“Ron! On your left!”
Ron whirled around and managed to dodge the hex that had just been sent his way by the shop owner they were currently trying to apprehend. “Cheers, mate!”
“Diffindo!” Harry roared, whooping with delight as his spell hit it’s mark.
“Incarcerous!” Ron yelled, watching as the thin ropes wrapped themselves around their shop owner.
“Let’s get him taken in,” Harry said, panting slightly. “And get the paperwork done, then I’m thinking pub?”
Ron nodded, hauling the shop owner to his feet. “Sounds good.”
Ron sat down heavily in the chair opposite him. The two pints of Mead floating along behind him landed on the table without spilling a drop.
“I am ready for this,” Harry sighed, grabbing a glass and taking a long drink.
“You’re telling me,” Ron replied. “Why is it that we’re still on a raid at nine pm on Christmas Eve?”
“Because Robards is a bastard,” Harry muttered.
“Well, that and we didn’t have a lead until then,” Harry sighed, putting his glass down again. “Believe me, I’d much rather be at home with Draco.”
“Me too,” Ron said with a sigh. “Er, with Hermione, I mean.”
Harry shook his head, swallowing. “I knew what you meant. Do you ever wonder how we ended up here?”
“All the time,” Ron said. “I wonder what I’d have been doing now if it hadn’t been for everything we went through at school.”
“You mean you didn’t always want to be an Auror?” Harry asked, giving Ron a tired grin.
Ron shook his head. “I don’t think I’d ever considered it before fifth year,” he said. “I think I always dreamed of being a Quidditch player or something.”
Harry nodded, taking another sip of Mead. “Professional Quidditch player would have been good, wouldn’t it?”
“Ginny likes it,” Ron said, nodding. “And I’m not jealous at all.”
Harry snorted this time. “Yeah, right,” he said. “You’d love to be where she is right now.”
“How would that work? The Harpies are an all female team,” Ron said, giving Harry a confused look.
Harry tutted. “Not literally,” he said. “I just mean you’d love to be a professional Quidditch player.”
“Oh,” Ron said, his ears turning red. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
Harry grinned and took another drink. “I know I am, mate.”
Ron shook his head and smiled. “I have to say, it’s been a whirlwind since leaving school,” he said with a sigh. “I’m only twenty-four, but I feel like I’m fifty-four!”
Harry chuckled and nodded, placing his glass back on the table. “Same here,” he said. “Draco likes to remind me that it’s my own fault though.”
“He has a point,” Ron said. “Just because Kingsley offered us jobs didn’t mean we had to take them.”
“I know,” Harry said. “But I suppose I was flattered that he thought me good enough to be an Auror without even completing my N.E.W.T.s, and I suppose I was worried I wouldn’t get offered anything else.”
“Mate… you’re Harry Potter,” Ron said incredulously. “You literally could have had any job you wanted after what you did.”
“Well, maybe,” Harry sighed. “But I didn’t want to go through life relying on my name. I wanted to do something I was good at.”
“Makes sense,” Ron nodded, taking another drink. “I wanted something I could do in spite of my name. I didn’t want to just be known as ‘one of the Weasleys’.”
“Yeah, that makes sense too,” Harry nodded.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be a Weasley,” Ron said. “But I’d love to be known for doing something in my own right.”
“What, other than all the stuff you did during the war?” Harry asked. “People already know who you are and what you did, I mean, you’re on a Chocolate Frog card! ”
Ron rubbed his eyes tiredly. “I know, but I feel like anyone else in my position would have done the same as I did. I’d kind of like to do something really spectacular,” he sighed. “Do you think they’re still serving food?”
“I dunno,” Harry said, deciding not to question Ron’s thinking and looking across at the bar. “They might knock you something up if you ask nicely.”
“Or you could go and ask,” Ron said, slyly. “You know, being Harry Potter and all.”
Harry rolled his eyes, but stood up. “What do you want?”
“Anything,” Ron said, fighting to keep the triumphant grin off his face. “Your call.”
“Right. Another pint?” Harry asked, gesturing to Ron’s nearing empty glass.
“Please,” Ron nodded. “I’ll let Hermione and your Ferret know where we are.”
Harry rolled his eyes again, nodding as he headed for the bar. He was thankful that Ron never called Draco ‘Ferret’ to his face. He was still a bit sensitive about being turned into one by Professor Moody in fourth year.
“Didn’t you eat earlier?” Hermione asked, by way of greeting, as she sat down next to Ron.
Ron shook his head. “Didn’t have time.”
“Hi,” Harry said, looking up at Draco as he dropped into the chair beside him. “Have you eaten?”
Draco nodded. “Yes, I had time to grab a sandwich earlier,” he said, leaning across to kiss Harry’s cheek. “I knew you wouldn’t be home for dinner.”
“No, but neither were you,” Harry pointed out.
“I should have been,” Draco said, making a face. “Until someone opened a box containing several Decoy Detonators in the office.”
“Decoy Detonators?” Ron asked, looking up, a guilty look on his face.
“Yes. Thank George for me, won’t you,” Draco replied dryly. “I’m sure he’s to blame somehow.”
“No doubt,” Ron said faintly. “Remember when we set one of those off in the Ministry, Harry?”
“How can I forget?” Harry asked, grinning. “It definitely helped us.”
“Helped you do what?” Draco asked, though he was sure he’d heard the story before.
“Steal Slytherin’s locket back from Umbridge,” Harry said, grimacing at the memory. “We thought it would be in her office, so we dropped a Decoy Detonator that let us get through the main office and into hers. Except the locket wasn’t there.”
“No, she had it on her,” Ron said, wrinkling his nose. “While she had the audacity to interrogate Muggleborns about their wands, as though she was a Pureblood.”
“How did you get it then?” Draco asked, looking around to summon some drinks.
“Wait there,” Harry said. “If we’re going to tell stories, let’s make sure we all have drinks. What do you two want?” he asked, gesturing at Hermione and Draco.
“Wine please,” Draco replied, a pleased look on his face.
“Same,” Hermione said, nodding. “After the day we’ve had, I could do with a drink.”
“All right, I’ll be back in a minute,” Harry said, standing up and heading to the bar.
“Weasley was just going to tell us how you stole the car,” Draco replied, reaching for his wine glass.
They’d been in the pub for an hour now, telling stories of what they’d got up to during their school days. They’d soon moved on from the story of how they’d got Slytherin’s locket back from Umbridge - none of them had particularly wanted to linger on that particular subject for too long, and the stories were far more light-hearted now.
“Ohh,” Harry said, sitting down again. “Yeah, that was an experience.”
“So how did you do it?” Draco asked, sipping his wine. “And, more importantly, how did you manage to crash it into the Whomping Willow?”
“All right,” Ron said, setting his glass back on the table after taking a drink. “Well, the barrier sealed itself after my mum and Ginny went through, so when me and Harry tried, we just ran right into it. Caused a right scene, we did. The guard wasn’t too pleased and people were staring at us because Hedwig was screeching.”
Harry felt a pang of sadness at the mention of Hedwig, but nodded. “She was not impressed that her cage bounced off the wall.”
“So, when we’d picked ourselves up, we thought we’d go back to the car and wait for my parents,” Ron continued. “But then I had the idea of… taking the car.”
“Why didn’t you just wait for them?” Draco asked, looking at Ron as though he was mad.
“Well, I mean, I’d seen Fred drive the car the night before to rescue Harry,” Ron said, shrugging. “It didn’t look too hard, so I didn’t see why we couldn’t use it to get to school.”
Hermione rolled her eyes and shook her head, sipping her wine.
“Then how did it go so wrong?” Draco asked curiously.
“The car had an invisibility shield built into it by my dad,” Ron said. “But during the journey it failed. We had to keep flying above the clouds so that Muggles didn’t see us.”
Draco snorted. “Well, that didn’t work very well,” he said.
“No, we know,” Ron said, frowning at Draco. “Anyway, because we had to fly above the clouds, we had to keep dipping down to see where the train was, which was fine for a long time. I still don’t know how we missed Hogsmeade.”
“Probably a good thing we did,” Harry pointed out. “Can you imagine if we’d wiped the station building out?”
Ron shuddered. “Yeah, good point. So then the engine started failing and we weren’t flying anymore, we were falling, and I couldn’t really steer properly or anything. I only just missed the castle wall, but I couldn’t avoid the tree.”
“The car is still in the forest,” Harry said with a grin. “At least, it was last I heard. It had gone feral.”
“A car that went feral?” Draco asked dubiously. “Surely it doesn’t have it’s own mind?”
“Well, the way it chucked us out, I’d say it does,” Harry said, making a face.
“Dad was gutted that it took itself off to the forest,” Ron said, nodding. “He’d spent ages doing it up. I think Mum was a bit pleased though.”
Draco snorted with laughter.
“I don’t know if I have any stories to tell,” Draco replied, looking thoughtful.
“Of course you do,” Harry said. “I mean, most of them probably involve making our lives a misery, but you must have something you can tell us.”
“Thanks for that,” Draco replied, prodding Harry’s stomach. “I suppose I could tell you how that Hippogriff savaged me.”
“Buckbeak didn’t savage you,” Hermione scoffed. “He barely scratched you, and it was your own fault!”
“Yes, maybe so,” Draco said. “But my actions didn’t warrant that reaction!”
Harry laughed. “What did you expect him to do?”
“I don’t know,” Draco admitted. “I don’t think I really believed Hagrid that insulting them would be a bad idea.”
“Well, that was a bit silly,” Harry said, smiling. “He was the teacher.”
“Yes, but I didn’t take that seriously at the time, did I?” Draco replied, waving a hand dismissively. “I know now that I was wrong. He was, actually, quite a good teacher in the end.”
Harry laughed while Ron gasped and held a hand to his chest in mock surprise.
“Did Draco Malfoy seriously just admit that Hagrid was a good teacher?” Ron asked.
Hermione hid a smile behind her glass.
Draco fixed Ron with a look. “I can admit when I was wrong about something you know.”
“You never could at school,” Ron said, raising an eyebrow.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Draco said. “I could. I just chose not to.”
“Oh, really?” Ron asked. “Are you sure about that?”
Harry glanced between Ron and Draco, wondering where Ron was going with his line of questioning. They had long ago moved past their school days of constant backbiting.
“Positive,” Draco replied firmly. “Although it might not have seemed like it, I didn’t trust Umbridge any more than you did.”
Ron snorted. “Yeah, right.”
“I didn’t,” Draco said again. “Listen, you know when I was made part of the Inquisitorial Squad?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, of course,” he said. “You were the ones who caught the DA out.”
Draco nodded too. “We were,” he said. “But I really just wanted to know what you were up to. I didn’t want you punished for it, well, maybe I did but not in the way you were. The stuff that woman got up to in detentions was awful. But who else was going to do anything about her? None of you went to the other teachers!”
Harry made a face. “I know,” he said. “We were stupid, really. But Professor McGonagall had told me something I didn’t like, or something, so I refused to go to her because I thought she wouldn’t take me seriously.”
“Harry… she scarred you for life!” Draco exclaimed. “I can still see those words etched into your hand.”
“I know,” Harry sighed, looking down at his hand. “I don’t like seeing them either.”
“I just… I wish I’d been able to help you at the time,” Draco said softly. “I actually kind of respected you for standing up to her as much as you did.”
“Someone had to,” Harry shrugged. “For all the good it did.”
“It worried the Ministry enough,” Draco replied. “They were so afraid that Dumbledore was raising an army. I don’t know why, I mean, they were all adult wizards and if Dumbledore was raising a bunch of teenagers as an army, they didn’t really have any reason to be afraid.”
Harry shrugged again. “Well we know that,” he said. “But Fudge had always been wary of Dumbledore. He was paranoid that Dumbledore wanted his job.”
“He was a fool,” Draco said scornfully. “He was a weak man, and if Dumbledore had wanted the job, he’d have had it in a second.”
“Yeah, we know,” Harry nodded. “Dumbledore never wanted that job. Well, maybe once over, but not in recent years. He was happy doing what he was doing in the school.”
“But look where that got him,” Draco said. “A death sentence.”
Harry shook his head. “No. It wasn’t the school that did that. It was the Horcruxes,” he said. “He became obsessed with finding them, that’s why he asked Snape to do what he knew you wouldn’t be able to do.”
“I had so many sleepless nights over that,” Draco sighed, looking down at his left arm which still bore the trace of the Dark Mark that had been branded there. “I couldn’t believe what I’d been asked to do. I didn’t want to do it, but, when you’re faced with your whole family being killed…”
“Dumbledore wouldn’t have blamed you,” Harry said, putting a hand on Draco’s leg. “I know he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t have wanted you to have it on your conscience though—another reason he asked Snape, I assume. You were still a child.”
“I panicked over every little thing.” Draco admitted, still looking down. “I had no idea how I could carry it out. Everything I thought of seemed silly or childish, certainly not practicable.”
“Didn’t you ask anyone for help?” Ron asked. “I mean, didn’t you think to ask Snape?”
Draco shook his head. “No. I was determined not to drag anyone else into it,” he said. “I thought, well, I suppose I thought if I could do it myself it would redeem my family in the eyes of their friends. I didn’t want them to be my friends but I didn’t want us to end up dead either.”
“I can’t imagine it was an easy decision,” Hermione said quietly, glancing at Ron. “We were never faced with such a decision to make. Everything we were doing was to defeat Voldemort, we didn’t have to decide who should live and who should die.”
“It wasn’t,” Draco replied, shaking his head again. “I was rotten to so many people during our early years at Hogwarts—you included—and I regret it all now. I wish that I hadn’t let my father have so much influence over me.”
Harry squeezed Draco’s leg gently. “Don’t say that,” he said. “If things hadn’t happened that way, things might not have worked out the way they did. If I’d had my parents around growing up, I might have been completely different too.”
Hermione leant into Ron, who put his arm around her.
Draco sighed and covered Harry’s hand with his own. “I know,” he said. “But just think how much more time we could have had with each other if I hadn’t been such a little prat.”
“You’re still a prat,” Harry said, fondly. “But you’re my prat, and I wouldn’t change you for the world,” he added, pressing a lingering kiss to Draco’s cheek.
Draco smiled at the kiss, squeezing Harry’s hand.
Hermione smiled too, then glanced at the clock above the bar and gasped. “Goodness, it’s nearly midnight!”
“Oh, so it is,” Harry said, looking up with a start. “I suppose we should all get going. Big day tomorrow.”
“Hope you two are ready for another Weasley Christmas,” Ron said with a grin. “Mum will expect you bright and early.”
Draco gave a mock groan. “Every year,” he said. “One year, we’ll get a lie in.”
Harry laughed. “We’ll be over about midday, like usual,” he said. “Let all the madness die down before we add to it.”
Ron laughed too. “Bill and Fleur were arriving today with the kids,” he said. “So they’ll be taking up Mum’s time now. Probably a good thing, or she’d have been wondering where I’ve been all night.”
“Yes, with good reason,” Hermione said, nudging Ron to stand up. “But, we all need to let our hair down once in a while, and if we can’t do that on Christmas Eve, when can we?”
“Exactly,” Harry said, standing up and taking Draco’s hand. “Come on. Let’s get home.”
“Are you Apparating?” Hermione asked, buttoning her coat up.
Harry shook his head. “No, we’ll walk,” he said. “We’re not far from here.”
“The walk will do us good,” Draco added, nodding. “By the time we get home, we’ll be ready for bed.”
“All right,” Hermione nodded. “See you tomorrow at The Burrow, then,” she added, kissing them both on the cheek.
“See you tomorrow,” Ron echoed, clapping Harry on the back, and nodding to Draco. Then he took Hermione’s hand and headed for the door.
Harry looked at Draco. “You don’t mind going to The Burrow tomorrow, do you?”
Draco watched Ron and Hermione disappear out of the door before shaking his head. “No. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Harry smiled and pulled Draco into a hug, sliding one arm around his waist. “I’m glad. Now, let’s go or it’ll be morning before we know it.”
Draco smiled and leant into Harry’s embrace as they left the pub too, heading for home.