Author: eidheann_writes
Recipient: aoifene
Title: Strong and Strange
Pairing(s): implied Harry/Draco
Summary: On Christmas Eve, Draco learns some things about his past.
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Short, ambiguous, lack-of-Harry.
Epilogue compliant? Nope. I mean, in my head, Ron and Hermione are headed off to a happily ever after with full epilogue compliance, it's what they did in the first several drafts, but that doesn't come into play here at all.
Word Count: ~1,700
Author's Notes:Oh lordy, where to begin? When I was assigned your prompt, I panicked. Not for anything about the prompt itself, but it's the final year of hols and suddenly I'm assigned to one of my favorite writers and, yeah, wee bit intimidating... I hope I got at least the spirit of your requests, even if most of them are more by implication than explicitly stated.

Thank you to the mods for letting me come and play during the final year and especially taradiane for smoothly ignoring the panicked tones of my emails and getting me refocused and back on track. HUGE thanks to vaysh11 who, with two sentences completely changed the perspective of this and gave me the courage to try it again (and again... and again... and...) from the beginning. And, though this will wipe out any hope of remaining anonymous to her at least (not that I have a great track record of that anyway) to omi_ohmyfor cheerleading me through the various drafts, trashings, and angsting about this.

Finally, as always alexa_blackis a wonderful beta who manages both the carrot AND the stick when I make so many silly mistakes (and I make the silliest of silly mistakes). I couldn't do it without you.

.x.x.x.

He collapsed into the overstuffed leather chair and stared into the fire that lit the dim room with a warm glow. His head still felt fuzzy, and the persistent feeling of missing something was gnawing in his brain and at his gut. "Merry Christmas, Draco. Sorry no present this year, have an Obliviate instead." His voice sounded hoarse and weak even to his own ears. Dropping his head into his hands, he cursed Robards again for being so zealous. He didn't think he had anyfirst-hand memories of the past nine months that remained untouched by his heavy wandwork.

He blindly reached for the side table, hand closing around the glass of Old Ogden's he mentally thanked the elves for having at the ready. He took a slow sip, relishing the feeling of sudden sharpness the smoky liquid burned into his muddled head. He finally pulled out the bright red memo from his pocket, unfolding it and reading the now-familiar words of the form.

Draco Malfoy,
Report to my office immediately for final debriefing on Case XX-XXXXXXX. Due to the confidentiality of this case, you and your partner, Harry Potter, are to be Obliviated as per Part XIV, Section VIII of the Auror Code.

This will not reflect poorly upon your record. Your work will be commended in your file and you will be receiving a bonus, in addition to the standard Holiday stipend.

Gawain Robards
Head Auror, DMLE

He refolded the memo with a frown, looking at the paper he'd stuck to the back of it. It simply read "I'm sorry", but the scrawl was familiar, and Potter was the only person in the department who used that yellow Muggle stickypaper. He knew Potter had been his partner on the case missing from his memory; they somehow managed to work together for almost a year, and had done so well enough to earn a monetary commendation from their miserly department head; he was uncertain which part of that he found most surprising. The note had been stuck to his desk after the meeting with Robards, sometime between the quiet announcement that both Parvati Patil and Seamus Finnegan were not only off the force but were being remanded to Azkaban to await trial, and Draco gathering his things to leave for the Christmas holiday.

He briefly entertained the thought that Potter could resist Memory Charms as well as he could an Imperius, but pushed that aside with a brief chuckle. The expression faded quickly, however, as the question of exactly what the note meant continued to weigh on him. He wondered how they'd managed to work together, if they had been civil, if they had managed to become friends. The note seemed to imply as much. Unsigned, casual, and for all that he could not remember specifics of any time they spent together, the thought of binning the note caused the tight feeling in his gut to twinge even harder as something in his subconscious demanded no no no.

He sighed and drained the glass before approaching the desk under the window at the back of the room. The window was charmed, of course, and currently displayed a traditional winter wonderland scene. He spent a moment watching the twinkling of fairy lights in the grove of large fir trees before waving his wand and cancelling the glamour. The scene in the window shifted, still dark, still full of fir trees, but the sky was overcast and spitting out a miserable mixture of rain and sleet that was about as far as could be imagined from the winter ideal. It suited his mood much better.

Finally turning to the desk itself, he tapped a careful three-two-three rhythm on the top left drawer with his right index finger before bringing the tip of his wand to the keyhole. "Reserio Mysterio"he intoned quietly, removing his wand when the drawer briefly glowed blue. He reached forward slowly, this time with his left hand, and opened the drawer, pulling a thin, leather-bound book from inside. He was one of the best strategists the Auror department had, in part because he had read and paid attention to every miniscule detail of the Auror Code; he knew it better than most. He knew being Obliviated was a risk should any case he was assigned prove embarrassing for the Department or Ministry, so he had taken steps to minimize the damage. The book in his hand was, put simply, a diary. It contained nothing that violated the confidentiality of his cases, he wasn't dumb enough for that, but detailed other things he might deem important: his days, his thoughts, "Things that might be lost due to an overzealous boss," he finished aloud with a faint twist of his mouth.

He flipped the book open to the marker, noting the entry was dated the previous evening. He scanned the text quickly, feeling the blood rise into his cheeks before it all fled his face and left him feeling lightheaded. He closed the book again. Why would he be referring to Potter as "Harry" and why would he be spending Christmas Day at Grimmauld Place with him? Leaving the book on the desk, drawer still hanging open, he hurried to the door and yelled, "TIPPY! FIREWHISKY!"

.x.x.x.

He downed the first glass in a single, burning gulp. The second he sipped as he stared between the platter of turkey sandwiches Tippy had brought with the bottle and the diary sitting innocently on his desk. He finally turned away from the food entirely, taking the bottle back to the writing desk and flipping the diary open again. The entry remained the same, though he noticed on a second reading that he had actually agreed to spend Christmas Day with Potter. Harry. Whichever it was. It made no sense. Why would he be invited? Why would he agree?

He took a pull directly from the bottle, afraid to look through the diary and see what sorts of things it may still contain. He glanced again at the fire, and at the dish of Floo Powder on the mantle. He could toss a pinch in, demand Harry-Potter explain this, explain everything. It simply hurt so much, hurt that he wantedthat friendship so badly. He wanted the entry to mean something, mean that they were friends, the kind of friends who could spend a holiday together. He needed that, and he'd felt adrift since the end of the war when most of his House had gone their separate ways.

He wasn't going to acknowledge that he'd always wanted it from Potter.

He looked at the book again, this time turning it back a page. He glanced at the date, Sunday December 18, and began to read.

Harry finally worked up that famous Gryffindor courage and managed to kiss me. It was a pleasant change from the blushing and stuttering he'd been doing until then. Of course, he followed it up by slipping on the ice and falling on his arse. I laughed at him. He laughed, too, Merlin help me.

.x.x.x.

An hour later saw him sprawled on the rug in front of the fire, whisky and diary in hand. The entries were all like that. He still wasn't entirely certain what was going on, but he knew himself well enough to read between the lines and interpret. He'd always thought Harry attractive on some level; his power, his disregard for authority, his damned famous eyes. He knew Potter was, if not gay, then at least open to relations with either gender, the Prophetmade sure of that much. It had simply been nothing he'd spent time thinking about; he knew it would never apply to him.

Except apparently it did. It applied to him very particularly, and then the memory had then been wiped from them both. He laughed at that; his words to himself earlier that evening coming back to him again. He raised the bottle, saluting both the diary on the rug in front of him and the fireplace beyond as he repeated his earlier words to himself. "Merry Christmas, Draco. No present this year, you've already received it. But don't worry, you can have an Obliviateinstead."

He reached into his pocket again, pulling out the memo and stickypaper once more. He knew he was too drunk to Apparateor Floo, but the message was impossible to ignore any longer. He wondered-hoped-Harry really could resist Memory Charms as he'd half-teased himself with earlier. But maybe he'd simply discovered a stash of Draco's quills in his possession.

He fumbled in the desk for parchment and quill and, after a good deal of thought, attached the piece of stickypaper to it. "What does this mean?" was scrawled underneath it. He frowned at the parchment; his handwriting was atrocious and anyone who knew him as well as Harry likely did after months working together-"And apparently flirting and kissing," he added in an undertone-would know he was upset. He finally shrugged, added "Harry," as a salutation and signed it "Draco."

"Let that say what it will," he muttered as he rolled and sealed the parchment. He placed it in the outgoing tray on his desk, where it disappeared. Shortly after, he saw the silhouette of one of the Manor's eagle owls against the slowly clearing sky.

.x.x.x.

The sky had cleared fully, and he had been comfortably lulled asleep by the combination of warmth from the fire at his back and cool from the glass window to his face, when he was shocked by a chime and the color of the room tinting green. He blinked and stiffened when he heard a familiar-beloved-voice over the connection. "Malfoy? Are you there?"

"I think it is all a matter of love: the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is." - Vladimir Nabokov