Draco hated mornings. He could pretend to love them when it suited him, usually when appearing before the Wizengamot for the rare early-morning case. On those days it suited him to appear gloriously happy and perfectly put together if only to cause other non-morning people to glower at him in disgust. In actuality, waking before ten o' clock in the morning made him want to Crucio people.
"Come on, Malfoy," Potter said for the fourth time. "We're going to be late and then we will really be in trouble."
"You're the bloody Chosen One," Draco mumbled and scooted his entire body downwards a bit, snuggling more deeply into the warm covers. "Can't you get Flitwick to postpone the damned detention?"
"I'm not the Chosen One at the moment." The blankets were tugged away from Draco's face and then a hand pressed against his cheek. Draco opened his eyes to see Potter staring at him with a strange look on his face, one that spoke curiously of something like fondness. It made Draco's stomach twist. Potter's thumb stroked over the edge of his jaw.
Draco sighed in contentment and closed his eyes again.
Potter's hand left his face and then the blankets were torn away, letting a blast of dungeon-cold air waft over Draco. "Potter, you arse!" Draco yelped.
Potter jumped forward and pressed a hand over Draco's mouth with a chuckle. "Hush! You'll wake up everyone!"
Draco bit at his hand, which wisely moved away. He growled, "If I have to be awake, the rest of them can bloody well be, too."
"Stop being petulant and get up. Will it help if we stop for some tea on the way?"
"It will help if you go fetch me some tea right now," Draco suggested, reaching for the blankets as Potter tugged them farther out of his reach.
"No, because you will curl right back up and go to sleep. Now get dressed."
Draco glared at him, because Potter shouldn't know him that well after only a couple of days spent together, despite years of acquaintanceship. "I will not."
"You will not go back to sleep or you will not get dressed?"
"Prat," Draco muttered, but he sat up and swung his legs off the bed in defeat. "Is there some genetic mutation that makes all Gryffindors annoyingly cheerful in the morning?"
"The prospect of annoying Slytherins makes rising at dawn strangely bearable," Potter replied.
Draco reached for his wand with a vengeful expression and Potter laughed and danced away. "I'll wait for you in the common room. Don't make me come back for you." His warning sounded hollow and Draco doubted Potter would do anything at all to him should he crawl back into bed and return to slumber, but he was already up now and he knew sleep would elude him. And he supposed he did not want Scorpius in more trouble for missing a morning of detention.
True to his word, Potter had them stop by the kitchens for a bracing cup of tea and a couple of pastries offered up by adoring house-elves, whose memories of Potter's heroics seemed undiminished with the passing of time. Draco rolled his eyes and smirked at Potter's obvious embarrassment at each gush of praise from the creatures. Draco had always thought of Potter as an attention-seeker, but after years of watching the man dodge the press at every opportunity he had finally been forced to change his opinion.
They drank their tea and then walked to the Charms Classroom. Thanks to Potter, they arrived five minutes early. Flitwick was already in attendance. He waved them inside. "There you are, boys. Excellent. Very punctual. An excellent quality."
Draco sighed and gazed curiously around the room. It looked somewhat as if a seasonal shop had exploded inside. Garland and tinsel and evergreen boughs of every sort covered every available surface. The desks had been pushed against the walls as though in preparation for practicing Charms that required additional space. They were stacked high with brightly wrapped packages, candy-striped pillars, and gleaming candelabras. A large cabinet stood prominently against one wall, laden with an assortment of wreaths. One of them fluttered with live birds.
"What will we be doing?" Draco asked as he wondered how long Flitwick planned to keep them. He knew Potter was itching to get back to ward-checking and Nott-hunting.
"Well, Mr Malfoy, I know that you have chosen most of the decorations for the Yule Celebration already, thank you for that. However, since most of the guests will be arriving on the Hogwarts Express, we will need to decorate the carriages, as well. We are expecting a rather large number, so I think we should plan on twenty sets of decorations, to be safe. You boys may set them out however you choose."
Flitwick beckoned to them. Draco gave Potter a look to let him know he would rather be in bed, and then followed along as Potter gave him a helpless shrug. Flitwick walked along the rows of desks and pointed out materials. "Here is your standard pine, next we have fir and holly, watch the thorns, we mustn't have our guests complaining of scratches, and here we have some eucalyptus. Not particularly festive, but pungent and it adds a different colour choice."
The next few tables were piled high with every sort of ribbon imaginable, from golden thread as thin as spider web to red velvet as wide as Draco's head. Fairy lights followed and Flitwick led them through a meandering pathway of light-bedecked arbours. Against his will, Draco began to feel somewhat festive at the barrage of holiday cheer. The emotion was heightened by the jangle of chimes playing a Christmas carol in unison.
The pathway of twinkling archways led to a romantic-looking gazebo and Flitwick paused at the base of the steps to gesture them up with a quirky grin. Potter willingly trotted up and stood in the centre of the wooden structure. He turned and smiled at Draco, who felt suddenly suspicious, but joined Potter anyway before looking up at the wooden ceiling. He supposed he should have guessed.
"The gazebo can't be used for carriage decorations, boys, but you might consider the judicious use of mistletoe for the more romantic-minded." Flitwick turned away and added, "Feel free to test it out. Judging by your embrace yesterday and the article in the Daily Voice, you two are once again Hogwarts most famous couple, correct?"
Draco made to move away, annoyed that even the bloody teachers expected then to snog at every available opportunity, but Potter caught his hand.
"Hey," he said. "We can't waste mistletoe. It's bad luck."
Draco was about to reply that it was certainly not bad luck, but he had to admit Potter looked ridiculously handsome with the fairy lights gleaming off his hair and a half-smile cocking those stupidly talented lips… He glanced at Flitwick, who seemed to be busy twining another length of star-shaped lights around the stair railing. Perhaps one kiss wouldn't hurt.
He stepped closer to Potter and leaned forward, expecting a quick peck, but the moment their lips touched Draco was swept away. He'd found kissing Potter to be quite an experience, but this seemed particularly… unusual. His hands caught at Potter as weakness swept through him, registering as out of the ordinary only at the last moment. He tried to pull away, seeking escape, but only managed to fall… and fall… and fall into blackness.
Harry opened his eyes, knowing instinctively that something was wrong. His Auror instincts were attuned enough for that, at least. His vision was fuzzy; everything blurred into unrecognizable blots of colour.
His cheek hurt, along with many other parts. He was lying on a hard surface, probably a floor, judging by the coldness. He tried to move, but only managed a twitch that sent a spasm of pain coursing through his body. He listened intently and heard bells playing a jaunty holiday song. Still in the Charms Classroom, then?
What had happened? He had been kissing Malfoy, stupidly letting his guard down, blinded by desire and the strange newness of exploring something completely unexpected.
Harry heard footsteps and tried to focus, tried to move. A figure gradually came into his sight—Professor Flitwick. His face grew clearer as he knelt down to look at Harry. Flitwick made a clucking sound. "Albus Potter. I had expected a bit more from the son of the great Harry Potter, especially considering how closely you resemble him. It was almost too easy."
Harry tried to speak and managed only a weak croak.
"Concerned about your beloved Malfoy?" Flitwick—or Alcott Nott—asked. Harry cursed himself for not casting a Polyjuice Detection Charm on everyone, even though the staff was supposed to have been checked as thoroughly as anyone. "Fear not, I will take you to him."
A spell caught Harry—Locomotor Mortis—and he felt himself lifted to float along, swivelling until he achieved an upright state. His vision began to clear and by narrowing his eyes he saw they were headed towards the wreath-bedecked cabinet. His vision was out of sorts because his glasses were gone. He wondered if the false Flitwick had found them.
The door to the cabinet was open. "In you go," Nott said, his voice still sounding as cheerful as Flitwick's. Harry thought back to the last couple of days and wondered how long Nott had been masquerading as the Charms Professor. The interior of the cabinet was dark and smelled of pine. Nott pushed in behind him and closed the door. There was a dizzying sensation and then the door opened again.
"Vanishing Cabinet," Nott explained as he stepped out and spelled Harry to float after him. Harry looked around frantically, glad to note it was getting easier for him to move. Whatever spell he had been hit with initially seemed to be wearing off. Not that it would do him any good without his wand. He knew by the weight that it no longer rested in his robe pocket. He wondered if it had changed in appearance from Al's wand to his own when Nott had taken it. Surely it would have made Nott suspicious?
All of that flittered through Harry's mind to cover his foremost worry. Where was Malfoy?
"Interestingly enough, it was your loverboy's father who gave me the idea. I remember when Draco was charged with the mission to kill Dumbledore. We all joked about it at the time, although not in Lucius Malfoy's hearing, naturally. Lucius was half-mad by then, desperate to get back into the Dark Lord's good graces, but he still refused to hear a bad word about his stupid, doomed son. And then Draco surprised us all by repairing the Vanishing Cabinet and making Hogwarts accessible. Of course, old Dumbledore's death didn't mean much in the long run, not with Harry Potter still around. And Draco went turncoat immediately after the war. Fucking blood traitor!" Nott's voice was changing, becoming hoarser and far less cheerful.
Harry flexed his fingers as he floated across a dark room. A spindly candelabrum held a group of squat candles that spilled light in a meagre diameter. The light revealed a body hanging limply from a wooden pillar, wrists chained above his head. A shock of familiar blond hair gave Harry a rush of both relief and dismay.
"What did you do to him?" Harry asked, forming the words with difficulty. They were barely audible.
"Such concern. You should worry more about yourself, Mr Potter."
Harry felt rough wood against his back as a flick of Nott's wand sent him thudding against a second pillar. He struggled as another spell caused his hands to rise, but he was too weak to prevent metal shackles from fastening around his wrists.
As Flitwick's diminutive form strode away from Harry, it elongated and filled out. Clothing seams tore and bits of cloth fell away, leaving Alcott Nott dressed only in a pair of dark undershorts. He picked up a length of folded material from the table and shrugged it on. "Poor Filius. I never got used to his wretched lack of height."
Harry felt a pang of guilt. In his concern over Malfoy, he hadn't once thought about Professor Flitwick. Even now he stared at the blond head, hoping that Nott hadn't already done something horrific. Harry thought he saw a twitch and then Malfoy's tongue touched his bottom lip before his mouth thinned. He's alive, Harry thought and nearly sighed aloud. Alive and awake.
"What did you do with Fil—Professor Flitwick?" Harry demanded.
"Why, Mr Potter? Do you plan to escape and rescue him?" Nott had not bothered to turn as he spoke. He busied himself with something on the table, nearly ignoring his captives. Malfoy's head rose and he looked straight at Harry.
"I just… want to know," Harry said, trying to remember that he was supposed to be Albus. His strength was slowly returning, not that it mattered much while he was chained to a post. "Have you killed him?"
Nott chuckled and it was not a pleasant sound. "You must think I am some sort of monster, boy. What has your father told you about me?"
"Only that you lost your own son," Harry said quietly.
Nott spun around, face twisting with rage. "I did not lose my son! My Theo was taken from me! Taken by your father!"
Harry glanced at Malfoy, who shook his head minutely. Malfoy certainly knew Nott better than he did. Malfoy asked, "What do you plan to do with us?"
Nott's head swivelled to fix his stare on Malfoy. "Do? My, you do look like Lucius in his younger days. Draco always favoured Narcissa, but you…" Nott walked forward and took Malfoy's chin in his hand, not gently. Malfoy tried to yank his head away, but Nott only squeezed until white circles appeared beneath his fingers. "Is the same madness lurking inside you, Scorpius? Will you begin to howl with rage when I slice your Potter open? Terrible choice of mate, by the way. But no matter, you won't live long enough to truly regret your decisions."
With that, he released Malfoy, whose glare of pure fury followed him. Malfoy worked his jaw and then asked, "So, you plan to kill us? Isn't that a bit pedantic as far as revenge goes?"
Nott shook his head and turned back to his table with a sigh. "One thing I always hated about Malfoys. They think they are so much better than everyone else. A sodding child calling me pedantic. Thank you, Mr Malfoy, you have made this quite a lot easier."
Harry threw Malfoy a disbelieving look, which was returned with a jut of Malfoy's chin that clearly asked if Harry had any better ideas.
"How do you plan to um… do it?" Harry asked, working his hands against the metal shackles. They were quite tight, allowing almost no slack.
"It's quite simple, Mr Potter. I plan to torture you both to death and then send the memory to your father for him to view over and over and over, suffering the while. I assume he will share with Draco, dear Scorpius, so do not feel left out."
Harry shrank back, horrified. The thought of someone actually doing such a thing to Albus made him want to hide his children away from the world. Evidently Malfoy felt the same. "You sick fuck!" Malfoy cried.
Nott chuckled without turning around. "Lost all your big words already, Scorpius? What a pity. There, nearly all ready now. Wait; one more thing. We don't need any company for this, do we? No one will hear your screams from this building. We are far from any settlement and I have taken the precaution of draping the place with Silencing Spells. The Vanishing Cabinet, however…" Nott strode over to the cabinet and cast Confringo; the piece of furniture exploded into thousands of bits.
"How did you get it into the school?" Harry asked, beginning to feel anxious now that their peril was clear. He needed to retrieve his wand somehow. He doubted a wandless Accio would tear it from Nott's robes and send it winging to his hand.
"That was the height of simplicity, Albus. I dismantled the cabinet and Transfigured each piece into yule logs for use as decorations. They were carried straight beneath the noses of the Aurors stationed at the school. Once inside the classroom, I returned each piece to its original state and put the cabinet back together. The Yule Celebration made this so easy. I should send a gift to the Planning Committee."
Nott left the smoking rubble and returned to the table. "Now, then. We need more light." With several incantations, Nott produced many more candelabras and lit them all by shooting a stream of fire from his wand. The room gleamed with warm light. "I don't want your fathers to miss a single terrible detail." Nott's weathered face shone with determined satisfaction. Harry swallowed, having no idea how to dissuade him. At least Albus and Scorpius were safe, but Malfoy… He looked helplessly at the man bound across from him. Malfoy managed a wan smile and Harry's heart fluttered painfully.
He hoped Malfoy wasn't expecting Harry to rescue him, because he had no idea how and their situation looked bleak.
"Time to get started," Nott said. "Who shall be first?"
"Let Scorpius go," Harry said. "It's my father who let your son die. You should punish him. Malfoy didn't do anything."
"You are correct. Draco Malfoy didn't do anything. He didn't do anything to see that my son's murderer received his just reward! I trusted him to see Potter punished and he did nothing!"
"It was a proper trial," Malfoy snapped. "Theo's death was an accident and all the evidence proved it. Your attempt to shift the blame to Potter and deny culpability for placing your own child in danger is pathetic!"
Harry winced. Malfoy sounded far more like himself than Scorpius.
Nott snarled. "Back to using large words again, Malfoy? Very well, we will start on you." A slashing spell lashed out at Malfoy despite Harry's shout of denial. Several more followed. After a moment, Malfoy's shirt hung about him in strips. Another spell caused the pieces to fall to the floor. Amazingly, Malfoy's skin was unmarked.
"Where shall we begin?" Nott asked, walking around Malfoy while tapping his wand against his hand.
When he was closest to Harry on his circuit, Harry yelled, "Accio wand!"
Nott gasped when the wand in his hand shivered and nearly jolted free. Nott tightened his grip with a baleful glare, but at least his attention had been diverted from Malfoy. "Albus Potter. I see you have a measure of your father's power. Too bad it cannot be harnessed." Nott paused and then an unpleasant smile split his face. "Or can it?"
Nott walked over to stand in front of Harry. He lifted his wand to hover before Harry's forehead and then said clearly, "Imperio."
Harry felt peace wash over him in a way that he hadn't felt in years. The Imperius Curse was used in Auror Training, but very seldom. Harry's worries and cares melted away, replaced by a blissful feeling of emptiness. He remembered being upset a moment previous, but it no longer seemed important.
Nott cast a spell that opened Harry's manacles. Harry lowered his hands and rubbed at them absently. Nott backed away quickly, seeming wary. Harry watched him curiously.
"Go to the table," Nott ordered. It seemed reasonable, so Harry walked that way, shuffling slowly, until he reached the table. Several items had been placed upon it and he perused them without interest.
"Pick up the knife."
A jagged-edged knife with a bone handle rested near a long, thin metal rod. Harry reached down and lifted it. The handle was cool against his palm.
"Good. Now walk to Scorpius Malfoy."
Harry frowned. He could not quite remember where Scorpius was… oh yes. Grimmauld Place. But how to walk there?
"Walk to Malfoy!" Nott snapped.
Harry's gaze shot to Malfoy, chained against a post. The sight was… stirring. Harry took several steps until he stood before Malfoy. He might have gazed at him with more fondness than was warranted, but in his current relaxed state, it seemed only natural. Harry smiled.
"Now. Cut him." Nott's voice was harsh, driving through Harry's peaceful state and causing him to lift the knife. "Cut his pretty face until you can't recognize it."
Harry's hand trembled on the knife. Cut Malfoy? Why would I want to do that? Part of him wondered. Malfoy was far too beautiful to mar.
"Cut. Him," Nott insisted. Harry's hand rose until the tip of the knife rested against Malfoy's cheek.
"Potter," Malfoy whispered. "Fight it. I know you can resist it. It was the talk of the school in our fourth year."
Cut him cut him cut him cut him. The words seemed to hammer in his brain, smashing at his defences. The tip of the knife jerked, raking a line across Malfoy's pale cheek that quickly gleamed red.
Nott laughed. "Very good. Again."
"Harry, please," Malfoy murmured.
The knife began to shake. Harry wanted to obey. He wanted so badly to give in to the insistent voice and make it stop, to let the peace return. It was so nice not having to think. So nice not having to worry and fret and wonder—
"Again." The word was insistent.
"No," Harry said. His entire arm shook and he pulled it away from Malfoy's face with a jerk. Blood gathered at the edge of the gash and a single drop broke free to trickle down Malfoy's face. Harry felt a moment of pure horror that buried the feelings provided by the Imperius. He stepped back one full pace. "No, I don't think I will."
Then he turned and flung the knife at Nott.
Which bounced off his shoulder and fell to the floor. Knife throwing was harder than it looked. They stared at each other in surprise for a moment and Malfoy's "Oh, honestly" reached Harry's ears just before Nott raised his wand again.
"Imperio!" he snarled.
The force of it stopped Harry in his tracks, but only for an instant. This time he shook off the languorous sensation and dove forward, knocking Nott into the table. Several metal objects rattled and one of the candelabrums fell over. A pool of wax ignited and burned merrily, spreading along the floor towards the wall.
Harry's hand closed around the wand and they wrestled for it. Nott's other hand clawed at Harry's hair, probably seeking his ear or eye. Harry shoved with his shoulder and the table moved again, skidding across the wooden floor. Nott went down with Harry atop him and finally the wand wrenched free.
Nott's nails scratched over Harry's cheek and his hand freed of the wand thumped Harry's temple as he tried to pull himself to his feet. Flames crackled loudly—apparently the wall had caught fire. Harry ignored Nott's flailing and transferred the wand to his right hand before snarling, "Stupefy!"
Nott went limp and Harry quickly searched his robes for his own wand. Quickly because flames had begun to lick across the floor from the fallen candles. Both his and Malfoy's wands were in a pocket of Nott's robes. Apparently he had simply tucked them away without examining them.
"Nicely done, Potter," Malfoy said in a dry tone. "Do you think you might deal with the fire so we don't burn to death?"
"You're so high maintenance," Harry complained, as he got to his feet and doused the flames with a spray of water. The smoke in the air mingled with steam. With that task completed, Harry cast several Binding Charms on Nott. The bloody bastard would not be getting free this time.
When he finished, Malfoy asked, "Are you planning to free me any time soon?"
Harry grinned and finally walked over to Malfoy. "I sort of like you like this," he admitted, but then his gaze softened when he met the drying blood on Malfoy's cheek.
"Never pictured you as the kinky sort, Potter."
Harry healed the gash on Malfoy's cheek and then washed away the blood with a scrap of Malfoy's fallen shirt and some water. And then he kissed Malfoy, absently releasing his bonds halfway through the kiss. Only halfway, because Malfoy's arms went around him and they remained in the smoky, candlelit room, snogging until Nott began to stir.
Draco entered the room with Scorpius, who beamed with pride at Draco's reaction. The Great Hall looked spectacular with gigantic crystalline snowflakes that glistened and spun as they fell, mimicking snowfall in slow motion before disappearing just above the heads of the attendees.
Above the glittering flakes, the glass ceiling revealed the star-filled night sky; a scene that was not magicked, for once, because the cold, clear night was actually that beautiful.
"Your doing?" Draco asked, motioning towards the snowflakes.
Scorpius nodded. "Those and the wall sconces."
Draco's gaze flitted to the multicoloured lights seemingly trapped in ice that lined the walls. Each one cycled through the colour spectrum, bringing a festive glow to the edges of the room. Added to the light from the gigantic Christmas tree, it made the holiday cheer practically palpable.
"There's Al and his dad!" Scorpius raised a hand in a wave before bounding forward to wrap Albus in a friendly embrace. Draco followed more slowly, since Potter was occupied chatting with Professor Kinder. Then Potter turned and his eyes widened before dropping to Draco's feet and making a slow, thorough progression upward. Draco felt himself blushing at Potter's far-too-obvious approval.
Potter stepped closer. "Malfoy," he said with a grin.
"Potter," Draco replied with a warning tone.
"You look... nice." Potter smirked and Draco wondered how many inappropriate adjectives he had rejected before settling on the most innocuous.
"So do you, for once," Draco admitted. In actuality, Potter looked stunning. His hair had been relatively tamed and he wore elegant dress robes in such a dark shade of red they appeared black except in certain light. His lace cravat was understated and he wore white gloves. Draco noticed the last as they reached out to touch the lapel of Draco's silver-grey robe.
Potter leaned even closer to whisper in Draco's ear. "You look positively edible. Any chance we can leave this party early?"
"You are the belle of the ball, Potter," Draco replied and stepped away to try and curtail the quickening of his pulse. "You tell me." He gave Potter a warning stare, because Scorpius was already giving them a speculative stare. The boy missed nothing. His blond head bent towards Albus and they whispered together. Draco nearly groaned aloud when Albus Potter's green eyes snapped towards them with sudden interest.
"I would leave right now if I could," Potter said, eyes still not leaving Draco.
Draco cleared his throat. He needed to escape Potter and his obvious insanity. "I believe I see the Headmistress and Flitwick. I will see you later, Potter."
Potter only smiled and watched him go. Draco shook his head and wondered why he had even come to this event. It had only been two weeks since they had last walked the halls of Hogwarts. Alcott Nott was safely locked away in Azkaban. The boys were back in school—or they had been prior to leaving school for the holidays. Draco and Potter had returned to work and everything was the way it had been before.
Everything except for Draco's nocturnal visits to Potter's flat, at any rate. Potter's Floo was becoming as familiar as Draco's own. He knew it was madness, but he couldn't seem to stay away. Four days previous, they had nearly been caught by Ron Weasley, who had popped into Potter's place unannounced. Potter had scrambled into pyjama bottoms and rushed out to greet him, leaving Draco to twiddle his thumbs in Potter's bed and wait for him to get rid of the prat.
And Potter was becoming more and more open about it, hinting that he didn't care who knew. Really, it was maddening.
Of course, he was rather proud of the enhanced wards around Hogwarts. The Eros Effect had been proven reliable at enhancing magic. Several clandestine erotic encounters near each wardstone, followed by joint spell casting, had strengthened the wards back to what Draco thought might rival the Founders' days.
A nudge at his elbow made Draco glance over to see Scorpius giving him a sly smirk. "So." The tiny word was pregnant with innuendo. "You and Mr Potter."
Draco gave him a quelling look, but did not bother to deny it. Scorpius had a wretched habit of always knowing when he was lying. Draco could swear the boy was a natural Legilimens. Unfortunately, the lack of protest was answer enough for his son, whose eyes widened and he gasped. "Father!"
Draco coughed and quickened his footsteps, eager to reach the relative safety of Minerva McGonagall. "We will discuss this later," Draco said. By later, of course, he meant never in a thousand years.
"Draco Malfoy!" Flitwick called happily and Draco was spared further uncomfortable talk of Harry Potter. Even so, he could not seem to stop his eyes from following Potter as he wandered around the room, looking confident and polished. And utterly delectable, Draco admitted to himself.
Harry watched as Malfoy evaded his son and stopped to chat with Minerva and Filius. Professor Flitwick had been found in the house where Harry had fought Alcott Nott, hungry, dehydrated, and slightly the worse for wear, but alive.
The house had been part of an abandoned castle on the outskirts of Derbyshire. Once they had exited and determined their bearings, it had been relatively easy to Apparate to London with Nott in tow. Malfoy had taken Flitwick back to Hogwarts. They had barely spoken for two days after that. Harry had been busy with paperwork and happy, tearful reunions with Lily and James.
Albus and Scorpius had left Grimmauld Place after coercing Harry into allowing them to move into it upon leaving Hogwarts. They had apparently grown fond of the old place during their enforced holiday. Harry preferred not to know the details.
Harry had mentioned the missing Marauder's Map to Albus, only to receive a cheeky grin and Albus commenting, "Hugo nicks the Map all the time. I just go take it back from his room in Gryffindor Tower when I need it. You should have just asked me where he kept it."
Harry had only shaken his head, since it all turned out well in the end. Mostly well, he thought now, watching Malfoy smile at something Flitwick said. Harry almost sighed aloud at the sight; he lived for that smile. He bit his lip, aware that he was ridiculously smitten with Malfoy and rapidly convincing himself that he didn't care who knew.
"Hey, dad," Albus said.
Harry dragged his eyes away from the silver-clad blond and grinned at Albus. "Having a good time?" Harry asked.
"I'm having a good time watching you ogle Mr Malfoy," Albus said and then laughed at Harry's expression. Albus shook his head. "Don't try to deny it. I've been there. I know the look."
Harry groaned and took Albus' elbow to lead him away from a Ministry official who gave Harry a friendly wave. When they were out of earshot, Harry asked, "Is it that obvious?"
"Only to me, I'm sure. Well, and Scorpius, since he's the one pointed it out to me. I am a bit shocked, though. Did it happen when you guys were pretending to be us?"
Harry nodded and resisted pulling at his hair, although he did reach out and snare a glass of champagne when a silver tray of bubbling glasses floated past. He took a gulp and then said, "It was unexpected."
"Isn't it always?" Albus asked sagely.
"I don't know how he feels," Harry said, feeling a bit awkward talking about his gay love affair with his own son.
"Yeah, men don't exactly chat about their feelings. It took me three years to admit to Scorpius that I even liked him that way." Albus shook his head. "Such a waste. But unless you say something, neither of you will know, right?"
Harry gave him a serious look. "You don't mind this? I mean… I hoped you might accept it, but what do you think James or Lily…? Oh god, this is just a terrible idea. I should call this whole thing off and stop seeing him."
"Do you want to?" Albus asked in a soft tone.
Harry twisted the empty glass in his hands and shook his head. "No. I really like him. And not just… physically." Harry spoke quickly to cover the awkwardness of that admission. "I mean, he's really smart and clever and funny and… I never knew that."
Albus clapped him roughly on the shoulder. "Then go get him, Dad. The rest will sort itself. I don't know what James or Lily will say, but this isn't about them. It's about you. I know they want you to be happy and it's been really horrible seeing you all alone the past few years…" Albus broke off, as though he had revealed too much. "Anyway, it's up to you, but if Mr Malfoy is anything like Scorpius," Albus shook his head and laughed, "You'll have an interesting time ahead of you."
"Interesting. Yeah," Harry said wryly and set the glass on another passing tray. He straightened his shoulders and nodded. "Thanks, Albus. It's strange taking advice from your own offspring, but… thanks."
"Anytime, Dad. And good luck."
Harry nodded and started through the crowd. He was going to need it.
Draco's wrist burned. His minor jerk of surprise would have spilled his glass of Firewhisky if he hadn't drained it completely moments before. He gave the glass to a student dressed as a waiter and then shook back his cuff to look at the silver bracelet.
Sometimes he still wondered why they hadn't taken them off.
Gazebo was all it said. Draco looked towards the only failure in decoration, and one that Scorpius had assured him was not his fault. The gazebo sat in a corner nearest the front doors, covered in snow and festooned with even more holiday glitz than had adorned it in the Charms classroom. Red and white birds fluttered around it in a twittering flock, landing in the icy branches of a holly bush.
Draco knew he shouldn't, but he found himself walking towards the structure anyway, bypassing friends and acquaintances with an absent word or two.
Potter stood alone in the interior, leaning with both hands on the railing and looking out over the crowd. Draco joined him and his eyes quickly picked out Scorpius, who was seated next to Albus amid a group of younger people. Teddy Lupin's purple hair was visible in the cluster. Albus' arm was draped over Scorpius shoulders. They both looked immensely happy.
"It's nice, isn't it?" Potter asked. Draco was spared an answer when Potter's hand dropped atop his and their fingers threaded together. Seemingly encouraged, Potter tugged him backward, towards the centre of the gazebo.
Draco looked up to find the mistletoe still in place. "This didn't work out very well for us last time," he commented.
"No evil spells this time," Potter said with a grin, still holding Draco's hand. "I checked." He twirled his wand in his other hand… and dropped it. He stooped to retrieve it and then gave Draco a sheepish grin.
"You're completely hopeless," Draco said.
"But you like me, anyway," Potter replied, tucking his wand away into the dark folds of his robe.
"I suppose," Draco admitted, knowing he must be infected with some sort of madness to be standing with Harry Potter, here, with a crowd of people and reporters just beyond the open walls of the wooden structure.
Potter pulled him closer, the look in his eyes intense, as usual, snaring Draco more than the hold on his hand. Their breath mingled and Draco smelled champagne, although Potter wasn't drunk, he couldn't be after the single glass of Draco had watched him drink. Draco felt slightly tipsy, despite only one glass of Firewhisky.
"We don't have to do this, if you're not sure," Potter said and his grip tightened on Draco's hand. Always the Gryffindor.
"I'm here, aren't I?" Draco said dryly and then their lips met. No spell caught Draco this time, only the warm eagerness of Potter's mouth and the feel of his arm slipping around Draco's waist. The kiss deepened and Draco knew there were spells other than those cast by a wand, and magic bigger than that contained in an incantation. For the first time he felt lost in such magic, and possibly found, as well.
When the first shocked gasp reached Draco's ears, he simply pushed his hand into Potter's hair and pulled him closer.
Despite the drama that no doubt awaited them, Draco knew everything would work out in the end. He was with Harry Potter, after all.
Author's Note: This fic annoyed me from the first word because there were so many situations that popped up that required unbelievable solutions, such as getting rid of the MAP which I should have just removed from the fic completely, but I was too stubborn. The battle between Harry and Nott was supposed to be long and dramatic, full of spell casting and danger and suspense! I started writing it and realized Harry had been an Auror for TWENTY YEARS. He would not be taken down by some half-arsed wizard with a grudge. *shakes head* So if the battle seems abrupt and over too quickly... well, it was. But at least Draco is impressed. In the end, this is less of a mystery and more of a romance, which is what I usually write anyway. But hey, the next one is full of... something. We'll see. *writes more* I love you guys! :3