And a complete side note, but I know that this will make you laugh, I have only JUST worked out that Ron Paul is not the same person as Ru Paul. I'm really not paying enough attention to American politics this year …
Anyway, your physical present is terribly late, but here's the other one!
Title It's a Blunderful Life
Characters Draco/Harry, but also Harry/Snape, a not really ghostly Dumbledore, Pansy, Narcissa, Ginny, Andromeda and Teddy
Rating Possibly a PG for extreme bonkersedness
Notes I had this idea weeks ago, and thought I would have loads of time to write it up and polish it and do other nice things that would make it a worthy present for such a great woman and generous friend. Alas, it has been written in late-night stints over the last two nights and represents the very best combination of chocolate-fuelled madness and sleep deprivation. Next year I promise you a sensible story! With more Snarry! Thank you so much for the betaing, but thank you a thousand times more for the friendship!
It had not started so badly. Harry had been in a rush to get to the office, but that wasn't unusual. He was in the middle of a big case and the last few weeks had seen him put in very long hours in a bid to wrap it up before Christmas.
The Prophet had arrived with holes again, Irmengaard, Draco’s new owl, was still having issues with the fine newsprint. But there was toast, tea and juice on the table when he came out of his shower, and time for a quick snog before Harry left. And his Owl had arrived just before Draco reached work: I have a plan for tonight, come home early.
Things had started to go wrong with the Leamington bust, just before lunch. Oleander Leamington had thrown an Unforgiveable at Pierce, which was only just blocked in time. While Draco had managed to disarm him, he wasn’t about to stop Pierce when the rookie Auror let fly with a kick to the prisoner’s ribs. He’d stopped it at that, and thought no more of it until Kingsley called him in to let him know that an official complaint had been laid against him.
His mother’s owl had arrived shortly after. The Malfoy estate was being sued again, another claim for compensation. This time the plaintiff had named him as one of their attackers during the War. He knew it was a rort; he had spent his time avoiding attacks against himself. Harry had once described him as having no appetite for violence. So very true. But now he would be brought before the Wizengamot, and most likely be suspended for the duration of the investigation.
A trouble shared had always been a trouble halved for them, so he had walked quickly to Harry’s office. It had been nearly lunch, they could step out for a bite together, come up with a plan, realise that things weren’t as grim as they seemed.
And there he was, with Ginny Weasley in his arms. Draco hadn’t even coughed to let them know he was there, just turned and walked away. And kept walking. He even walked to the Park, only slowing down when he saw the lake head of him. And then he felt the most wonderful clarity.
He started across the bridge on the Serpentine side, watching the walkers in the distance. Hadn’t the wife of a famous poet drowned herself here? A fortnight before the poet married his mistress? It was practically traditional. He looked further down the river, and realised that he could never end his life while viewing the London Eye, even just the top bit.
So he crossed the road.
A red Mini Cooper sped by, but there was not another person about. Only swans, with their evil glares so like the peacocks of his youth, and swift, sharp cormorants diving suddenly. In one graceful movement he swung himself onto the railing, and paused, watching one last cormorant, reflecting on other tragic Kensington figures.
An elderly wizard in purple vaulted the stones beside him and sank straight beneath the water’s surface.
“What the?” Draco jumped after him, unwilling to risk his neck in a dive to unknown depths … the irony was not lost on him as he fell. The dark, freezing waters closed over his head and he kicked down, reaching out, and, more by luck than planning, caught hold of the stranger’ robes. He hauled him up, and struck out for the surface.
As their heads broke the water he drew a gasping breath, and was relieved to hear the stranger do likewise. He looked about, and, still seeing no one else, Apparated them to the nearest bank.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he snapped, turning to look at the man standing beside him. And then he stopped.
“Hello, Draco,” said a figure with twinkly blue eyes and an improbably long beard.
“You are dead.” Draco was sure on this point.
“Am I, Draco? You seem so certain.”
He wasn’t going to put up with bad metaphysics on a day like this. “Yes, absolutely. I watched you die, I saw your body. I saw it again when Voldemort left your tomb cracked open and you were looking decidedly the worse for wear. You are deader than Dolores Umbridge’s political career. There are scrolls from seas that are less dead than you.”
“And yet you seem certain you’re alive …”
That took the wind out of Draco’s sails. He sat down suddenly on the grassy embankment. “I think I am …” he muttered.
“You omitted the therefore,” Albus Dumbledore told him kindly.
Draco looked up at him shakily. “I know that looked bad, but I remember jumping in to save you, and then getting us out of there. That’s what happened, isn’t it?”
Dumbledore sat beside him and patted his shoulder. “Stop worrying. It is. You did very well. Here.” He spelled a simple warming and drying charm. “Stop your teeth chattering.”
“Why did you jump in? And why are you here when you’re supposed to be decomposing?”
Dumbledore laughed brightly at the latter question. “To answer your first question, I wanted to distract you. And to answer the second, I’m here to find out what brings a bright young man with everything to live for to the edge of a bridge. I was sent. It’s a type of test for me, too.”
Draco looked at him in confusion. “A test? In the afterlife? I thought it was a very simple ‘Well done, have a seat in the feasting hall, here’s your haunch of venison, would you like a shieldmaiden?’ Or fine young berserker, sir, no offence.”
“Oh none taken, Mr Malfoy. None taken. Yes, in theory that’s not wholly dissimilar to the way things work, but in practice there’s a bit more weighing up of the scales. And apparently I’m less of a certain force for good than I was once thought to be.”
“You? Albus Dumbledore greatest wizard ever, hero of Hogwarts, defeater of Grindelwald (by the way, are the stories true?), defender of justice and Gryffindor poster-wizard?”
The older man laughed heartily. “Some may see it that way, others have put forward that I was a Machiavellian, manipulative bastard who would happily send teenagers to their deaths if I thought it would bring about a favourable political outcome. (And you’re one to talk, I’ve heard about you and Potter.)”
Draco joined in the laughter, but it faded as memory returned.
“Ah, there we are,” Dumbledore patted his shoulder gently. “Why, Draco?”
Draco shrugged. “Because I’m nineteen, because I will spend the rest of my life paying for things I fucked up when I was fifteen, because the only person who I thought really saw me was … because Harry … because …”
“Do you really want to die?” Dumbledore’s voice was gentle.
Draco shrugged again. “I think I wish I’d never been born.”
“Don’t say that, you’ve made a difference.”
The wind picked up and began to blow the branches of the willow beside them. Draco stared at them for a long moment, and when he spoke again his voice was low and bitter. “I tried, but I failed at everything. I couldn’t be the Death Eater my father wanted, I couldn’t be the good man Harry deserved.”
“What about you, Draco, what do you want to be?”
“I don’t even know …” He slumped back onto the grass. “I don’t care anymore. It would have been better if I‘d never existed.”
Dumbledore suddenly loomed over him, and Draco remembered the immense power of his former headmaster. For a moment he was afraid. The warming spell ceased, the cold wind hit, and a deeper coldness wrapped itself around him. Dumbledore reached down a hand. “All right, then,” he said, and lifted Draco to his feet. “All right.”
“I’m, I’m going home,” Draco stammered.
Dumbledore smiled enigmatically and watched him walk away.
The roads were busier now. Cars, trucks and cabs hastened across the bridge and he could hear honking from all directions. Bugger walking any more, he drew his coat tight across his chest and decided “Wiltshire.”
The twang of Apparation did not occur. Draco swore a little, this day had decided against him. “Malfoy Manor,” he tried. And this time it worked. He landed at the gates, where guests were usually deposited, not inside at the family point. “Typical,” he muttered. He stomped over to the gates and waited for them to open for him. They did not.
“Oh that’s just not funny …”
Before he could raise his temper fully, an Auror appeared on the road that led to the manor and began to walk towards him.
“I do not need this …” Draco turned and began to walk away. He would go into town instead. Have a drink or two and wait until things quietened down. Obviously his mother had changed the wards to protect him, so he should abide by her decision.
It was only three miles to Wilton, and their Wizarding quarter had been serving the best firewhisky since the turn of the first millennium, it would be for the best. And when he went back to his and Harry’s flat that night he would be relaxed enough to say “Look, I know, I understand, I love you too much to hold onto you selfishly, go to her.” And they would still be friends in the end. And he could just join a religious order. But not a Buddhist one, because those robes? Blech. And he would be godfather to their children. And their first child would look exactly like Harry and when he was thirty he would develop a deep and abiding … Draco stopped himself, because his eyes had finally managed to convince his brain that what they were seeing was even wronger than what it was coming up with.
The graceful town he loved had been covered in neon and concrete, plastic Santas hung from the street lamps and a huge sign on the High Street announced “Pottersville Welcomes Shoppers” and a ‘Wizards and Witches Welcome’ label was affixed below.
Draco stood still on the footpath, his mouth open. A young witch flew by on her broom, in full sight of the nearby Muggles, who covered their faces and scurried out of her way. “Cabbage for brains!” she shouted as she saw Draco. She was not wholly wrong.
“It is the Minister’s little joke,” said a familiar voice behind him. Dumbledore came and stood beside him. “After Harry defeated Voldemort the Minister renamed Wilton after him. It was all part of the removal of the Statute for Secrecy.”
“He what?” Draco gestured helplessly. “But he didn’t, this didn’t happen, I was here last month!”
“No, Draco,” the old man told him softly. “You were never born.”
Realisation colder than any wind cut through Draco. “Oh. Oh no …”
He began to run. Loud music blared from many of the shopfronts. He slowed to realise the extent of the changes. The genteel grocers and butchers had been replaced with cheap trinket shops, selling charms and potions with prices marked in both Galleons and pounds. Muggles served behind the counters, their heads low and deferential. Draco’s work clothes -- Wizarding, but plain enough to escape Muggle notice -- drew stares as workers and customers alike sought to place him in this order.
A few streets ahead he could see the spire of the local church, a pretty building that had often been the end point of a family walk. He ran again, now it was bedecked with signs announcing upcoming club nights, one featuring vampires and ghouls. It had been painted black, and a row of plastic pumpkins and bats garnished the doorway in a hideous mockery of Muggle Halloween.
A girl walked out of the building, her shoulders slumped tiredly. Draco’s breath caught as he recognised that distinctive red hair. And yet, she was a familiar face. “Ginny!” he yelled.
She turned, but looked at him blankly. “Sorry, do I know you?” she asked as he came closer.
“We … we met a few times years ago, you were probably too young to remember. But I knew your family, and you’re unmistakeable.”
She smiled brightly at that. “Mum always said that Weasleys stood out. It was her favourite saying after ‘Fred and George, stop that!’”
Draco gave a small smile at that. George Weasley had been one of the most generous members of the Weasley family after the War ended, quickest to extend his hand and to forgive. If Ron had become a better friend, George had still been the first.
Ginny looked at Draco’s clothing. “You’re running a risk in that get-up here,” she smiled. “Don’t let the Aurors catch you in it.”
“I am an Auror.” The words were out before he thought.
Her smile grew tight. “Should have known. In that case, yes, I do have special rates for you.”
“Rates?” Draco’s confusion was evident. “What do you sell?”
“Oh Merlin …” Ginny’s voice was appalled. “You didn’t know?”
“Ginny, what is it? I know we’re not close, but you look terrible …”
She sat on the low stone wall and stared at him. “I just assumed you knew. It was such news when Mum and Dad died. And Ron and George’s hospital bills were so expensive. Bill and Charlie have smuggled in what they could, but it’s hard to get money from Europe into England, and we just needed more. And it’s not as though I could work for the Ministry, is it? And there’ll always be work for girl like me, regardless of what else changes, so at least there’s security. They gave so much to protect me through the War, this is the only way I could find to protect them.”
What she wasn’t saying slowly became clear. “That’s … horrible …” Draco whispered.
She laughed at that, a real snort. “Now then, no need for ginger jokes!”
“Oh Ginny, I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant at all!”
“I shouldn’t tease you,” she apologised, patting his arm. “I’m so sorry, I thought you were just another Auror come to, well, you know.”
“I had no idea.”
“You were such a bright and brave little girl --back when I knew you.” He sat beside her.
She smiled. “Yeah, yeah I was. Those were the days, eh?”
Draco rummaged in his pockets and drew out his backup purse where he kept emergency funds. “Listen, I know this seems strange, but I really want you to have this. Take your brothers and go to Europe, it should be enough.”
Ginny opened the purse and was astonished at the volume of gold inside it. She pulled a coin out and looked at it carefully. “Old Galleons. You don’t see them very often these days.”
“Are they still good?”
“Oh yes, but I can’t.” She closed the purse and passed it back to Draco with a smile. “I don’t even remember you.”
He passed it back. “You loved many of the same people I loved,” he told her. “And you were better at it than I was. Please keep it, I have plenty of money and very few friends.”
Ginny’s eyes were wide and soft. “I still don’t know your name,” she whispered.
“Draco,” he told her. “Just Draco.”
“I … I feel as though I should ask you home for tea,” she smiled.
He smiled back at her. “It’s the week before Christmas, go and put your family back together.”
And then she was in his arms, hugging him tightly. Like the child he had seen all those years ago in a bookshop, before his father had taken to baiting her father.
“Thank you,” she said, simply.
“Go,” he replied and helped her to her feet.
She walked a little distance away, turned and waved, then Apparated.
“That was well done,” Dumbledore was back beside him.
“Her parents were killed in the War, her brothers badly wounded. Things turned out differently here to the world you know. The new Minister has certain attitudes about blood traitors.”
Draco snorted. “Sounds as stupid as my father.” He waved a hand about. “So what the hell is this Pottersville?”
“Demonstration town,” Dumbledore smiled bleakly. “Where Muggles are allowed to see the glories of the Wizarding world.”
“Not very glorious. They look utterly cowed.”
“They’re slaves, Draco.” Dumbledore pointed at a witch in the distance with three Muggles following her, carting her shopping. “They’re mostly put to work in factories. Here they let them out to serve in the shops and clubs.”
Draco’s cheeks grew red. “They put Harry’s name on this abomination?”
“The Minister’s little joke,” Dumbledore repeated.
“The Minister can go fuck himself,” Draco said viciously. “Let’s go. Let’s go somewhere there are friends.” He stepped forward a little. “Salisbury Cathedral,” he stated, and disappeared.
Dumbledore was a few steps behind him as Draco strode into the Cathedral shop. “Church again, Draco? This is a surprise.”
“It’s Thursday, Pansy volunteers here on Thursdays.”
Draco walked a few more steps before he noticed Dumbledore had stopped. Looking back he saw the older man staring at him in surprise. Draco smiled. “Choirboys.”
“Oh.” Dumbledore nodded and caught up.
Draco hoped that he was still right in this mad version of his world, and then he saw her, and smiled in thanks that Pansy’s fondness for young men would always be a constant.
“Have you seen the new tenor?” she was asking he older woman beside her. “Lovely hair. He’s studying advanced arithmancy, he says. Ooh, hello sir, is there anything I can help you with?” She had spotted Draco.
“Hello Pans …” he smiled.
She blinked, then smiled with practiced charm. “Hello. You’ll have to forgive me, I’m so sorry, but I’ve completely forgotten your name.”
“Draco,” his voice was small. This was harder than he could have imagined.
“How do you do? I’m sure I can place you now, you were one of the Beauxbatons boys, yes? I remember how impeccable your English was.”
He forced a smile. “Yes, that’s right. I’m visiting.”
“Of course,” she took his arm. “In that case you simply must choose some of our delightful souvenirs to take home. The proceeds go to support the church. We have three major selections, magical, goblin made, that’s our most expensive line although I am sure that won’t be an issue, and a small Muggle made line. Now I know what you re thinking, but these are special Muggle artisans and each piece is carefully cleaned before being offered for sale.”
Draco shook his head, more violently than he had intended to. “I really just wanted to see you, to say hello …”
Pansy blushed winningly. “How sweet! I’m so embarrassed that I couldn’t place you at first. But how did you know I was here?”
“I knew you lived in Wiltshire, I just asked around.”
“Wiltshire?” Pansy laughed. “I haven’t heard anyone call it that in years. Don’t let the Aurors catch you at it, the Minister will have you hanged. It’s Malfonia now, darling.”
“Malfonia?” Draco stared at Dumbledore in horror. “Who is this minister, Professor?”
“Draco? Who are you talking to?” Pansy’s smile was a little strained now. “The Minister of Magic is Lucius Malfoy, of course. Everyone knows that. Are you all right? Where are you going?”
“Ask that bearded buffoon behind me!”
“There’s no one there! Lovely to catch up!” Her manners did not slipped as she yelled after him.
He stopped in the shade of the Tower and turned to face his old headmaster. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You didn’t ask.”
“So Pottersville …”
“All part of his programme of reform, yes.”
Draco sank down against the stones. “But it’s mad. Why would he go into politics? It’s so tedious.”
Dumbledore looked down on him with pity. “He had nothing else to do with his time. His wife wanted him to be a success. It seemed the best use of his energies.”
“Merlin’s balls, Mum!”
“She’s not your mother,” Dumbledore reminded him. “You were never born.”
“I have to see her!”
“Draco, I don’t think that’s a good plan.”
But even as he heard the words, Draco Disapparated.
This time he ignored the gates and ran straight for the secret entrances he had memorised as a child. Full of traps passed down through the generations, they were never guarded, there was no point. He ran past the first two, and chose the third, which would bring him out in his mother’s favourite conservatory.
His blood had not changed, no matter how crazy the world had become. The wards let him through, recognising him when no one else could or would. He touched the stones of the tunnel, feeling safe for one precious moment. And then he stepped through the door.
Narcissa Malfoy was staring in surprise at the panelling as it moved away from the wall. When she saw his face her eyes widened and a smile darted about her mouth. “Lucius?” Then she saw him properly, and the smile faded.
He couldn’t help himself. “Mum, it’s me, Draco.”
Her eyes grew hard at that. “Clever boy. You clearly did your research. Who told you that name?”
“It’s -- it’s my name.”
“Of course it is. They did well, you look just like Lucius did at your age.” She sat down in a wrought-iron chair near an enormous aspidistra. “So, are you an assassin, a blackmailer, or an enterprising young man with a suggestion?” She crossed her legs and drew her robes back from them suggestively.
“Mother!” Draco was shocked.
“No.” Her voice was steely. “We are not going to play that game.”
He looked at her intently. She seemed different. The soft lines around her eyes were gone, the smile lines around her mouth also. She was smoother, glossier, less human.
Dumbledore was there again. “They have spells to stay young, she and her husband. It is their stab at immortality.”
“Come here, boy,” Narcissa beckoned. “You may please me, and, in turn, I may let you live.”
Tears flooded his eyes, and Draco turned and ran back down the tunnel he had come through. He heard his mother’s laughter follow him, no doubt envisioning the sudden end he would come to in the route’s hexes.
In the fresh air he stopped and gulped in lung-fulls. The tears were falling down his cheeks now, and he batted at them with the backs of his hands.
Dumbledore appeared behind him, and Draco turned into his arms, crying unabashedly into his robes and beard. “Cry away, my boy, cry away,” the old wizard said, patting his back. “It’s the whole reason I keep my beard this long, saves a veritable fortune on handkerchiefs, and it’s laundered daily as a matter of course. There are downsides, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a three-foot-long hair entangle itself around delicate parts, and the moulting problem shouldn’t be overlooked, but on the whole I find it useful.”
Draco was smiling despite itself. Dumbledore pulled a clean handkerchief from the air and handed it over. “Since you are a traditionalist …” he conceded. He waited until Draco had blown his nose before he went on. “Do you see, Mr Malfoy? What an enormous change one life can make? Because they had you to love, your parents never took this path. Oh your father was venal enough, but his love for you kept him from his worse excesses. And the joy that you brought to your mother made her a real person, and gave her a reason to grow up and stop being the pretty plaything she might otherwise have stayed.” He looked at Draco gently. “Are we done here?”
Reluctantly, Draco spoke the name that pulsed in his blood. “Harry. I need to see Harry.”
Dumbledore took his hands, and they were gone from that place and to an altogether darker one. It was a small house in a deep wood. Quiet and strangely beautiful, with the trickle of a nearby stream. Draco could see movement in the room nearest them, and went to its window.
There was Harry, still in bed. Though Draco could only see his back, he knew that body too well to mistake it, the hair its usual bird’s nest, his skin a little paler. A figure moved towards him, a tall man wearing a towel slung about his lean hips and carrying a breakfast tray.
“Here we are,” the man said, and sat on the edge of the bed. “How are you feeling this morning?”
Draco felt his breath leave him. The man was Professor Snape. And he had never seen an expression that gentle on his face before.
Harry reached up to stroke the side of Snape’s face. “I’m well. I’m always well with you.”
Snape kissed the inside of Harry’s wrist, and Draco felt actual pain. So that was the way of it here. He couldn’t even hope for Harry in this broken world. But he could warn him. He could teach him how to fight his father, share the Manor’s tricks with the resistance Harry would be leading. Snape would be as strong here as he had been in the real world. He would be the better man to fight at Harry’s side. He would make use of the information Draco could give them.
His mind made up, he knocked on the window. As expected, they turned to him. Snape grabbed his wand and pointed it in Draco’s direction.
But Draco didn’t notice. He was caught in the horror of Harry’s face, the vivid purple scar dissecting his features, one green eye gone, one clouded with scars. And as all hope left his body, Snape’s Crucio hit him, and he was grateful, for the pain was so much less.
“Draco?” It was Dumbledore’s voice again. They had moved, they were back on the Serpentine Bridge, and he could see brooms flying publicly. The giant wheel was gone, and he missed it. “Draco?”
“How?” He had never heard his voice so bleak.
“How what, my boy?”
“How did Voldemort defeat Harry?”
Dumbledore chuckled. “He didn’t. In fact, without you as a distraction, Harry killed him a year earlier. He had all of his House there to help him, every Slytherin in Hogwarts fought at his side. But he had exposed himself as a rallying point, and Lucius Malfoy couldn’t have that.”
“My father did that?”
“Your father had pretended to be a good friend to Harry. It was always Harry's weakest side, that ready trust and love. I know exactly how easy it was to exploit. Lucius couldn’t bring himself to kill him, but he could cut him down. And he did. Harry couldn’t be defeated by Voldemort, but he could be betrayed by a friend.”
“And Snape rescued him?”
Dumbledore rested his hand on Draco’s shoulder. “Severus rescued him. And Harry rescued Severus, and they find what happiness they can. For now. Some day Lucius will worry that even a broken Harry is too much of a threat, and then they will try to run. I cannot tell you if they will be able to run fast enough.”
“Send me back.” Draco gripped Dumbledore’s wrist so tightly that he could feel the tendons shift beneath his fingers.
“Your problems will still be there.”
“I’ll face them. What’s me being out of work and single compared to this?” And ridiculously, he began to laugh. And then he began to cry. He reached into his pocket for Dumbledore’s handkerchief and pulled out Harry’s parchment instead. He smelled the ink -- so familiar.
He held it up to Dumbledore. “Even if this is a summons to be told that it’s over, at least I can look back on real memories there. And he will remember me, too.” He smiled. “And I would quite like my Mother back. I’m extremely fond of her, even if my Father can be an imbecile. And I prefer Ginny Weasley and I existing in a state of mutual suspicion and limited tolerance.”
“Excellent!” Dumbledore rubbed his hands together cheerfully. “Well, we should get you back, then.”
Draco had one last thought. “Will this do the trick? Will this be enough for you?”
Dumbledore laughed richly. “Who can say? On the one hand I have shown you how vital your existence is. On the other I have done it by Machiavellian manipulation.”
“I always quite liked that about you.”
Dumbledore bowed slightly. “From you, that is praise indeed. Come, Draco. Let us take you home.”
And there he was. Outside their home on Bedford Square, looking up at the arch of brick over their front door. Dumbledore was gone. Draco took a deep breath and turned his key in the door.
“You’re home!” Harry came running down the hall to meet him with a hug. “ I didn’t hear from you all day, I wasn’t sure my message reached you, but you’re here!”
Draco hugged him back, not above holding onto that lean, strong form one last time. “It was a strange day,” he murmured into Harry’s neck, breathing in the smell of him: broom polish, sweat, leather, cheap shampoo, expensive soap, ink, Harry …
“Are you all right?” Harry took a step back and looked at him.
Draco bit his lip to keep steady himself as he looked into those eyes. Whatever happened next, it was worth it. It was wholly and utterly worth it.
“I’m fine. I saw Ginny Weasley at the Ministry today, was she stopping by?” He would make it easy for him.
Harry smiled in surprise. “Yeah, she was, actually. She had good news. That job she was after in Spain has come through, she starts next week. Dean’s going with her, it’s all working out just as she’d hoped.”
Draco began to laugh. He began to laugh so hard that he needed to stagger down to the stairs and then have a little sit-down.
“Draco? D? Are you all right? Seriously, I’m starting to feel a bit worried.”
Harry may have been about to say something more, but the opportunity was lost when he was dragged down into an embrace. Draco’s fingers knotted in Harry’s jacket and pulled him off balance, cushioning his fall with his body. Lips and tongues moved hungrily against each other. Draco rolled so that he was on top, looking down at the young man below him, running his fingers through that mad hair, dropping kisses onto those bright eyes. “I missed you,” he breathed.
Harry smiled. “I missed you, too. But the case is all wrapped up. And I have such a treat for you. Come and see?”
Grinning in a completely unrestrained fashion, Draco leapt up and dragged his lover to his feet. “Lay on, MacDuff!” he declared, with a sweep of his arm.
Shaking his head and laughing, Harry led him into the drawing room. “Close your eyes,” he instructed before opening the door. A few steps, into the warmth of an open fire, and there was more breathing than just Harry here. “Open them.” A whisper in his ear.
There was a tree, filling the corner of the room, covered in a riot of decorations, silver and gold, red and green, wrens bobbing in and out of the branches and tinsel-clad gnomes making rude hand gestures from the lower boughs. Beneath it a pile of presents, beside that, shaking several industriously, a devilish toddler, and beside him, roasting chestnuts in a copper pan over the fire, his Aunt Andromeda.
“Happy Christmas, dear,” she said, standing up. “Harry’s convinced us we should spend it with you boys.”
“Draco!!” Teddy lost all interest in the presents and flung his jammy self against his cousin’s legs.
Draco could hardly stop laughing. “I thought we weren’t bothering with fuss!” he accused Harry with good humour.
“It’s hardly any fuss at all, Kreacher made me.” Harry took the refuge of a scoundrel.
“It’s a great plan,” Draco reassured him, reaching down to scoop Teddy up. “We’ll have back-up for dinner at the Manor on the day.”
Harry blushed. “Actually, I invited Narcissa here. Fewer reminders that Lucius won’t be back until March. We can go to the Weasleys’ on Boxing Day.”
Draco’s eyes were wet again. “That’s a good idea. See, when you use your brain parts, you can accomplish things.”
“You love me for my body,” Harry reminded him.
“Well, yes, there is that.”
Andromeda smiled at them, then turned to the mantel. “Oh, I forgot, post.” She handed two letters to Draco. He swapped her Teddy for them.
He broke the seals and read quickly. The laughter was back. He tossed the parchment sheets into the fire.
“What were they?” Harry asked.
“Retractions,” Draco answered simply. “Problems disappearing. Nothing to worry about.”
“Good. No worries for this holiday, just friends, family and you.”
Draco sniffed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. As he blew his nose and dried his eyes on a clean corner, one of the wrens hopped onto the top of a silver bell, making the tree ring.
“Bell!” proclaimed Teddy.
“You know what the Muggles say about bells ringing, Teddy,” Harry began.
“No! Tell!” Teddy demanded.
Harry dragged Draco over to the fire with him and they all sat at the two-year-old’s eye level. “Actually, I haven’t got a clue, something to do with wings,” he confessed.
“That’s snitches, not bells,” Draco laughed.
“Maybe it’s angels?” Harry guessed.
“Wrathful agents of a vengeful god bearing flaming swords? What would they need with bells?”
“Good point. You come up with something.”
Draco smiled. “Every time a bell rings someone gets a kiss.”
Teddy squinted at him. “Really?”
Draco turned to Harry. “Absolutely.” And he made sure that the child would have every reason to believe the saying.
Behind his back, Harry’s hand transcribed very specific movements, which Teddy, used to playing on his toy broom with Uncle Harry, understood very clearly. With great care, he climbed to his feet and toddled over to the tree, where there were at least eight bells within his reach.
PS While agonising my way through this in the last few hours (because I could procrastinate for Christendom, not just one measly country!), Calanthe stopped by to give me a loving serve of abuse, which indirectly led to me reading her beautiful Christmas fic The Ghost of Christmas Past. Click and adore, it's truly gorgeous and heartbreaking.