A/N: Um, so Christmas was a few months back…
What can I say? I'm a slowpoke…and also a bit late to clue in to the awesomeness that is H/D :(
I hope you guys will still enjoy this regardless :)
Under the Mistletoe
It was Monday morning, a week before the end of term.
Harry ran into first period Charms, late after having slept in and missed breakfast, to find that Professor Flitwick had apparently lined the ceiling of his classroom with real live fairies disguised as shimmering yellow lights. In between lessons, as Ron and Hermione bickered continuously beside him, he noticed that brightly-lit sconces had been erected along the castle's drab brick walls, thick festoons of holly adorned almost every archway, and leafy green wreaths had been hung on all classroom doors. During dinner that night, he stared in wonder at the twelve large Christmas trees that had been erected in the Great Hall, each one submerged by a brilliant blanket of baubles, bells, silver tinsel and glittering golden fairy-lights.
Overnight, it appeared, the teachers had decorated Hogwarts to within an inch of its life. To Harry, the truly spectacular displays, outstripping even those that had appeared before the war, seemed to be terribly wasteful: after all, only a handful of students would be in a position to enjoy them on Christmas day.
As always at Hogwarts, nearly everyone had elected to go home for the holidays, Harry not among them because he would never think of either Grimmauld Place or Privet Drive as his home. Hermione, wracked with guilt, had decided to spend the time off with her parents, whom she had Apparated back from Australia, highly confused and disoriented, after learning to reverse her own shockingly powerful Memory Charms. The Weasleys, on the other hand, would be hosting a small gathering at The (newly rebuilt) Burrow on the day, but Harry had begged off staying with them despite Mrs. Weasley's persistence, feeling as though he would be intruding on their grief, their first Christmas without Fred.
On the morning of December twenty-fourth, chillingly cold under the glittering frost that floated down to cover the castle, he found himself with Ron and Hermione on the Astronomy Tower, the three of them staring out at the white-washed grounds, playing Exploding Snap on a thick blanket spelled with a strong Impervius Charm, warming their hands against Hermione's jar of bluebell flames, happy to be away from the hustle and bustle of Gryffindor Tower for just a few hours.
"Mate, are you sure you won't come? Go on, take the Express back with me and surprise Mum. She hasn't seen you since August, and you know she could do with a few things to smile about."
"Stop guilt-tripping him, Ron. If after the year we've had, Harry wants some time to himself, then I think that's perfectly understandable."
After lunch, he waved them goodbye as they left the Gryffindor common room together, heading down to the carriages, gloved hands clasped tight around each other's. Alone in the circular space, Harry whiled away the next several hours, curled up on his favorite armchair, reading through the first half of the Auror Training Manual: 1988 Edition that Kingsley had owled him, the stone hearth in front of him roaring with warm orange flames, the wood kindle splitting and crackling merrily.
It was only when the sky outside the arched windows had darkened considerably, that he went up to the dorm, intending to get dressed for Christmas Eve dinner. He had just stripped off his shirt when obnoxiously loud knocking at the door sent him reaching quickly for his wand. Holding it tightly, he pulled away his hangings, forehead wrinkled in confusion - as far as he knew, he was the only Gryffindor staying behind for the holidays.
"Harry! Harry! Are you in there? I saw your name on the sign-up sheet for people not going home, so I thought I'd stay behind too. I've just come back from Hogsmeade. I snuck out, you know, to buy you a Christmas present." The extremely high-pitched voice finished speaking with a shrill giggle.
He groaned, running a hand through his hair, when he recognized that voice. It was Romilda Vane. She had been quite taken with him since the beginning of term, when Ginny had begun dating Dean again and Witch Weekly had run that mortifying article entitled, The Boy Who Lived: Jilted Lover, or Happily Unattached Hero?: cornering him as he sat in the library, well into the evening, trying to complete an assignment he had due the next day; following him down to the Quidditch pitch during the evenings he decided to practice his flying; rudely squeezing herself in between him and whoever happened to be sitting beside him at mealtimes, oblivious to Hermione's withering glares and Ron's poor attempts to stifle his laughter when Harry tried to subtly edge away.
He had no desire to spend his evening seated next to her over dinner, pretending to listen as she went on and on about the baby kneazle her parents had bought her over the summer. He also, remembering the horrifying incident from sixth year, didn't particularly wish to accept any present she was thinking of giving him. More to the point, he thought wildly as the door-handle began to twist this way and that, he did not want to be anywhere near her while standing half-naked next to a bed.
He dived for the Invisibility Cloak, which had been sitting benignly in his trunk all year, pulling it over himself just as the door swung open to reveal a soaking wet Romilda Vane, her dark hair matted all over her forehead, holding a small box wrapped in bright pink wrapping paper and looking very confused indeed.
"Harry? Where are you?" She pulled open the scarlet and gold curtains around all five beds, looking straight through him as she got to his. "That's so strange."
She was moving back towards the door when it happened. Harry, who had sighed in relief at the signs of her leaving, suddenly looked down in horror at his watch - the birthday gift from Mrs. Weasley last year - as it beeped softly to indicate that it was now seven o'clock.
Romilda froze, before swirling back around. "Who's there?" She had drawn her wand, was brandishing it this way and that as she cast Stunning Hex after Stunning Hex wildly around the room.
Ducking quickly, Harry rushed past her, exhaling harshly as he escaped through the open doorway, running down the stairs to the common room and clambering out of the portrait hole for good measure. He knew that he wouldn't be able to go to dinner now - there was no food on earth with enough appeal to warrant hours spent with Romilda - but his growling stomach had him deciding that perhaps the house elves might be amenable to giving him a piece of treacle tart he could take up to the Astronomy Tower.
His torso, still shirtless, broke out into gooseflesh, and the bottoms of his bare feet were stinging as they met frozen stone floors of the castle. He shivered, casting several Warming Charms that made no difference whatsoever under the heavy Cloak, chilled from disuse. When he saw no one, not even Peeves, for several corridors, he pulled it off hastily, sighing in relief when his next charm sent a welcome frisson of heat climbing up his spine, blood rushing back into his fingers and toes. Happier now, he made his way down the staircase leading to the Hufflepuff common rooms and was just about to walk through the archway that would take him into the corridor containing the portrait hole to the kitchens, when he found himself running almost headlong into Draco Malfoy.
They stopped dead at the same time, each on either side of the archway, pausing as effectively as if they had been Stunned.
Harry opened his mouth. "Er…" He didn't know how to finish, what to say to the boy who hadn't said a single word to him since he had spoken on the Malfoy family's behalf during the Death Eater trials.
After several seconds of excruciating silence during which Malfoy stared wide-eyed at him, standing there clothed only in his pyjama bottoms, without a shirt or even shoes, and Harry likely turned steadily more and more red from the sheer mortification of it all, of being found in such a state by Malfoy of all people, Malfoy gave him a funny little nod and moved forward, clearly intending to walk past without a word. It was as they each stepped through the stone archway, however, at precisely the moment that both he and Harry were under the frame together, shoulders brushing just slightly, that it happened.
"Ouch! What in the name of Merlin…" He had walked into some kind of invisible, yet completely solid, barrier. He rubbed at his right knee, now throbbing in pain, as he turned to Malfoy, who had himself cried out a second earlier and was now nursing a bleeding nose.
Harry rushed forward. "Episkey."
Immediately, the flow of red liquid was stemmed.
All traces of blood disappeared from Malfoy's face.
"I could've done it myself!"
It was the first time he'd heard the voice outside of class in about three months, and Harry was annoyed to discover that it hadn't changed a bit. Still as cold and as harsh as ever.
Fuming, trying to remind himself that Malfoy had always been an ungrateful prat and that it was stupid to have expected the war to have changed that, he turned back to whatever he'd walked into. Feeling carefully with his hands, he discovered that it seemed to be a curved barricade, attached to the stone walls on either side of the archway but extending about a meter in front of the opening at its widest point.
"I think we're in some kind of invisible circle." Harry looked back over his shoulder. Malfoy was crouched low to the ground, his white-button down shirt rolled up to his elbows, the fading Mark clearly visible on his left forearm, as he seemingly moved his hands over thin air. His voice was far away, as if he was talking to himself and not Harry. "I don't know what kind of spell this is. I've tried Reducto, Confringo and the Banishing Charm. Nothing's working."
Annoyed further at the fact that Malfoy had managed so many attempts to remove the accursed circle while he himself had only just worked out what was wrong, Harry crossed his arms over his chest, partially because he had begun to feel cold again but also because Malfoy was making him feel completely incompetent and didn't even have the grace to look at him as he did so, still running his hands down the hidden wall and muttering under his breath.
Harry tried not to notice the curve of Malfoy's arse, quite clear through his black pants, failing miserably and wondering bewilderedly at his own thoughts. Since when had he ever noticed something like that about Malfoy?
Unbidden, a series of images flashed though his mind: Malfoy leaning over to stir his cauldron in Potions a fortnight ago, Malfoy mounting his broom before the first Quidditch match of the season, Malfoy bending down to retrieve the quill Ron had dropped in Transfiguration, handing it back wordlessly to a startled Ron. Harry cringed. Okay, so he had evidently been noticing the git's arse quite a lot during the past term. So what? It was a perfectly natural thing for people to do, surely. Horrified at the…disturbing…direction his thoughts had taken, Harry tore his eyes away, looking up instead.
He was pretty sure that what he saw in that instant fairly sent his heart into palpitations in his chest. He swore softly, inwardly deciding that he would be hexing George Weasley into the next century whenever he next met the idiot.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Malfoy had wheeled around, standing quickly.
Grimly, Harry pointed up to the archway. Malfoy's eyes widened comically as he looked between Harry and the piece of mistletoe above them, again and again. Harry might have laughed if he hadn't been so terrified himself, his stomach churning, his palms feeling slightly sticky around his Cloak.
Malfoy was now pointing his wand at the offending green leaves, sparks flying out of his wand as he attempted to break the magic around the obviously enchanted mistletoe.
Harry rolled his eyes, even through his nervousness. "That won't work. See the little orange tag? It means that's a Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes product. People have been putting these up all over the castle for the past month. George has charmed them to make sure they won't come off, or be deactivated, or fooled into letting people go until they…" He trailed off, unable to finish the sentence, feeling the heat spreading across his face.
"No, no, no." Malfoy was chanting softly under his breath, not meeting Harry's eyes, looking as though someone had just force-fed him a spoonful of bubotuber pus. "I am not going to kiss you, Potter."
Harry ran a hand through his hair, not in the least disappointed by Malfoy's flat-out refusal. "Look, everyone is at dinner, and I'm not even sure if any of the Hufflepuffs have stayed behind this year. It might actually be days, not hours, before someone finds us and calls a teacher…"
He wasn't trying to convince Malfoy because he wanted to be kissed or anything. Merlin, no!
He was just extremely cold, and Warming Charms were only good for thirty minutes or so, and you couldn't use them over and over again otherwise they could send you into a sort of deep sleep that lasted for days and that not even Madam Pomfrey could break (as Neville had unpleasantly discovered in November while working overnight in the Greenhouses). All Harry wanted was to just be freed from the sodding mistletoe, get something to eat from the kitchens, and then head back up to his toasty warm common room, Romilda Vane's annoying advances be damned.
"Forget it, Potter." Malfoy had his arms crossed against his chest now too, and Harry couldn't help noticing that it was a very nice chest indeed, broader than it had been in sixth year, but still quite narrow on Malfoy's wiry frame.
"Malfoy, don't be an idiot. Just a quick peck, and then we can be off -"
"I said no!" The slate-grey eyes had narrowed dangerously to slits, though Harry thought he'd caught a hint of panic in Malfoy's raised voice.
Was the idea of kissing Harry, even for just a second, really so repulsive that Malfoy would rather spend a freezing December night stuck in some kind of force field with a diameter of a just two scant meters?
Apparently so, because the blond had lowered himself to the ground and was now leaning against one invisible wall, loosening his green and silver Slytherin tie, resting his elbows on raised knees, glaring mutinously up at Harry as though he were somehow responsible for their predicament.
Harry sighed, not in the slightest bit morose or upset at the rejection, then sat down as well, making sure to leave some space between himself and Malfoy, slightly disconcerted at the feeling of an unseen barrier supporting his uncovered back.
If Harry had expected Malfoy to talk to him as they sat there together, he was disappointed. The Slytherin wouldn't even so much as look at him, in much the same way as he had kept to himself and refused to make eye contact with Harry all term. Harry couldn't say why - couldn't understand these feelings and certainly couldn't mention them to Ron and Hermione - but he had found Malfoy's sudden ambivalence towards him inexplicably maddening. He hated it more than if the blond had come back to Hogwarts and acted exactly as he had done before sixth year. Then, at least, he might've actually been able to keep on disliking Malfoy and that would have been that. But no, luck had never been on his side, after all, and he'd been unable to stop himself from thinking about the blond, unable to keep himself from checking the Marauder's Map constantly to seek out the tiny dot under the name Draco Malfoy.
Now, as he sat there, bored, stomach aching with hunger, the minutes crawling by as they sat there in silence, the obsession that had seized him like it had every other year since first, made itself known, demanding that he ask Malfoy all the questions he could before someone found them and saved them from George Weasley's charmed mistletoe.
"Why aren't you at dinner?"
"I wasn't hungry." Malfoy shrugged moodily, before his voice returned to snappishness. "Why don't you put that cloak on if you're so cold?"
Harry stilled the shivers wracking his body. "I can't, it's an Invisibility Cloak. It's really cold because I haven't used it in a while and it repels Warming Charms."
Malfoy glared down at the pile of heavy material in Harry's lap. "I told Snape you had one." Then, looking up, he reeled back in shock. "Merlin, Potter, your lips are turning blue!" Quickly, he reached up to the side of Harry's head with his left hand, the hold surprisingly gentle, and raised his wand with his right. "Here."
Immediately, Harry felt a wonderful wave of warmth engulf his body, and stopped quivering altogether, relaxing completely against the wall. "Thanks." The strange look Malfoy shot him seemed to confirm that his smile must have looked slightly deranged, and his voice must have rivaled Luna's for that dazed tone she had. For the life of him, though, Harry couldn't control either reaction.
"Don't mention it." Still looking at Harry with an unfathomable expression on his face, he added. "It's not a Warming Charm, so you needn't worry about falling into a Longbottom-like coma."
"What is it then?" Harry wanted to know, mind and body still awash with a pleasant haze of lassitude.
"A diluted version of Incendio, I suppose."
"Really? Where did you learn it?"
Malfoy raised his chin slightly. "I invented it."
Almost instantaneously, Harry was pulled from his lethargy. "You what?"
"I invented it, Potter. You can search the books in the library if you don't believe me. You won't find mention of it anywhere." Malfoy's tone of voice was extremely defensive, but there was still that proud upward turn to his jaw.
Harry regarded him carefully. "No, I believe you."
Malfoy looked surprised for an instant, before that cool mask was back. "No one asked if you did. Not everyone needs the Golden Boy's approval, you know."
Rolling his eyes yet again, Harry tried to return to their short détente. "You know, I always thought Potions was your best subject, but you're really good at spells and charms and things too. Have you ever thought about becoming a Curse-Breaker?"
Malfoy snorted. "Right. Because I'm certain the Ministry is likely to hire a former Death Eater to do its dirty work."
Harry peered at him carefully, noticing the tense set of his shoulders, the downward tilt to his mouth. Malfoy didn't have to work if he chose not to, Harry knew, because the trials had revealed that there was a truly astonishing amount of gold sitting in the Malfoy coffers - even more so than Malfoy had always hinted - but somehow, he instinctively knew that the boy sitting next to him had never planned on being supported solely by his father's money. He kept his voice deliberately light, devoid of pity or sympathy or any other emotion that would be sure to raise Malfoy's hackles. "You were cleared of all charges, Malfoy, so yes it would be plenty likely. But I'm not saying you should work for the Ministry."
Malfoy turned slightly to him in askance.
He reached up to push his glasses, which had been slipping uncomfortably, back up his nose. "I was thinking Gringotts, actually. You know the goblins don't care about things like that at all."
Harry didn't know if Malfoy even heard his words, because the blond didn't reply, his gaze fixed on Harry's chest, no longer covered by his arms. "Potter…what is that?"
Harry looked down, his confusion clearing when he realized what had caught Malfoy's eye. "This?" he asked, pointing at the oval-shaped scar over his ribcage, continuing when Malfoy nodded. "I don't know if you know anything about Horcruxes -"
"Everybody knows about them, Potter. They're only in every single biography written about you since May."
Harry smiled slightly. "You've read biographies about me?"
It might've been a trick of the light, but Malfoy's pale cheeks seemed to color just a little - but Harry's heart didn't speed up at the sight at all. "Just to read about the war, not you. Stop flattering yourself."
Shrugging, Harry went on, not disheartened in the slightest. "Anyway, then you must know that Voldemort," he looked straight at Malfoy as he said the name, satisfied when he didn't see a flinch or grimace in response, "had a locket belonging to Slytherin that he turned into a Horcrux. Hermione and I…we were in Godric's Hollow when Nagini found us." A visible shudder wracked through Malfoy's body and Harry remembered that the horrible snake had lived at the Manor with her master during the war. "We got away, but when she'd been wrapped around me, the locket had dug in so deep that Hermione had to use a Severing Charm to get rid of it. By then, though…" he looked down, rubbing at the angry red mark absently, "…I'd scarred."
"It's right over your heart." The words were soft and distant, as though Malfoy hadn't even realized he'd said them.
Harry cleared his throat, suddenly very aware that the skin on his chest, stomach and arms was still completely bare, and that Malfoy was still staring avidly at the scar, actually inching closer slightly. "Yeah…"
Malfoy's gaze jerked away sharply, as though Harry's reply had broken a trance, and this time Harry was certain that there were patches of red staining his cheeks. What exactly had Malfoy been thinking, to elicit a reaction like that? Why had he shifted away so that there was once again a distance of about half a meter between them? Why was he now refusing to look at Harry, determinedly concentrating on the Malfoy signet ring on the ring finger of his right hand instead?
"I was sorry to hear about your father."
Still a bit red, Malfoy quirked a skeptical eyebrow. "Don't pretend you care. We both know you wouldn't have defended him, or any of us, if my mother hadn't called in that life-debt."
Harry stared at him in confusion. "Your mother didn't call in her life-debt. I did it because it was the right thing to do." Malfoy looked away quickly, but not before Harry had seen the surprise that flashed through his eyes. "And you're wrong - I do care. Your mother…she seemed shattered when they told her he wouldn't be exonerated. I can't even imagine how she would have reacted to finding out that he'd lost the appeal, that he was going to be Kissed…"
"Don't lose sleep over it, Potter." Malfoy was still not looking at him, and his hands were shaking just a little, but his drawling voice seemed sincere enough. "You know he deserved it. And my mother…my mother is doing better now that Aunt Andromeda is on speaking terms with her again."
That took Harry by surprise. "I hadn't realized they'd been talking. I was at Andy's house all the time before term began, to play with Teddy, whenever I wasn't scheduled for reconstruction work at the castle. I wonder why I didn't run into your mother."
Malfoy's voice was dry. "Because she only invited us for dinner when she was sure you wouldn't be coming."
"Me?" Harry said, baffled. "Why?"
Malfoy shrugged. "Suppose she didn't want us to get into a row."
"We wouldn't have." Harry said firmly.
"How do you know?"
"Well…we're fine right now, aren't we?"
The corners of Malfoy's mouth seemed to turn up just a little, but he didn't reply.
There was no swooping sensation in Harry's stomach as nudged Malfoy lightly with his right shoulder. "And what about you?"
Malfoy tilted his head to the side slightly in a way that Harry didn't find even slightly endearing. "What about me?"
"You told me how your mother's doing. How are you?"
For a second, Malfoy looked as though he didn't know how to reply - as though no one had asked him that since the war.
"I…" He seemed to shake himself slightly, as though clearing his head of his thoughts. "I'm hungry."
Harry, who had forgotten all about his own hunger during his enforced company with Malfoy, felt his stomach churn painfully at the mention of food. "Me too. I was actually heading down to the kitchens before this happened."
"You weren't planning on having dinner with the teachers?"
He didn't answer, not particularly wanting to explain about Romilda and have Malfoy mock him for having acquired some sort of fan-girl. Instead, he stood and shouted "Kreacher!" into thin air. For a second, Malfoy looked up at Harry as though he were crazy, then jerked back slightly when he turned and caught sight of the wizened old house elf that had made an appearance a few meters behind them.
"Kreacher, can you slowly reach out a hand to me please?"
"Whatever Master wishes." The elf bowed low before extending his hand, his palm audibly slapping against something solid approximately a meter from the archway.
Harry sighed. "It's fine, Kreacher. I wasn't expecting you to get through. Can you do me a favor though?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Potter, it's a house elf. You give it orders, you don't request favors."
Harry looked at him sharply, reminded too much of Lucius. "Like your family used to do with Dobby?" His voice was cold, suddenly having remembering that this was Malfoy, who had been a cruel child and must've terrorized Dobby just as much, if not more so, than his father. If he had been harboring any feelings of lust towards the Slytherin - which he hadn't been - they disappeared in that instant. He found himself echoing the exact words Hermione had said to him so long ago. "House elves are living things, Malfoy. They have feelings and they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect."
At that, at least, Malfoy had the good grace to look ashamed of himself. Throwing an inscrutable glance at Harry, he stood and turned to Kreacher, who bent even lower to the ground, apparently not insulted by what Malfoy had said. "How can Kreacher serve young master Malfoy?"
"Could you please immediately notify Headmistress McGonagall or one of the other professors that Potter and I are trapped in an unbreakable charm on the second floor, near the Hufflepuff common rooms?" His voice was oddly formal, as though determined to demonstrate to Harry that he could, in fact, talk to a house elf as an equal.
But naturally, Harry's anger certainly didn't melt. Nope, not even a tiny bit. "Malfoy, you idiot, I could have done that myself." He even groaned aloud, to make sure his exasperation was obvious.
"Well then why didn't you?"
"Because, Kreacher can Apparate in and out of Hogwarts, but he technically can't speak to, or approach, anyone but me." He turned to the elf. "Kreacher, could you please go down to the kitchens and see if they've got any food they might be able to give us?"
"Certainly, Master." He Disapparated away with a crack.
In the resounding silence that followed, Malfoy suddenly looked unsure of himself, biting his lip that in no way distracted Harry. "Potter…I…" He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry for what happened to our elf…uh, to Dobby."
Harry's surprise must have been obvious.
"I heard Granger and Weasley talking about it in the library a few weeks ago."
Harry didn't know what to say in reply, but he was sure that this wasn't a topic he wanted to discuss with Malfoy, so he just shrugged stiffly, and tried to suppress the sudden ache that had struck up in his chest.
"If what you said is true, about the no contact with anyone but you rule, how was your elf just talking to me?" The words were said hesitantly, as though uncertain of Harry's mood, and Harry found that helped dissipate some of the anger he had begun to feel towards the boy next to him.
They slid back down the invisible wall, sitting, Harry couldn't help noticing with a jolt, quite a bit closer this time.
"You're a Black on your mother's side. And probably also because you're standing here with me - he can choose to follow things Ron and Hermione say when they're with me as well. Not that he usually does, mind you. But the magic around the castle won't let him say a word to anybody but the two of us, and the other house elves."
"Well then why can't he tell them to talk to McGonagall?"
Harry stared at him. "You know, for a pureblood, you know embarrassingly little about elf-lore." He grinned slightly at the indignant expression on Malfoy's face. "The kitchen elves can't speak to anyone either. Not unless they're approached directly, while cleaning the castle at night or while inside the kitchen itself. If McGonagall or the other professors ever wanted to speak to them, though, then they'd only have to summon them with a few words." He shrugged. "The Founders never imagined a scenario where the elves might have something important to say for themselves."
Malfoy raised an eyebrow. "You have been spending way too much time around Granger, Potter." There was a split second of hesitation. "How angry were you when she took up with Weasley?"
Harry spluttered indignantly, recalling a similar line of questioning from Cho Chang. "Merlin, I don't know what I've done to make everyone think I like Hermione. We've only ever been friends. You have no idea how happy I was when she and Ron finally got together. I was thinking they'd never get around to it."
"Oh." If Harry hadn't known better, he would have said that Malfoy was almost…smiling. "But what about the Weaselette - I mean, Ginny Weasley? I wasn't in much of a position to be paying attention at the time, but I think Pansy mentioned something about the two of you in sixth year…"
"So if you hadn't been trying to kill Dumbledore, you would have been paying attention?" It wasn't at all funny, this topic, but Harry had long ago forgiven Malfoy for his attempts on the Headmaster's life - especially considering that the Slytherin hadn't ultimately been able to cast the fatal curse, and Dumbledore would have died eventually anyway - so his tone was light and teasing.
Malfoy glared. "That is not even…what are you trying to…no, Potter."
Harry laughed, though it was a little bitter this time. "Calm down, Malfoy. I know you'd never think that way about Ginny, what with your family considering her a blood-traitor and all of that." Malfoy looked very uncomfortable, so Harry didn't wait for him to even pretend denial. "We broke up at her oldest brother's wedding. Bill, he married Fleur Delacour - she was the contender from Beaxbatons during the Triwizard Tournament…"
He didn't know what exactly he'd been hoping for by trailing off like that, but felt extremely pleased indeed when Malfoy's expression didn't transform to one of profound awe or glazed dopiness, as Ron's would have. He only nodded. "Sure, the Veela who kissed you when you dragged her sister out of the water."
Harry tilted his head in confusion. "How do you know about that?"
Malfoy's expression was carefully blank. "I was standing by the Lake when you got out. So were a lot of people. Everybody saw. It's not like it was some big secret."
"Right. Well anyway, yeah, we broke up after the wedding, just before I took off with Ron and Hermione to find the Horcruxes that hadn't been destroyed yet. Sometime between then and seventh year, she got back together with Dean."
"That had to have hurt." It was said cautiously.
Harry doesn't know why he is sitting there, explaining his love life to Malfoy, of all people in the world, but it's the first time he's been able to speak candidly about it to anyone, what with Ron looking at him with apologetic expressions whenever Ginny walked into a room (even though Harry had been perfectly okay with both her and Dean since the beginning of term) and Hermione oftentimes regarding him with her brown eyes sad and knowing, as though she felt his indifference was an elaborate front for deep suffering or pining.
He shook his head, smiling widely. "No, but that's just the thing. Everyone's treating me like I'm going to fall apart over it - especially Ron's mum - but honestly, I'm fine with it."
"I thought you would have given anything to be a Weasley." It wasn't said cruelly, so Harry didn't let it offend him.
"I don't need to be with Ginny to be a part of that family." He shrugged. "I love them, and they love me."
Malfoy looked as though he was going to say something, but in that instant, Kreacher returned with that horrible pop which Harry would always associate with the sound of a backfiring car, carrying a single white plate atop which sat a large slice of treacle tart and two metal forks.
"Kreacher asked the old Crouch elf for the food, Master, the one who drinks more firewhiskey than Kreacher's poor old Mistress did after her children left her. She was saying that this is all they had left in the kitchens. Kreacher is sorry for failing Master."
Hastily getting to his feet again, Harry struggled to reassure the stooped old elf that had somehow grown quite attached to him, particularly since receiving Regulus' locket, and was now staring up at him in near-tears at the thought of being unable to complete a request. "No, no, that's plenty. You did great, Kreacher. Could you put it on the floor and slide it through that wall you felt earlier."
Harry grinned in relief when the platter went right through George's invisible force field. "Thanks, Kreacher! You can head back to Grimmauld Place now."
"If ever again Master needs Kreacher's services at school, Master shouldn't hesitate to let Kreacher know."
Harry smiled down at Malfoy once the elf had left. "What are you waiting for?"
Malfoy raised both his pale eyebrows. "You want us to share food?"
He sat down, leaning sideways so that his arm was brushing against Malfoy's, his voice low and enigmatic. "For a price, of course."
For a second, Malfoy froze. "I'm still not kissing you."
He laughed, because the tiny fluttering feeling in his chest was not hurt - it was…heartburn, or something. "No, not that. I just wondered if you could hit me with another one of your modified Incendio spells. I'm cold again."
Malfoy looked to almost sag with relief. "Oh, right, of course."
Once again, his chilled skin was enveloped in blissful heat, and that, combined with his first mouthful of treacle tart, had him almost moaning aloud with delight. "Merlin, I could spend forever here. Calm down," he held up his fork to curb the tirade he expected from Malfoy, "it's an expression. I'm not getting any ideas."
But Malfoy plainly wasn't listening, was staring again, this time at Harry's mouth as he continued to shove heaped forkfuls of tart into it, probably looking quite disgusting. "Eat before you starve to death." He added snidely, "Ponce."
The blond looked away quickly, taking a delicate bite of the pastry. He sniffed. "Your manners, or lack thereof, continue to appall and amaze me, Potter. Honestly, were you raised in a barn?"
Harry absently licked up a trail of honey syrup that had trickled onto his wrist. "Nope, a cupboard, actually."
Malfoy seemed to tense and follow the movement of his mouth carefully. "What?"
Harry frowned at the uncharacteristic inarticulateness. "Are you okay, Malfoy?"
Again, the blond seemed to be shaken out of some kind of daze. "Of course I am. What were you saying about a cupboard?"
"I lived in one, under my aunt and uncle's stairs, until I was eleven."
"What? Why?" Malfoy, who might have actually grown up with his own personal wing at the Manor, looked scandalized, fork halfway to his mouth.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. They never liked me much. They had another room, but my cousin, Dudley, he used it for all his toys."
"That's…" Malfoy seemed to be struggling for the appropriate word.
Pitiful? Pathetic? Hysterical? Bringing his fork to his mouth again, Harry wondered which one he'd eventually choose.
"Horrible." Malfoy's voice was quiet as he really stared at Harry for the first time all night. "I didn't know."
"Why would you?" Harry smiled easily, even through the food that inexplicably felt lodged in his throat.
"You don't get it, Potter. The pureblooded children, most of the half-bloods too…we all grew up hearing stories about you, what you'd done as just a baby. Even my father made you out to be the hero when my mother read bedtime stories about you. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure it was just to fit in with his Imperiused Death Eater act, but it still meant that when I got to Hogwarts, I admired you more than anything."
He paused, as though startled by his own admission. Harry, for his part, was shocked at the sheer volume of words - it must have been the most Malfoy had ever said to him.
"All this time, I somehow thought your relatives must have spoiled you stupid. Even when you kept coming back from the summer holidays, looking like you hadn't eaten for three months…your clothes…I thought you were just bad at grooming yourself…a cupboard? Really?"
Harry tried to shrug it off, still smiling. "It wasn't so bad. The spiders were okay, I suppose."
"Yeah, in the cupboard, there were lots of - mmmph!"
He couldn't talk, couldn't breathe, couldn't think. His eyes were wide open as he stared at Malfoy, who had lunged forward the second before and was still trying to kiss him, even though his tightly clamped lips, was running his hands through Harry's hair, down his bare back, lower to the waistband of his pyjama pants…
Harry lurched back, fingers pressed to his mouth. "What…"
Malfoy's pupils were blown wide, his mouth pink and swollen and open in a perfectly round "o", as if he, and not Harry, were in shock.
"I…I…" He was looking down at the ground, at his hands, at his tie, at anything but Harry. "The mistletoe," he muttered quietly after several seconds of tense silence, "I did that to get us out."
And indeed, now that feeling had begun to return to Harry's stunned body, he could tell that there was no longer anything supporting his back. Malfoy stood abruptly, unrolled and buttoned his sleeves, then turned to Harry, who was sitting stock still, still unable to process what had just happened. "Well, I'll see you around, Potter."
The color in Malfoy's cheeks was high, but it seemed as if he had completed his routine with deliberate slowness, as though determined to prove that his actions had been intentional. As he nodded once politely, and then walked away, Harry didn't know whether he should buy that story or not.
He didn't remember the walk back to the Tower. It was well past midnight and the sound of his bare feet hitting stone echoed around the corridors. He felt numb everywhere…except for his mouth. His lips were tingling, burning, still sending bolts of red-hot arousal shooting through his body. It felt like they'd been pressed to a length of livewire, like those Uncle Vernon had kept in the garage at Privet Drive. His brain had all but turned to mush; he couldn't decipher why he was reacting like this, why his body had responded to that one chaste kiss more violently than it ever had to hours spent snogging Ginny, and more importantly, he couldn't work out why Malfoy had kissed him in the first place. He thought about in obsessively as he paced the common room, the fire from earlier now just embers in the grate.
Eventually, as weak December-dawn light began to filter in through the window, it hit him suddenly that it was Christmas Day.
Romilda trudged down to the common room at about seven, looking, Harry couldn't help but notice, significantly less attractive without her Make-Up Charms. She squealed when she saw him, bouncing a little on her heels. "Oh Harry! You are here! I thought I'd signed up to stay for no reason at all! Oh, I'm so glad! Why on earth weren't you at dinner last night?"
"Sorry, Romilda." He hoped his expression seemed apologetic. "I...got caught up in something."
"Oh, well never mind then," she smiled brightly, "we can go down to Christmas Day breakfast together now. But you really should have been there last night, Harry - you would have absolutely loved it."
His voice sounded distant, probably because his thoughts had already returned to that mind-boggling kiss from earlier, so he almost missed it when she said, "Well because that awful Draco Malfoy wasn't there yesterday either."
She must not have heard the sharpness in his voice when he looked up instantaneously and said, "Awful?"
"Oh yes, I know how much you hate him." She was trying to show him pictures of a rather ugly kneazle, which looked less like a baby anything and more like an overweight tiger to Harry. "As well you should! The way he stares at you every day. It's positively evil. Oh look, doesn't she have the cutest smile in this one, Harry?"
"Stares at me?"
She trilled a laugh. "Don't say you haven't noticed. He only does it all the time. And he glares at me whenever I sit next to you! Like you're his property or something! Imagine! The nerve of the filthy Death Eater!"
His mind was made in an instant.
He went upstairs and kicked open his trunk, ignoring Romilda's bewildered questions, still audible from the common room, pulling out the Marauder's Map. He frantically searched for the familiar dot, smiling slightly when he realized that it was the only presence to be found in the Slytherin dungeons.
It took him just five minutes to make it clear across the castle under the Cloak - he was just that anxious to get there. Thanking his lucky stars that Ron had a horrible habit of mouthing off the passwords to all Houses whenever Ginny, as Head Girl, decided upon them, he clambered through the portrait hole to the dungeons, ascending the staircase that led to Malfoy's dot on the Map.
His breathing sped up as he entered the eighth year boys' dormitory, clicking the door shut quietly behind himself.
"Potter, is that you?" The hangings around the closest bed were wrenched open and Malfoy, shirtless and barefoot himself now, stepped out, staring cautiously at the door, about two feet to the left of Harry. After a moment, he seemed to sigh, before throwing himself backwards onto the bed, spread-eagled, eyes closed, and looking for all the world like the most attractive thing Harry had ever seen.
Heart stuttering in his chest, he pulled off the Cloak and cleared his throat.
Malfoy sat bolt upright, eyes wide as Harry had ever seen them.
There was a beat where they just stared, and Harry tried to think of something to say, but through the pounding in his ears and the dryness of his mouth, the only thing he could manage was a pathetic sort of groan before he threw himself at Malfoy, sending them both falling back onto the bed, bodies flushed together, his lips all over Malfoy's, and Malfoy was kissing him back, hard and needy, hands gripping Harry's hips tight enough to leave bruises, giving as good as he got, opening his mouth so that their tongues met, hot and wet and so fucking perfect, and Harry's heart was going into palpitations and he was melting and his stomach felt all wobbly and weak, blankets soft in his hands as he twisted them mindlessly, as Malfoy kept kissing him, not letting up for even a second, which was fine because Harry was sure he never wanted this kiss to end.
Which was what had him crying out pathetically when Malfoy, red-lipped and panting, pulled away. "We have to talk."
"Later," Harry practically growled the word, reaching forward.
To his great dismay, however, Malfoy scrambled back off the bed. He looked to be struggling with something, even through his unsteady breathing.
"Okay Potter, I've been meaning to say this to you since September…before then, actually…but you were always with Granger and the Weasel - I mean, Weasley." He groaned, rubbing his face. "Look, I know I'm rubbish at apologies, but I do mean -"
Kneeling on the bed, Harry decided to put him out of his misery. "Save it, Malfoy, I know you're sorry." He grinned. "You wouldn't have given all that money to SPEW if you weren't."
Malfoy looked thunderstruck. "How did you find out?" he breathed.
Then, clearing his throat, "I mean, I didn't."
Then, shaking his head, his usually pale skin positively flushed scarlet now, "I mean, what are you talking about, Potter?"
Harry hid the smile that threatened to break out over his face, certain that it would not be well received. He leaned forward, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "I know some very important goblins."
"Well, I assure you, Griphook is lying," Malfoy snarled, before swearing fluently, glaring down sulkily at Harry, who was hastily trying to contain his snort of laughter.
Grinning, he pulled an extremely surprised Malfoy onto the bed, into another kiss, pulling away eventually but not removing his arms, which had somehow wound themselves around Malfoy's neck. "Don't be mad at him," he whispered even through the ragged exhales being pulled from his lungs after his second experience with Draco Malfoy's rather talented mouth, running his lips up and down Malfoy's long, pale throat. "After all, you're going to be owling him for a job later this year." Malfoy hummed low in his throat for a few seconds, before drawing back just enough to detach Harry's mouth from his neck. "I am?"
Harry nodded innocently, hiding his grin as he leaned forward for another heated kiss.
"Definitely. You're amazing at curse-breaking."
Should this be continued? What do you guys think?