Draco was beyond frustrated. He’d put Harry next to him, but between Piers’ nerves and his friends’ excitement over his new position, he’d not had a single chance for any real conversation. Harry watched him constantly, though, and Draco was certain he saw something other than curiosity in those green eyes.
The meal was coming to an end, and soon they’d all return to the main room for dancing. Could he convince Harry to dance with him? Pansy, who sat at the other end of the table, kept giving him contrite looks. And when Harry wasn’t staring at Draco, he’d glance at Piers like he wanted to either hex him or shake him – and Draco had no idea why. Piers was a great guy, and Harry’d always seemed so friendly to everyone.
But because of the chatty table-mates, Draco couldn’t ask. The most personal thing he’d said so far was, “Do you like the treacle tart?”
He was getting antsy, but then Pansy rose from her chair and clapped her hands. “It wouldn’t be a Christmas party without crackers, no?” She clapped again, and a cracker appeared before each person. “Before you open these, you should know I had them specially made for this gathering. Inside your cracker is either a truth or dare, and the person you open it with will be your partner for completing these – so choose carefully.” She gave a wicked smile, ending with a wink at Draco.
He narrowed his eyes. What was she planning?
“Choose your partners and have at it,” Pansy said, including her head slightly towards Harry.
Draco sighed. “Well, Potter, what do you say?”
Harry blinked. “Don’t you want to be with Piers?”
Draco was tired of this. “If I wanted Piers, I would’ve asked him. Now are you scared or what?” he asked, falling back on their childhood taunts.
Steel entered Harry’s eyes. “You wish.” He held up his cracker, and Draco grasped the other end. As it popped, a piece of parchment fell out. Harry picked it up, his eyes widening as he read it. “Erm, it says we have to kiss.”
Draco smirked. This, he could do. “Well?” he asked.
Harry sent a nervous look at Piers. “Are you sure – I mean, I don’t want to cause problems --”
“For Merlin’s sake,” Draco said, exasperated. He reached over, grabbed the back of Harry’s neck, and pulled their lips together.
Harry gasped as Draco’s lips touched him, and Draco didn’t hesitate to slide his tongue into Harry’s mouth. A rush of heat flowed down to Harry’s groin, and he moaned a bit, though he hoped no one noticed. And then he stopped thinking, wrapping his hands in Draco’s robes and pulling him closer.
When Harry finally needed to breathe, he let go with reluctance, only to realise the rest of the room was cheering. “Wha-?”
Draco looked smug, though Harry thought he saw a flicker of nervousness in his grey eyes.
Harry turned to Piers in panic. “Oh, god. I’m so sorry!”
Piers, who was standing next to Pansy’s cousin, laughed. “Why are you sorry? That was amazing, and I have wanted for Draco to be happy far too long to be upset.”
Now Harry frowned. “I don’t understand.”
Draco took a deep breath. “He’s saying that I have feelings for you, Harry.”
Harry stared at Piers in shock. “And you don’t care? How can you not care that your almost-fiance has feelings for someone else?”
Piers looked confused and then panicked himself. He turned to Persephone. “You care for someone else?”
At the same time, Draco said, “Almost-fiance? Piers?”
Blaise had his head in his hands, and Ginny was trying not to laugh as the noise level went up.
Then Pansy put her fingers in her mouth and gave a piercing whistle. Everyone stopped and looked at her. “Bloody hell!” she said. “Let’s all calm down, all right? First, I won.”
Blaise shook his head. “Oh, I don’t think so.”
She gave a smug grin. “How can you dispute the evidence right in front of your eyes? They kissed – I win.”
Draco held up a hand, and Blaise closed his mouth on whatever he’d planned to say to that. His tone took on a familiar steel. “What’s going on, Pans, old friend?”
Pansy actually paled a bit, and Harry decided now was a good time to begin breathing again. Obviously, he wasn’t the only one in the dark. And once the air began flowing, his mind immediately returned to that kiss – holy shite, that was the best kiss he’d ever gotten! But how had it happened? He didn’t like the thought that Draco had only kissed him for a bet. He frowned too, looking at Pansy. “Yeah, what’re you doing?”
Pansy bit her lip before looking at Blaise. “You tell?”
“I can’t tell all of it, now can I?” he said, irritation lining his face. “But I’ll tell the rest. Pansy here thought she could expedite things between Harry and Draco – yes, we all know that the two of you fancy each other, all right? It’s not a secret to anyone here.”
“It’s a secret to me,” Ron muttered. Then, as Blaise gave him a look, he clarified. “The Malfoy part. I’ve known about Harry for ages.”
“Fancy…each other?” Harry said, hardly daring to hope.
“It’s certainly true on my end,” Draco said, raising his chin. “I did attempt to ask you out, if you’ll remember. Of course, you rudely turned me down and ran off.”
Harry’s face heated up. “Erm, I thought you were with Piers. Pansy told me --”
Pansy actually shrunk back a bit as Draco turned his glare on her again. “Okay,” she said, holding out her hands. “Let’s just calm down and remember that I had everyone’s best interests in mind.” She hesitated then said. “It all started when Persephone got in touch with me a little over a year ago. She told me she’d met an amazing man, but he was only a half-blood. My aunt is a widow, and my father has become her head of house, as well,” she added, probably as an explanation to Harry, he realized. He nodded, still not sure what was going on.
With a loud inhale, Pansy went on. “My father still has pretty strong feelings about pure-bloods marrying pure-bloods, and Persephone was afraid to tell her mother about this wizard. I went out there and met him, and I knew he’d hit it off with Draco – so I introduced them and suggested to Draco that he invite Piers to be his flatmate.”
Harry’s jaw dropped, and he turned to Draco. “You’re not in love with him?”
Draco gaped at him. “Where on earth did you get that id – Pansy!”
Now Pansy blushed. “I kind of hinted that you were bringing Piers home this Christmas to, um, announce your engagement.”
“What?!” Draco almost screeched it, and Pansy flinched.
“I thought it would help – Harry’s so reticent, and I assumed if he knew you were soon going to be off the market, it would inspire him to make his move.”
“I’d never make a move on someone who’s involved,” Harry said hotly.
At the same time, Draco said, “That’s ludicrous, Pans. Harry’s a Gryffindor, for gods’ sake.”
Pansy sank into her chair. “Well, maybe I didn’t do so well with that part. But the rest was a solid plan!” she insisted. “Piers got to come out and meet my parents, and because they see him with Draco, he looks good and pure-blooded enough for them. Narcissa’s on his side too, because of Draco, and….” She sighed. “I guess I blew it, huh?”
Blaise shook his head. “Fortunately for you, Pans, this Slytherin hasn’t forgotten how to be truly cunning. I knew Harry wouldn’t go near Draco because of Piers, so I approached it the right way – I had Harry come with Ginny. I knew Draco would be jealous, and he wouldn’t hesitate to act. He didn’t, either, and therefore, I’m the one who wins.”
Harry blinked, still trying to figure it out. “You’re saying that a Slytherin would go after someone in a relationship?”
Blaise shrugged. “If they’re jealous enough – if they’re interested enough – yes. When you turned Draco down the other day, I knew it was time to get Draco’s attention. And I must say, Miss Weasley,” he added, looking across the table at Ginny with a warm smile, “you played your part admirably.”
She nodded. “Why, thank you, sir.”
Ron looked between Pansy and Blaise with a shocked look. “You lot are mental, you are! What a load of bollocks – why didn’t you just tell Harry that Draco liked him back? That’s all it would’ve taken.”
Harry snorted. “Exactly.”
Pansy sighed. “I needed an excuse for Piers to be here with Draco – just saying he’s Draco’s flatmate doesn’t exactly cut it when you’re talking Christmas. But if Draco was bringing his boyfriend home to meet his mother – well, that’s the kind of thing my parents would believe.”
“But if they think Piers is with Draco, why would they consider him for Persephone?” Harry said, still completely confused with the Slytherin reasoning.
“If he’s pure-blood enough for Draco, he’s definitely in a position to be considered for Persephone,” Pansy said, though her voice sounded a little weak. She shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea, at the time.”
Harry looked at Blaise. “Why didn’t you tell me Piers was interested in a girl? You saw how, erm, upset I was.” He flushed a bit.
Blaise shook his head. “I wanted to, but Pansy had all of us under a Secret Charm.”
Draco’s jaw dropped. “You used the Specialis on Blaise?”
“I did what I thought I needed to make sure Piers and Persephone could be together,” she said.
Persephone hugged her. “And we appreciate it, ma cousine. I am sorry it caused so much problems for you, Draco,” she added.
Draco shook his head and waved it off. “It all worked out,” he said. “But let’s get back to you and Blaise both claiming you ‘won’ – what’s that about?”
Blaise smirked. “Pansy bet me she could get you and Harry together; I simply countered and said that I’d be the one to do it. Obviously, by sending Ginny with Harry and giving him that outfit, I’ve won.”
"I’m the one who used the crackers which made them kiss – I won!”
Draco stood up, taking Harry’s hand and pulling him up, as well. Harry didn’t resist – at this point, he wasn’t sure he’d resist anything. “Actually,” he said, a smile warming his face, “I believe, I won!” He leaned to Harry and kissed him again.
Harry had the fleeting thought that he’d won, and then his mind was too busy processing Draco’s lips and tongue to think any further.
When the catcalls rang out again, Harry managed to pull away. “This is really what you want?” he asked Draco.
Draco gave a slow grin. “I wouldn’t be standing here otherwise. I did ask you out,” he repeated. “Which is why I won,” he said pointedly to Pansy and Blaise.
Harry sighed, leaning his forehead against Draco’s. “I’m sorry I was so rude about that – I thought you were playing a prank on me --”
“I would never do that to you, Harry.”
“Okay, break it up,” Pansy said, coming over and tapping Draco’s head. “We still need to figure out Piers and Persephone.”
“What’s to figure out?” Hermione asked. She slipped past Pansy and put her arms around Harry’s waist from behind. “I’m so happy for you,” she whispered to him.
Harry grinned. He still felt a bit dazed, but as his mind caught up, and nodded. “I’ll talk to your father, Pansy.”
“Would you?” she asked. “I mean, I almost blew it for you. I didn’t want to hurt you, Harry.” She actually looked ashamed for a moment.
Harry shook his head. “Pansy, it’s all right. Next time, just try being honest with me, though, all right?”
“Next time?” Draco asked. “I’m not letting you go, Potter – there’s no next time.”
That warmed Harry’s whole body, and he wished they were alone. But the evening had really just begun.
A bell rang out, and Pansy urged them all back to the main room, where dancing would begin. Harry didn’t really enjoy dancing, though he discovered differently when Draco was holding him.
The music changed to “Let It Snow”, sung by the London Children’s Chorale, and all around them, the walls appeared to fade away to reveal a snow-covered park. Harry gasped, and Draco nuzzled his neck. “Do you like it?”
“How did they do it?” Harry asked, looking around. It was almost like they danced in the snow, and the tree limbs around them seemed ready to share their white burden at any moment.
“It’s a charm,” Draco said. “Not that different from the enchanted ceiling at Hogwarts. This one takes at least two people, so Pansy and I worked together. It’s tied to the music. We programmed it to play this song a couple more times – and each time, you’ll see a different snowy landscape.”
Harry looked around, stunned. “You’re pretty talented, you know. The Ministry’s lucky you agreed to join them.”
Draco’s eyes closed, and when he opened them, Harry was surprised to see a shimmer of tears there. “You can’t know how long I’ve wanted for you to say something like that,” he said, his voice husky.
“Oh, Draco. I’ve been impressed by you for a very long time now,” Harry admitted, brushing a kiss over those perfect lips.
“Well, I gathered you felt something when you were following me before I left England,” he replied, blinking away the moisture.
Harry felt his face flush. “You noticed that, did you?”
Draco laughed softly. “Well, I might have planned it so you could easily find me.”
Pulling back enough to properly see Draco’s face, Harry said, “You did?”
“Yeah. Maybe. It’s possible.”
Before Harry could show his full appreciation for that, Pansy tapped his arm. “Would you be willing to talk with my father now?” she asked. “He’s decided to take a break from dancing.”
“Of course,” Harry said. “I’ll be right back,” he said to Draco.
He followed Pansy through the room, feeling a touch sad as the snowy scene faded and the music returned to an orchestral version of “Silent Night.” Near the ice fountain stood Pansy’s father. Harry’d never talked to him before this evening, but he knew he could do it.
He walked right up and held out his hand. “I wanted to thank you for having this party, Sir,” he said. Then, as Pansy’s father gripped it, Harry smiled. “I’m so grateful to see how many of the pure-blooded leaders in our society are embracing the new world. I think your example will make such a difference in decades to come, and you’ll be looked back on as the innovators of a new era.” For a second, he wondered if he was laying it on a bit thick, but months of working with Blaise and watching him deal with the various witches and wizards who came to their shop had given him a new appreciation for conversing with the more traditional folk in their world.
Pansy’s father gave a slight nod. “It’s really I who should be thanking you,” he said. “Your sacrifices gave us this new world.”
Harry shrugged. “We all had a role to play, and it doesn’t matter so much what happened before. Only that we make this world strong and good now. I think you’re showing your own colors here, Sir.” He waved his hand around the room. “Inviting all sectors of society, including everyone, regardless of blood-status. You’re illustrating your understanding of the value of the person beneath the veneer of birth, and I know others will see and follow your wisdom. So I thank you for that.”
Mr. Parkinson was blinking quickly now, and Harry suspected he’d given him enough to consider. Harry gave a slight bow. “Again, thank you for having me and making me feel truly welcome, despite my half-Muggle background.”
As he turned to leave, he saw his parting remark hit home. Pansy’s father may not have consciously thought about Harry’s blood status, but now, he couldn’t avoid realizing that the ‘Saviour of the Wizarding World’ was not a pure-blood.
Pansy waited with Draco, the two circling slowly and watching Harry move through the crowd towards them. “I hope it went well,” Pansy said.
“I’m sure it did. It’s Harry, after all.”
Pansy gave him a look. “Exactly. I adore the man, but he’s not exactly a skilled orator.”
“No, but he’s sincere. He has a way about him which draws people to him, and your father doesn’t look upset.”
Pansy sighed. “I just want my cousin to find happiness. And Piers is a great guy --”
“You don’t have to tell me. I live with him, remember.” He spun her away from him and drew her back.
Looking into his face, Pansy said, “I’m so glad things worked out with you and Harry. Of course, now you have months of separation before you can actually be together.”
Draco nodded. “And we really haven’t settled anything – other than a couple of kisses, I don’t know what he’s thinking.”
Pansy snorted. “Have him show you the painting Thomas did for him – that’s clear things up.”
Draco gave her a curious look, but then Harry reached them, and Pansy moved off. “Enjoy.”
Harry looked at Draco, and Draco could see a hint of uncertainty in those eyes. He wasted no time but moved closer, cupping Harry’s face in his hands. “Despite the triteness of the saying, I have to admit that all I wanted for Christmas was you,” he murmured, before kissing Harry breathless.
The music changed back to “Let It Snow,” and as the two kissed, the scene around them shifted to a snowy hillside, with Christmas lights of a village in the distance – but neither noticed.
The next morning, Harry woke up alone and sighed. It almost seemed like a dream – the kissing, the dancing, the warmth in his heart. He grabbed his glasses from the side of his bed and groaned. He didn’t know what Pansy had put in the punch, but it had tasted wonderful, and by the time he’d been dancing with Draco for a couple of hours, he was parched enough to drink it. A lot of it.
Then, right at midnight, the fancy glasses had appeared – cut crystal – and filled with a mysterious, amber liquid. Pansy made another toast, and everyone clicked glasses and drank. Of course, when they clicked, it made a sound like a chime, and Harry’d been so awestruck, he was one of the last to finally take a sip.
It tasted like dark chocolate, something spicy, treacle tart, and something else – something like Draco – all mixed together. Harry had stared at the glass in wonder. “What is this?” he asked Draco.
Draco laughed. “It’s Faery Ale – it takes on your favorite flavors, so each person’s glass tastes unique.” He lowered his voice. “Mother and I supplied it, as it’s a little pricier than the Parkinsons can afford.”
Harry finished his off, no longer surprised at the ‘Draco taste’ he enjoyed. He also couldn’t hold back a smile at how much Draco truly had changed. Once upon a time, if the Malfoys supplied something, they made sure everyone knew about it, loud and clear.
Now, as the morning light started to brighten, Harry thought he could still taste the Faery Ale. Or maybe it was the good night kisses Draco had bestowed. By the time Harry left, he’d been drunk on Draco. It had been so hard to leave, but Draco and his mother were staying at the Parkinson Manor, along with Piers. They were sharing breakfast this morning, Draco told him, and then they’d help in supervising the house-elves in their clean-up.
As for Harry, he had a shop to open. He and Blaise had agreed they’d open late, but he still needed to be ready by ten – and it was already almost nine. As it was Christmas Eve, they’d close early too.
At least he’d see Draco later that day. They’d planned for him to come and see the painting Dean gave Harry, and then Draco was taking Harry out for a special dinner. The thought of Draco kept Harry smiling as he got ready, and when he got to the shop, Blaise took one look at his face and grinned.
“Well, glad to see it all worked out, Harry.”
“Me too – though I can’t believe you let Pansy put a spell on you.” Harry went through the shop, waving his wand to turn on the lights, straighten the shelves a bit, and get the heat moving and the fire roaring in its corner. “Is she bringing treats, by the way?”
“She’s having them sent – she made them yesterday morning and put them in stasis.”
“Did I notice Piers and Persephone with Pansy’s father last night?” Harry asked. He’d been more than a little blurry, at that point, and he had a hard time noticing anything other than Draco.
Blaise nodded. “Pansy might luck out there too, the bint,” he said, fondness in his tone.
“How did things go with Gin?”
“Let’s just say I’ll be joining on you tomorrow for the Weasley Christmas dinner.” Harry hugged him, making Blaise sputter. “Potter, enough!”
Harry laughed. “Be prepared for the warnings – Ginny has five brothers, you know.”
Blaise raised his eyebrows. “You’re not going to warn me too?”
Harry shrugged. “You’re both like family to me – so I guess I can warn you both. Don’t hurt her.” He smiled. “Not that I’m truly worried.”
“Now we have three official Gryffindor-Slytherin relationships – never thought I’d see that.”
“Are Draco and I official?” Harry wondered. “I mean, I know how I feel, and I already knew I didn’t want anyone else. But he – well, he’s so talented and smart. And we’ll be apart for five months.” Some of his happiness faded at the thought. “What if he’s not interested anymore when he gets home and has real work to do?”
Blaise came over and put his hands on Harry’s shoulders. “Mate, I think it’s safe to tell you he’s been interested for a long time. Much longer than five months. In fact, you should ask him about the painting he commissioned from Thomas before he left.”
Harry blinked, surprised. “You mean – am I in it?”
Blaise snorted. “Just ask him. And then you can decide if you need to worry or not, all right?”
The pastries arrived then, knocking against the door, despite the frantic wand movements of a young girl standing behind them. Harry went to let them in, and the girl apologized. “I’m so sorry – I don’t usually do any of the deliveries, but I promised Miss Parkinson I could handle it, and now --”
Harry laughed. “They’re fine. Thank you for doing this, and Merry Christmas!” He gave her one of the chocolate Galleons they kept by the register, and her face flushed a pretty pink.
After they set out the pastries, the day passed surprisingly quickly. They had more customers than Harry’d expected, and he didn’t have time to wonder about their date that evening.
Then Draco arrived, with Pansy, Piers, and Persephone in tow. Harry felt a moment of disappointment. He hadn’t wanted to share Draco – but then he pushed it aside. It didn’t really matter, as long as he got to be with him.
Draco came straight to him, and pulled him into his arms, rubbing his cold cheeks against Harry’s. “I missed you,” he murmured, and then they were kissing, and Harry reveled in the taste he’d already grown to love.
When Harry finally recovered himself enough to take Draco to the office to see the painting, he ran into Blaise coming out. “What are you up to?” he asked, seeing the smirk on his face.
Blaise laughed. “Just a little Slytherin cunning,” he said.
Draco stopped in front of the picture, his eyes moving across it rapidly. “Wow.”
Harry smiled. “Yeah, Dean has some amazing talent.” Then he frowned. Parts of the painting had changed. The figures of Pansy and Neville, for instance, were now holding hands. Blaise’s and Ginny’s tiny counterparts were still laughing but now arm in arm.
And Draco’s painted self was walking toward the tree where Harry now stood, watching him with a smile on his small face. Then, as he watched, a bubble rose above Harry’s head, and in it was a bed with white, velvety coverings and soft, thick pillows. Harry gasped. “That wasn’t there before,” he said, embarrassed.
Draco shook his head. “Blaise! Bastard.” He glanced at Harry. “Not that I’m opposed to the idea – but he’s a meddling --”
The bubble faded, but the tiny Draco continued his walk. Harry blinked. “How did Dean do that?” he wondered.
Draco put his arm around Harry’s waist, holding him close. “Artists can sometimes see what the rest of us miss. I’ll have to show you my Thomas painting sometime. I asked him for something which illustrated the joys of Quidditch – the way I felt in the air. I figured he’d been on the team long enough to get that.” He chuckled. “The result wasn’t what I expected, and yet, he got it exactly right.”
Harry gave him a curious look. “Oh?”
Draco just smiled. “Yeah. Like I said, you’ll have to see it sometime.” They both watched for another minute as the Harry figure began to walk to meet the Draco figure – and the two embraced. Then Draco said, “Ready for our date?”
“Definitely. Let me help Blaise lock up --”
“I think Blaise should have to handle that on his own, don’t you?’
Harry grinned. “Right you are.”
Draco waited as Harry grabbed his cloak, and then they left, sending Blaise a jaunty wave as they did so.
Draco had chosen a restaurant in the Lake District, and he Apparated them there with ease. The small, cozy atmosphere was matched only by a huge window which looked out over Lake Buttermere, where snow fell gently into the grey waters.
Harry could barely take his eyes off the scene, and Draco felt an unusual happiness in his chest as he saw the awe on Harry’s face. “I should have had them give us a different table – I don’t want to compete for your attention,” he murmured.
Harry blushed, but he immediately turned to Draco. “You never have to compete. You’ve had my full attention for a long time now.”
Draco smiled. “Good. The same is true for you.” There were no menus, as the restaurant only had a select number of possibilities – and one had to know someone to even get in. Draco ordered for both of them. “He’ll take the number three, and I’ll have the number five.” He also ordered the Faery Ale, which was only served on holidays.
Harry didn’t show any nervousness about what Draco had ordered, and the two slipped into easy conversation. Draco told Harry about his studies and how challenging they’d been. “I didn’t realize the Ministry was aware of it, but apparently, my professors send in names of those with the potential to do potions’ work.”
“I suspect yours was the only name on the list,” Harry said.
Draco could hear the pride in Harry’s voice, and that warmth settled even deeper within him. “I don’t know about that. But I’m honored to be considered and chosen – and perhaps even a touch excited.”
Harry grinned. “You should be.” Then his grin slid away, and Draco was surprised to see a hint of uncertainty in its place. “I’m not like that, you know.”
“Like what?” Draco couldn’t figure out what on earth would make Harry look almost fearful.
“Like you. I’m not great at anything – I’m just a little shop owner.” He shrugged and gave a little laugh. “Nothing great or fancy. Nobody will ever ask me to do anything important --”
Draco stopped him by taking his hand and linking their fingers. “Harry. First of all, I’m fairly certain you were asked to do something important within the Ministry – and you turned them down. Isn’t that true?”
Harry blushed again, his cheeks redder this time. “Yeah, but it had nothing to do with my real ability. It was simply because of my name --”
“They asked you to head up a new division of their Auror department using the skills you’d learned during the War. Isn’t that true?”
Harry looked at him, green eyes meeting grey. “Erm, I guess.”
Draco shook his head. “I know it’s true, Harry. Blaise told me when it happened. And you turned them down because you didn’t want that life anymore. You just wanted to find something to enjoy – something which would bring others enjoyment too.” He took a deep breath and tightened his grip on Harry’s hand. It never occurred to him that Harry could feel insecurity. “Harry, I’m envious of your ability to just be you. You’ve learned how to enjoy life and how to share some of that with everyone around you. I don’t expect or even want a partner who is trying to conquer the world.”
“Because you’re already doing that?” Harry asked softly. He seemed more relaxed now, but Draco could still see something lingering in his eyes.
“Because I’ve finally found my own place in the world – a place not dependent on my father or my family name. And that’s all I want for the person I love.” The word slipped out, but even though Draco stiffened a bit at Harry’s drawn breath, he knew he didn’t regret it.
“I love you too,” Harry said. “I just – are you sure I won’t hold you back?”
“How could you? You’re amazing, Harry,” Draco replied, letting his admiration and yes, love, fill his voice. “You’re everything I’ve wanted for a long time.”
A slow smile made its way across Harry’s face, filling his green eyes with a joy and warmth that seemed to reach out and touch every part of Draco. “You too – for me, I mean,” Harry said.
Their meals came soon after that, and both kept the conversation lighter for a while. Perhaps, Draco realized, they knew they needed a bit of a break from the intensity.
When they’d finished eating – Harry with an herb and almond encrusted trout (taken from the lake now hiding in the snowy darkness) and Draco with a tender cut of venison with rich, wine sauce and asparagus spears – Draco leaned over and once again took Harry’s hand. “Will you spend the night with me? I know it’s Christmas Eve, and you probably have places to go --”
Harry lifted Draco’s fingers to his lips. “Yes,” he said, in between soft kisses.
Once they’d gathered their cloaks, Draco led Harry down the hill, along a gentle path, to the bed and breakfast he’d booked. The door of one of the cabins opened at the touch of his wand, and once inside, Draco didn’t give Harry much of a chance to notice the roaring fire – or the white bed which looked suspiciously like the one Blaise had ‘added’ to the painting – but hurried him into the large bathroom. There, as Draco carefully removed Harry’s cloak and began working on his buttons, Harry had plenty of time to take in the steaming bath inside the raised tub. Draco started on Harry’s trousers, knowing the moment Harry noticed the decorated tree on the other side of the tub, the lit and fragrant candles, and the soft, thick rug beneath Harry’s now-bare feet.
Harry looked down at him and Draco brushed his fingers over Harry’s hard length. “Someone’s a little overdressed,” Harry said, his voice breathless.
“I trust you can rectify that,” Draco replied, smiling as Harry pulled him up and began peppering him with hot kisses while he uncovered Draco’s smooth skin.
“I think I can take care of all of this,” Harry said, lifting Draco and setting him in the silky, hot water.
Draco smiled at him. “Good. Now get in here and give me what I want for Christmas.”
Harry laughed as he slid in next to him. He continued to smile as his mouth met Draco’s and their bodies moved together, the steam rising around them and heat surrounding them inside and out.
The next morning, Harry woke happier than he’d ever been. He was also warm. He smiled into Draco’s shoulder, wondering if the other man minded how Harry was wrapped around him.
Draco clearly felt him, as he drawled, “Morning, Mr. Potter.”
“Mister? Such formality.” Harry grinned again.
Draco stretched. “Well, I believe in treating a man right. Especially after he’s been as intimate with me as you have.”
Harry laughed and stretched, as well, feeling Draco’s eyes on him. He sat up. “I think I need a shower before I head to the Burrow,” he said. “Care to join me?”
Draco gave a slow, leering smile. “Definitely.”
After a rather lengthy shower, during which very little actual washing was done, they stood side by side at the mirror, towels around their waists as they both shaved. Harry was amused to note they both used Muggle methods. When he’d finished, he lifted a corner of his towel to wipe his dripping face, and noticed Draco looking at his groin with renewed interest.
Harry shook his head. “As much as I’d adore doing all the again, I’m afraid I’m expected in less than an hour – and I still have to Apparate home and change.”
Draco sighed. “I do, as well. Piers is hoping to announce his engagement to Persephone this afternoon, and Mother, Piers, and I are having our own celebration before heading to the Parkinson abode.”
Harry still in the process of putting on his clothes from the previous night. He hesitated, watching Draco’s graceful movements. “When do you have to return?”
Draco seemed to know what he meant. “I was going to wait until after the New Year, but yesterday, before I came to your shop, I contacted my professors for the final courses – and they all said I could not only start early, I can accelerate the classes, if I’d like.” Now he hesitated. “I thought – well, I’d be home by the first day of spring, and I don’t have to start at the Ministry until May. We could --”
Harry threw his arms around Draco, holding him close and hiding his nose in Draco’s neck. “Thank you,” he murmured, licking a little.
Draco laughed, and Harry heard the relief there. “I’m simply glad you approve. I figured we could use a few weeks to get to know each other before I had to jump into a stressful job --”
“I’ll try to take some time off too,” Harry said. “Blaise can manage the shop, I’m sure.”
Draco pulled back far enough to kiss Harry, a soft, tender kiss. “Good.” He smiled slightly, looking in Harry’s eyes. “I want this to work,” he said. “I want to be good for you.”
“You are,” Harry said. “Believe me, you are.” He touched Draco’s face, gently tracing his lips and brushing his thumbs across those perfect cheekbones. “Between you and the shop, I couldn’t ask for more – professionally and especially not personally. Coffee, tea, and you,” he added, with a small laugh.
Draco nodded. “We’re lucky, Harry. We both will have what we’ve wanted – and better yet, we’ll be together. Whether or not the Ministry position works out, I’ll be all right. This,” he pointed out, touched Harry’s bare chest where he hadn’t buttoned his shirt yet, “us is my deepest desire.”
Harry couldn’t think of words to respond to that, so he kissed Draco instead, pouring his heart into the movement of his lips, the touch of his tongue. “It’s mine too,” he said breathlessly, a few moments later.
Draco swatted him on the butt. “You need to go. Even though I won’t be here for the New Year, this -- here -- is my true new beginning.”
Harry grinned, and with another kiss, he finished dressing. They hugged tightly when they were ready. Harry didn’t want to let go, but sometimes, he realized, you had to let go in order to allow the future to take place. “I love you,” he said, just as he Apparated away.
A few days later, Harry received a picture through Owl post. It was a picture of a painting – Dean’s painting for Draco. Although the picture had been rolled up and on the small side, when Harry unrolled it, it immediately resized to the size of a painting.
In it, a green Quidditch pitch shone in the morning light, shadows long. The shadows were players, and they moved in the dance of the game. There were only two players who weren’t in shadow – one in Slytherin green and the other in Gryffindor red.
Harry couldn’t hold back his laugh of delight. Draco’s pale hair gave him away, as did the fluid movements as he swung back and forth, searching for the Snitch. The other player watched Draco, a slight small on his face, his green eyes intent behind the round glasses.
The freedom of Quidditch, indeed.