AN: Edited 5/1/2013. Thanks to my lovely beta cupcake0118!
'...and so I would like to welcome you all to a new year at Hogwarts. It is my hope that this year will be a…'
Harry quickly tuned out Professor McGonagall's welcoming speech. Listening to it brought back too many memories of seeing Professor Dumbledore standing at the exact same place, ending his speech with 'Nitwit, Blubber, Oddment, Tweak.'
Instead, his attention had been captured by Malfoy, one tradition that seemed to continue on unbroken. It seemed that neither the revelation of Malfoy's intentions in sixth year, nor the war had rid Harry of his fascination with all things Malfoy.
This year, however, he was even more fascinating than usual. Even though he had lost the war, he still sat at the Slytherin table like he owned everything around him. Harry's testimony had kept both him and his mother out of Azkaban, and had secured a two-year probation at Malfoy Manor for Lucius instead of life in prison, which many had been clamouring for.
The eighth year students were going to complete their schooling over a period of two years, spending half of their time on actual lessons, and the half on helping to restore Hogwarts to its original glory. Those students who did not want to help restore their castle, but still wanted to complete their Hogwarts education would make up part of the seventh years. Harry had assumed that Malfoy would have opted to be part of this group - he wouldn't have blamed him if that had been the case. He could understand that for those students who had attended Hogwarts the previous year - and for Malfoy if particular - the school was a site of extremely painful memories.
Malfoy had, however, defied all expectations when he had decided to join Harry and his friends as an eighth year, and it was upon hearing that news that Harry had decided to try and have a cordial, if not friendly, relationship with him. After having to battle Voldemort continuously for the past seven years, Harry had had enough of fighting - he just didn't have the strength to renew his rivalry with Malfoy for another two years. The revelation that the eighth years would be sharing a dormitory and common room in one of the many forgotten areas of the castle only added to his motivation.
Hermione and Ron would say that it was his fascination with Malfoy which was the reason behind Harry's sudden desire for peace, but he knew that they were wrong.
The desire for relaxation was the only thing that compelled Harry to approach Malfoy and hold out a hand, with all the implications that went along with it. The slightly lost look on his face once he – the only eighth year Slytherin – had on his face once he moved away from his table had absolutely nothing to do with it. Nor did Harry's dual realisations of Malfoy's attractiveness and his own sexuality over the summer affect his decision in any way, whatsoever.
A couple of weeks later…
'Malfoy, d'you fancy a game of Quidditch? I'm booooored…' Harry whined.
It was surprising how much could change in a few weeks. Harry's decision to befriend Malfoy had been greeted with shock and disbelief from their peers, but once the other students realised the boys were serious, they quickly got bored with the idea and accepted that Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy could indeed be friends. With Ron and Hermione practically attached at the lip, Harry had started spending more and more time with his once nemesis, resulting in the quick formation of a close friendship.
It had surprised Harry, how quickly he and Malfoy had formed this new friendship. He had thought that seven years worth of rivalry would have taken a lot longer to get past, but it seemed that the powers of Quidditch, combined with a mutual disdain for watching Ron and Hermione snog could overcome even the most deeply entrenched childhood enmity.
'Yes, Potter, Quidditch sounds delightful. Thank Merlin you asked - if I have to watch Granger and Weasel exchange spit for another second, I think I'm going to puke. I'll just get my broom.' Malfoy quickly rose from the chair he'd been lounging in, and, after aiming one last look of disgust at Ron and Hermione, moved to the dorm to collect his broom and Quidditch robes.
Of course, his friendship with Harry did not, under any circumstances, mean that Draco's abrasive personality was completely erased.
As Harry walked to the pitch with Draco, he couldn't help but reflect on how drastically life had changed for him since Voldemort's death. Apart from the obvious lack of a crazed killer after him, he had managed to befriend Draco Malfoy of all people, and had come to terms with the fact that he liked boys. The latter was something he doubted he would have managed during he war – he was too focused on being as normal as possible.
But beyond all of that – he had realized that he didn't just find Draco extremely hot, he was genuinely interested in pursuing a relationship with him. He was good-looking, true, but he also had a biting sense of humour, cared deeply about those he was close to, and, most importantly, did not treat Harry as the Man-Who-Lived. To him, he was more Potter the Git than Harry the Saviour, and that was something he valued over everything else. No one had managed to treat him the same way after his victory apart from Ron and Hermione – even Ginny had returned to her star-struck phase. Draco's treatment of him was a rather welcome change.
All of that made for one very sexy boy, dangling right in front of him, and Harry didn't even know if Malfoy was any way inclined to reciprocate his feelings! It was enough to make Harry permanently sexually frustrated – and also accounted for most of the cold showers used in the boys' bathrooms.
He was slowly falling in love with Drcao Malfoy, and he had no idea what to do about it.
By the time Christmas came about, Harry had decided that there was no chance in hell that he would ever get the chance to have a relationship with Draco Malfoy. He had accepted his role as the best friend some time ago, and though Ron and Hermione knew of his infatuation, he had absolutely no intention of revealing his feelings to Draco.
He, along with Draco and Hermione had decided to stay at the castle over the holidays. Ron was returning to the Burrow to spend the first Christmas without Fred with his family, and though both Harry and Hermione had been invited, neither had felt comfortable intruding on what woud undoubtedly be an emotionally-charged holiday.
Harry was spending much of his time moping over the fact that Draco was never going to love him back. Hermione had long since grown tired of hearing his self-pity, especially since she had been insisting that Draco had it just as bad for him as Harry did for Draco, and that it was obvious to everyone except him.
Harry had no doubt that Draco had caught onto his feeling for the blonde by now – he wasn't stupid – but there was absolutely no way that his feelings were reciprocated. If they were, he had no doubt that Draco would have said something by now.
So it was a shock to Harry when Draco approached the Gryffindor table during breakfast on Christmas Eve, and announced to everyone present, 'I, Draco Lucius Malfoy, do announce the initiation of the Yule Courting Rituals towards Harry James Potter.'
He offered Harry a soft smile and, looking at the gob-smacked expressions of everyone around him, walked out of the Great Hall, his head held high