ELEVEN CANTICLES OF TRADITION

(How Harry Potter Found Christmas)

Disclaimer: I own nothing Harry Potter related. I intend no copyright infringement. I make no money from this.

A/N: Thanks to Sansa, Snottygrrl and Montana Dan for your beta skills and your encouragement. Special thanks to Sansa, my dearest friend, for all that you do.

Canticle I: I have No Gift to Give, I Play My Best for You

Harry Potter had a new respect for Molly Weasley as he surveyed what used to be the kitchen in the small London flat he shared with his lover, Draco Malfoy. Flour dusted everything like a fine layer of snow. There were globs of gelatinous gravy splattered on the cupboard doors. Every dish, every utensil, was strewn about the kitchen in varying stages of misuse. Harry himself was covered in . . . something—he squinted at his shirt—yellow, maybe? It was hard to tell beneath all of the flour. One quick swipe of his index finger across a largish spot of the stuff and quick taste later determined that it was the gelatinous gravy—pre-gelatin. The larger problem, he was realizing, was the smoking mound of char in front of him that, at one time, had been a lovely roast just waiting to be warmed through. Properly.

"Bloody hell!"

Harry rolled his eyes and turned to face Ron, not surprised that his best friend was here, uninvited, and witnessing his humiliation. Harry squinted at Ron's greenish complexion. He knew the kitchen looked bad, but was it enough to make one sick? He was about to comment when Ron's complexion shifted abruptly to a shocking shade of neon pink. It was then that Harry realized he was seeing the reflective effects of the Muggle fairy lights he'd strewn about the living room two weeks before.

"Seriously, Harry. I mean . . . bloody hell! I thought you said you used to have to cook for the Muggles."

"A quick fry-up in the morning and a sandwich or two doesn't make me a bloody chef," Harry snarled, staring at the roast. Willing it to do . . . something.

"Merlin! Did you string more of those Muggle fairy lights?"

Harry huffed and rolled his eyes, not that Ron was paying attention. Harry was surprised he'd even heard Ron, what with the Christmas carols blaring in the background. There was something rather perverse about adults with chipmunk voices signing with great excitement about Christmas, Christmas time being near.

Sodding Malfoy. None of this would have happened if he hadn't demanded that they spend Christmas together the Muggle way. Harry hadn't the heart to tell Draco that just because he'd grown up with Muggles didn't mean he had a clue about their Christmas traditions. Not ever being allowed to participate, the idea of a Muggle Christmas didn't resonate with him. But, he was determined. After all, he broke the world's most dangerous curses for a living. How hard could it be to whip up a few Christmas traditions?

Besides, he knew the way Christmas was supposed to feel. He remembered the sense of wonder and excitement the first time he saw the reflection of the fairy lights on the brightly wrapped gifts nestled beneath the Christmas tree. All he had to do was find things that recreated that. How hard could it be? The expression on Ron's face as he took in the devastation wrought by Harry's attempts at cooking shook Harry's confidence, however.

"You know, you can't just pop round whenever you feel like it," Harry said with an uncharacteristic edge to his voice as he tried to stab the "roast" with little new potatoes attached to toothpicks. The toothpicks kept snapping in half—Harry refused to believe it was because of the impervious surface of the solidified brick of meat in front of him. No, this was the result of shoddy craftsmanship. "Ruddy cheap wankers," he muttered under his breath as another one snapped, catapulting the previously attached small, undercooked potato to the floor.

Ron ignored Harry. And his flying potatoes. Was that cherry sauce? On the ceiling? "Fred and George didn't ambush you with anything, did they?" Ron asked, while poking suspiciously at something that was supposed to have been a cranberry congealed salad.

"No," Harry snapped as he gave up on the potatoes all together and turned his attention back to the gravy with the fervent belief that he could whisk it into submission.

After watching Harry throw his entire body into whipping the gravy into shape, Ron could stand the humiliation no more. He cleared his throat. Harry couldn't hear him, of course, what with the racket from the hi-fi in the living room. It sounded like Crookshanks was being dragged through the mud rather than the "Ave Ma—riiiiiii-aaaaaaaa," some chirpy bird was singing in a screechy voice that rivaled that of Trelawney at her most ridiculous.

"Mate," Ron tried again as Harry had words with the gravy.

Harry!" Ron finally yelled.

"What?" Harry barked as he turned around, slinging gravy all over Ron in the process. "Oh, bloody hell," Harry muttered as he reached out and wordlessly Scourgified Ron's shirt.

"It's okay, mate, really," Ron yelled, trying his best to drown out the grand orchestral swell bleating from the living room. "Look, do you think we could turn that off for a few minutes?"

Harry sighed and slumped against the kitchen counter. Defeated. Another non-verbal spell and flick of the wrist later and the flat was blessedly silent.

"Things not going so well?"

Harry pursed his lips, lest he say something scathing. If nothing else, Ron had always been the master of the understatement and the captain of the obvious.

"Not particularly, no," Harry opted for instead, turning his attention back to the gravy once again.

"Good thing you've got four weeks vacation," Ron muttered.

Harry snorted. "Vacation, my arse," he said as he made another go at the gravy.

"Harry," Ron said. He hesitated as the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh of the whisk stopped for a moment. Waiting. "Have you thought about . . . I mean to say . . . Look, you know Mum--"

"No!" Harry exclaimed, his whisking starting up again, going faster and faster. "I'm doing this on my own, Ron. It's my gift to Draco. I don't need help."

Ron nodded his head, even though he knew Harry couldn't see him. He cleared his throat. "It's just that . . . well . . . I don't understand why you just don't tell him about the Dursleys. What's so horrible about telling your . . . l-lover--"Ron cleared his throat and pulled his collar away—"that you don't have any Muggle traditions?"

Ron winced when the furiously turning whisk clattered against the side of the glass bowl. He watched as Harry's shoulders tensed and his hands made little fists.

"I'm not going through this with you again," Harry whispered in a tight voice. "You know why. Besides, I can figure it out. I did have a life before Hogwarts, you know. I saw things. And, I'm resourceful, remember? Besides, Draco's a pureblooded wizard. He won't know the difference. He just wants to see what being Muggle is like. It's a curiosity thing for him. I'm sure of it. It doesn't really mean anything to him."

"Sure, mate. Yeah, I'm sure that's right. And . . . I get it Harry, I really do. You're the uh . . . well, I mean, you're like the guy in the relationship."

Harry spun around, the caked whisk hovering expectantly. "Like the guy in the relationship?" he repeated. "Funny. I thought we were both guys."

Ron turned pink . . . and then green again. "I mean, I know that you like for things to be perfect. I mean . . . you know . . ." Ron cleared his throat again. "Look, it's obvious that you coddle the ferret."

At Harry's sharp glance, Ron mumbled an apology. "I'm just trying to say, I mean . . . I get that you're the . . . strong one the . . . uh . . . well . . ."

One of Harry's eyebrow arched in a Malfoy-esque way. The effect was rather ruined by the bits of potato and cranberry in his hair. "What, Ron? What is it that you get? That I top? That it's my cock that goes up his arse, not the other way round?"

"Bloody hell, Harry," Ron swore in a whisper, looking away with a red face, which hadn't been induced by the blinking fairy lights.

Harry sighed. "Sorry. That was unnecessary."

Ron kept clearing his throat. "I wasn't really talking about the sex," he mumbled.

Harry bit his lip. He really didn't need to cock things up with his best friend. Not now—not when his "practice dinner" was turning to shite. He had two weeks to shore up this abominable holiday. He was bound and determined to do so.

The silence was killing Harry. "Do you mind?" Harry asked, waving towards the hi fi.

Ron looked a bit leery, but nodded anyway. Strains of "The Little Drummer Boy," wandered through the flat.

Harry ran his hands through his hair while Ron looked away from him, tapping his fingers in time to the pa-rum-pum-pum-pums. "It's just that we've been through this a million times already," Harry finally said, explaining as gently as he could. "I'm not going to tell him about the Dursleys. Ever. It would change things. It would make Draco doubt that I could take care of him. I mean, if I can't defend myself against Muggles, how can I be strong for him? He needs that, don't you see? I can't have him think that . . . that. . ."

"That you were a little kid once? That you had a shitty life and, despite that, turned out okay? Please, Harry. So what if you were vulnerable? So what if you are," Ron added in a whisper, "It's part of who you are—you can't run away from it forever. And, the last time I checked, Malfoy was a big boy. He can take care of himself. Fuck, he should be the one taking care of you—not the other way round. Speaking of which, where is Malfoy anyway?"

"Hong Kong, and I'm not doing this again, Ron," Harry said. "If this is why you came, you can leave."

Ron made a frustrated noise in the back of his throat. "Harry," he whined. But Harry refused to budge. Ron hung his head and nodded for the third time.

"How long is he gone, then? How long do we have to have to figure this out?" Ron asked as he gestured around the kitchen.

Harry sighed. A smile played at his lips at Ron's agreement to help. "A few more days. He's working on that big merger between Gringotts and the I.A.P."

Ron shuddered. "How can he stand to work with those dry financial reports all day? I'd go barmy, I think."

Harry shrugged. "He loves it. Even if he has to work for Merrinder." He sniffed.

"You really don't like Merrinder, do you?"

"Of course I don't. He always sneers at Draco as if he were something stuck to his shoe—all because he was a Malfoy. Draco is not his father. Draco is one of his finest accountants, he works bloody hard and he does everything the right way."

"Uh, mate . . . Draco still is a Malfoy."

"You know what I mean! He's changed."

Ron did a double take. "Changed? How exactly? He still calls me Weasel. He's still as surly and sullen as ever. All he cares about is how much things cost and--"

"Stop right now," Harry warned. "He's good, Ron, and you know it. So what if he's a bit materialistic?"

"A bit?" Ron interrupted

"So what?" Harry asked again, talking over Ron and tiring of this oft-trod argument. "He eventually turned to the right side. He works hard. He cares about me. And I . . . I care about him."

Ron found himself staring at the cherry sauce stain on the ceiling again. Only love could explain cherry sauce on the ceiling. "You really love him, don't you?"

"Yeah. I do," Harry said a few beats later.

Resigned to the way things were going to be, Ron held out his hand. "Fine. Give me the sodding gravy. You focus on . . . on . . . that green mush over there."

"Those would be the green beans," Harry said in a tight voice.

Ron kept himself from shivering involuntarily, but only just. "Of course," he murmured before plucking the whisk from Harry's hand and trying to salvage a bit of Harry's pride.

Canticle II: The Holly Bears a Prickle, as Sharp as Any Thorn

"The Holly and the Ivy" twined through the living room as Harry, shell shocked and still covered in flour and bits of potato, drank his butterbeer and stared at the far wall. Thank the gods Draco was off to Hong Kong for a few days, counting his little beans for that tightwad Merrinder. Harry still had a bit of time.

It was two weeks until Christmas and Harry hadn't come up with any truly "Muggle" traditions. The tree, carols and dinner had been easy enough, but they seemed too humdrum, too common. Even the wizarding world had those things. More importantly, they didn't leave him with that breathless sense of wonder he remembered having as a child. He'd thought the dancing Father Christmas he'd found at the local super-mart might be enough. It wasn't, though. Nor were its four companions. Harry sighed. If he knew anything, he knew that Draco Malfoy would be disappointed with humdrum and common. Though, given that criteria, Harry could never quite figure out why Draco was with him.

Ron had convinced him to go to a Muggle department store, sure that they could find what Harry needed there. Harry wasn't as sure, but his book research hadn't yielded anything. Everything seemed a variation on the same theme—trees, lights, dinners, carols, blah, bloody blah, blah, blah, blah. How he wished Hermione was here to help him. He smiled at that, a bit sadly, and raised his butterbeer in silent salute. He switched to thinking about other things, lest he become too maudlin. It was nearly Christmas, after all.

"Carol of the Bells" started playing. Harry cursed. He hated that carol. It always sounded edgy and discordant to him—left him with an anxious, gnawing feeling. He found the remote for the hi-fi, relaxing a bit as "The Holly and Ivy" began to play again. Though somewhat morose, it was the better choice, Harry thought. That gnawing feeling lingered, though. Truth be told, it had been plaguing him all day, flaring at various points, like it had an hour ago when Ron had claimed Harry's pumpkin bisque was its own class of poison.

Harry bit his lip and stood. Something was out of place. He sprayed more pine scented air freshener. Better. But . . . something was still missing. He examined the tree. Yes, another string of lights was in order; that was the problem. The gnawing feeling began to abate as he fished out the lights and carefully wove them deep into the branches.

Canticle III:The Best Time of the Year

Harry stared blankly at the garish display in front of him while the tinny refrains of "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas" reverberated around the large, posh department store. It had been two days since his cooking fiasco with Ron.

"Muggles really shop at places like this?" Ron asked, his expression wide.

Harry sighed. He suspected he might later regret bringing Ron with him. "Let's get started," he said as he began wandering the aisles, Ron in tow.

The first hour passed with little fanfare. Harry filled his shopping basket with premium crackers, little potholders with embroidered reindeer, and more Christmas music. He clutched at the Christmas stockings he'd found, sure that Draco would like anything that involved more presents. All the while Ron goggled at the miniature train display, the children's toys and the plastic snowflakes swaying from fishing line attached to the ceiling.

Leaving Ron to his own devices, Harry traipsed through all of the Christmas displays. Though, he became more disheartened at every turn. Nothing stood out. It was the same boring trees, lights, ornaments and brightly wrapped packages. Harry sighed. Ready to surrender.

"Harry!"

Harry turned. Ron was calling him from somewhere, but he couldn't make out from where. Ron called again. Harry followed. As he turned the corner, his breath caught at the sight before him. There was a beautiful hand woven cloth with green, black and red threads darting through. There were gleaming silver candelabras in shapes he'd not seen before. He saw small four-sided tops with figures carved into them that looked a bit like runes. "What's all this?" Harry said aloud.

"Dunno, but I've never seen anything like it. All of this other stuff is the same old boring stuff we have at home. But this . . . this is different, Harry. I'm sure of it. Truly Muggle."

"I wonder what it all means," Harry murmured to himself, feeling something akin to that sense of breathless wonder he'd been searching for rise around him. It wasn't quite the same, but it would do.

Ron spied a small card on the table. "Hey, listen to this. 'There's more to the Holidays than trees, tinsel and Father Christmas,'" Ron began reading aloud, "'Marks and Spencer is pleased to help you celebrate all of your holiday traditions. New this year are our Kwanza inspired linens, a celebration of family, community and self-determination, and everything you need to celebrate your own Festival of Lights!' This is perfect, Harry!"

Harry nodded as he fingered the beautiful hand woven cloth and admired the gleaming silver candelabra. "I quite like this runner. It feels hand woven."

"It is. It's authentic Kente cloth," a voice said behind them.

Harry whipped around, startled. There was a rather officious looking salesclerk eyeing him up, no doubt paying attention to the cashmere jumper and expensive jeans Draco insisted Harry wear out in public.

Harry hadn't the foggiest idea what Kente cloth was, but wasn't about to let on. "Of course," he said, as if he'd had a momentary lapse of memory. "I'll take it. I love the green, black, red and gold woven in it," Harry murmured as he thought about how it was perfect for him and Draco.

"Shall I wrap it as a gift?"

"Uh, no. It's for me," Harry said.

The salesclerk leaned forward and peered closely at Harry. "Really?" he said, surprised.

"Er, yeah. It's not like a traditional gift, or anything, is it?" Harry asked, as he shared a glance with Ron.

The salesclerk smiled. "No, of course not. Sorry. Beautiful tradition, Kwanza. I'll just get one from the back for you."

"Er, are these things for the Festival of Lights?" Ron asked, while pointing to the menorah and dreidels.

"Yes! They're new this year. We here at Marks and Spencer recognize that there's more to the holiday season than trees, presents and Father Christmas."

Ron and Harry exchanged grins.

"He'd like this too, and some of those," Ron added, pointing to the Menorah and the dreidels.

"Yes, of course. Do you have your candles?"

Harry shook his head.

The salesclerk scoffed. "Well, we can't let that happen. You can't have a Festival of Lights without the lights, now can you? I think we have some lovely ones in the back."

Harry smiled as the salesclerk darted to the back of the store. A festival of lights and a celebration of things like self-determination and community sounded perfect. This was definitely not a boring old tree, Muggle lights and dancing Father Christmases.

"You sure about this Ron? Nothing wizardish about any of this?" Harry asked while they waited for the clerk to return.

"Positive. Never seen anything like it. Not at all like any wizarding traditions."

Harry smiled. "You know, I've seen the candelabra things before. I didn't realize they were just a Muggle thing."

Ron turned thoughtful. "I've never seen them before. I'm sure they're exclusively Muggle, Harry."

Harry bit his lip. "Maybe we should ask a few more questions. Just to make sure, you know."

Ron waved away his concerns. "Trust me, Harry. This Christmas will be like nothing Malfoy has ever seen."

"I just want it to be special. I don't want Draco to think I don't have any traditions, or anything."

Ron opened his mouth to remind Harry that he didn't really have any traditions but was stopped by the return of the salesclerk. "I forgot to mention that we're having a bit of a sale on our fairy lights. Do you have enough? You should have at the very least one hundred lights per foot of tree, you know," the salesclerk added.

Ron snorted, thinking about Harry's tree, completely doused in Muggle fairy lights. Therefore he was surprised when Harry took the salesclerk's words to heart, his eyebrows knitting in deep concentration. He tugged at Harry's sleeve.

Harry felt a bit of a panic. Did he have enough lights? It seemed as though there were enough, but one could never be sure. "Um, I'll take three, no four, boxes of lights," he said as he batted Ron's hand away.

Harry walked out of the posh London store feeling lighter than when he'd entered. He couldn't believe his good fortune. Draco would have his Muggle Christmas after all.

"Want to come back to the flat for a butterbeer? To celebrate?"

Ron nodded. "Yeah. There's something I wanted to talk to you about anyway."

Canticle IV:Home for Christmas, Even if Only in My Dreams

After they arrived back at the flat, fussed over the new decorations, and sat down for a drink, an awkward silence descended. Ron drummed his fingers on the coffee table. He cleared his throat. He shot a glance at Harry before staring at the Christmas tree and the globs of tacky tinsel that still hadn't been sorted out. It seemed Harry had strung more fairy lights. Why did he need four more boxes? He wrinkled his nose at the overpowering smell of pine.

"I'm still invited to Christmas Eve dinner, right?" Ron asked.

"Of course," Harry said, wondering where Ron was going with this. Harry drank his butterbeer and waited.

Ron cleared his throat again before snatching his butterbeer from the table and taking a long pull. He slammed the bottle back on the table and leaned forward. He stared at Harry and made several attempts to say something. "I was wondering if . . . I was wondering if I could bring a date," Ron blurted finally.

A sharp tack of surprise pricked the inside of Harry's gut. He sat up. Ron had gone all flushed and sweaty. "Seriously?" he asked after several long moments.

Ron hung his head and nodded. "Yeah."

Harry was struck dumb. He'd not expected this. When had his best friend found someone he cared about enough to bring to Harry's impending night of disaster? When had he started thinking about dating? When had he finally let Hermione go? It was disturbing to Harry that he didn't know the answer to these questions. The melancholy refrain in "I'll Be Home for Christmas," wafted through the flat, oddly appropriate at that moment.

Hermione's death had been hard on everyone and Ron hadn't seemed interested in moving on. Ron and Harry rarely talked about her. Harry had always thought that the two of them had an unspoken pact to simply disregard her death. It was easier to believe that she was still there, hovering, tsking, lecturing, loving her two boys—now men. But, she'd been gone seven years now. And, until this moment, Ron had never shown any interest in . . . well, replacing her. A huge part of Harry was thrilled that his best friend had finally taken this step. But, a small part of him grieved anew at the loss of his friend. If Ron had moved on—or was willing to try, anyway—then she really was gone.

When he realized he'd not said anything Harry sat forward, clasped Ron's hand and said, "Of course. Yes. Of course. Happy to have . . . um . . .her?"

Ron snorted. "Stop trying to convert me."

Harry snickered and squeezed Ron's hand before letting go. Before letting Hermione go. He took a deep breath and, once again, turned away from the past. "Tell me about her. How did you meet?"

Ron hesitated and searched Harry for some sort of confirmation that it was okay that he was considering seeing someone new. "We work together. At the Ministry."

Harry rolled his eyes. "I know where you work Ron. Skip the preliminaries. Get to the good stuff," he said as he waggled his eyebrows.

Ron flushed again and looked away before murmuring, "Bloody hell, Harry."

That told Harry everything he needed to know. Ron was serious about this girl. That sharp stabbing pain hit him again, but this time—this time—it didn't hurt nearly as much.

"Her name's Melanie Marchbanks. She's the grandniece of Madam Marchbanks. She reminds me a lot of Hermione, in a way. She's bright, speaks before she thinks, and is passionate about the things she believes in. She's forward as hell—she asked me out! Can you believe it? Wouldn't take no for an answer. Made me dinner—tasted as good as Mum's. Anyway, I think . . . I think I really like her. And I think you'll like her too."

Harry nodded. "I'm sure I will," he whispered.

Ron sighed as he relaxed. Harry realized that Ron had been very nervous about Harry's reaction. "Thank you for telling me about her. I'm glad . . . I'm glad you're doing this. That you're moving on. You deserve it."

Ron turned and gave Harry one of his patented hang-dog looks that nearly had both of them weeping. That simply wouldn't do. Men didn't cry.

"Has Molly met Ms. Marchbanks?" Harry asked as he rolled his butterbeer bottle between his hands.

Ron grinned. The previous "seriousness" was forgotten. "No. I'm taking her to meet everyone after dinner with you. We're staying through Boxing Day and then back to work. I figure your dinner will make anything that happens at the Burrow seem tame by comparison."

"Prat," Harry murmured before remembering a time when Bill's wife Fleur had failed to impress Molly Weasley. "Word of advice, mate, avoid that Christmas program on the wireless. You know how your mum gets."

Ron snickered. "Thanks. I'd forgotten about that. I thought for sure Fleur and Mum were going to tear at each other that Christmas."

"No one's good enough for her boys, you know?"

"Yeah. You know you're included in that, right? She sniffs every time I mention Draco—wondering when he's going to make 'an honest man' of you."

Harry ducked his head, hoping to hide his blush. He didn't know why, but the thought of someone looking after him like a mum always left him with a squeezing pain in his chest—one that left him just a bit short of breath. He stood and gathered Ron's empty butterbeer bottle with his own. "While you're here, how about helping me with a project," he asked while he threw away the bottles.

Ron rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath about Harry and his projects. "What is it this time? Please tell me, for the love of Merlin, you've decided against the pumpkin bisque?"

Harry shot him a dirty look. "There is nothing wrong with that soup."

"Yeah. And nothing right about it, either," Ron mumbled as he stood. "What's next, then?"

Harry flashed a nervous grin before he ran out of the room, leaving a bewildered Ron behind. A few moments later, Harry returned dragging something that looked vaguely like a little wooden house made of plastic. There were outlines of figures that were supposed to be inside as well.

"What in the heavens?" Ron asked.

"The piece de resistance! It's a Muggle Christmas decoration for the lawn," Harry panted.

Ron stared at the plastic creche, having no idea what he was looking at. "But Harry, you don't have a lawn—you live in this tiny flat, already filled to the gills with fairy lights and dancing Father Christmases." Ron shuddered as one of the Father Christmases began shaking and whirring, as if on cue.

"Yeah, I know. That's why I thought we could use a sticking charm and plaster it outside the balcony window."

Ron swore under his breath. It was time to draw the line. A Christmas decoration intervention was in order. "No," he said.

Harry blinked. "Yes."

"No, Harry. You don't even know what this thing is. And, what's with the little baby"—Ron leaned forward and squinted—"laying in the straw with that manticore looking beast staring at it. He looks awfully hungry to me."

Harry looked down. "I told you, Ron. I've seen this before. And, that's not a manticore, it's a donkey, Ron. It's smiling. At the baby, the donkey's smiling at the baby." Harry felt it wise not to get into a discussion with Ron about who the "baby" was exactly.

Ron shook his head. "It's baring its teeth. I think it means to eat that baby," he speculated. At Harry's pursed lips, which always meant he was refusing to give in, Ron sighed and tried a different tack. "How exactly are you going to explain it to Draco? You know he'll ask."

Harry crumpled and bit his lip. It would be difficult to explain. Draco would demand details, threaten long, philosophical debates, and generally make Harry wish he'd never brought it up. His constant questioning about Harry's childhood Christmas memories was unnerving enough. He didn't need the added pressure of religious debate. He looked down at the creche and the bizarre smiling figures again. "Too much, you think?"

Ron clapped his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Mate, you hit 'too much' four dancing Father Christmases ago."

Canticle V:Think of All the Fun I've Missed, All the Fellas I Haven't Kissed

Draco hesitated before opening the door to the flat he shared with Harry. It had been a long four days in Hong Kong. He wasn't sure he was up for the colored fairy lights and dancing Father Christmases. Every time he turned around, the tacky Muggle decorations multiplied. They were like sodding puffskeins. He was beginning to regret ever asking Harry to share his Christmas traditions with him.

He'd hoped to find out more about Harry through this. He'd hoped Harry would share this part of himself. The holidays were special. Draco wanted to know what made them special to Harry. But, so far, all he'd gotten were suspicious burn marks in the kitchen that couldn't be magicked away, beady-eyed Father Christmases that seemed to track his every move, and enough blinking fairly lights to warrant tacking a seizure warning notice on the front door. He ran his hands through his hair and let himself in, cautious and wary.

Draco had prepared himself for the Father Christmases and the cheery Christmas carols blaring from the Muggle music machine Harry had purchased several weeks prior. But the overwhelming smell of pine had him sneezing within seconds. He thought he might sick up. Worse still, Harry had added even more fairy lights. Their erratic blinking was making him feel woozy. He blinked his eyes rapidly, hoping to make the flat stop spinning. Off to the side, a messy mop of hair poked out from the kitchen doorway, making Draco lurch to the side.

"You're back!" Harry exclaimed while bounding into the hall to greet Draco with a kiss.

Draco couldn't help but laugh. Harry had been trying to cook again, it seemed. He was covered in some orange paste that smelled a bit like burnt pumpkin. "Merlin, Potter. More lights?" Draco sneered before giving Harry a hard, needy kiss.

"Hmm," Harry whispered as he pulled away. "Missed you, too."

"Thank the gods I don't have to go anywhere else before Christmas. Merlin only knows what I'd come home to," Draco teased.

"Well, you did say you wanted a Muggle Christmas. Come see. I've finally had a chance to finish putting everything out."

"Wonderful," Draco said, cautiously peering around the flat. "You know, Harry, when I asked for a Muggle Christmas, I meant--" Draco stopped as he took in what looked like a mismatched jumble sale on their dining table. "What's all this?"

"Oh. Well, in addition to the tree and the Father Christmases, there are these celebrations. One is a light festival represented by the candelabra. The Kente cloth," Harry said with some authority, "is representative of Kwanza, a celebration of community, family and self-determination." Harry grinned.

Draco fingered the cloth. "Slytherin and Gryffindor," he muttered.

Harry nodded. "Traditional Kwanza colors. How perfect, yeah?"

Draco nodded. "I've never heard of these."

Harry beamed.

"How did you celebrate them growing up?"

"Oh, you know," Harry said as he pressed himself against Draco's back.

Harry's warm breath slid across Draco's ear, making him shiver. Harry was in the mood to play and Draco didn't know if he'd be able to hold out. He sighed. "Harry," he started, but he got no further.

"Gods, I missed you," Harry growled as he leaned into Draco and wrapped his arms around his waist from behind. "Santa Baby," began playing. Harry moved in time with its seductive rhythm and base line. He bit the side of Draco's neck and thrust his hips into Draco's backside. "Can't wait to fuck you," he whispered before nibbling the shell of Draco's ear.

Draco eyes fluttered closed as he inhaled sharply. When Harry's hands opened Draco's trousers and massaged his cock, Draco decided he'd ask his questions later. A far more pressing need had just arisen.

"Bedroom?"

"Can't wait that long," Harry moaned as he started pulling at Draco's clothes, kissing and biting every inch of skin revealed to him.

Draco groaned and turned so that he was facing Harry. He kissed him hard, tugging at his trousers as he did so. "Too long, too fucking long," Draco whispered against Harry's lips.

Harry made a small sound of agreement, before attacking the side of Draco's neck.

As soon as they had stripped each other, Harry turned Draco around and pushed him up against the wall. Draco's eyes fluttered closed. He loved it this way and Harry knew it. He spread his legs a bit wider and bent over. His moves, like Harry's, were practiced and efficient, but no less loving because of it.

"Ready, love?" Harry asked some time later in between kisses and nips along the small of Draco's back.

"Yesss," Draco hissed as he arched backward and rubbed his cleft against Harry's cock.

Draco felt Harry position himself. The wait seemed interminable. He screwed his eyes shut and panted in anticipation. Just as he was about to scream at Harry to get moving, Harry pushed against him, entering slowly.

"Fuck, yes," Draco moaned as he pounded against the wall, wanting the feeling of Harry sliding into him to end, but to never end.

"We're going to start out slow, and then we're going to go slower and slower and slower until Cornwall can hear you screaming, begging me for release," Harry whispered as he made slow, shallow thrusts.

"Fuck, you're going to kill me," Draco puffed out in one long exhalation.

Harry chuckled. "Only a little," he whispered before biting Draco's shoulder blade hard and following it with soft, feathery kisses.

Draco moaned. With a smile, he resigned himself to a very deliberate and a very thorough fucking. "Love you," he whispered.

"Love you," Harry whispered back.

Canticle VI:Woe is Me, Poor Child

Christmas Eve arrived. Harry was a nervous wreck. He was either barking at Draco to run out and buy more butter or eggs or pureed pumpkin, or he was spraying the pine scented air freshener.

"Stop with that shite, Potter! What are you trying to do? Just what are you trying to cover up with that pine-scented hell?"

Harry ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "I just want everything to be perfect, Draco. Ron and Melanie are due in the hour and the bisque is separating, I've done something to the potatoes and the beans have gone all mushy."

Draco chuckled, finding Harry's disheveled appearance sexy for some unknown reason. "Thank god I'm not with you for your domestic skills."

"I'm serious, Draco. This," Harry said, flapping his arms about, "is part of your Christmas present. I just want it to be--"

"I know, Potter. You want it to be perfect," Draco said, cutting Harry off. "Is this what it was like at your house growing up? All this chaos? Bits of . . . is that pumpkin? Seriously, Harry, how did you manage to get pumpkin in your hair?"

"Fuck off," Harry growled as he patted his hair in embarrassment. "What's with all the questions?"

Draco shrugged. He'd tried for the last week and a half to get Harry to talk about what his Christmases were like, but every single time, Harry had gotten him off track, gotten him talking about his own childhood Christmases. "Just making conversation, Potter."

"Well, stop it. I'm not in the mood," Harry said, looking adorably grumpy and rumpled.

"By the way, where are the truffles? I didn't see them anywhere."

"That's because there aren't any," Harry said, his lips pursed.

"But, I always have truffles at Christmas Eve supper," Draco said.

"Yes, well this year there are no truffles. Deal with it. Be glad you got your bloody potatoes. And if you make one more crack about my roast, it'll be you stuffed in that oven."

Draco chuckled again as he walked over and wound his arms around Harry's waist. "It's going to be fine, love."

Harry relaxed into the embrace. "I'm never cooking again," he growled.

"Agreed," Draco said with a shudder. "Should I make sure the curry take-away place is open? Just in case?"

"Fuck you," Harry muttered before stomping off to get a quick shower, ignoring Draco's laughter. "Just for that, no stocking presents from Father Christmas for you." Draco stopped laughing. Harry smirked and sauntered into their bedroom, humming "Here Comes Santa Claus."

An hour later and Harry and Draco were dressed for dinner, the Coventry Carol was playing softly in the background, candles were lit, wine was uncorked and the kitchen was full of food gently steaming under warming charms.

"Stop that," Harry said with a slap to Draco's hand, which kept sneaking into the bowl of small potatoes.

"Can't help it," Draco whined. "These are actually pretty good."

"Damn it, Draco," Harry said. Before he could say anything further, however, the doorbell chimed.

"Okay. They're here. Please, please for the love of Merlin, try to be civil," Harry asked.

Draco shrugged. Harry decided to take that for a yes.

Harry opened the door. Ron, looking nervous, stood next to a striking young woman with shoulder length brown hair. There was a keen gaze in her eyes and a sharpness to her features. Her smile, though, warmed her through and made her seem less severe. Harry liked her instantly.

"You must be Melanie," Harry said as he invited Ron and Melanie in.

"Yes, and you must be Harry. So lovely to meet you," Melanie said with a firm handshake and a bright smile. "I must say I never thought I'd have the chance to meet you."

Ron tugged at his collar a bit.

"Er, yes well, I'm glad you could join us," Harry said, hoping Draco hadn't heard. Draco hated it when people got too close to Harry and gawked at him. He was rather protective like that. It drove Harry crazy. When Draco slipped in behind him and pulled him close, allowing him to loom over Harry a bit, Harry realized he'd heard everything. "Draco," he whispered in warning.

"Weasley," Draco acknowledged with a nod of his head. He turned his gaze to Melanie, staring at her critically. "Hello. I'm Draco," he drawled.

Melanie smiled just as warmly as before as she turned to Ron. "My, he is taciturn, isn't he? I thought you were exaggerating." Turning back to Draco, whose eyes had gone wide with shock, she said, "Nice to meet you, Draco. I've heard loads about you. Looking forward to having it all proved wrong," she said with a wink.

Draco sputtered. Harry rolled his eyes. "Forgive Draco, he's a bit tetchy around strangers. He's a bit like a dog in that regard," Harry said with a firm smack to Draco's thigh. He wriggled free and took Ron and Melanie's cloaks. "Please, make yourselves at home. Ron, you know where everything is."

Melanie strode forward but stopped as soon as she was assaulted by the blinking fairy lights. She blinked rapidly, hoping to stave off the dizziness. "Oh," she said, just as she began to feel woozy.

Ron braced her. "I should have warned you," he said quietly, blinking rapidly himself.

"It's not that bad," Harry hissed, tired of everyone complaining about the fairy lights.

"Yes, it is," Draco growled. "You'll have to forgive Harry, he's taken quite a fancy to the fairy lights. But, he's always been attracted to bright and shiny things. Rather like a kitten in that regard," he drawled smugly, in recompense for the dog comment.

Melanie giggled. "You two make quite a pair," she said as she wandered around the flat. "What a fascinating assortment," she said as she picked up random things and examined them.

"Why don't we go ahead and sit down to dinner," Harry said, fearing that Draco might lose his temper soon. "I thought we'd start with a nice pumpkin bisque."

"Oh, Merlin no," Ron muttered.

"What was that?" Harry said, snapping his head around.

Ron knew that sharp, slightly wild look well. Apparently, so did Draco. "Nothing, Potter. We're all looking forward to the bisque. Aren't we, Weasley?" Draco asked.

"Yeah. 'Course," Ron said with a weak smile as Harry brought out the soup.

"This is rather, er, peppery," Melanie said as she struggled through the first few bites of the pumpkin bisque. "Unusual flavor," she rasped before draining her water glass. "Oh!" she said when she spotted the Menorah. "Shalom."

"Bless you," Harry said, thinking Melanie had just sneezed, while at the same time Ron said, "Merlin's blessing," thinking the same thing.

Melanie rolled her eyes, giggled and swatted at Ron. "No, you silly prat. Shalom," she said, emphasizing the word carefully before turning to Harry and Draco. "Which one of you is Jewish?"

Draco shot Harry a speculative look. Harry's mind raced to come up with an answer. "How did you know?" Harry said tentatively, hoping he'd bought himself some information and a little more time.

"Well, I'm quite fond of Muggle holiday traditions. Including Muggle religious rituals. Quite a buff on them, actually," Melanie said.

Harry blinked. He shot a look at Ron, whose face was screwed up in an expression of abject horror. Ron hadn't known, then. This was going to be bad. Very, very bad. Still, though, if Harry could break the world's most dangerous curses, he could bluff a pureblood witch with a penchant for Muggle traditions.

"My Uncle's family was Jewish," Harry finally said. "We, uh, didn't celebrate much. He didn't practice, per se." Harry said all of this very slowly, watching for signs of recognition or confusion on Melanie's face. So far, he seemed to have gotten things right.

"That explains the pepper, I suppose," she said before trying another bite.

Harry nodded. He had no idea what Melanie was talking about.

"So," Draco began as he pushed the soup away, "Did anyone have a favorite Christmas gift growing up?"

"Ooh! What a lovely idea, Draco. It's the perfect time of year for remembering!" Melanie exclaimed as she discreetly pushed her soup away as well. "I'll start. I was, oh I don't know, eight I suppose, and my grandmother gave me my first magical gift—an old family bonding ring. I still wear it on this chain around my neck. It's loaded with protection spells. Eventually, when I get married that is, I'll wear it on my right hand and its mate will be given to my spouse."

"A wonderful memory, Melanie," Draco said. "Harry? How about you?"

Harry went white. He took a large swallow of wine while he thought about how best to answer. It came to him. He smiled. "My invisibility cloak. Got it my first year at Hogwarts. It was my dad's. Ron and I got out of loads of scrapes with it."

"What about before Hogwarts, Harry?" Draco pressed.

Harry blinked. "I didn't realize there were conditions on this, Draco. The invisibility cloak was my favorite gift as a child," he snapped.

"Yes, but I knew you then. I think we'd all be interested in hearing about your favorite gift before going to Hogwarts."

"Oh, yes. Wonderful idea," Melanie echoed. "I for one would love to hear about how you spent your holidays with your Muggle relatives."

At the sound of Ron's spoon clattering against the side of the soup bowl, everyone turned.

"Brill soup, Harry. Can I have some more?" Ron croaked out, looking a bit peaky. It seemed he'd started shoveling pumpkin bisque in his mouth the second Draco began pressing Harry about his pre-Hogwarts years in hopes of diverting the conversation elsewhere. It didn't work.

"Don't be silly, Ron," Melanie sniffed. "The soup was ghastly. Even Harry knows it. Oh, I hope I've not offended you," Melanie said as she turned back to Harry, her gaze horror stricken.

"Uh, no," Harry said, not sure how to respond to Draco's request or Melanie's bizarre apology.

Ironically, it was Draco who saved him from having to answer his question.

"You're awfully rude," Draco snarled at Melanie. "I'll have you know that Harry worked very hard on that soup."

"Well, I don't see you eating it either," Melanie said dryly. She was so honest, it was rather difficult to get upset with her, Harry decided.

Draco sputtered. He looked indignant on Harry's behalf. He made rude gestures. But, never once did he pick up the spoon. Finally, he turned to Harry. "Sorry. It is a bit dodgy."

Much to everyone's surprise, Harry laughed. He could give two flips about the soup so long as he didn't have to answer any more questions. Dinner became a much more relaxed affair after that. Until Melanie noticed the Kente cloth.

"My, what an unusual runner," she said slowly.

Harry nodded. "Yes, it's Kente cloth. It's part of our Kwanza celebration."

Melanie looked up and peered closely at Harry. "Really?" she murmured.

"Er, yeah," Harry said trailing off a bit, shooting a glance at Ron. "Are you familiar with Kwanza?" he squeaked.

"No, not that much," Melanie said slowly.

Harry smiled, feeling more confident. "I'm not surprised. It's not every Muggle that celebrates it."

"That is certainly true," Melanie said.

"Tell us all about it, Harry," Draco said. "I've yet to hear about how your family celebrated the holiday. I'm sure we'd all like to know."

Harry eyed Ron. "Okay," he said, launching into a completely fictitious account of Christmas with the Dursleys. He regaled them with charming stories about Christmas gooses and celebrating the Festival of Lights, careful to keep his accounts vague lest Melanie call him on anything. There were several times when she looked at him strangely, but thus far she'd not made further comment. Feeling braver, Harry began his account of Kwanza.

"You see, Kwanza is a celebration of community and self-determination and family. I remember pulling out the Kente cloth every year and helping Aunt Petunia lay it across the table. At Christmas dinner, Uncle Vernon would tell us stories of how his family had celebrated Kwanza when he was a child. We'd each have a prepared reading that we shared with everyone. Then, we'd light all of the candles in the Menorah and sing Silent Night before going to bed and waiting for Father Christmas. Dessert anyone?"

"So, your uncle's family celebrates both Hanukkah and Kwanza?" Melanie asked.

"No, you misunderstood. The Festival of Lights and Kwanza," Harry said as he stood.

"But, Hanukkah is the same thing as the Festival of Lights," Melanie said, confusion wrinkling her brow. "Isn't it?"

Draco's head shot up. He stared at Harry, waiting for his answer.

"My, would you look at how late it's gotten!" Ron interjected. "Melanie, we'd better get to the Burrow soon. Don't want to make Mum mad."

"In a minute, Weasley. I'd like to hear Harry's answer to the question," Draco whispered in a steely voice.

Harry swallowed. "Well, you see, um . . . well, yes, Hanukkuh is technically the Festival of Lights, but there are a few differences. It can be dreadfully difficult to tell the two apart."

"I didn't know that," Melanie said, genuinely confused. "Surprising, too."

"What do you mean?" Draco asked, his eyes flashing dangerously.

"Hmm? Oh, it's nothing. I'm just surprised that Harry knows the difference, given that he said that his uncle's family wasn't particularly faithful."

Draco looked up at Harry. "Yes, that is a bit strange."

"The Burrow? Melanie?" Ron tried again. No one was listening, though. Ron slumped in his chair, hoping to become invisible by proxy.

"That's what's so fascinating about Muggle holidays," Melanie said, still trying to work out the Hanukkah issue. "I mean, take Kwanza, for example. Based on my reading, I would have expected to see ears of corn at each place setting. And, perhaps a Kinara, though it would be difficult to have both a Menorah and a Kinara, I suppose. And, what of the blessing cup? I thought for sure that was an integral part of the celebration?"

Harry sat back down. He felt a bit green about the gills. "I," he said, not sure of how to respond. No matter, Melanie pressed on, oblivious to the rising level of discomfort in the room.

"And then, I was very surprised when you said that your uncle celebrated the holiday. I assumed that your aunt and uncle were British."

"They are," Harry said, perplexed.

Melanie leaned close again, staring at Harry as though he were a specimen pinned to a scientific slide. "But that still doesn't explain . . ." she said before trailing off and leaning closer.

"Stop staring at him," Draco growled. "He doesn't like that."

"It's okay Draco," Harry said, though unnerved by Melanie's scrutiny.

"Oh! It's your aunt that your blood related to. How silly of me to have forgotten."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Ron asked, curious despite himself. Harry shot him a dirty look. Ron winced in apology.

"Well it certainly explains a few things," Melanie said with a chuckle. "It must have been really, really interesting growing up in an interracial home, Harry. I'd love to hear all about it."

Harry choked on his wine. "What?"

Ron chuckled. "Melanie, you've got it all wrong. Harry's uncle is as pasty an Englishman as you'll ever meet."

Melanie bit her lip. "Well, then I'm confused again."

"Why?" Harry asked, as he raised his wineglass to his lips.

"It's just that . . . well, Kwanza is primarily an African-American celebration."

Harry's wine glass shattered into a million pieces as his face lost every ounce of color it had. Ron, he noticed, was gesturing feverishly at Melanie—trying to get her to shut the bloody hell up. But, it was too late. Draco's eyes had narrowed. Harry watched as his silver gaze darted between the Menorah, the crackers, the fairly lights and the Kente cloth. Draco looked up, his level gaze screaming that he, in that moment, comprehended the scathing depths of Harry's duplicity. Harry knew the death knell had sounded for his little farce. He snorted.

Draco's eyes narrowed. "Do you think this is funny?" he spat.

"What?" Harry asked, his eyes as round as saucers. "No, Draco, I don't. Sorry. I was just--"

Draco continued undaunted. "Was this your plan all along? To have a laugh at my expense? Invite the Weasel and his little girlfriend over to watch it all come together, yeah? Did you honestly think I wouldn't figure it out?"

"I can explain," Harry rushed.

"Really? Okay. Go on, then. Explain."

"I don't—I didn't . . ." Harry looked to Ron who was encouraging him with his not-so-subtle hand motions to come clean. Harry turned back to Draco. He opened his mouth to tell him the truth, but he faltered at the look of utter betrayal, of utter loathing, in Draco's eyes. "I wasn't trying to hurt you," he murmured. "You don't understand."

"I don't understand? I don't understand, do I? I'll tell you what I understand," Draco growled as he stalked closer. "I understand that all of this—this shite—isn't real. None of it! Stories about Christmas gooses, poetry readings, festivals of light, this, this Kwanza thing. You don't believe in any of it, do you? Huh? Not a word of it is real, is it? What's so sacred about your Christmas that you won't even share it with me? What was so hard about sharing your Christmas with me? I thought"—Draco's voice broke—"I thought I meant something to you. Like really meant something. I thought you were sharing something with me. But, you're just the same selfish prat you've always been."

"How dare you!" Harry yelled, cut to the quick by Draco's accusation. "You have no idea the lengths I have gone to give you your sodding Muggle Christmas! You don't get it. All you care about is what's in it for you!"

"I never asked for a sodding Muggle Christmas! I asked for your Christmas, Harry."

"Well, sorry to disappoint, Malfoy, but I'm not sodding perfect!" Harry screamed, still unable to tell Draco the truth.

"So, the Golden Boy finally admits it. You're just a silly little boy pretending, aren't you? Well, I don't play with silly little boys."

Ron winced and thought about intervening but quickly thought better of it. Instead, he sighed and prayed to the gods that this end soon. Before wands were drawn. He pulled Melanie away, who was standing there, gobsmacked.

"Is that what you think of me?" Harry asked, his voice tremulous.

Draco looked away, refusing to answer. This had already gotten out of hand. This was not at all what he had expected this night would bring. These were not the questions he'd thought he would be asking.

"Is it?" Harry said again, his voice rising. When Draco still refused to answer, Harry spat, "And a happy fucking Christmas to you too, Malfoy," before Disapparating with a loud crack.

"We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas," drifted through the room—a mocking parody of what had happened.

"Turn that bleeding shite off!" Draco roared as he wandlessly vanished the hi-fi and all of the Christmas music Harry had amassed over the last several weeks. Draco stalked out of the room, leaving Ron and Melanie at the epicenter of the most disastrous Christmas dinner either had ever witnessed.

The door to the bedroom slammed shut, opened, and then slammed shut again before creeping open. Ron and Melanie heard a string of expletives.

"I think I'll just go to the Burrow," Melanie announced in a soft voice as she gathered her coat and mittens. "I'm truly sorry, Ron—I've bollocksed this up, haven't I?"

"No, you haven't. Harry did that," Ron muttered. "And I helped him," he said while trying to figure out a way to save his friend from himself.

"He had no idea, did he?" Melanie pressed. "I mean to say, he's never really participated in a Muggle Christmas, has he?"

Ron looked up. Perceptive as Hermione, Melanie was. "No, he hasn't. It's—it's a really sore spot for him, actually. Please don't say anything to anyone about it."

"Of course not," she said, grasping Ron's hand and squeezing gently. She stood on tiptoe and kissed the side of his mouth. "I'll make your excuses. Join us when you can. Take care of your friends. I daresay they aren't terribly equipped to take care of themselves."

Ron snorted. "You have no idea. But, listen. You shouldn't have to go to the Burrow alone. You've no idea what that lot is like."

Melanie smirked. "I know you, and that's all I need to know. Besides, you talk about them all the time. I've got a pretty good idea of what I'm getting myself into. I think I can handle myself."

Ron smiled at the warm flutter that rose in his chest. "Happy Christmas, Melanie," he said before dipping down and kissing her soundly—as if he meant something with that kiss.

When they pulled apart, Melanie looked up at him, a question in her eyes. She seemed to answer it for herself, if her blinding smile was anything to go by. "Happy Christmas, Ron." She winked before flooing to the Burrow.

Canticle VII: Find Comfort, Find Joy, Let Nothing You Dismay

Ron watched Melanie go, his gaze lingering on the bits of green fire still swirling in the fireplace. When he could ignore the problem no longer, he marched down the hall and stopped at the bedroom door. He could see Draco sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at a small, brightly wrapped box. His expression was rather morose, Ron thought. He took a deep breath and knocked before entering.

Draco looked up and hastily put the small box in his pocket. "Come to rub it in, have you," he sneered as Ron approached. "Finally got your wish. No more Draco Malfoy to sully your little golden boy."

Ron kept his anger in check. "No," he said evenly. "I've come to explain."

"Explain what? That my, my . . . that Harry can't be bothered to share his family traditions with me? That I mean so little to him that he concocted this unholy mess so that he wouldn't have to?"

"You just don't get it, do you, Malfoy?" Ron exclaimed, unable to cover his anger. "Did it ever occur to you--" Ron stopped. He was treading into dangerous territory. If he went further, he knew he'd have to tell Draco the truth. What he knew of it, anyway.

"What, Weasel-bee?" Draco asked, falling back into familiar schoolboy taunts.

Ron let out a shaky breath and took a few steps forward. He sat in the chair next to the bed and stared hard at Draco. "Did it ever occur to you, Malfoy, that Harry has never had a Muggle Christmas? That he doesn't have any Muggle Christmas traditions?"

Draco stared back. "I don't believe you."

"Of course you don't," Ron muttered under his breath, preparing to stand and leave. Harry was Merlin knew where and Malfoy was in the mood to be nasty. Ron had had enough. He wanted some of his mum's mince pie and, more importantly, he wanted to be sitting outside under a charmed blanket, staring at the stars and snogging Melanie—not consoling Draco sodding Malfoy. "See you," he said in flat voice.

"Wait!" Draco said as Ron stood to leave. "That's impossible. I mean, he lived with those Muggles for years and years. They worshipped him. Christmas had to be glorious for him."

Ron laughed. He couldn't help it. "Is that what Harry told you?"

Draco shifted on the bed. "Uh, no. He never . . . He doesn't talk about them. I just assumed. I mean, he was the 'Chosen One,' the 'Boy-Who-Lived.' I imagine he got everything he ever wanted."

Ron winced. He argued with himself for some time about what to do. He could simply leave and let the two of them sort it out themselves. Yes. That's it—he'd simply leave. But, at the sound of Draco's shuddering sigh, he knew he couldn't just leave things the way they were. Harry would be furious, but Ron was going to have to tell Draco the truth.

Ron turned around. "Do you love him? I mean really love him? I'm serious about this, Malfoy."

Draco dropped the sneer and nodded.

Ron blew out a deep breath, cursed, and fell back into the chair. He struggled to collect his thoughts. The tense silence made him wish for some of Harry's ridiculous Christmas music. When the weight of Draco's expectancy outmatched his own discomfort, Ron knew he couldn't stall any further. "Harry's aunt and uncle hated him," he said simply.

"What?" Draco asked, a hard edge to his voice. Ron imagined that it was a protective kind of sound—like when he growled at Melanie for staring at Harry too closely. "Impossible. Dumbledore would never--"

"I'm telling you, they hated him," Ron said as he leaned forward. "They kept him locked in a little cupboard, never fed him, told him he was a freak because he was a wizard. His first year at Hogwarts they sent him a used tissue as a Christmas gift. The summer after second year we had to rescue him—they'd barred his window and put a little flap in the bottom of his door to pass food and water through. He never—not once—went home for Christmas while at Hogwarts and they never asked him to come home. Now you tell me, Malfoy, does that sound like they cared one whit about him? Does that sound like someone who has any meaningful Muggle Christmas traditions?"

Ron's question hung in the air for quite some time before Draco responded.

"They were afraid of him," Draco whispered.

Ron nodded. "But more than that, they despised him. They--" Ron shook his head. He had to stop. He'd already told far more than he'd planned.

"They what?" Draco demanded.

"I shouldn't have said this much. But, just so you know, Malfoy, Harry did all of this—all of this—for you. He wanted you to have a perfect Christmas. It didn't turn out, but he never meant to hurt you. He wasn't keeping his holiday from you, only . . . only his sadness or maybe his embarrassment, I guess."

Draco nodded, his hand slipping into his pocket. "He thinks I want him to be perfect, but I don't. I could care less, actually."

Ron sat a bit straighter, surprised by the admission. "He's just trying to protect your lily-white arse," he grumbled.

"Yeah . . . I let him think that."

Ron's mouth fell open.

"What? You think I don't know that he fancies himself the top in this relationship? Please. That man needs more protecting and coddling than the bloody Minister of Magic. The trick is getting him to let me do it without him knowing that I'm doing it. Seems I'm going to have to take a more direct approach."

Ron continued to gape.

"Don't look so surprised. I know all about Harry's 'saving people thing.'" Draco sniffed. "Besides. It works well for us. Harry has a pathological need to be needed and I have a pathological need to be showered with attention."

Ron chuckled at Draco's gentle quip, but the underlying truth was too sobering. "Doesn't seem to be working right now, mate."

"Yes. I rather got that, Weasley."

"He loves you, you know. I mean, he really loves you. I've never seen him do anything remotely this stupid or pathetic before."

Draco chuckled. His hand fiddled with whatever was in his pocket—the small package, Ron suspected. "Cost you quite a bit to say that, I expect."

"It would have. A long time ago. Not anymore," Ron admitted in a whisper.

Draco nodded. The long awaited truce had been sealed between them.

"Well. I guess I should go collect him, then."

Ron returned to gaping. "Where? How? You've no idea where he is!"

"Don't be so stupid. I know exactly where our sweet, little, psychologically damaged Harry is. He's gone to the Muggles. I'm sure of it—especially after what you've told me. A return to the scene of the crime as it were." Draco shrugged. "Besides, it's not as if he can resist the opportunity for a bit of self-castigation."

Ron's jaw snapped shut. Draco was right. That's exactly where Harry would have gone. "Do you know, uh, know where the Muggles live?"

"No. But you do. I'd appreciate the address, if you please."

Ron hesitated out of habit. He'd guarded this secret jealously for most of his life. It was hard to give it away so freely. But, Draco wasn't the enemy. Not anymore, anyway. "Four Privet Drive. Little Whinging, Surrey."

Draco nodded. "Happy Christmas, Ron. Please give your family our best. By the way, I hope to meet Melanie again, under different circumstances of course. She suits you," he said before standing to leave.

Flushing from the compliment, Ron stuttered out a "Happy Christmas to you as well."

Draco nodded and turned to leave, but Ron's voice stopped him.

Ron cleared his throat. "Hey, Malfoy . . . so . . . I was, uh . . . I was wondering."

Draco turned back, his eyebrow arched in question.

"Yeah . . . so what you said before . . . I mean about Harry—you know, fancying himself . . . well."

Draco couldn't stand Ron's agonized collar tugging a second longer. "Yes, Weasley, the equality extends to the bedroom." At Ron's blank stare, Draco sighed. "We both top, Weasley. He probably more than me, but we share. Isn't that what you wanted to know? Any more sordid details about our sexual predilections that you'd like to know? One time offer, mate."

Ron looked away. "Uh, no. Sorry to, uh . . . sorry."

Draco chuckled. "No problem. Seems I've dispelled quite a few myths tonight," he said before collecting his coat, and one for Harry, and left the flat.

Ron sighed as the door clicked closed. "You have no idea," he mumbled to himself before flooing home, thoughts of Melanie, mince pie and charmed blankets making him smile.

As predicted, the Burrow was absolute, glorious chaos. Everyone was in the kitchen. The twins were charming marshmallows to fly through the air and blow up as soon as they made contact with something. Mrs. Weasley alternated between yelling at them to stop and trying to get the pies out for everyone to eat. Ginny and her husband were signing carols of some sort while Mr. Weasley was playing with all of his new Muggle electronic things, carrying on in a boisterous voice about what each thing did to anyone who would listen. And there in the middle of it all was Melanie, giving it to the twins as good as she got. Ron smiled and watched a bit longer until he was discovered.

"Ron!" Ginny called as soon as she saw him. She launched herself at him and captured him in a bone-crushing hug. She was as bad as Mum.

Everyone joined in the chorus of greetings, including Melanie. "Hello, Ron. Everything get sorted out?" Melanie asked, with a slight blush.

Ron looked around the room and saw smiles on everyone's faces. He heard nervous schoolgirl giggling. For the life of him, though, he couldn't be too upset by it. "Yeah. Everything should be okay."

"Melanie was telling us about what a wonderful evening she had with you and Draco and Harry."

Ron's mouth fell open. He glanced at Melanie.

"Er, yes. I was saying how refreshing it was to see the lengths people go to in order to make the ones they love happy," Melanie said as she took Ron's hand in hers and squeezed.

"Oi! Ron!" Fred called. "Got a right good one there. Got some brill hexes, she does. Better not get too frisky with her!"

"Fred!" Mrs. Weasley shrieked, as she beat him with her wooden spoon and shooed everyone out. "Let them have some privacy," she snarled in a whisper before giving Ron a significant stare.

When they were finally alone, Ron leaned down and kissed Melanie again.

"What was that for?" Melanie asked with a smile.

"For tonight. For Harry. For getting on with my crazy family."

"I wouldn't have it any other way. How are Draco and Harry?"

"They'll be fine, I think. Draco really loves him. I don't think I knew that before tonight."

"They'll find their way. I can see why you love Harry so much. Why you protect him like you do. I think that's one of my favorite things about you, Ron Weasley. Something I could even grow to love," Melanie finished softly.

Ron looked up at that. A strange expression passed over his face. He glanced at the back door. "Ever sat under a charmed blanket on Christmas Eve and stared at the stars?"

"No."

"Would you like to?"

"Yes, I think I would. Who knows? We might make it a tradition of sorts."

"Yeah," Ron said with a blush, happy to be home. Happy to be with Melanie. "Yeah, we might just do that."

Canticle VIII:Love's Pure Light

Harry wished he'd thought to bring his coat. The ground was freezing, but he couldn't bring himself to move. Instead, he shifted slightly, leaned further back into the prickly holly and wrapped his arms around his knees, drawing them closer to his body. The warming charm he'd cast when he first sat down hours ago had faded. It hadn't occurred to him to cast another.

His gaze was fixed on the nondescript house in front of him. Gauzy curtains softened the glow of colored fairy lights. He closed his eyes. He knew exactly how everything was arranged. The tree would be in the corner of the living room closest to the window so that everyone could see how impressive the Durselys' tree was. Strings and strings of lights would cover it, blinking cheerfully. There would be more lights twining along the mantle and up the banister, with fresh pine garland interwoven with them. Harry took a deep breath. He could almost smell the pine again. He cocked his head to the side, sure he'd heard the faint strains of carols and laughter. The Dursleys were having their annual Christmas Eve party—the one Harry had only ever seen through the grate in his cupboard door.

Harry started at the feel of gentle hands touching his shoulders, wrapping something thick, soft and warm around him.

"I'm starting to think you're the one who wants all of the attention, you know. What with these dramatic displays of hysteria and stubbornness."

Harry looked up. He blinked. "Draco? How—What . . . Why are you here?"

Draco sighed and looked at the house across the street. "You forgot your coat."

"My coat? You're here because of my coat?"

Draco looked away.

"How did you get here? How did you find me?"

Draco muttered something under his breath that sounded remarkably like 'sodding Knight Bus,' as he pulled his own coat around him tighter and stared at the ground before dropping down next to Harry. His stare migrated to the house across the street. "That where you grew up? With the Muggles?"

Harry was bewildered. Why was Draco here? Why had he growled when he'd said "Muggles"? Why wasn't he answering Harry's questions? Why was he here? Harry continued to stare at Draco, who was staring at the Dursleys' house, his gloved hands held in tight fists. Harry thought about asking all of these questions, and the other dozen swirling around in his head, but instead opted to answer the one still hanging.

"Yeah. Um, yes that's the Dursleys' house," he said as he pulled his coat on and fastened it closed.

Draco nodded. "At least the fairy lights were real."

Harry's face flushed in embarrassment and anger. He hung his head and said nothing.

They sat there, on a curb, in the freezing cold, backs pressed into the holly bushes, on Christmas Eve staring at the Muggle house across the way, pretending that listening to the strains of "Silent Night," was more important than talking about what had led them to stage this bizarre tableau.

Draco's gaze shifted to the brightly lit bits of plastic on the lawn next door to the Dursleys. He squinted. "Why is that manticore trying to eat that baby?" he asked.

Harry sighed. "It's a donkey. It's smiling. What's wrong with you lot, anyway? How can that possibly look a lion with a human face?"

Draco leaned forward and squinted more before shrugging. "What's it mean?" he said eventually, gesturing at the crèche with his chin.

Harry ran his ice-cold hands through his hair, trying to figure out the best way to answer. Sod it. He would tell the truth. It's not like things could get any worse. "Something religious—the birth of Jesus, I think," he whispered, grateful Draco didn't seem the least bit interested in knowing who Jesus was. Harry wasn't sure he would be able to explain it.

Draco turned to him slowly, his gaze purposeful and heavy. Harry looked down, embarrassed. Draco reached out with one hand and ghosted a finger across Harry's flushed cheek until he reached Harry's chin. He tilted Harry's head up. "Tell me what you do know," he whispered.

Harry took a deep breath. "I know that I love you. I know that I never meant to hurt you."

Draco nodded. "We'll get to that. Tell me about Christmas, Harry. Tell me about the Muggles."

Harry's breath caught in his throat. It didn't escape him that this was some sort of test. He'd figured out about an hour before that Draco hadn't been upset about the "traditions," he'd been upset at the thought that Harry was refusing to share a part of himself. He was giving Harry a second chance. With that thought in mind, Harry nodded. "What do you want to know?"

"Everything," Draco said in a way that told Harry he already knew a fair amount.

Harry nodded again, cleared his throat, shoved his hands in his pockets, and told Draco Malfoy all of his deepest, darkest secrets. It took the better part of an hour to get through it all. Twice Harry had to keep Draco from storming over and hexing the Dursleys. At the end of it, Draco closed his eyes and swallowed hard.

"I want to see the cupboard."

If Harry hadn't already been sitting he would have fallen flat on his arse. "What?"

"You heard me," he said as he stood and smoothed his trousers. "I do believe our invitation was lost in the mail," he said as he ran his hands through his hair to style it.

"What?"

Draco's smile was smug. "That all you can say, Potter? I certainly hope your conversation skills are better than that. Come on. Stand up. We have a party to grace with our presence."

Harry leapt to his feet as Draco stepped off the curb. "What do you think you're doing?" he hissed as he grabbed Draco and pulled him back.

Draco's stare was hard. "I am going into that house, I am going to meet the Muggles, I am going to see this abominable little cupboard and you are coming with me."

"The hell I am!" Harry roared.

Draco shook free of Harry's grasp, leaned in and snatched Harry's hand, tugging hard as he started walking across the street. "Oh yes, you are."

"It's not worth it, Draco. Stop it, please. They aren't worth it!"

Draco stopped. "You're damn right they aren't. But, you are. You wouldn't be here otherwise. Sitting here in the goddamned freezing cold, without a fucking coat mind you, heaping all sorts of guilt and despair on yourself because of them. We are going to do this. We are going to finish this. And then you are never coming back to this house."

Harry's mouth flopped open as his eyes went wide. It was as though he'd fallen into a parallel universe. This was Harry's job. He was the one who took command of the situation, who pushed Draco into letting go of the ghosts of his past. A little thrill tingled through Harry's body at Draco's possessiveness. Feeling a bit dazed, he could only nod.

Harry let himself be led to the house, barely registered Draco's sharp raps on the front door, and almost missed Dudley's expression of terror at realizing just who was standing in front on him. Dudley—still rotund and dimwitted—made small choking sounds in the back of his throat before he started to tremble. His beefy hands twitched as he tried to keep them from going around to cover his backside.

"Well, are you just going to stand there quivering like jelly or are you going to let us in, you overgrown oaf?" Draco sneered.

Harry turned to Draco, his expression incredulous.

Dudley's attention snapped to Draco at the same time. His eyes drifted to Harry and Draco's clasped hands before finally returning to Harry. "We thought we were rid of you, you freak. Get the bloody hell out of here," he hissed.

Before Dudley could slam the door closed, Draco had his wand in his hand and cast a transfiguration spell. Where Dudley Dursley once stood was now a small piglet, squealing in distress.

"Oh, piss off," Draco growled before casting a silencing spell and transfiguring a small branch into a little cage. "There you go, little piggy," he crooned with a sneer before snapping the cage shut and shuttling it off to the side of the house. "What?" Draco asked, a bit defensively, at Harry's incredulous stare.

"You turned my cousin into a pig. A bloody pig on Christmas Eve! You can't just go around transfiguring people!"

Draco rolled his eyes. It was times like this that he refused to believe the stupid Sorting Hat had ever considered putting Harry in the serpents' den. He was too bloody kind.

Harry arched a brow and crossed his arms. "Draco," he growled, when Draco had the audacity to feign innocence."

"Oh, all right!" Draco exclaimed. He turned and cast a warming charm on the little pig's cage.

"Draco!" Harry shrieked.

"That's all he gets! Ghastly manners," Draco sniffed as he pushed the door open, as if this excused turning Harry's cousin into a pig.

Harry didn't get a chance to respond, because in the next moment Vernon was looming the doorway. His face was purple with rage as he loomed over Draco and Harry. Unconsciously, Harry took a step back. He may have defeated Voldemort, but Vernon was . . . he was different.

Draco looked back at Harry, a moment's concern flickering in his gaze. He turned back to Vernon and with a lazy flick of his wrist, he whispered "Imp--"

"No!" Harry roared. "Absolutely not."

Draco sighed. "Fine, fine! Confundus," he said with a half-hearted drawl.

Vernon's stance straightened and his eyes glazed.

Harry couldn't believe what was happening. He was the reckless one; the impulsive one. Not Draco. And yet, here they were, standing on the front steps of Four Privet Drive while Draco thought nothing of casting Unforgivables and human transfiguration spells with wild abandon. Harry yanked Draco's hand hard and cast a significant look his way—one that clearly said, "What the fuck are you doing?"

Draco shook his head and rolled his eyes. He returned his attention to Vernon. "Well? What are you standing there for? Shoo, you slovenly Muggle."

Vernon nodded. He opened the door a bit wider and stood to the side, inviting them in, though seemingly confused as to why he would be doing such a thing.

Draco cast Notice-me-Not charms over both himself and Harry before pulling a stunned and reluctant Harry through the door.

Once they were in, Vernon closed the door and returned to a conversation with a pudgy gray-haired Muggle.

It had been years since Harry had been in this house. He'd worked hard to forget it and now here it was, all around him, reminding him of all of the things he'd fought to put away. People laughed and sloshed eggnog and stared lasciviously at their friends as if nothing bad had ever happened in this house.

"Show me the cupboard," Draco whispered. There was a warmth, a concern, in his tone that seeped through the confused haze in Harry's mind.

No fight left in him, Harry nodded and shuffled through the hall, stopping in front of the cupboard. It was funny how small it looked now. How . . . unimposing.

Draco stepped forward and opened the door. He stooped down and leaned in, getting a good look at what had been Harry's bedroom for nearly ten years. He fought hard to keep the bile from rising higher in his throat as he looked around. He spied a small cot now folded and standing flat against the wall, an open shoebox full of small, broken toys and knick-knacks and other remnants of Harry's childhood dispersed among the cleaning supplies, forgotten tennis racquets and brooms. He kept his face impassive as he retreated and stood upright again.

"Cozy," he said. "Now I know why you were always so short."

Harry's face drained of color. He blinked in confusion. Was this some sort of twisted revenge?

"Though, I must say," Draco continued, "you were a far better decorator than your Aunt," he said with a sneer as he took in the overabundance of floral chintz, overstuffed furniture, and silk flower arrangements. "Utilitarian, minimalist . . . you were ahead of your time, Potter. Too bad that innate sense of style never made it to your hair," he drawled as he reached out and tried to flatten Harry's hair.

Harry realized what Draco was doing. He burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of Draco's comments. But, that was rather the point, Harry figured. "Cozy is one word for it," he said with a chuckle.

He bit his lip and leaned forward, getting his own view of the cupboard. Whatever he had expected wasn't there. It was just a cupboard. It was just a cupboard. He started to enter, to see if he could even fit anymore, but Draco stopped him.

"Catharsis is one thing, Harry. Self-torture is another. Close the door to the cupboard, love." Forever, Harry knew Draco meant.

Harry reached out, steeled himself, and slammed the cupboard door closed. He locked it tight. Something left him then. Something heavy. Something that he couldn't describe or had even known was there. Draco came around and pulled him close. He kissed his temple. Harry sighed and leaned back, surprisingly content to let Draco take the lead. "No more cupboards," Draco whispered.

"No more cupboards," Harry agreed. No more hiding. No more pretending. No more cupboards.

"Now, let's enjoy the party," Draco said.

Canticle IX:Facing Plans Unafraid While Dreaming by the Fire

It was strange, at first, to wander through the party, drinking spiked punch, making fun of Muggle clothing, watching in horror as the Dursleys attempted to dance to Winter Wonderland. But, as the night wore on, Harry relaxed. He even managed a chuckle when Dudley streaked through the house, naked, with little brambles stuck in his hair.

"A timed spell, then?" Harry said with an arched brow.

Draco shrugged. Spots of color appeared on his face. "I want to have sex with you again someday."

Harry laughed before his attention turned to the tree.

"Ghastly, isn't it," Draco said.

"I rather like it," Harry whispered.

"I think you need to get your eyes checked again," Draco muttered into his cup as he took a drink.

"The first thing I remember from Christmas are the lights. I loved them. So cheery. The Dursleys certainly liked them. Something we had in common, I guess."

"You'll never have anything in common with those filthy Muggles," Draco snarled, not liking the direction the conversation was headed. "I think it's time to go." Draco grasped Harry's arm.

"I wanted to. You have no idea how much I wanted to have something in common with them."

Draco let go.

"I was never allowed to touch them, either. I remember dreaming of the day that I could have as many fairy lights as I wanted."

"I think you've achieved that," Draco said with a snort.

Harry blushed. "I suppose I overdid the lights."

"Overdid?" Draco said with an arched brow. "Try exceeded the farthest bounds of all that is decent and true."

"Fuck you," Harry said as he turned away and walked over to the mantle. Draco followed him and stood to the side, unsure of how to proceed.

Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I love that smell."

Draco sniffed delicately before wrinkling his nose in disgust. "What? Cheap perfume? And—gods! It smells like that awful stuff in the can you keep spraying about the flat!"

"Fresh cedar and pine," Harry murmured, a faraway look in his eyes. A gentle smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "I love it. The Dursleys always strung loads of it. I loved seeing it as a kid."

"What in heavens for? Sap oozing on everything, needles falling, braches poking you as you walk by, not to mention the smell."

Harry shrugged. "It meant it was Christmas. They were happier. I was happier. I got . . . they didn't. . ." Harry hesitated.

Things started making sense to Draco. At the sound of Harry's gasp, Draco figured they'd started making sense to Harry, too. Draco rested his hand on Harry's arm. "I know, love," he said, responding both to what Harry had said and, more importantly, to what he hadn't.

Harry couldn't believe it. All this time he had unwittingly been sharing his holiday traditions with Draco. He just hadn't realized it. But, more than that he'd realized, standing there, watching the Dursleys' party unfold, what was important to him. It wasn't the lights or the gifts or the perfect holiday tradition. It was Ron, who ate all of the horrid pumpkin bisque to save his friend. It was Mrs. Weasley, whose hugs made Harry's heart want to burst. It was Hermione, whose life still touched him, even though her death had nearly shattered him. It was Draco, who had every right to be furious with him, but loved him, brought him his coat, and protected him anyway. It was even Melanie Marchbanks and her bracing honesty, without which this moment would likely have never come. It was all of these things, these people, and so much more. The feeling of breathless wonder he'd been desperate to find now lay with him, curling lazily.

They stood that way for a long while, Draco bracing Harry while Harry's fingers brushed against the soft cedar needles. Draco cleared his throat. "I was thinking that the flat could use a bit of garland next Christmas. Just a bit, though. I'm serious, Harry—no Forbidden Forest, or anything. And only on the condition that I never see another can of that Muggle pine spray ever again."

Harry looked up. Draco was staring at him with the strangest expression. Harry couldn't pin it exactly, but the wonder within him leapt at it and made him feel even better. "I'd like that," he murmured.

Draco continued. "And the lights. They're not that bad. I suppose I could handle white lights or ones that don't blink so much. But, absolutely no more than one hundred lights per foot of tree, Harry. We had more lights than tree this year."

Harry laughed. "Fair enough." He shot Draco a quick smile. They stood there a while longer, watching the party.

Draco nodded and fought to keep his wits about him. This was not going to turn into a sodding Muggle romance novel. He refused. "More punch, I think," he said before things could get unbearably sappy.

They shared another cup of punch before retreating to the corner. "This reminds me of 'A Christmas Carol,'" Harry murmured as they watched the goings on.

"Gods, Harry . . . no more Christmas music."

Harry chuckled. "No, no. I mean the movie. 'A Christmas Carol.'" At Draco's blank stare, Harry pressed on. "It's about this mean, sarcastic, bitter old man." Harry paused. "Think Snape, only happier."

Draco nearly choked. "That's a scary proposition," he muttered.

"Yeah, I suppose. Anyway, the old man—Scrooge is his name—is taken to this Christmas party by a ghost or a spirit, I think, and no one can see him. He's observes everything as it's happening."

"Sounds like a Pensieve memory."

Harry shrugged.

"So, how does it end? Why was he at the party?"

Harry shrugged again. "Dunno. That's the only part I ever saw. Always wanted to see it. It comes on every year, I think. It's a Christmas movie."

Draco nodded. He cast a sly glace at Harry. "Perhaps we should watch it. If we like it, we could watch it every year."

Harry hesitated. He took a large swallow of his punch. "I'd like that. Er . . . a tradition of sorts. Our own." Harry took another swallow, letting the punch, Draco's proximity and the overwhelming cheeriness within him warm him.

"Exactly. You know, Harry, it wasn't the Muggle thing I wanted to know about. It was you. What was important to you at Christmas."

"I know," Harry murmured. "Took me a while to figure that out. I'm glad I did, though."

"What did you figure out," Draco asked, a smile playing at his lips.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Merlin, I knew it was too good to last. Already trolling for compliments again, are you? Fine, fine. I figured out that you're what's important to me. Sharing the holiday with you and everyone I love is what's important. Not the stuff, not the artificialness of it all," Harry said as he gestured around the room to make his point.

"I still get my presents though, right?" Draco asked with narrowed eyes.

Harry laughed. "I'm not mad, you know. Who in their right mind would take presents away from you?"

"Exactly. Now, come on you silly pouf. Let's go home," Draco said after they'd both finished their punch. He pulled Harry close. "Let's make our own traditions."

Harry cocked his head. "You mean, like we've been doing all night?"

Draco blinked. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Harry chuckled. "Of course not. I must have misunderstood all of that haggling over Muggle movies, cedar garland and white fairy lights, then."

"Yes, you must have," Draco said with a sniff.

Harry's face turned serious. He pulled Draco in for a heated kiss. "Love you," he whispered while cupping Draco's face.

"Love you," Draco murmured. A familiar glint lit in his eyes. "Let's go home. It's time to make up," he said as he pulled Harry close and Apparated them back to their flat, the thrill of wonder and excitement spiking higher.

Canticle X:What Glorious Morn Breaks Through the Weary Night?

The minute their feet touched the floor in the flat's living room, they became a tangle of limbs and sloppy kisses. Like a Virginia Reel, they tilted and whirled and bumped their way through the flat. One of the dancing Father Christmases starting undulating as they passed by. Draco kicked it hard, sending it clattering to the floor.

"No," kiss, "more," squeeze, "dancing," suck, "Father Christmases," Draco stammered as he pushed Harry up against the wall, unbuckled Harry's belt and pulled it through the loops in a fast, ripping motion.

"Agreed," Harry moaned as he wound his hands in Draco's hair, pulled hard and slammed Draco into the wall. "No truffles. Ever. Again," he said as he punctuated each word with a tug of Draco's hair.

Draco's eyes rolled back. He loved it when Harry pulled at his hair like that. "Truffles. Not. Negotiable," he puffed out. He grasped at Harry's wrists and shook them free.

"No truffles," Harry growled as he rubbed his knee against Draco's hard cock. "I hate truffles. Don't care if you ate them every Christmas. This is our Christmas now. No fucking truffles."

"Oh, fuck," Draco moaned. "You play fucking dirty, Potter."

Harry smirked and leaned in further, rubbing his knee just the right way, and bit Draco's ear lobe. "Learned from the best, Malfoy," he whispered before nibbling more.

Draco called out and melted. "HolyfuckingMerlin . . . fine, no truffles, no goddamned truffles. Stop. You've got to stop. You're killing me!" Draco panted.

Harry pulled back, hesitating just a bit, as if uncertain. It was just what Draco was waiting for. He grabbed Harry's hands, spun him around and pushed him against the wall. "You haven't learned everything yet," he said. He smiled at Harry's needy mewing as he swirled the point of his tongue on the side of Harry's neck. "Bedroom," he whispered before letting go and pulling Harry from the wall, pushing him into their bedroom.

They were on each other again, pulling at each other's clothes, snarling like wild beasts and kissing violently. There was nothing tentative, nothing objectively tender in their foreplay.

Somehow they made it the bed, a new horizontal tangle of limbs. With practiced ease, Harry rolled Draco over and climbed astride, ready to prepare him. Draco, however, had other plans. He flipped them over so that he was on top. He grabbed Harry's hands and pushed them above his head. He looked down. Harry lay beneath him, panting and sweaty.

Time stopped as Draco let go and moved his hands to gently cup Harry's face. Harry curled his hands around the headboard's posts and waited. Draco quirked an eyebrow in question. Harry let go a sigh and blinked slowly as a smile played at his lips. Draco nodded and started his preparations. He took his time. No words were exchanged, but none needed to be. Harry sighed and arched into Draco as he stretched him further and further. There was no fast way to do this the right way. They had learned that there was pleasure in this task.

"Love you," Draco murmured just as he began pushing his way in.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut, arched and scrabbled as the sharp burn gave way to indescribable warmth. "Gods, love you," he moaned as Draco fully seated himself.

"Look at me, Harry. Don't stop looking at me," Draco said as he began a series of shallow thrusts.

Harry swallowed and nodded.

They said nothing else. Grunts, mews and moans told them when to move and how to do so. Their bodies moved together in a seamless tumble of skin and bone. Matched halves, stretched and molded to fit by time, circumstance and kinship.

In the haze of afterglow, Harry found himself cleaned and gathered into Draco's embrace. Warm puffs of air slid across his chilled, slick skin. He brushed his fingertips across Draco's stomach. Draco kissed the top of his head. Harry found himself humming, "O Holy Night." Draco didn't seem to mind. He joined in when he could, his voice scratchy and a bit off-key.

"Harry," Draco whispered a long while later.

"Hmm?" Harry asked, muzzy with sleep.

"It's Christmas."

"Hmm?" Harry asked again.

Draco chuckled, shifted Harry in his arms a bit, and kissed his head. "I said, it's Christmas."

One green eye opened. "I suppose you want your presents, then," Harry mumbled. He made to get up, but Draco stopped him.

"In a bit. I . . . I wanted to give you your present first."

Harry opened his eyes. Draco was shaking a bit. His voice sounded all wonky. "Cold?" he asked.

"No," Draco said as he pulled away from Harry and reached across him, searching for his trousers. He recalled that they'd landed somewhere near the end of the bed.

"What are you doing?"

"Getting your present," Draco whispered. "Aha," he said as he finally found what he was looking for. Draco hesitated a second. He sat straight up and pulled Harry up with him.

"Draco?" Harry asked, concerned.

"You see, I had this question I've been wanting to ask you. But, I could never find the right time, the right way. I'd intended to do it after dinner. It seemed like the kind of thing one ought to do. But, then things fell apart, didn't they? And, who are we fooling? Nothing will ever go the 'normal' way for us. But, maybe that's why this works. Why we work. Do you follow?"

"Not really, no," Harry said.

Draco sighed before shoving the small box at Harry. "This will explain, I think," he whispered.

Harry looked down at the brightly wrapped gift.

"Go on, open it," Draco rasped as he ran his hands through his hair. He was nervous.

Harry swallowed, feeling a bit nervous himself, before he gingerly removed the paper. A small jeweler's box lay inside. Harry opened the lid. He gasped. "Draco?" he asked, as his head snapped up, only to see Draco staring at him. "Is this . . .?"

"Yeah. Yes it is," Draco confirmed. "So . . . will you?"

Harry looked back at the box. He looked back at Draco. They weren't normal. They'd forged their own ways in life, done the most unexpected things. And that was precisely why they worked. Would he? Yes, he would.

"Yes. Absolutely," Harry said, strength in his voice.

Draco beamed. He launched himself at Harry and kissed him deeply. "Love you," he growled as he nipped at Harry's bottom lip.

"Love you," Harry echoed as he returned the kiss and clutched at Draco, never wanting to let go.

Canticle XI:Lights Turned Down Low, No Better Place to Go

"Harry? I can't make this bloody Muggle machine work!"

Harry rolled his eyes as he poured the popcorn in the bowl. "Coming, love," he called out as he made his way to the living room.

The tree was beautiful with its soft, twinkling lights. Pine and cedar swags draped the windows and the mantle. A cheery fire danced in the fireplace. Remnants of take-away curry were left on the table, bathed in candlelight from the silver Menorah.

Harry laughed at the deep scowl on Draco's face as he tried to make the DVD player work.

"Malfoy, how is it that you can handle complicated financial transactions every day but you can't figure out the DVD player?"

"We use it once a year, Potter," Draco growled. "All so that we can watch that ridiculous Muggle movie you like so much."

Harry chuckled. "Yes, of course. How ever could I have forgotten that only I like this movie? If that's the case, we can skip it this year." Harry made a move to switch off the television.

Draco's hand stopped him. "Not so fast," he whispered in Harry's ear before gently nipping. "We have to watch it, Potter. It's tradition, after all." Draco's hand snaked around Harry's waist and pulled him close, the platinum ring on his left hand glinting in the firelight.

Harry smiled and turned his head so that they could kiss properly. "Yes. Tradition," he whispered before leading them to the couch and settling into Draco's embrace as the opening credits to "A Christmas Carol," began to play.