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The More Loving One

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First of December

Prompt: Christmas tree in the snow.

 

“Oh, there you are, I was just asking your young man where you got your lovely scarf from.”

Draco pauses in the doorway, juggling hot, leaking toasties and coffee. “It’s a ‘Sharp Echarpe’. Gladrags import them from France.”

“I only asked because my nephew would quite like one. Mr Potter didn’t seem to know.”

Draco shrugs - hopefully casually. “You know Harry, he's not really interested in clothes.”

“Funny isn’t it,” says the old lady. “Well, I suppose you’re all different.”

“I’d better get back to the shop,” says Draco, trying not to bristle. “We get so busy in the run up to Christmas.”

“Yes, of course, dear. I’ll be in again next week - My grandson has been asking for the new Nimbus but -,” She pushes open the door.

“Sold out, I know,” says Draco. The Christmas broomstick consignment cannot come soon enough. He’s even heard of Muggleborns ordering the new Nimbus from America on the Internet. Thankfully the vast majority of Wizards still can’t tell their internet from their intercom, so Quality Quidditch Supplies is unlikely to lose much business. Still... “Don’t worry, we’ll be getting some in next week at the latest.”

Walking back to the shop through Christmas shoppers and fluttering snow he’s grateful for the coffee warming his frozen fingers. The street is even busier than earlier and if this goes on they should probably think about getting extra help. He’s been gone longer than he expected, thanks to the queues, and Harry will be wondering if he’s been lured into an early winter-wear sale again, even though it only happened once in all the time they’ve had the shop together.

Old and middle-aged ladies are their biggest supporters, it seems. Draco’s always assumed it has something to do with the dramatic potential of their supposed love affair. Romeo and Juliet, Kevin and Sadie - loving against the tradition of family, and across the barricades, so to speak. Throw in the thrill of a previously forbidden love and well, you’ve got an epic romance. If only it were true.

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By the time he’s cashed up, the shop, if it were possible, looks even more like one of those Santa’s Grotto abominations Teddy loves, and he suspects it’s still only half done. ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ is wafting out from the stock room so he has time to rearrange his face before Harry appears, lugging the cast iron tree base. Draco positions himself, arms crossed, foot tapping, ready.

We’ll frolic and play, the Eskimo way - Ah, there you are. Can you help me get this up to the flat?”

Draco sighs, tuts, and eventually, with as much reluctance as he can manage to convey, he bends down. “I suppose you’ll only go and hurt yourself if I don’t. What's an Eskimo anyway? It’s a very strange word.”

Harry holds the door open with his foot. “It’s an old, not very p.c. name for people who live in the Arctic. Shall we get the tree tonight?”

“It’s only the First of December,” Draco demurs. “It won’t last and we’ll have pine needles all over the floor for the next month.”

“Scrooge,” says Harry, as they manoeuvre the base up the stairs, but he’s smiling.

Draco sighs. He knows Harry’s got wise to his bah humbug persona by now, but it’s tradition, so he grumbles and groans with enthusiasm as Harry scatters pink and blue lights over the chimney breast. What he doesn’t know is whether Harry realises just how much he, Draco, depends on this, and every other tradition they’ve established together over the last decade. For whatever he might say, to Draco, the Christmas decorations - well, they just make the place feel like home.

Over recent years he’s become aware that, actually, what makes this broom shop, this shared flat, home is not the place but the people. Person. Which leads him inevitably to the question of what he would do if Harry left. It hasn’t seemed likely in years - Harry seems to have taken the ‘bachelor’ in ‘confirmed bachelor’ to heart; he’s not, to Draco’s knowledge, had a date since 2006 - and it’s lulling him into a false sense of security. A sense of security he cannot afford to take for granted. He can’t - doesn’t want - to even think about what he would do, if -

Looking at the fairy lights, the singing elves and the enchanted tinsel he plays with the idea of inviting his mother over for tea again, or maybe curry, just to see her face. Perhaps he’ll ask her tomorrow, at Claridge's, when she’s softened up with fine champagne.

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After they’ve shut up shop he allows himself to be bribed into walking over to the magically enlarged courtyard at the back of the Leaky Cauldron. Harry stands beside him, hands on hips.

“It’s too - too, I don’t know - symmetrical.”

The Christmas Tree guy glances up, clocks who it is, and suddenly finds himself very busy wrapping trees in netting. Draco sympathises.

“Most people prefer their trees symmetrical. Me, for instance.”

Harry pulls a face. “I don’t. Aunt Petunia always wanted the tree to be perfect, and if it wasn’t I had to take it back and get another.”

“Should you really still be letting your idiotic aunt influence your festive decisions?” Draco looks out over the rows of firs. Surely there's one...

Harry flashes him a wry look. “Probably not, no,” he admits. “But I just like things that are - not perfect.”

“You want to love the things that no one else wants,” hazards Draco. It’s been blatantly obvious for a long time, but Harry’s Muggle relatives are a delicate area and he prefers to tread carefully.

Harry’s mouth twists. “Don’t be silly, Draco, it’s just a tree.”

“I thought that was my line,” says Draco, moving on to a fir that lurches drunkenly to one side.

“Changes are good for you,” says Harry seriously, before nodding.

Thank bloody Merlin for that. “This one please," calls Draco. There’s still the mistletoe to choose but they’re on the home straight now, he can feel it.

 

They’re lugging the tree along the pavement - and it’s bloody enormous and apparently lightening charms interfere with the non-shedding charm so they’re doing this the traditional way; that is to say, Harry, humming happily, does the physical work while Draco directs operations - when his musings are broken by a thoughtful voice.

“If you’re so picky about your perfect, symmetrical tree, how come we always end up with a lopsided one?”

For a second, Draco freezes. After all these years, why now? He brushes snow from his gloves.

“Well, you had the most tragic sob story- ‘Oh Draco, my evil aunt made me drag the tree - ‘. I can’t compete with that,” he says lightly.

“You probably could," says Harry, with meaning. “Honestly, if you feel more comfortable having a symmetrical tree, I don’t mind, not really -."

It’s time for a distraction, and actually, he has been wondering - “We’re almost there now. What is the 'Eskimo way'?”

Harry looks at him, eyebrows raised. “From the song? ‘Frolic and play the Eskimo way’? I haven’t really thought about it. It probably means play in the snow, or, I dunno, an Eskimo kiss.”

“Eskimo kiss?" asks Draco, inspecting his gloves for bark and needles. Whereas once Cashmere gloves were practically a disposable item, these days his income from the shop has to go much further, especially as his appreciation of the finer things in life has endured.

Harry drops the tree and leans against the door to wipe his brow. “I swear they get heavier every year.”

“Probably because you insist on buying a bigger one every year.”

“It’d be fine if you’d let me use a lightening charm,” says Harry, as he does every single time. He pulls out his wand -

Draco twitches the wand out of his grasp and pockets it. “Oh no you don’t. I’m not having pine needles sticking in my feet and infecting me with some strange tree disease.”

Harry sighs and rubs his gloved hand over his jaw. “I’m never letting you read the Wizarding Mail again. Next time they run out I’ll just bring you back The Quibbler.”

“Eskimo kiss?” Draco reminds him. There is no way he’s reading The Quibbler, even if he and Luna are on friendly terms these days.

“Just a sort of nose to nose kiss I think, I suppose it’s the only bit of skin that’s exposed up there.”

“Up where?”

“Up in the Arctic.”

“Oh.” Draco has only a vague idea of geography. It’s not taught in Wizarding schools and frankly, from what he’s heard from Harry and Hermione, it all sounds a bit unnerving. Last time he tried to imagine himself as a little dot spinning on a big ball in a big universe it left him unsettled and queasy for hours.

“It’s cold in the Arctic,” says Harry. “Very cold. So they wear furs and cover everything but their mouth and nose. You wouldn’t like it.”

“No warming charms?” He shivers.

“Muggles, Draco. Merlin, Rosie probably has a better grasp of this than you do.”

“So they’re cold and they, what, wipe their noses on each other? It doesn’t sound very pleasant to me. Insanitary actua -”

“Like this,” says Harry, and suddenly he’s close, much closer than Draco had realised, and -

“Mmmffgh.” He starts back and rubs at the cold damp patch on his cheek. “Merlin Potter, you were sneezing earlier, you’d better not have a cold. If I catch some awful bug and have to miss Claridges I will personally shred your Christmas stocking.”

“You asked for it,” says Harry, grinning at him.

“I did not. If you recall I just asked what they were, I didn’t ask for a re-enactment.”

“I’ll re-enact you in a minute,” says Harry, grabbing him by the arm and pushing his nose in for another rub.

There’s a wolf whistle as two teenage boys push past them with a much more sensibly sized tree. Harry flips them the finger, which gives Draco his opportunity. Turning to hide his flushed cheeks he avoids the amused gaze of the homeless girl on the step, ducks under Harry’s arm and unlocks the door.