Draco watched as Luna and Lavender hung the dragon ornaments. Some of them flew in lazy circles at the ends of their tethers while other alighted on branches and flexed their wings. Potter had fled to the kitchen and not returned. The man was a paradox, to be sure. More and more Draco had begun to wonder what Potter had thought of their single encounter. Did he regret it? Had it meant nothing? Or had it meant something that Draco couldn't fathom?
Why had Potter made the dragon ornaments and taken the effort of seeking out Flitwick at Hogwarts just to have them charmed? Was it nothing more than an elaborate apology?
Draco cursed himself for allowing his mind to run amok with unanswerable questions. He took a drink of eggnog and wrinkled his nose. He could not abide the stuff, but Lavender had been particularly generous with the brandy, so he kept sipping at it, thinking if he drank enough of it, he might stop thinking about Harry Potter.
The bane of his existence finally drifted back into the fray, although he lurked in the archway to the kitchen, no doubt ready to make another quick escape, if necessary. Granger, already on her third mug of eggnog, walked over and draped an arm over Potter's shoulders.
"Mistletoe, Harry," she said with a giggle and pointed to the cluster of leaves and berried hanging over Potter's head.
Potter smiled wryly and Granger planted a kiss on the corner of his mouth before enveloping him in a hug. He held her for a long time and Draco stared fixedly at the tree, admittedly envious that he had never had such a strong friendship. Even if his friends from school had survived, it was doubtful any of them would have retained such a bond with Draco. For perhaps the first time, he admitted to himself that he had always been jealous of Granger's friendship with Potter.
"My turn!" Luna said and skipped over to Potter. Granger stepped back with a grin and Luna practically knocked Potter into the wall with the force of her embrace. She planted a not-so-chaste kiss on Potter's lips that sent Draco's eyebrows lifting in surprise.
She stepped back with a giggle, leaving Potter looking slightly dazed. "Sorry, Neville," Luna said, "But you and Harry seem to have broken up, so he's eligible now, yes?"
Draco's jaw clenched.
Lavender put her hands on her hips with an exasperated sound. "Luna! Neville and I have been going out for two years. We have been living together for three months! He was never going out with Harry! Never! Merlin, how thick can you be?"
Luna's brow wrinkled for a moment, but then she shrugged her shoulders and winked at Harry conspiratorially. "It's all right, Harry. I won't say anything about your affair," she said in a stage whisper.
Lavender growled and flounced over to curl up on the sofa next to Neville.
"Who's next?" Luna called merrily. "Draco?"
For a moment, pure panic crossed Potter's features. Draco set the mug aside and got to his feet. Silence descended on the room for a moment, but for the quiet notes of a random Christmas song.
"I'm going to check on Mother," Draco said flatly. He walked to the front door, wrenched at the handle, and escaped.
Harry watched him go as Luna sighed. "Sorry, Harry. I tried."
He smiled at her sadly and then caught Hermione looking at him with a puzzled expression that slowly cleared.
"Draco?" she asked. "Honestly?"
Harry shrugged helplessly and nodded. She burst out laughing.
"What?" Harry demanded.
Hermione shook her head. "Nothing. It's just… Well, we should have seen it coming years ago."
Harry glared at her. "Really? Tell that to Draco, then, because he doesn't seem to be getting it." Suddenly, Harry was angry. Not at Hermione, or even at Draco, but mostly at himself for being so stupid as to fall for someone so completely anguish-inducing as Draco sodding Malfoy.
The sympathetic looks he received added fuel to the fire. "Bloody hell. I'm going for a walk." He shoved away from the wall, crossed through the kitchen and went out the back door. He slammed it petulantly, just to make himself feel better. It didn't help.
Harry entered his workshop and stoked the fire on the furnace, even though it was kept burning at all times through magical means. He thought about fashioning something, but it was generally impossible to work glass when he was in an irritated frame of mind. He tended to break things.
In fact, breaking things seemed like a fine idea, at the moment. Harry picked up an opaque bowl that he had recently been working on. He had planned to attach handles and a decorative edge. He hefted the bowl in his hand and then hurled it at the wall behind the furnace. It shattered with a satisfying crash and tinkled to the floor.
"Evil bowl?" asked a sardonic voice behind him.
Harry whirled to see Draco standing in the doorway.
Instantly nonplussed, he searched for a witty rejoinder, but nothing came to mind, as usual. He turned away and looked for another fragile target. The brown vase was a likely subject—what had possessed him to use brown, anyway?
"Did you come to humiliate me?" Harry asked bitterly. "I can do that well enough on my own, it seems."
"Not this time," Draco said, moving closer and taking the brown vase from Harry's hands. He studied it and held it up to the light glowing from the furnace. It gleamed more red than brown when held in that fashion. "Nice," Draco commented. "I like the yellow veins. Interesting how it looks so plain at first glance."
Harry wondered if the statement was some sort of jibe, but he decided he would rather not know. He took the vase from Draco's hands, no longer willing to smash it now that it had met with Draco's approval. "I doubt you came here to discuss my colour selections."
"Perhaps not," Draco agreed.
Harry set the vase aside and waited.
"I may have committed a faux pas," Draco said finally.
Harry couldn't help it. He snorted a laugh. "You? Surely not."
Draco nodded. "Indeed. It happens to the best of us."
"What heinous crime did you commit? Forget to use a napkin?"
"Of course not. What do you know about Norse mythology?"
Harry blinked at him and wondered if Draco had gone mad, or if Luna had been nipping at Harry's Polyjuice potion. "You mean Odin and Thor and such?"
Draco nodded. "Specifically, Baldur."
"Baldur," Harry repeated, confused. "Well… nothing, actually."
"Baldur was a Norse god that was known to be beautiful and bright, and fair and perfect, and loved by all. Rather like you."
Harry clenched his teeth and refrained from snapping a retort, wondering if Draco had a point or if he was only talking to annoy him.
Draco smiled and continued his tale. "Baldur's mother was Frigga, and she adored her son, as mother's do, and was worried about a prophetic dream in which gracious Baldur died. So she went about the earth and had every living creature, plants included, promise never to harm him. They all swore, of course. All except mistletoe."
Harry's head jerked around and he stared at Draco, who was idly examining the bottles stacked on a nearby table.
"Accounts vary as to whether mistletoe was forgotten, or simply thought to be too unimportant to bother with. A grave oversight, as it turns out."
"What happened?" Harry asked, more curious about where Draco was going with his tale than with the story itself.
"Loki, the trickster god, used the fact to his advantage. The other gods were having a grand time hurling missiles at Baldur in order to watch them bounce harmlessly off. Loki fashioned a spear out of mistletoe and surreptitiously gave it to one of the hapless javelin throwers. Of course, the mistletoe spear did not bounce off. It killed Baldur."
"Charming," Harry said dryly.
"That is not the end of it, of course. Frigga was extremely upset and brought winter to the world in her grief. Rather than punish mistletoe, she announced it to be sacred and declared that it should henceforth bring love to the world rather than death."
Harry smiled. "So that is where the kissing tradition comes from?"
"Indeed. Any two people passing under the mistletoe were required to put down their weapons and kiss in order to celebrate Baldur's resurrection."
"What is the punishment for refusing such a decree?" Harry asked quietly.
"I don't know," Draco replied. "I am certain it is something terrible."
"Yet, you are willing to risk it?"
"Perhaps not. I found this lonely sprig on your front stoop. It must have fallen from the larger bunch." Draco pulled a dull green twig from his robe pocket. It was adorned with a few rounded leaves and three tiny white berries. He turned toward Harry and lifted the mistletoe toward Harry's forehead, dangling it over his hair. "Are you willing to risk the consequences of ignoring the command of an ancient goddess?"
"Certainly not," Harry breathed and let his eyes fall shut as he leaned forward.
Draco's lips pressed into his, soft and pleasantly sweet. His breath was flavoured with alcohol, which Harry might have blamed for his astonishing behaviour, except that he had not even finished a full mug of eggnog.
Harry's hands rose to splay gently over Draco's breast, wanting desperately to curl into the fabric and drag him closer, but terrified that Draco would pull away and leave him clinging foolishly.
Instead, Draco's hands curved around Harry's back and tugged him forward, plastering Harry against his length as he deepened the kiss, pushing his tongue past Harry's willing lips and tasting him fully.
Harry wrapped his hands around Draco's neck, but lightly, still not daring to request anything more than Draco chose to give.
They kissed for long, very long, extremely long minutes, until neither could breathe steadily and the edge of the table dug into Harry's arse from where Draco had pushed him against it, rattling the glass. One small bottle had toppled, rolled to the edge, and dropped to smash on the floor below. Harry had barely noticed. His hands were tangled in Draco's hair.
"Do you think…?" Harry panted. "Do you think Frigga is appeased?"
"She's a goddess. Best not take any chances," Draco said in the same breathless tone and dove back in.
Harry could only agree.
Draco stroked Potter's back and revelled in the sensation of kissing him. The mistletoe had fallen to the floor, forgotten, its purpose served.
Draco had been on his way to see his mother when his eye had caught sight of the sprig, making him feel like a coward. He supposed he should have kissed Potter and embarrassed the prat in front of his friends.
He had picked up the mistletoe and then walked back to the door, intending to fling it open and carry out the scenario he had envisioned. He had paused with his hand on the latch, hearing first Granger's voice and then Potter's.
"…we should have seen it coming years ago."
"Really? Tell that to Draco, then, because he doesn't seem to be getting it. "
Potter had stormed out and slammed the door. Draco had released the latch and backed away, thinking hard. The words seemed to echo in his head and he realized he had been an oblivious idiot, which was ironic, since he had always ascribed that quality to Potter.
Draco had started for the cottage once more and then turned abruptly and made his way to Potter's workshop.
Now Potter pulled back to stare at him through slightly glazed eyes. "Why?" he asked and then winced as if asking the question had been the height of stupidity.
"I acknowledge that I may have overreacted," Draco said magnanimously.
Potter's eyes widened. "You?"
Draco nodded. "I assumed that you were not doing your best to help Mother, but in hindsight I believe I was mistaken."
"What changed your mind?" Potter asked curiously. His hands were still tangled in Draco's hair and his fingers twitched in a near-caress.
In truth, it had been Granger. Her presence alone was testament to Potter's strength of conviction. He had persuaded her to travel halfway around the world; if she could not help Potter save his mother, no one could.
"You did," Draco replied and kissed him again.
A soft sound from the doorway drew Draco's reluctant attention and he turned to see Hermione Granger lurking there. An amused smirk twisted her lips. "Well, Harry, it looks like Draco finally got it, yes?"
"I am not as stupid as you like to think," Draco said without malice. It was hard to be annoyed with Harry Potter wrapped around him. Even with Granger's presence he made no move to let go.
"Apparently not," she replied. "Head Auror, if the Daily Prophet is to be believed."
Potter gasped. "You made Head Auror?"
Draco frowned. "Three days ago. Don't you read?"
"Not the Prophet. And no one told me." Potter's lips pushed out in a bit of a pout that Draco did not find attractive in the least. Well, perhaps he found it slightly attractive. Possibly more than slightly.
"It's not important," Draco said. He drew an experimental palm upward, bumping his fingers over the ridges of Potter's spine. Potter drew in a breath and shifted closer to Draco. A promising response, Draco decided.
"I just checked in on your mother," Granger said. "Her fever has broken. I think the worst of it has passed."
Draco reluctantly loosened his grip. "I want to see her."
Potter's hands left his hair, but one slipped down to link his fingers with Draco's. "Let's go."
It was true. Draco thought he could detect a visible change; he could feel it, also, as though his mother's magic was stronger and fighting back.
The door opened to admit his father. "What is it?" Lucius asked stridently upon viewing Draco's face and the tears glistening on his lashes.
Draco explained quickly and watched as his father seemed to crumble before his eyes. Voldemort had not broken him, not really, but this nearly had. He embraced Draco and held on tightly, body taut with emotion.
His father regained his composure with difficulty; he released Draco and then stepped close to Potter.
"Thank you," his father said thickly. To the amazement of them all, Lucius put his arms around Harry Potter and pulled him into an awkward embrace. The surprise on Potter's face nearly made Draco laugh out loud. He choked it back with difficulty, not wanting his father to destroy him with a glance.
Potter stood stiffly, hands dangling helplessly, until his father let go and moved away. He ignored them all to sit at his wife's bedside, taking up her pale hand.
Thus dismissed, they left the cottage and headed back toward the brightly lit house. Fairy lights glittered through the windows and reflected off the snow. "He could have thanked Hermione," Potter grumbled.
Granger laughed and it seemed a magical sound in the still, cold night. "That might have heralded the end of the world."
Draco agreed. "One miracle at a time."
Potter's fingers found his once more and his shining eyes met Draco's. "Two miracles," he corrected. "Two."
Draco smiled, feeling a rush of warmth. He shook off Potter's fingers only to drape an arm around his shoulders and pull him closer before grabbing his hand and pressing a kiss onto each knuckle before towing him along in Granger's wake.
For the first time in a long while, the future was looking bright.