “Prepare for the most incredible experience of your life.”
“Okay,” Justin breathed.
Harry told himself to look away as Malfoy’s chin drew up but the elongation of that throat was too overwhelming a thing—he stared helplessly at the narrow bridge of Malfoy’s nose, eclipsing the curve of Justin’s nostril, watching Malfoy’s mouth stretch into an unmistakable smile before closing over Justin’s as if it had belonged there, always. Harry swallowed hard, in time with Malfoy’s throat, which rose and fell as Malfoy kissed the other boy deeply, his tongue thrusting forward with practically visible strokes.
Eventually, someone was forced to cough, “Oi!”
Justin’s eyes flew open; he started, breaking the kiss.
“You two need a room?” Ernie asked acerbically, looking put out and perhaps the tiniest bit envious.
“Awfully kind of you, but no,” Malfoy said with perfect calm, licking his lip, studying Justin. “Was that all right?” he asked kindly.
“Oh,” Justin sighed. “Yeah.”
“I think I might be sick,” Ron broke in loudly. There were grumbles of assent and a haughty “Hear hear!” (Ernie). Harry was dangerously close to dry-heaves.
Justin seemed to snap back to his senses. He flushed, embarrassed, and quickly re-arranged his robes. “Erm. Yes. Lovely.”
The blond flashed him a dazzling grin, then crawled back to his space between Crabbe and Goyle.
“Your turn, Greg,” he said, looking over at Goyle.
“Dance with me, Crabbie boy, dance!”
It was Christmas Eve and through the soundless halls of Hogwarts, knights of armor stood guard in tinsel and every portrait slept, framed in glimmering garland. Drowsy fairies lay curled among the dark pine wreaths and upon snow-flecked boughs, their fluttery pinprick lights flaring and dimming as they dreamed.
Up in the Astronomy tower, all was not well. What had started out as a plan to ambush (then point and hysterically laugh at) the lucky couple out there had, with breathtaking rapidity, devolved into an impossibly large boombox, two crates of Butterbeers, a tree stolen from the Great Hall, and what seemed to be every student who’d stuck around for the holidays. Now Nott and Michael Corner were sticking a sleeping Colin’s hand into a pitcher of water (“It’s not working!” “Did you do the warming charm?”) while Marietta and Cho were weaving Christmas lights in each other’s hair; Ron’s hand was inching clumsily around Hermione’s waist as they joined a mess of others sprawled on the floor, thoroughly engaged in a noisy drink-based game of charades and/or truth or dare. Malfoy had opted out of the game, choosing instead to grip Crabbe in an unquestionably passionate embrace. He had their cheeks pressed together tango-style and was whirling about the room to the tune, though not the rhythm, of La Bamba.
Harry clutched his Butterbeer and watched them whirl. The view was quite good from his own circle of hell. Malfoy’s face glowed faintly pink and his hair swung into his eyes with each snap of his head, making him look like a truly intense sheepdog for an instant before it swung back to reveal soulfully closed eyelids. When Malfoy took an unexpected turn toward the wall, Harry straightened, alarmed—and saw Crabbe guiding them to safety, bumping Malfoy with his chest until the blond whipped them in the opposite direction.
Harry took a bitter swallow of Butterbeer. He nearly choked on it when Ron thumped him, and was startled to find everyone yelling at him to go. He started to stand up.
“Naw, mate! You gotta tell someone what you’re gonna be!” Zabini shouted.
“Oh,” Harry mumbled. “Right. Well, I don’t know—”
“Not us, you Gryffindork,” Zabini snickered. “Just tell one person so the rest of us can guess!” He nudged Neville with an elbow, snickering again. “Not too bright, is he? Oh, you’re not a Gryffindork,” he added hastily, waving his bottle. “Just Potter, right.”
“Right,” Neville replied, giggling agreeably.
Harry’s gaze drifted to Malfoy, who was now tango-ing around them, gallantly twirling a dubious Crabbe and singing out, “Spin, darling! Spin back to me!”
“Hey—here’s a better idea!” Zabini shouted. “Dance with Draco!”
“What?” Harry said sharply.
“Yeah, it’s a DARE!” Neville put in excitedly.
“No—” Harry started.
“Ooh, how perfect!” Pansy said, and before Harry could get another word in she was gaily cooing, “Draco, sweetie—Potter wants to dance! With you! Isn’t that a marvelous treat?”
“Reeeeeeaallly!” Malfoy replied, whipping his head around. He seemed to forget that he still had Crabbe attached to his hip and his abrupt change in direction sent the other boy stumbling. Somebody yelped—it sounded like a Creevey—and Crabbe dropped to the ground like a sack of bowling balls.
“Oh fuck, sorry!” Malfoy said, leaning to tug at one of Crabbe’s arms. “What happened? Does it hurt? Is it broken? Shall I do a Lockhart and make your bones disapp—”
“S’okay,” Crabbe grunted, trying to wave Malfoy off. “S’fine. Fine!” He was going all twitchy, trying to duck Malfoy’s anxious hands. “Just—go dance with Potter!”
And the next thing Harry knew, Ron was shoving him at Malfoy, grinning, “Now you’ve got to do it,” and Malfoy was catching him as he tripped forward.
“Well hello, gorgeous.” Malfoy gave him a gleaming smile. “Sudden urge to waltz?”
“It was a dare,” Harry answered stiffly as the blond grasped his waist in one hand, his wrist with the other, and swung Harry out, away from the crowd—which promptly went wild.
“Wooooo! That’s fucking hot!” Seamus shouted, whistling. The others clapped and hollered assorted encouragements.
“You’re doing really well, Harry!” Hermione called merrily.
“Yeah, much better than at the Yule Ball!” Ron added.
Harry felt his skin running in odd streaks of hot and cold—he was bristling at the shouts and trying not to grin and surreptitiously watching Malfoy’s shoes and avoiding Malfoy’s eyes and telling himself to stay calm. The blond had locked their fingers where their hands were clasped; Malfoy’s palm squeezed gently around his and it made Harry’s head go light. His heart was beating untamed, kicking out in all directions as Malfoy held him close. Sometimes Malfoy’s hair would catch Harry’s face; sometimes Malfoy’s exhale would brush Harry’s ear. Harry’s belly would clutch, then, in distress and violent longing, and he snarled fiercely at himself that this was Malfoy’s way—it was just Malfoy’s way and it was the same way with everyone. Good reason—the best—to stay as far from Malfoy as he could, before he did something stupid like letting slip how he felt. Except Malfoy was humming now to Feliz Navidad and closing his eyes and Harry could see pale lashes glinting on skin.
Harry pressed his mouth together until his lips ached. It didn’t lessen the compulsion to pivot too near, so the next time they turned they’d—
“You’re a bad dancer,” Malfoy chirruped.
Harry lost his balance as Malfoy’s eyes popped open—but the blond’s arm at his waist kept them waltzing along without missing a beat.
“Oh,” Harry said, awash in disappointment and shame. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s all right,” Malfoy replied cheerfully, sweeping them through the turn. “You’ve never had lessons—real ones—so it’s hardly your fault. Besides, you’re straight.”
Harry nearly stepped on Malfoy’s foot and caught himself just in time.
“Straight, straight,” the blond was singsonging as they whirled. “Straight as an eight. Hah, I WISH!” He laughed and spun them about, his hair and robes flying behind him in a swishy arc. “Eights are bendy, you know,” he murmured beatifically a moment later, with eyes shut once more.
Malfoy waltzed them across the floor; Harry’s feet and mind reeled, trying to sort Malfoy’s words.
“Malfoy…” Harry said slowly, because it was difficult—difficult to expose disjointed hesitancies, fumbling questions, frustrations, idiotically hopeful thoughts, none of which made any sense and never had, for a second.
Harry forced it out. “You think I’m bent?”
“Hmm?” Malfoy cracked open one eye, then the other, to look at Harry with an abstracted smile.
“Why would you think that?” Harry demanded, sounding angry and defensive but feeling oh god like he wanted Draco Malfoy more than anything in the world.
“Why would I think what?” Malfoy asked playfully, re-gripping Harry’s now-sweaty hand.
“That I’m—” Harry burst, impatient—“you know…” He faltered. “That I’d—”
“Why would you think I’m gay?” Harry bit out. He clenched his teeth, tensing.
Malfoy blinked, then threw his head back, stretching wide his throat, and laughed. Raucously.
“Fuck me!” he heaved, laughing and laughing in sharp frantic gasps. “When did you get so bloody paranoid?” Malfoy’s whole body was absolutely shaking. “I’d never think that! No one would!”
Harry worked his jaw, aggravated yet itching to laugh right along with Malfoy, for the purposes of seeming normal, and to ease the cracking sensation in his lungs.
Malfoy’s laughter had been subsiding, but suddenly it erupted afresh.
“What?” Harry said curtly, watching the ridge of Malfoy’s lip. Soon they’d stop dancing and that would be it—Malfoy would never be—the very word was a joke—interested.
“It’s just—” The blond snickered and drew Harry slightly closer. “I’m having such awful trouble picturing you getting cheeky with me under the mistletoe!” His gray eyes sparkled and his face lit with amusement but the lines of his mouth seemed to suddenly blur, and it occurred to Harry that he knew what it was like because his mouth took on the same shape whenever he looked at Malfoy, looking elsewhere.
“Look, there it is!” Malfoy said, sounding surprised and jubilant. He gestured overhead with their linked hands.
Harry swiveled his head around to look up at the ceiling. Sure enough, a beribboned thatch of green leaves sporting charming white berries bobbled near the low beam, dangling a foot or two above Harry’s unbelieving eyes. His mouth gaped open slightly as he stared, and suddenly he realized he was dancing with Malfoy beneath the mistletoe, and it was Christmas Eve and lights were glittering all around them, and this was his chance if he had the balls to seize it—
Then out of nowhere a fist seized the little sprig, plucking it straight from the air with an almighty swipe.
“Gotcha!” Baddock growled—and he stuffed the whole of the greenery, ribbon and all, into his mouth.
There was riotous cheering as Baddock chewed noisily, raising two fists in triumph to acknowledge the applause.
“Clever!” Ginny shouted admiringly. “I’d forgotten about the mistletoe! I was thinking perhaps you’d go for a candle!”
Baddock swallowed audibly and rubbed his belly, beaming. “A fine nosh! Got my veg for the day, eh?”
“What the hell are you doing?” Harry asked roughly, bewildered and upset by Baddock’s unexpected appearance—he’d been this close to finally working up the nerve—
“They dared me to eat three Christmas decorations,” Baddock grinned broadly.
Harry’s breath hitched as Malfoy fell against him, laughing.
“Fucking brilliant!” the blond exclaimed, lapsing back into laughter with his arms around Harry, his head pushed to Harry’s ear. His torso flexed rapidly along Harry’s side; Harry started to smile. It was pretty funny.
“What else did you eat?” Malfoy asked eagerly, resting the point of his chin on Harry’s shoulder.
“A gingerbread ornament and a load of tinsel,” Baddock answered with casual pride. “Didn’t you see?” He swallowed down a burp, thumping at his chest. “Although maybe you were too busy being cozy…” Baddock’s eyes flicked over them and his tone turned sly. “Still working on that dare? Or has it become…something more?” He waggled his brows, shooting a look at the others, who were watching and pretending to stifle giggles without success. “You don’t have to carry on, Potter—unless you want to.”
Harry’s smile faded. The blond’s embrace slipped away.
“Don’t be dense, he’s done his bit,” Malfoy said smoothly. “And I must say we were spectacularly more entertaining than your low-brow routine of going around eating things—anyone can do that—but never mind, good effort…anyway, who’s up?” He looked out loftily to where the others were. “Could it be my dearest Ernest?”
The blond approached the boy in question with a devious grin and crouched down next to him, teetering quite close.
“I’m doing charades,” Ernie said stoically, “and you’re not in this game.”
Malfoy draped a hand on his shoulder and stroked a thumb down his neck. “I dare you to kiss Finch-Fletchley. No tongue necessary—Christmas Eve would be such a tragic time to die.”
The others roared with laughter and pounded on the floor.
“Come on, you know you want to!” Dean shouted.
“You’re curious—admit it!” Ron whooped animatedly.
Over the noise, Malfoy arched a brow at Justin. “I trust there’s no objection…?” The other boy shrugged shyly and averted his eyes.
Daphne saw it and shrieked. “Aww, go on! Don’t break Justin’s heart!”
“Go on!” Pansy trilled.
“Go on!” Neville agreed.
“Er-Nee! Er-Nee!” Crabbe and Goyle started to chant, thudding their palms on the ground until everyone else took it up. Including Hermione.
Trembling, white-faced, Ernie MacMillan stood up.
“A pox on ALL your houses!” he cried out in agony. Then he swept to Justin Finch-Fletchley and jammed together their mouths.
Howls of approval filled the room. Harry clapped unthinkingly, watching Malfoy squeeze Pansy’s shoulder and jut his eyebrows high. He was saying something, leaning in to Pansy’s face; Pansy was nodding, laughing with her eyes crinkling shut.
Harry wished wretchedly he hadn’t let Malfoy go.
Harry froze, half-turned to disappear back into the hallway from which he’d come.
“What are you doing?” Malfoy sounded curious.
It was Christmas morning, but only just, and Harry had been walking down to the Great Hall because he couldn’t sleep. Then he’d come upon Malfoy, sitting by himself on the top step of the staircase, and he’d decided go back up to give sleep a second chance.
“Nothing,” Harry said, his tongue clumsy over his teeth. He waited, searching for something else to say. “What are you doing?”
Malfoy looked back at him placidly, his head still twisted around. “Waiting for Santa.” He turned to face forward again.
“Er.” Harry hesitated—Malfoy seemed…solemn. “Really?”
“No, not really,” the blond replied, laughing slightly and suddenly his usual self. “I don’t believe in Santa anymore.” He looked over his shoulder to flash Harry his trademark smile. “Not since the horrid man gave me a potions text instead of the new broomstick I asked for last year.”
Harry’s face twitched itself into a smile. “What’s wrong with the one you’ve got now?”
“Well—it’s not new,” Malfoy answered, with the courteous air of someone puzzled by a question but too polite to ask.
The vague tilt of Malfoy’s head caused a swell of affection to surge in Harry’s limbs, and he took another step forward, against his good sense.
“Maybe you’ll get one this year, then,” he said, fighting to keep his voice cool.
“Maybe,” Malfoy replied, his head turning away again. “Would you care to sit down?” he asked after a pause, sounding strangely demure again as he gestured at the step like a considerate host.
Harry’s hands tightened. He moved to sit down.
The stone step was chilly through the folds of his cloak and pajamas, and he adjusted his seat several times after sitting, waiting for it to warm up a bit. The silence was lengthening almost to awkwardness; Malfoy staved it off with a solicitous inquiry.
“What presents do you suppose you’ll be getting tomorrow?”
Harry crossed his arms and tucked them hard against his chest. “Um. Well, I always get a jumper,” he said, looking at his knees. “From Ron’s mum—it’ll be green, green with an H on the front.” He glanced up briefly. Malfoy was listening with polite interest. “And a giant box of Chocolate Frogs from Hermione,” he continued, looking quickly back to his knees. He wasn’t accustomed to seeing Malfoy’s face so sedate. “I’m not sure about anything else though,” Harry continued. “Hagrid might give me some sort of unhatched egg.”
This drew another laugh from Malfoy, a soft one, like before. Harry glanced over again, liking the sound. “How about you?” he asked.
In the half-dark, the bond’s profile lifted. “Oh, I don’t know,” Malfoy replied mildly. “Vince and Greg’ll go halves on some Knockturn Alley trinket, I imagine. Severed hand or some such. They make excellent coat hangers, you know, as you can position the fingers any way you like,” he added. “You might not think it by looking but they’re terribly sturdy. With a simple sticking charm you can add a functional—yet gruesome—accent to any room or coat closet.”
Harry grinned. “Wow. I had no idea they could come in so useful.”
“Yes, they are rather handy.”
Their pained laughs came at almost the same time.
Malfoy straightened his trousers over his knees, smiling down at them. “That wasn’t intentional,” he said.
“I think I’m falling for you,” Harry replied.
Malfoy’s hands stopped—Harry’s heart contracted.
“Oh,” Malfoy said.
Harry wanted to die—DIE!—Evanesco himself. His head was throbbing with a strange distant echo and there were stars in his eyes, blotching his vision, making everything spin.
“Okay,” Malfoy said. He peered up at Harry, then slid across the stone to close the space between them.
Malfoy’s hip was warm as Harry turned his head; Malfoy’s mouth tasted of nothing, of a mouth, as Harry leaned to kiss him gently.
“I thought you were straight,” Malfoy whispered after, his exhale tickling Harry’s nose.
Harry’s heart quivered from high in his throat. “Straight as an eight,” he said unsteadily, into Malfoy’s cheek. It curved beneath his lip, and for all the years to come, Harry would never forget the feel of Draco’s smile, the faint bristly edge of it, and he’d never quite master his startlement of delight, not even when they’d been fighting or when the children cried or when they were doddering about with canes trying to remember the names of things.
“Me too,” Malfoy answered. He kept very still. Harry waited a moment for his pulse to even out, drawing a breath across Malfoy’s skin. It was smooth higher up, and Harry trailed his mouth there; then he shifted his head to kiss Malfoy again.
They sat on the step for another little while. It was still dark and quiet when they rose and stretched their arms.
“Best get a bit of sleep,” Harry said, wistfully.
“Right,” Malfoy replied, taking Harry’s hand. “Let’s not scandalize everyone on Christmas by letting them find us here.” He squeezed Harry’s fingers. “We should wait for the day after—that’ll be much more fun.”
Harry grinned back.
“What sort of show do you suppose we should put on?” Malfoy asked as they started toward the hallway. “Ooh, I know!” He swung their hands excitedly, sounding exuberant as ever. “Let’s have a fight—no, a duel! A duel to the death. In which you cast the merciless spell that sunders my weakening defenses, only to rush to my side, revealing at last the depth of your true feeling…”
Harry nodded, chuckling to himself.
“…and then of course, you’d weep bitter, bitter, breast-beating tears, for your love has come too late,” Malfoy was saying rapidly. He paused dramatically and looked at Harry. “Or has it?”
Harry could only laugh and shake his head no, no it hasn’t come too late. He couldn’t wait for Christmas, or for the day after that.