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Humbug (A Christmas Tale)

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HUMBUG

(A CHRISTMAS TALE)

Snape was dead.

Put aside any notions to the contrary. There was no doubt about it. He was not rescued from the Shrieking Shack; he never built up a store of antivenin in his blood over the years that saved him; he did not dream the entire episode. As much as Draco might wish differently, Snape was absolutely, resolutely, concretely, stupendously dead.

Well. As dead as possible in the wizarding world, of course. That is a point worth mentioning. You might be accustomed to the idea that wizards can play fast and loose with death, hm? Some can and have, certainly, in which case, let us be even clearer on the matter: Snape was also neither an Inferius, nor a Poltergeist, nor a walking Pensieve memory, nor an image in the Mirror of Erised, nor did a Time Turner affect the events which caused his death.

You cannot dispute this, or nothing that happens from this point on will make any sense. You know the rules: the dead cannot come back to life. They do have some recourse, though, for communicating with the living. Let's keep that tidbit in mind.

Still. Snape was dead.

Now. Let us proceed.

***

Christmas was not a time of year that Draco generally cared about. An awful lot of good cheer was expected for nothing in return; beggars came out in droves for various charities; and his employees expected upwards of an entire week of paid leave. Not to mention it was nearly impossible to get a decent martini in this town that wasn't dyed red or green; even the exclusive clubs were hotbeds for ill-dressed tourists off work and in from the countryside; and most of the usual men he would call on to entertain him when he needed it were away at various family functions.

How inconvenient.

Fortunately, there was still one casual sexual acquaintance who never seemed to have other plans whenever Draco had got bored over the past six months, since this... thing... between them had begun. Draco could always send him briefly a worded owl and find him completely available, such as:


Your place, 10pm. And buy some satin sheets, for Merlin's sake. That cotton burns my delicate skin, Potter.

That note had been a favourite last month, not least because Potter really had replaced his sheets by the time Draco had arrived.

He checked the clock now, hung conveniently above the door to his office, and put his sexual fantasies about Potter out of mind for the time being. Perhaps he'd send an owl tonight. It had been nearly a week since he'd last taken Potter to bed, after all. It couldn't look that needy to appear interested in his cock again so soon, could it?

He reached for another stack of paperwork while he considered it. Bloody paperwork would be the death of him one of these days, but he couldn't exactly rely on the Malfoy family fortune anymore. He had to make his own way, and he had become quite good at counting every penny by now, making sure each one he made went toward his London townhouse, his expensive taste in wine, or his penchant for Mediterranean vacations.

"Draco! How are you, darling?"

He looked up to see his mother's eccentric sister hovering in his doorway, a bright green wool cap on her head and her mittens dropping flakes of snow all over when she clapped them together. "Andromeda," he said carefully, trying to let his face express his disapproval at the wet floor. "To what do I owe this... pleasure?"

"Merry Christmas, my dear nephew," she said with a broad smile. Dipping into her pocket, she curled her fist around something before firing it at him. A small puff of snow exploded on his shoulder. He glanced down at it, frowning.

"Christmas," he repeated, brushing the melting flakes off his robe. "And what do you suppose is so happy about it?"

"What do you suppose is so miserable about it?" She put her hands on her hips, and when her grin disappeared, she suddenly looked much more like his mother – haughty and slightly terrifying.

"Malfoys don't really do Christmas anymore," he muttered, casting a drying charm on his robe. "Did my mother not mention that during the crash course of your reacquaintance?"

She pointed one mittened hand at him. "Don't be an arse."

He smiled despite himself. "Who, me?"

"Yes, you, you miserable bastard." She grinned at him again. "All you do is sit in this office barking orders at that poor secretary of yours, and then either sit in that gorgeous flat all by yourself admiring your crystal or going out to those sweaty clubs with your boys from school."

He raised an eyebrow. "It's like you've been following me," he said dryly. "My flat is gorgeous, isn't it?"

"Yes, darling," she sighed, spreading her hands. "I'm green with envy."

"I can see that." He gave her bright hat a pointed look, and she narrowed her eyes.

"It belonged to my daughter," she said in a tone that dared him to insult it again.

He pressed his lips together. "It's lovely."

She glared another moment before giving him a sly smile. "Why, thank you. I'm so glad you think so."

"Anyway," he forged on, "you shouldn't mention clubs and sweaty boys to me during working hours, or I'll never get through these memos." He pouted at the stack beside him, but she waved him off.

"Well, I was young once too, believe it or not, and I'm hardly one to lecture you about settling down – I know you get enough of that from your mother – but at the same time, do you really meet anyone intellectually stimulating at those places?"

"Not really the object of the exercise," he muttered. Tolerance and even acceptance was one thing, and he was grateful to his mother and aunt for it. Mother had even fought Father until he backed down from all the bride searching he'd been doing. Making Draco discuss all the sex he had at exclusive male clubs, however, was something else. He rubbed his temples.

She sighed, waving one mitten. "Yes, yes. You don't need to tell me. The number of pierced and tattooed men Nymphadora used to sneak in her window after a night at the clubs..." She shook her head before casting him another sly glance. "What about Harry?"

He met her gaze with what he hoped was a death glare. "What about him?"

"You've been spotted having a glass of wine or three with him." She smiled. "Not bad, darling, if I may say so."

"You may not."

"He's quite fit."

Draco deepened his glare.

"Why don't you two come to Christmas dinner on Sunday?" she continued, ignoring him.

Draco didn't even need to think about it. "No." He reached for his inkwell, but she wouldn't be put off so easily.

"You need to spend more time with your family! Your mother says you haven't been by for tea in weeks, and I'm not sure Teddy and I have seen you since his birthday. And you've certainly never spent Christmas with us, not even last year–"

"–when I also successfully fought off your advances, if I recall." He sat back in his office chair, folding his arms over his chest.

"And did what instead, exactly?" She gave him a challenging look.

He thought back. Nothing memorable, certainly. His parents had done nothing but lament their displaced social position since the war, never bothering to try to improve it again but being content to lock themselves away in the Manor with the plants and the house-elves. They weren't completely reclusive or depressive that he could tell – nothing so dramatic – but they didn't throw lavish galas anymore, either. They ate fine meals together across that huge plank of a dining room table and then retired to separate areas of the house, Father to drink, Mother to read the trashy romance novels she didn't think anyone knew about. It didn't really make for a festive family gathering come the twenty-fifth of December.

After dinner last year, Draco had feigned an engagement with Blaise and headed home, opening a bottle of brandy and watching the lights of the city from his living room window.

"None of your business," he said airily.

She tutted at him. "You can't go clubbing at Christmas, Draco." Her lips quirked. "You'd only pick up other miseries like yourself, with no family or friends to love them."

He glared.

"Come to the Weasleys with us this year!" she continued, ignoring him. "It should be a nice group, not too big, but enough to keep things interesting. I'm going to try to introduce Neville to that new shop girl at the boutique in Diagon. You know, the one with that strange leathers-and-feathers exhibit in the window. And of course Teddy will be making his famous dessert, gingerbread men dipped in apple juice and dropped all over the kitchen floor." Her smile turned fond, and Draco found himself laughing before covering his face with his hand.

"And how is that little devil?" he ventured.

Her grin faded. "He's fine, Draco," she said, her voice suddenly much colder. "He's a strong child. He's going to be just fine."

He looked away amid the uncomfortable silence that followed, not willing to let the old bint make him feel guilty for not seeing more of this distant cousin of his. He'd never seen much of Andromeda's daughter, either, so why start with the boy? "Well." He cleared his throat. "Good, then."

"Oh, Draco, come for dinner on Sunday! It'll do you good to see your family. I was trying to get your mother to come, too, and I suppose I could invite your father–"

Draco hid a smile. Andromeda's distaste for his father was a poorly kept secret in their new, loosely reestablished family dynamic.

"–but they must already be in Greece, or else that damn owl of mine has booked a holiday of his own."

"Best idea they've had since this time last year."

"It is not, and now look at you, taking after them with their antisocial ways!"

"The last time the Malfoy family opened their home and tried to be social, you might recall," he muttered, "it did not go so well."

She sighed, and Draco took it as her acceptance of defeat at last. He picked up his quill again.

"You keep Christmas in your way, and let me keep it in mine," he grumbled.

"But you don't keep it, you daft fool." She was giving him that pitying look again, shaking her head.

"Does it really matter?" He glanced up again. "What good has Christmas ever done you?"

Her face closed.

"Oh. Merlin, I didn't mean–"

"It might not have bought me a swanky flat," she said quietly, her gaze piercing him in ways that reminded him far too much of Bellatrix, "or made me oodles of Galleons to go on nice vacations or spend drinking vodka shots from the belly buttons of go-go dancers." She ignored his wince. "But if I let myself sit alone over Christmas, thinking on what I've lost and what I could have had, going over and over every if only in my life... well." She took a deep breath. "I refuse to do that. Christmas cheer is good for me, Draco Malfoy, and it would be good for you, too."

He gave her a look he hoped was sympathetic, but said nothing.

"The invitation is open," she said after a moment, forcing a smile. "Merry Christmas."

***

Draco found himself increasingly cross once she left. Honestly, why did everyone feel the need to surround themselves with sticky children and pompous barely-acquaintances at Christmas just to prove themselves loyal to some standard set by meddling old harpies like his aunt? And spend more time with your family? Was she joking? He'd done more than enough in the service of his bloody family when he was younger, hadn't he? He'd fought long and hard since the war to get away from his fucking family, to make something of himself apart from them.

What was wrong with that?

But if she was going to be such a pill about it, maybe his parents had the right idea after all, spending the holiday on a Mediterranean cruise. Draco thought for a moment, drumming his fingers on his desk and trying to think of a suitable place to go where "Christmas cheer" would not be on the agenda. He finally brightened when he thought of it, wasting no time sending an owl to Viktor Krum in Bulgaria. He had a company there that was becoming quite influential in European securities markets. Draco would set up a meeting with his Board of Directors this week when everyone else was off from work, and nail down a deal before his competitors. From what he'd heard, Christmas wasn't much of a wizarding event over there. It was perfect.

He felt slightly better after that, but still restless. He could feel the knots Andromeda had sparked forming at the base of his neck, and decided he deserved a night off from all the expectations others seemed to enjoy putting on him.

He owled Potter.

Two days before Christmas, he probably had a swarm of Weasleys and roast hams to fight off by now, but he'd make room in his evening for Draco. Draco leaned back in his office chair, already anticipating how good it was going to feel not to have anyone ask anything of him. Potter was always satisfied with keeping the talk to a minimum, pounding Draco into oblivion until his worries melted away.

***

He left his office three-quarters of an hour after most of the other Ministry riff-raff, purposefully trying to avoid the crowds. It wasn't enough to escape the garish booth set up near the Floos, though. His eyes darted from left to right, but there didn't seem to be any way around it.

"Hi, Draco! Over here!"

He lowered his head and tried to forge past, but they were having none of it. Damn persistent Ravenclaws.

"Wow, you're fast." Lovegood panted when she reached him, smiling broadly as she blocked his way to the Floo. "Are you in a hurry?"

"Yes, actually, I am."

"Surprise, surprise."

Draco glared over at the droll voice, meeting an equally challenging look. "Chang," he said stiffly. "How lovely to see you."

"Isn't it?" She gave him a smile of pure hatred, folding her arms over her chest. She and Lovegood were both decked out in ridiculous red and green attire, antlers in their hair and... were those elf boots? She might work one floor down from him, and in general Draco had no issue with Ravenclaws, but he and Chang had not been able to utter a civil word to each other since they'd figured out the one thing they had in common – namely, that they'd both slept with Harry Potter.

Draco had tried rubbing it in that while her claim to fame in that regard was very much in the past, he could still feel the imprints of Potter's fingers digging into his hips from a mere six days ago, but she never took the bait.

"I'm glad we caught you, Draco," Lovegood was babbling as she took his arm, steering him back to their booth, which was littered with leaflets, a few sparse collection tins, and several thickly spun, misshapen egg cups and coffee mugs. A hand painted sign arched over the whole mess – The Post-War Relief Fund for Unemployed, Orphans, Werewolves, Displaced Snorkacks + Christmas Pottery – but Lovegood barely gave him time to read it. She sat herself down behind the bench and grabbed her quill. "What should I put you down for?"

"And you can't, alas, donate your insufficiently sized penis," Chang piped up behind him.

He turned, glowering. "Oh, wouldn't you just love to know where I'll be spending the night, you blasted–"

"I'm sorry, Draco," Lovegood said loudly, glaring at Chang, "I didn't catch that large number you just said."

"Tell me, Lovegood," he bit out, "Azkaban is still closed, is it not?"

"It is, and thank goodness," said Lovegood with a frown. "What a horrible place that was for–"

"Then wizarding society is far ahead of where it was ten years ago. You hardly need my donation."

"Yes, but Draco, there are other problems, of course. So many without work, and not to mention the werewolves–"

He sighed. "The registration law is doing exactly what it's meant to?"

"Well, I suppose it is, yes, but it's horrible! So many people have been affected. It's so hard to get it overturned!" She lowered her voice. "And I can't prove this, but my suspicion is that they're making the paperwork deadlines fall on the full moon each month on purpose, just to trap more people. I mean, werewolves can't exactly register themselves when they can barely hold a quill! I've been secretly working on a special glove for them to use for–"

Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. "And they're still letting any orphan they please into Hogwarts with free room and board?" he muttered, trying to change the subject.

Lovegood put her hands on the table, leaning forward. "Draco."

"What she means is, you're a prick," said Chang.

"I gathered," he shot back. He did feel a bit like a prick fighting like a ten-year-old with a woman half his size, but she was just so maddening. She stepped closer to him, her eyes blazing.

"Harry doesn't deserve you, you know. He'll come to his senses one of these days. Now open your pouch and give Luna a fucking Galleon, you cheap bastard."

It must have been the Auror training, Draco figured, because somewhere between Hogwarts and now, Chang had turned into one tough nut to crack. He might have been persuaded to donate just to get them to leave him the hell alone, but not after that. He leaned down. "No," he said, pronouncing the word with extra care.

He stormed past them and shoved his way ahead in line for the Floo. Bloody Christmas cheer. It had never done him a single bit of good, and today was even more proof of that.

***

After the day he'd had, Draco was feeling much more irate than playful, but he still looked forward to putting that agitation towards a really satisfying fuck. Potter was always good for that, if nothing else, and the best part about him was that unlike everyone else in Draco's life – especially at this bloody time of year – Potter never asked for anything in return. He knew the deal. That was why they suited each other, despite their past.

"Hey," Potter said, just entering the living room with a drink in his hand and a grin on his face as Draco stepped out of the Floo.

"Hey," mocked Draco, rolling his eyes.

Potter ignored him. "Drink?"

Draco huffed. He strode across the room in seconds, plucking the short glass from Potter's hand and draining the contents. It prickled down his throat and sent a blast of heat through his stomach, but on the other side of that, he felt fantastic. With a growl, he threw the glass into the sofa pillows and pushed Potter up against the wall. He devoured his mouth, his fingers already grabbing at the hem of Potter's t-shirt to rip it over his head.

"Oh," Potter gasped against Draco's lips. "No small talk, I'm used to that." He grinned, sucking Draco's bottom lip between his before murmuring again. "But no wine? Who are you and what have you done with Draco Malfoy?"

"Har, har," Draco breathed between kisses. "I've been a very good boy this year, and I deserve some cock for Christmas."

Potter groaned, hooking his fingers in Draco's trousers and slamming their hips together. "Mine, I hope."

Draco pulled Potter's shirt off. "Yours will do, yes."

They stumbled back to the bedroom in between biting kisses, already tangled in each other and shedding their clothing. Merlin, Potter lit Draco up like no one else, if he was honest, quickly and completely. He pushed the thought aside, though, focusing on the physical sensations. It didn't matter that it was Potter, Draco told himself. It could be anyone's mouth that knew just how to melt Draco the fastest, anyone's hands smoothing up his back.

Anyone's thick, oiled cock nudging at him.

Draco's eyes fluttered closed at the sensation, and he dropped down to his elbows, opening himself further. Potter's small grunt behind him told him just how he must look, barely through the Floo but already naked and spread out on Potter's bed, his arse raised and his hole flexing in anticipation.

"This my Christmas gift?" murmured Potter. His fingers spread out over Draco's lower back as his thumb dipped down to circle Draco's rim. His cock still pressed up against Draco's balls and into his cleft, letting Draco know it was still there and waiting, but he let his thumb push in first, twisting it roughly until Draco's back arched and he moaned.

Draco tried to come up with a biting retort to Potter's stupid remark, but all he could do was let out a breathless, "Obviously," before grunting again at the feel of Potter opening him up.

Potter's low, easy laugh slid up Draco's spine. "Lucky me." He withdrew his thumb but kept massaging Draco's hole, not letting it close back up. He moved his dick up higher and worked it in tandem with his thumb, holding the rim open while beginning to press his cock inside.

They were breathless, although Draco refused to acknowledge why: they both loved this part, that much he'd figured out over the past few months. The slamming that would come later, the riding, the long, sure strokes in and out – those were incredible too. But it was this, the very beginning of penetration, that kept Draco coming back for more. He'd never been with a man who took his time like Potter did, working Draco over so thoroughly he could almost come before Potter was even fully inside, relying only on the momentary shock of deep penetration to bring him back down to a manageable level of arousal.

Potter's fingers dug into Draco's cheek as his oiled thumb slid around his rim, over and over again, while the head of his cock began to push inside. He paused then to curl his thumb in even more, holding Draco open for his cock. His breathing sped up, and Draco couldn't help but turn to glance over his shoulder. He shouldn't, he knew; there was a reason he hadn't let Potter fuck him face to face since that very first night, when he'd come completely undone from the look in Potter's eyes, but every so often, Draco couldn't help himself. The way Potter looked at him, especially when his gaze was riveted to Draco's body like this, always sent a shudder through Draco.

He looked back and caught Potter's eye. A slow smile curved over Potter's lips, his eyes hooded and his face flushed. "Malfoy," he murmured. "If you want to watch me, you'll have to turn over." His voice was low and teasing, but his eyes were hard. Potter hadn't failed to notice that Draco would only agree to hands and knees lately.

"Just get on with it," he snapped, but it came out in a breathless rush. With a low laugh, Potter slid in further. He wasn't the biggest man Draco had ever been with, but he was the biggest that still felt good. Too big was not actually a bonus, he'd discovered on a few occasions. Potter's cock was just fat enough to stretch him beautifully, giving Draco the raw burn he needed but also the pleasure, not pain, of that full pressure inside him.

Potter's pace was agonising as he inched his cock inside, pausing to pour more oil on the rest of it and run his hands up Draco's smooth back. Draco gasped into the pillows with each passing moment, letting the warm haze spread over him. "All right?" Potter whispered over his back, and Draco realised he'd been making more noise than he thought he had.

"Of course," he muttered, trying to control himself. It was just a fuck. Merlin. Why did his body always have to betray him so much when Potter was around?

"Too slow?" But there was no genuine concern in Potter's voice, only amusement.

Draco rotated his hips, trying to get Potter deeper.

"Ah-ah," Potter tutted. "My bed, my rules."

Draco had to bite down on a long moan.

All of a sudden, Potter thrust the rest of the way in, furiously hard and nearly knocking Draco forward into the headboard. He shouted and put his hand out, absorbing the motion. Potter's hands gripped his hips as he ground his pelvis in tight against Draco's arse. The burst of fullness sent waves through Draco's body, and he tried to control the gasps of pure, pulsing pleasure escaping his mouth. Potter spread his hands over Draco's arse cheeks, both thumbs now dipping into his cleft alongside Potter's cock, and the additional stretch of it made Draco's eyes roll back in his head.

"Fuck," he muttered, almost sobbing. "Fuck. Just like that."

"Yeah?" Potter withdrew slowly before slamming in again. "Spread your legs."

Draco obeyed, inching his knees further apart to give Potter even more access to his body, shameless in his desire. His body was on fire, his cock aching and his arse desperate for a solid pounding. "More," he moaned, clawing at the sheets, and Potter's answering grunt told him they were both losing control quickly.

Potter established a rough rhythm, sliding out and then shoving back in as hard as he could. His strong hands held Draco down until Draco dropped to his stomach, his cock frotting the sheets and Potter lowering himself over him. He felt Potter's smattering of chest hair scratch his shoulder blades, and Draco shivered. "That's it, Malfoy," whispered Potter, his voice low at Draco's neck. "Stay down for me. Gonna fuck you till you can't walk."

A moan tore from Draco's throat, and his cock stiffened and burst instantly, rubbing into the new sheets and making Draco's head spin. He mashed his face into the pillow, panting, as the thickening of Potter's cock sent a new wave of sparks through him. "Potter," he begged, curling his feet around Potter's ankles. "Come on. Fuck me."

Potter's pace turned furious, his fingers bruising Draco where he held on. "Drive me... crazy..." he murmured into Draco's shoulder blades, pistoning his hips. With a strangled moan, he went still inside Draco, the steady pulses of his cock pushing against Draco's walls. The slickness of Potter's come filled him and began to seep around the sides of his softening prick. Draco clenched, holding him inside a moment longer, drawing out the moment for reasons he couldn't even explain. "Draco," whispered Potter, "God, please..."

He trailed off, his breath hot over Draco's back as his cock pulsed one more time, but Draco stiffened. There was something in Potter's tone that had gone beyond orgasm-fuelled babble. Still, Draco was feeling lazy and sated and didn't want to rush off just yet. He'd give himself a moment to pull it together, then leave like he usually did.

They both fell to the bed, sweaty and out of breath, and Potter threw one arm over his face. "God, you're good," he muttered, but that one Draco was meant to hear, because when he glanced over, Potter was grinning at him.

"Yes, well." Draco sniffed. "Least I can do. Happy Christmas, and all that." A smile tugged at the corners of his lips, but he pushed it down.

"Hey, speaking of that." Potter rolled onto his stomach, dragging the blanket up to his waist and propping himself up on his elbows. He gave Draco a gentle, almost shy smile as he wet his lips. Draco turned his head on the pillow to face him. "I..." He hesitated, looking away for a moment before steeling his jaw and regarding Draco again. "I wanted to ask you something."

Alarm bells rang in Draco's head, but Potter didn't let him protest. Before Draco could say a word, Potter leaned down and kissed him.

"Don't run off yet," he teased. "Just hear me out." He nipped at Draco's lips again, and Draco had to stop himself from sliding his arm around Potter's neck and drawing him down to deepen the kiss. Potter was trying to keep his tone light, that was obvious, but when he pulled back to look in Draco's eyes, his face was shadowed.

Draco sighed, letting his arms fall dramatically to each side. "Fine," he said with a pout, "but if we're having some kind of Talk, then the least you can do is bring me a glass of wine."

With a grin, Potter swung his legs around and pushed himself off the bed. "Done. Don't you dare fucking leave while I'm gone." He disappeared out the bedroom door, naked and completely careless about it. Draco tried not to notice, shaking his head across the pillow.

"Are you a wizard or not?" he called. He was feeling rather relaxed and playful, Potter's big, impending announcement notwithstanding. Well, it wouldn't be anything Draco couldn't handle.

"Conjured wine tastes like shit," Potter called back, as Draco heard a cork pop. "At least, that's what you keep telling me."

"That's why your wine's usually so bad? I thought you were just buying it from California."

Potter laughed, full and deep, appearing in the doorway again a few seconds later with two glasses. "Chilean," he said with a bow, handing one to Draco as he sat up. "Does Monsieur approve?"

Draco swirled it and inhaled before raising his eyes to Potter again. "It will do," he sniffed, but he couldn't hide his smile.

Sliding back into bed, Potter gathered the sheets around him and leaned back against the headboard, one knee raised. He swirled his own glass with his wrist resting on that knee, his smile fading as he gazed at the sloshing liquid. Finally, he took a long drink. It stained his mouth a deep red, and Draco's eyes were immediately drawn to it. Potter glanced over and caught him looking. His eyes softened and he seemed to relax. He reached out with his other hand and brushed Draco's hair from his forehead. "Spend Christmas with me," he said quietly, his fingers lingering against Draco's temple.

Draco's stomach clenched a little at the words, but he pushed that down and scoffed, taking a sip of wine. "Not you, too," he muttered. "You just got your Christmas present," he added lightly, ducking his head away from Potter's touch. Potter's hand stayed suspended in the air a bit too long before he dropped it.

"I– yeah. Thank you," said Potter, giving Draco a shy smile. "But I meant... on Sunday. At the Weasleys'. Anyone's welcome; there's always a big crowd. I just thought... you might like to come with me."

"Potter. You have met me, haven't you?"

The shy look turned to a flash of annoyance. Potter's jaw twitched. "Yes," he said. "Obviously. What I meant was that–"

"Look." Draco took another gulp of wine before setting the glass on the nightstand and climbing out of the bed. His leg muscles protested a little bit, and a shiver went through him at the ache in his body and the fact that he hadn't cleaned up yet, but there was time for that at home. He had to get out of there, and fast. Potter's kicked puppy look was affecting him rather more than he liked to admit. "This was fun." He waved at the bed. "I like what you can do with that cock of yours, obviously, or I wouldn't put up with your shit wine and terrible conversation." He flashed Potter a smile, but he had to work at it. His stomach was in knots.

"Malfoy–"

"But I don't really do the whole family gathering thing, okay?" He tried to keep his hands from shaking as he stumbled into his trousers, zipping them and reaching down to the floor for his discarded shirt and throwing it over his shoulders. He didn't bother with the buttons, not trusting himself to get them through the holes anyway. "Unless you honestly want Molly Weasley asking me what the nature of our relationship is." He tried to smirk again, but probably only ended up looking pinched and uncomfortable.

Potter had been looking down at his hands, his shoulders hunched, but he looked up at that. "What is the nature of our relationship?"

Draco glared at him, giving him a dramatic sigh. "Don't do that."

"What?" His voice rose. "What are you so afraid to admit?"

"What am I afraid to–?" His eyes widened. "As if you want to parade someone like me in front of the Weasleys!"

Potter's mouth fell open. "You're not a secret, if that's what you think."

Draco forced a laugh. "Sure, sure. Why don't we all just get together like one happy family? 'Here, Mrs Weasley,'" he mocked, "'please pass the Christmas pudding to the Death Eater I'm fucking.' Right. No problem at all."

"What? Draco–"

"Look, Potter." Potter flinched at the name, the distance it evoked, but Draco only narrowed his eyes and forced himself to shut down the emotions roiling through his body. There was no way he and Potter could ever be more to each other than a shag every few weeks. Surely the idiot knew that much. "We fuck, okay? Your cock gets me off, and I like getting off with powerful men. Don't tell me you thought you were the only one? Oh, that's so sad." He folded his arms, sighing again.

Potter's stricken expression drove straight through Draco's chest, but he fought it off.

"I've business in Bulgaria this week, and after that–"

Potter's face twisted. "Krum?" He looked away for a moment, taking a deep breath, but when he turned back to Draco his expression was one of barely contained anger. "That's who you're fucking?"

"No!" Draco caught himself. "Maybe. It's not your business. Like I was saying, after that, Blaise and I are going to Paris for New Year's," he continued airily, padding to the door in his bare feet. "Nothing says Happy Holidays like models in garland G-strings. I'll owl when I get back if I'm up for a tumble." He turned to go.

"Draco."

He stopped, his fingers clenched around the doorframe.

Potter wasn't looking at him, but his voice was steady. "If that's the way you really feel, then do me a favour and don't owl when you get back." He raised his eyes only on that last word, piercing Draco with a furious gaze.

Draco momentarily found himself caught up in that gaze, Potter's bright eyes seeming to see right through him. He swallowed hard, but then shrugged. "Suit yourself," he called over his shoulder. He headed for the Floo, grabbing the rest of his scattered clothing along the way, and left before Potter tried to draw this out any further.

***

Draco stepped out of his Floo on shaky legs, catching himself on the back of the sofa. He stood in his living room for a few moments, letting the dark and the quiet wash over him and calm him down.

Potter was being completely unreasonable, but he wasn't the first man to get more attached than Draco wanted. He took a deep breath and nodded, as if to convince himself of that. Best to let it go, before someone got hurt. Clearly, Potter was more invested in their little after hours rendezvous than Draco was, so Draco should do him a favour and stay away until Potter got over him. He pulled his fluttering shirt closed around his chest and waved his wand to light the room.

He didn't use house-elves anymore, and Blaise was always on his case to hire someone to clean the place, but so far Draco had been content to wave his wand at the dust every so often, and that was that.

His flat seemed colder than usual, though, and even with the lights on, it seemed... dark. The big, open plan of the architecture, something he always loved about the place, now seemed hollow and empty. His high ceilings loomed over him, the winding staircase to the loft casting sinister shadows across the stark tiled floor. For a brief moment, he felt a surge of sorrow so powerful it nearly sent him staggering back onto the sofa. He caught himself in time, though, the backs of his knees hitting it before he righted himself.

"Chilean?" he muttered as he made his way to his bedroom and adjacent bath, rubbing his eyes. "Potter's a liar."

He turned the shower on extra hot and stepped under the spray, running his hands over his face and up through his hair. Better. Okay. The steam filled him and he washed away the last traces of Potter from his body. He could handle not being able to call on Potter for a shag whenever he wanted to. It wasn't a big deal. It was probably best he was home before midnight for once. He'd get a good night's sleep and wake up refreshed.

Shutting the tap off, he grabbed a towel and stepped into the steam-filled room. His skin was pink and his head throbbed a little bit. Merlin, that water really had been hot. He made to clear a spot on the mirror with a spare washcloth, but the steam wouldn't be wiped away. Frowning, he rubbed harder. As he did, the mirror began to ripple.

It was a tiny movement at first, the steam swaying like gentle waves. A shape began to form. He still couldn't see his reflection, but out of the wisps of steam, another face emerged. It looked like...

Draco's jaw dropped, and he jumped back, slamming his elbow into the towel rack. "Fuck," he muttered, turning to check the mirror again. The face was gone, and the steam had started to fade away. It was just a normal mirror.

He blinked a few more times before towelling himself off, grabbing a pair of pyjama bottoms hanging on a hook from that morning and stepping into them. Great. Potter had made him go mad. He ran the towel through his hair, shook his head as if to clear it, and stepped into his bedroom.

Sitting in the armchair across from his bed was the ghost of Severus Snape.

Draco sucked in a breath, pausing in his step so that the swinging door hit his foot. "Ow. Motherfucking–" He stopped himself, wincing and glaring at the ghost. "A little notice, perhaps? You scared the piss out of me."

Snape seemed unmoved. "Draco," he said in greeting, his voice even lower than it had been in life. "How are you?"

Draco folded his arms across his chest. "My elbow's scraped and my toe hurts."

"Are you surprised to see me?"

"Obviously." That was an understatement. He was babbling; he knew that. Babbling and being rather rude and not reacting in any way according to his true feelings, which were a jumble of fear, shock and delight.

When Snape didn't answer, Draco managed to look contrite, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

"I am," he said again, more quiet this time. "Merlin," he breathed, trying to collect himself. "I haven't seen you at all since..."

"I died."

"Yeah." Draco swallowed. "That."

He took a moment to appraise the ghost. He'd long since given up hope that Snape might appear before him as a ghost; much of the year after the war was spent wondering, in fact. He'd even gone so far as to try to summon him on the first anniversary of the battle, but to no avail. He'd only ended up with a splitting headache and a pile of potions textbooks appearing on the workbench beside him. But now that he did have Snape before him, he didn't look anything like Draco would have expected.

For one thing, his robes were almost completely covered by lengths of thick, gnarled chain that wove around his arms, legs and chest. They looked heavy and even painful, weighing down Snape's every movement.

"These..." He lifted his hand to gesture at the chains, but Snape didn't offer an explanation. He frowned, withdrawing and looking away for a moment. "What are you doing here?" he asked instead.

"Believe me," Snape began, his voice reverberating throughout the room, "it's not by choice. I'd just as soon leave the living to fuck up their own lives in whatever way they see fit."

Draco's brows shot up. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry that Snape appeared to be not only the same old bastard he'd been in life, but a more foul-mouthed version of him.

"But it seems I am to try to ensure that you are redirected to a better path."

"Me? What's wrong with my path?"

Snape regarded him. "Do you really need to ask that?"

Out of habit, he gestured around his room, indicating the rest of the flat beyond. "I've done quite well for myself." He suddenly became uncertain. "Haven't I?"

"Have you?"

Draco lifted his chin. "I have money that doesn't come from my father. I have a career that people respect... mostly. I have a flat that's the envy of everyone I know. I have–"

"Things!" Snape actually laughed, a dark, ugly sound. "Congratulations. You have things."

"Well, what else is there?" He knew he shouldn't have said it as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Still, he forged on. "Besides, you didn't have any of that, and you still managed to look pretty fucking miserable. Still do, come to think." He waved at Snape's multitude of chains. "What's happened to you?"

"I am fucking miserable!" Snape shouted, rising from the chair with great effort and approaching Draco. The chains rattled as if with the very breath of the dead as he approached, and despite himself, Draco cowered, inching back on the bed. "This is what came of my miserable life," he spat, lifting his arms to each side. "I forged a chain with every child I intimidated, every harsh word I spoke. And worse, of course." He lowered his voice, staring at the floor. "Every torture, every time I caused harm. Every day spent in the Dark Lord's service. Every murder."

Draco's mouth fell open. "But you were exonerated! Everyone knows why you did it. You had to. You saved us," he added in a whisper.

"Does it matter why I did any of it? I still did it. I was filled with anger all the time, loneliness and sorrow."

That stung Draco's heart. He'd never heard such naked honesty from Snape. He pulled his knees up to his chest.

"I pushed everyone away who tried to get close to me." He sank back down in the chair, settling the chains around him. "Love was something that only led to despair, I assumed." His face twisted. "I used whores for my physical needs, and never let anyone call me friend."

Draco held in a wince. Okay, the confessional was wide open, it seemed. "I don't know what to say," he said honestly. "I had no idea. Isn't there someone we can appeal to – a ghost regulating board, or something?" He thought about it. "I've some time in my schedule after, well, let's see. The third week of January, perhaps. I'll see if the goblin office has ever heard of this. I'll write a memo."

"Draco!" Snape rose again, rattling the chains and bellowing in a voice that filled the room like a terrible thunder. "That is not why I'm here. You are forging these very same chains." His voice still boomed, and now he thrust his index finger at Draco, drawing taut the chains linking that arm with his waist.

"What? I've never killed anyone!"

"Maybe not, but you are still a miserable, selfish bastard." Snape dropped his arm but still loomed large. Draco's heart raced. "What did you do just today, in fact? Turned away four different people who tried to show you kindness."

"Kindness? Is that what they were offering?" He sneered, and immediately felt guilt well up in his chest. "Those people were a bother." But his voice was trembling. Andromeda wasn't anything of the sort, he knew, and Lovegood and Chang were just doing their jobs. Potter... Draco swallowed. He couldn't even think about Potter right now.

Snape went quiet, retreating back to the chair once more. "Draco," he said softly, drawing Draco's gaze. "Listen to yourself."

Draco's heart was racing and his palms felt sticky. "I'd like you to leave now," he whispered.

"In a moment. But first, I'm here to tell you something."

"I think you've told me rather enough for one night."

Snape ignored him. "You will be visited by three spirits."

Draco's head jerked up. "What? Oh, Merlin. I'd rather not."

"You should be thankful you don't have a choice," Snape bit out. "Without them, you will continue on this path you're on, forging more of these–" he rattled his chains again – "every single day. Expect the first when the clock strikes one. The second will come at two, and the third at three."

"So this is how I'm to spend my Christmas – waiting for ghosts to terrorise me? Can I at least have them all at once and get it over with?"

"Did you have other plans?" Snape asked dryly.

"Oh, that's cheap. Potter and my aunt aren't enough, I see; now you're going to lecture me on Christmas spirit?"

"Hardly," he grumbled. "That's for my colleagues to do."

Silence filled the room for a long moment as Draco tried to think of what to say. Finally, he wet his lips, staring down at his hands. "Why are you doing this?" he murmured. "Have I not come to your grave often enough? I'll do more. It's not that I don't want to. It's just..." He took a deep breath. "It's hard," he whispered at last. "I miss you."

When he gathered the courage to glance up again, Snape's face was just as tired and neutral as ever, but there was also a sadness about him. "Learn from the spirits," he murmured, his voice low and warm. "Change your path, Draco, before it's too late."

With that, he faded away right before Draco's eyes.

***

Draco stood in his bedroom for a long moment after Snape disappeared. He only realised his hands were shaking when he finally moved to pull the covers back on his bed.

He climbed in, rubbing his hands over his face and trying to free his mind of Snape's lingering image, even more awe-inspiring and terrible than he'd been in life. Seeing him again after seven years was both a wonderful and a sickening thing. Draco settled himself on his back, gazing up at the dark ceiling. In life, Snape had always shown up just when Draco needed help or guidance. Was that what this was? The thought of Snape watching him, judging his life choices and finding them lacking...

Draco's heart grew heavy. Snape's opinion of him had always been so important to Draco. Death had not altered that, it seemed. Draco still couldn't deny, now that he considered it, that the idea that Snape thought he was a miserable, selfish bastard twisted Draco's insides exactly as it would have when he was sixteen.

He closed his eyes, suddenly feeling exhausted by his day. He barely noticed the distant chiming of a clock.

Next thing he knew, he was jolted awake.

The chiming grew louder, as if the clock itself were approaching his bedroom door. There was an old grandfather clock out in the living room, but it never actually made any noise. Draco rubbed his eyes and grabbed his wand from the bedside table. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and rose, padding to the door. As an afterthought, he stopped to grab a t-shirt from his chest of drawers. It might not do to face this ghost in nothing but an old pair of pyjama bottoms.

He looked at what he'd grabbed and sighed. It was Potter's, dammit. One of those faded old Quidditch t-shirts that he always wore with jeans when he came over. Why Draco hadn't chucked the idiot before now for someone who at least knew how to wear a shirt with buttons, he'd never know. The material was soft between his fingers, though. Merlin, and it smelled like Potter. He hesitated.

The chime struck again. Draco had lost count, but it seemed like the thing had been going on for about twenty-five rings at that point. Bugger. He pulled the shirt on and headed for the bedroom door.

Before he reached it, the chiming stopped, and a bright burst of light filled the room.

It disappeared just as quickly as it had come, though, leaving Draco blinking stupidly as bursts of black and white swirled in his vision. When it cleared, a young woman was standing near the window.

"Are you trying to blind me?" But Draco was more incredulous than pissed off. So, Snape wasn't joking. This must be the promised ghost. She was slight, just a wisp of a thing, really, slender and delicate. She wore an equally wispy nightdress, sleeveless but falling nearly to her ankles in flowing panels of fabric. She was barefoot, and her long hair was loose around her shoulders. She was attractive enough, although also completely transparent, glowing a faint blue-grey in the night air.

"No," she said simply, her voice light and airy.

Draco tried another tack. "Okay. So. Are you the spirit Snape told me to expect?"

"I am."

"Okay... and who are you?"

Her smile turned warmer, more genuine. She spread her arms. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Past."

Draco stared at her. He'd never heard of such a thing. "But... who were you in life? Why are you tied to this place?"

She shook her head, but didn't answer.

He leaned his hip against the chest of drawers. "All right. So, you're like a Pensieve? 'Christmas Past' is kind of a big category."

"Your past," she said softly. "And yes," she added, "I suppose I am something like a Pensieve." Her eyes glittered. "But you didn't get to choose what to store." She lifted her chin. "I know all about you, Draco Malfoy."

That was unsettling.

She stepped towards him with her arm outstretched. "Come with me."

He hesitated, but then he thought of Snape. He had never put Draco in harm's way before. He was the one person Draco had always been able to trust. Stepping forward, he took the spirit's icy hand. When she led him to the window, though, he stopped. "Did Snape tell you that I can fly? Because I can't."

"You are safe with me," she said, nodding down at their hands.

Draco considered his options. He was probably hallucinating this whole thing anyway after Potter's terrible wine, so what difference did it make?

***

It wasn't quite the same sensation as Apparition or even Floo travel, but that didn't make the spirit's mode of transportation pleasant.

Draco put a hand over his stomach as they stopped swirling through the air. "Don't do that," he gritted, but she only gave him that same serene smile.

When he was able to focus, he found them high in a corner of the ballroom at Malfoy Manor. It was one of Mother's Christmas galas, looked like, with festive but dignified decorations adorning the banisters and pillars; house-elves with holly over their togas; and what looked like mulled wine being served alongside the champagne.

"Yes," he sighed to the spirit, "the Malfoys used to throw the best parties in town. Now we don't. I've really learnt my lesson, thank you."

Her serene smile turned to a glare of daggers. Through sheer force of her will, she held him rooted to the spot and made him watch.

"Okay, okay," he muttered.

Below, he saw himself at age seven or eight, dressed immaculately in fine robes, tugging on his mother's gown. "But I'm bored," he whinged.

"Not now, Draco." His mother gave a shrill, apologetic laugh to the couple she'd been conversing with, pausing to place one hand on Draco's shoulder and steer him away. "Go play with Dobby."

Sulking, Draco stomped off, bumping into the legs of as many guests as he could before racing up the stairs and slamming a door behind him.

Next to the spirit, Draco rolled his eyes. "You think I don't know I was a brat sometimes?" He sighed when she still didn't answer, only following her by some sort of compulsion through the lofty ballroom and up the stairs.

They floated into Draco's childhood bedroom, a grand suite already piled high with gifts in the outer chamber. Little Draco sat cross-legged among them, unwrapping them methodically, turning each item over in his hands, then setting them aside. The floor was soon littered with gilded broomsticks, enormous chocolate dragon replicas, books on potion making for the pre-Hogwarts witch or wizard, and his very own small cauldron and set of a dozen different sized stirring rods.

He pulled his prized figurine of Biarlgh the Rider out of his pocket and turned it over, watching with delight as the horse pawed at his palm.

Draco sighed, then called out, "Dobby!" He put the figure away again. That one was too special to play with.

Dobby appeared in an instant, wringing his hands in his filthy tea towel. "Yes, Master Draco?"

"You have to bring me anything I want, don't you?"

"Yes." He looked worried, his big eyes darting from side to side. "But within reason, young sir. Dobby does not know where elephants live, for instance, or–"

"Elephants!" The boy's face lit up for a moment, and Dobby moaned, trying to kick one leg with the other. "No, no. I want... chocolate cake!"

Dobby brightened. He snapped his fingers, and a massive piece of chocolate cake appeared beside Draco. He looked at it, reached for the fork, and took a big bite. Then his attention went elsewhere.

"I want... my own Quidditch team!"

Dobby trembled. "Master Draco, Dobby does not think he can do that."

"Oh." Draco scrunched up his nose. "Well. You should play with me anyway."

"Dobby is... busy in the kitchens," the elf tried, and Draco's face fell.

"But Mother said!"

On the edges of the room, the adult Draco whirled on the spirit. "Lonely rich boy, seriously? That's why I hate Christmas?" He laughed. "Come on! I hardly need this little trip into my psyche to show me I had no one to play with during my parents' Christmas galas." He rolled his eyes. "I survived."

But the spirit only gave him another pitying smile. It wasn't only during the parties. The thought floated into his head, and Draco glared at the spirit, but he bit down on another cruel remark.

"Let's just go," he said roughly, turning away. The spirit agreed, thankfully, and they began to rise up and away from the room.

As the scene faded away, Draco turned to look back over his shoulder at the boy sitting alone in a room full of toys.

***

As they whirled through more scenes from his childhood, the random and quite desperate thought occurred to Draco that he should actually have spent the bloody night at Potter's – at least that would have saved him from this utter waste of time.

"Yes," he said wearily to the spirit, "I did steal Pansy's doll that Christmas and try to make it have tea with me when I was ten."

"Yes," he said, rolling his eyes at a new scene, "I did hate it when my parents invited potential brides and their families for Christmas dinner when I was twelve."

"Yes," he said with a sigh, "I do remember the sodding Yule Ball. Hard to forget that one, you know." He'd channelled his rage at Potter's champion status by getting drunk with the Durmstrang boys on the ship, actually. It wasn't a particularly bad memory, although being faced with all that testosterone and not much idea what to do about it would lead to some confusion for another couple of years.

"What's my role here, exactly?" he said to the spirit. "Do you actually want me to feel sorry for–"

He stopped abruptly as the spirit deposited them in yet another setting, but this time, Draco's gaze immediately landed on Potter. He couldn't place it exactly, but they must have been in fifth or sixth year. They were out in the Hogwarts courtyard, and Draco was leaning against a pillar while Vince and Greg loitered on either side of him, waiting for him to direct the conversation.

They were good mates, and Draco could appreciate stoic silence in a bloke, but honestly, did they ever have any ideas of their own?

"Hi, Draco." Pansy waltzed by, wiggling her fingers in a wave. Draco watched his younger self nod at her, his expression neutral. Ah, if only Pansy had known then that pushing her breasts together and moving her arse like that whenever she walked by him would not have the effect she wanted, she might have better spent her time doing it for Theo or Blaise. Draco was watching Potter as he walked across the opposite side of the courtyard with Granger and Weasley. They were too far away to openly taunt, but not enough that Draco couldn't see their faces.

They were laughing. Not just a smile or a giggle, but full-on, stumbling as they walked, crying real tears, clutching at each other's shoulders, laughing. They would just manage to pull themselves together, peals of laughter withering away into hiccoughs, and then Weasley or Potter would say something, an impression, maybe – Weasley putting his hands on his head and wiggling his fingers like antlers – and they'd dissolve all over again. Their faces were blotchy and their chests heaving, and they had to stop and cling to each other, even Granger as dishevelled as Draco had ever seen her, as she clung to Weasley's arm and sobbed on Potter's shoulder.

It was just a random day, Draco realised. Nothing particularly hilarious had happened – at least nothing the whole school knew about, like Umbridge passing gas in the middle of class or something. It was just a regular day for the famous trio. Draco tried to summon the old anger he used to feel for them, that hatred and scorn that had always lurked just under the surface during their school years, but when he tried to locate it, it wasn't there.

He watched his younger self carefully, the way his brow creased and his jaw tightened just a little bit. He gazed at the three of them without calling out to them, without lashing out in malice. He just watched, all his masks in place, and wondered if he would ever have friends like that.

The spirit's icy hand on his shoulder startled him. He looked down at her. "Yeah, yeah," he muttered, scrubbing his face. "I get it. Can we go now?"

***

The Ministry ballroom. Oh, Merlin, what fresh hell was this going to be?

Draco and the spirit landed on the edges of the room, merging with the walls in ways Draco couldn't explain, but he was grateful not to have to manoeuvre his way among the crowd all dressed up for the festive occasion. The spirit helpfully pointed out his past self at the bar with Astoria, but as Draco shrugged the icy thing away from him – the spirit, not Astoria, although that might be up for debate – he remembered which Ministry gala this one had been.

The Christmas Ball, three years ago – and three months after he and Astoria had broken it to their parents that they'd each rather cavort with their own sex than with each other. Their matching robes had already been ordered for the event, though, so they rolled their eyes, linked arms and went as planned – proceeding to get smashingly drunk on Ministry tequila over the course of the evening.

"He's single, you know," Astoria whispered to him, laughing into her drink.

Draco whirled around. "Who?"

"Draco." She rolled her eyes. "You haven't taken your eyes off him all night. 'Who' indeed." She swatted his shoulder, and he flushed.

On the edges of the room, the other Draco groaned. He eyed the spirit. "Really, this one? Nothing even happened."

She just gave him a mischievous smile.

"Don't be ridiculous," he was telling Astoria. "I'm only watching him make a spectacle of himself as usual, that's all."

"Oh, well, if that's all..." Her eyes were still alight with amusement. "Why not ask him to dance?"

He glared at her, and they watched together as Potter awkwardly approached Ginny Weasley. She looked him up and down before reluctantly clinking glasses with him. He was asking her to dance, Draco figured from his body language and the way she recoiled, shaking her head quickly.

"Ouch." Astoria sighed, turning back to the bar. "Potter really can't take a hint, can he?"

Draco narrowed his eyes. "What do you know?"

"Only that he broke up with her last month – right before the Christmas season, the cad – and now he seems to think they can be friends." She laughed. "Rumour has it Weasley wants his balls on a stick. She and her mother had already bought the wedding gown."

"I never saw an engagement announcement."

Astoria eyed him. "Looking, were you? There wasn't one, as far as I know, because there wasn't any engagement yet. Still, if you're looking for a revenge fuck, Weasley just might be up for it." Her eyes crinkled as she threw her head back to cackle. "Oh, no, sorry, darling. Not your thing, I know."

"You are hideous." But he gave her a fond smile. So. Potter was single, was he? Well, it wasn't as though Draco was interested, per se, but it might not hurt to have a look.

Before he knew it, Astoria had drifted away and Potter was making his way over, shaking a few hands as he went, that damn sheepish smile on his face. He zeroed in on Draco, and they eyed each other for a long, silent moment. Finally, Potter held out his hand.

"Malfoy," he said in greeting.

Draco looked down at his hand. People were watching. He couldn't very well refuse to shake it, even if he'd wanted to. "Potter."

Potter smiled easily, maybe even in relief, as Draco took his hand. His grip was firm, confident. He held on a bit too long, something Draco couldn't quite interpret. It wasn't flirty, not by a long shot, but neither did Potter seem eager to get it over with. It was strange, feeling the warmth of Potter's palm against his own, the scratchy edges of Potter's fingers catching on his skin. The few times he'd ever actually touched Potter in the past mostly had to do with violence. There was something powerful about being allowed to touch Potter like this in greeting. In friendship, maybe.

He slowly let go. Clearing his throat, he avoided Potter's gaze. "So. Quite the party," he said, grasping for something to talk about. "Well done."

Potter gave him that easy smile again, glancing behind him at the pairs waltzing around the ballroom and the hordes hovering at the bar. "I'm not on the party planning committee, unfortunately."

Draco swirled his drink, leaning against the bar. "Rubbish. That ice sculpture has you written all over it."

They both looked over at the ridiculous thing, some kind of warrior with his robes half-open to reveal a chiselled chest, his wand thrust out and his long hair flying in the wind. The tips of it looked a bit dangerous, actually, deadly icicles pointed out at the guests. Potter glanced back at Draco before ducking his head down and laughing, although he tried to smother it quickly. "Oh right," he said, his tongue playing at the corner of his mouth. "Forgot I'd posed for that one."

Draco had done the unthinkable then, and laughed. He caught it quickly, but not before he'd bared more to Potter in those three seconds than he had in their entire lives up to that point. Watching from the edges of the room, the other Draco saw it happen – his face split into a broad grin, his teeth showing and a low, delighted sound coming from his throat. He also saw what he'd missed before, worried as he'd been at the time about bringing himself back under control: Potter was watching him with open interest on his face. His lips were parted and his eyes narrowed to Draco, taking in every second of the rare moment when Draco had actually let his guard down.

"God," Draco moaned to the spirit. "I could have fucked him right there, and we'd have had three extra years."

The spirit only raised a brow at him knowingly.

"Oh, shut up," he muttered to her.

Next to the bar, his past self had schooled his face back into classic Malfoy neutrality and was busy not asking Potter to meet him in the loo. "Your minions appear to be waiting for you," he said, gesturing.

Potter turned. Granger was speaking with Lovegood and Chang, casting concerned glances over at Potter. Finally, Granger smiled at Chang and pushed her forward. She shook her hair out and headed for Potter, who swallowed almost audibly as she approached.

"Always a pleasure, Potter," said Draco, his voice dripping with sarcasm, but he gave him a sly smile as he held out his hand again. Potter glanced down at it and then back up to meet Draco's gaze, something still alight in those damn eyes of his. He shook Draco's hand again.

"You too," he murmured, hiding a grin as Draco let go and moved across the room in search of Astoria. When he looked back again, Potter was deep in conversation with Chang.

The spirit grasped Draco's hand. Startled, he jumped at the coldness.

"Come," she said softly. They began to rise above the crowd. It felt fairly ridiculous to be swimming in ethereal form – in his pyjamas, no less – above a Ministry gala, but Draco's mind was spinning too much to worry about it. What if he'd marched back across the ballroom that night and openly challenged Chang? Whatever started that night hadn't lasted between Potter and Chang, Draco knew that, but still: he couldn't get past the idea that he'd lost Potter that night, that he could have had more time with him.

Worst of all, Draco realised with a start as the spirit pulled him up into the night sky again: he wanted to have had those three extra years.

***

The scene shifted again, as if the walls of a room had rippled to gently admit them. They hovered on the outskirts, and Draco's breath caught at the vision before him – himself and Potter tangled in the threadbare cotton sheets of Potter's big bed, Potter in the process of wrestling Draco onto his back and growling as he bit at Draco's shoulder.

"Hold still," muttered Potter, his hair a mess, his eyes fierce, and his body crushing Draco's to the bed. Draco only appraised him with a smirk, letting his arms fall to the side as if in defeat.

At the edges of the room, the other Draco could barely swallow when he realised exactly which time this was.

"Or what, Potter?" purred Draco, wetting his lips. Potter lifted himself up at that, locking his arms on either side of Draco's head and gazing down at him. His eyes softened, the thrill of the chase, the fight, always at the surface between them now crumpling ever so slightly. God, Draco remembered how he'd felt to be the subject of that look, the way Potter's entire face had shifted as he'd considered his answer.

"Or you won't get what you came here for," Potter said at last, his hips pressing down against Draco's. They were naked already, hard and damp, and Draco remembered wanting it all to go faster, dammit, but also for it never to end.

"I came here for a glass of cheap brandy and a fuck, Potter." That sly grin slid over Draco's face again, and watching it, the other Draco winced a little. It was so cocksure, so arrogant. He saw Potter lower his eyes, just for a moment. Sprawled out on the bed, Draco had never noticed, but watching it all again now, something burned sharply through him. Beside him, the ghost fluttered in the cool midnight air coming through the window.

This was their first time. The first of many, to be sure, but still the first. Draco would never forget it.

He turned to the spirit. "This wasn't any Christmas," he muttered, piercing her with his best glare, but she was unmoved. "Also, fuck off. You're not watching this."

She only glared right back, but after a few seconds, with an annoyed sigh, she floated away and turned her back to them. "My time grows short," she called, but elaborated no further.

His heart pounding, Draco turned his attention back to the bed, his mind whirling with the memory. Merlin, that night.

Harry Potter, it had turned out, was a hell of a kisser. It had been six months ago, a humid night at the pub with some co-workers from the Ministry. The Aurors were raucous; some big case they'd finally solved. Loud, drunk and beyond obnoxious, they'd taken over the pub and made sure everyone in the vicinity knew who they were and what they were capable of. Draco hadn't been able to take his eyes off Potter, to his chagrin. He wasn't as swaggering as the rest of them; he hung back, grinning with Weasley and ducking his head down whenever someone tried to raise their glass to him. But his eyes were fierce, and the pride he had in whatever they'd all accomplished was more than apparent.

Draco had never been able to resist bone deep confidence in a man.

Not only could Potter kiss, Draco soon found out near the door to the loo, but he could weave a proposition in rough, breathy tones that had slid down to Draco's toes, arousal blossoming through his body. They were stumbling back to Potter's flat in minutes, tearing at each other's clothes.

It wasn't nearly as quick and rough as Draco had expected. They were still enemies, weren't they? They should fuck like enemies. And Potter had been no shrinking violet. But there had also been something more to it, something deeper. Something slower. Potter had taken his time, ignoring Draco's huffs of protest to get on with it already and only moving his mouth to yet another spot on Draco's shoulder, or chest, or inner thigh. When he'd finally pressed inside him, a hot, steady push that had gutted the breath from Draco's lungs, it was all Draco could do not to unravel all at once. He'd shamelessly let his legs fall to each side as he groaned, deep and intimate, into Potter's neck, his fingers buried in Potter's tangle of hair.

His orgasm had built like low thunder, rumbling through him at one especially deep thrust.

"Oh, God," Potter had murmured into his neck, increasing his pace as Draco's come spread between them. "So fucking gorgeous." He slammed in again and then held himself still, his hands curling around Draco's shoulders as his cock pulsed. The sensation of it ripped through Draco as well, and they'd clung to each other for a long, blinding moment.

Draco hadn't even considered getting up to leave after he'd come. He'd only settled back down on the bed, panting, and thrown a triumphant smirk over at Potter, sprawled beside him. Potter had returned it, and soon they were devouring each other's mouths again. He'd never recovered so quickly before, never wanted someone again so soon, but Potter had him hard again in no time. When he'd pushed Potter down on his back and crawled on top of him, straddling his hips and sinking down on Potter's cock, Draco could only shudder at the vast, all-consuming pleasure of it and let it wash over him.

It took longer that time, as they both swelled to full hardness slowly, rocking against each other and trading lazy kisses as their orgasms built all over again. By the time Potter came for a second time, Draco was sore and aching but warmed all over from the way Potter looked up at him, moonlight seeping across the sheets.

Before he'd even known what he was doing, Draco had spent the night in Potter's bed. By morning, he was raw and bruised and stained with Potter's come. They had to have fucked three times at least, maybe more with hands and mouths factored in; Draco had lost count. All he knew was that Potter's commanding presence filled the bed, the room, his entire life, if Draco was honest. Waking up beside him after a few hours' sleep, his hand gentle over Potter's rhythmically rising and falling chest, Draco had panicked.

His heart started pounding. He chanced a look at Potter's face, relaxed in sleep with his messy hair curling around his ears and flopping over his forehead. His lips were pink and full, and his tongue sat just behind them as he slept. Draco's heart clenched, dammit. He wanted nothing more than to lean down and kiss Potter gently, wake him up with a nip to that gorgeous mouth, to whisper something lewd in his ear, laughing softly, before spreading his legs and pulling Potter on top of him again. The memory of Potter's solid weight on him the night before, his cock pressing deep and his arms pinning Draco down... It nearly made him tremble just to think of it.

No. He had to get the fuck out of there.

At the edges of the room, the other Draco held his face in his hands, moaning at the spirit. God, it was so embarrassing, how quickly he'd become completely attached to Potter. The only solution had been to run. He couldn't promise the sex wouldn't happen again, and it had, many times, but Draco had made sure his guard was up after that. He never stayed the night, never let his masks come down, never let Potter share too much.

"Hey." Potter woke, rubbing his eyes and fumbling on the nightstand for his glasses before a frown crossed his face. Draco was across the room, gathering his clothes and wincing at being caught out.

"Sorry," he ventured. "Tried not to wake you."

"It's okay. I don't want you to..." Potter looked lost for a moment. "... think you have to sneak out," he finished, pressing his lips together. "There's– I mean, I can make coffee?"

Draco rolled his eyes, pulling his trousers on and buttoning his shirt. "Coffee is for vagrants," he muttered. "I have places to be, Potter, with people who know how to make me a proper cup of tea."

Rummaging on the floor for his belt, Draco didn't see what the other Draco saw from the edges of the room: Potter's crestfallen and bewildered face, sitting cross-legged under the sheets and staring down at his hands helplessly. By the time Draco turned around again, he'd schooled his features into neutrality. "I'd expect nothing less of you, Malfoy." He forced a grin.

His clothes finally in order, Draco glanced back at Potter once more. "Thanks for the fuck," he said casually, allowing a small smile. "Turns out you're not nearly as terrible as I thought you'd be."

Potter barked a laugh, covering his face with one hand. "Thanks. You too."

"We should do it again sometime. I've got a yacht in the south of France that will keep me occupied the next few weekends, alas. I've a weakness for sailors," he added, wetting his lips. "But perhaps when I get back."

"I– oh. Yeah, okay. Perhaps. When do you think–"

"Later, Potter."

With that, Draco had left the bedroom, heading out to Floo home and sink into a warm bath.

"Get me out of here, spirit," muttered Draco. The spirit only gave him her usual serene but condescending look.

"This is your past," she told him, speaking at last. "It is what it is. Don't blame me if you don't like what you see."

"Listen, you little beast," he snarled, "you're going to end this bloody haunting right now."

"Soon," she said, her face shifting from condescension to... pity? Draco felt ill. "There is one more thing for you to see." She gestured at him to keep watching, and he realised his past self had left, but he and the spirit were still in Potter's bedroom.

Draco couldn't help but be curious. What had Potter done when he'd left? Well. Lay in bed for a long time, it turned out. Draco glanced at the spirit, but again she gestured for him to keep watching. Potter was on his back, the sheets tangled around his legs and waist. One hand rested over his bare stomach while the other sat over his forehead, occasionally rubbing it before falling slack again. Draco watched him in wonder. He was rumpled and flushed, his lips dry and the morning's dark stubble shading over his jaw. Finally, he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Even soft, his prick was full and gorgeous, and Draco couldn't stop staring at the figure he cut as he searched through his chest of drawers for clothes.

Draco huffed in disappointment when Potter threw on a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, then padded across the large room, barefoot, to the fireplace on the other side. He threw a handful of powder in and then sat back on his heels. "Hermione," he said quietly. The flames swirled green for a moment. When they were finished, Granger's head appeared.

"Oh! Morning, Harry. I was just trying to get Rose to eat some– yes, honey, I know that's your sock. It's a lovely sock." She ran a hand over her face but then gave Potter a tired smile. It faded after a second. "Oh. Good grief. What's happened to you? Is everything all right? You look terrible!"

"Thanks." Potter gave her a wry grin.

"No, I just mean..." Her eyes softened. "What is it?"

His fists clenched over his thighs where he was kneeling. Shaking his head, he slumped his shoulders as he began to talk. "I think I just made the biggest mistake of my life," he said, his voice a bit strangled.

Draco turned to the spirit again. "Oh, wonderful. Do I really need to hear this?"

She put her icy hand on his shoulder and shoved him around, keeping it there to make sure he watched.

Granger was silent, but her face was kind and encouraging. She waited. Finally, she asked gently, "What's that?"

He bent to scrub his face, moaning out a tortured laugh into his hands. Then he raised his eyes to hers again and sighed. "I think I just fell in love with Draco Malfoy."

***

Draco woke with a start, drenched in sweat. He sat bolt upright, his head darting to each side. Belatedly, he fumbled next to the bed for his wand, finding it exactly where he'd left it before going to sleep. Gripping it in his fist, he kicked the sheets down and stumbled to his feet, casting a trembling Lumos and surveying his bedroom suspiciously.

He rubbed his eyes, lowering his wand and sagging against a bedpost. "Fucking buggering fuck," he muttered, kneading his brow. "Thank you, brain, for that trip into complete hell." Well. Except for the part reliving having sex with Potter. There was nothing wrong with dreams like that, even if he'd probably never get to do the act again. It was the rest of it that he could have done without. He pressed his lips together.

It had been a dream, right? Potter...

Draco closed his eyes, his heart suddenly pounding again. He couldn't even ponder that right now, why his subconscious would conjure a dream like that about Potter.

As soon as he thought it, though, the chimes began again. They increased in volume with every one until, like before, he was convinced they'd chimed well over a dozen times. "Ohhhhh no, you don't," he muttered, holding his wand out again. "I'm not flying around into my own past again. Snape!" he called. "Can you hear me, you miserable bastard? I'm very sorry you're dead, but would you please fuck off with this nonsense?"

"Well, that's not very nice."

Draco shrieked a little bit before clamping his mouth shut. "Jesus." He clutched his chest. Trembling, he looked up... and up... thankful for the high ceilings in his flat, to see a half-giant beside the closet. He had a full beard and a round belly, his robes regal but also worn at the cuffs. He appeared to be eating a turkey leg. "Where's the other one?" Draco managed to ask, swallowing his fear. "She was... smaller."

The spirit winked. "More of me to love."

Draco winced. "And... okay. So, who might you be?"

"Oh! How rude. Of course, let me introduce myself." He threw the turkey leg over his shoulder, and it vanished. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present."

"Gifts!" Draco's shoulders relaxed. "Well, that will do fine, then. You can stack them over here."

The spirit gave him a look, and Draco sighed.

"It was a little bit funny."

The spirit just shook his head. "Are you ready?" he asked.

Draco regarded him. "Am I dreaming?"

"Well." The spirit rubbed his beard. "Would it make you feel better if I said yes?"

"A little bit."

"Why's that?"

Draco thought about it.

"Ah. See? That's exactly why you're not." The spirit nodded at him knowingly. "Dreams can be dismissed, eh? Listen, what did you learn by visiting your past?"

Draco frowned. "That I'm an arse."

"Sure, sure. That's what we all learn. And what do you think you'll learn by visiting your own present?"

That was a good question. "Merlin. That I'm still an arse?"

The spirit laughed, his belly shaking with joy. "Entirely possible, my boy. Entirely possible. Shall we?"

Taking a deep breath, Draco nodded. "All right. It can't be any worse than what I've already seen, although I do know one thing about the past over the present."

"What's that?"

He took the spirit's big hand, following him to the window. "I used to have sex."

***

Draco looked around the shop. It was definitely too cold out for ice cream, so it was nearly empty. He gave the spirit a petulant look, folding his arms over his chest. The bastard only glared right back – honestly, were they all trained at the same Arsehole Spirit Academy or something? This one looked on the surface to be much jollier than the last, but he could still cut a man down when he drew his brows together like that.

"Fine, fine," muttered Draco under his breath. "Let's sit around the ice cream shop in the middle of the night. What a brilliant dream this one is."

It wasn't the middle of the night here, though. Diagon Alley was bustling outside, with people carrying gifts under their arms and stopping to chat with each other. The few patrons inside the shop all seemed to be frowning and glaring at a distant corner of it. Draco followed their gazes to a man and a little boy. They were talking quietly, the man laughing and leaning in to wipe a bit of blue ice cream from the boy's nose. The child grinned, and Draco's eyes widened to see his hair change colour with every lick of his rainbow ice cream.

Around him, Draco heard a few of the whispers.

"He's a damn fool, that Potter. That child's a lost cause."

"It's irresponsible, is what it is. He could infect every single one of us!"

"Always the 'saviour,' is he? Well, he needs to draw the line somewhere, don't he?"

Frowning, Draco eyed the spirit apprehensively and moved closer. It was Potter and the Lupin boy, Andromeda's grandson. Draco had never spared him much thought. Potter mentioned him occasionally, come to think, but usually when Draco was post-orgasmic or otherwise thinking about something – anything – but a child he barely knew. Children and Draco did not generally mix.

"Here, little man," Potter was saying, giving the boy a fond look. "See if you can lick the orange part, but keep your hair blue. Ready? One, two–"

The boy licked the ice cream cone as instructed, but his hair flashed a bright orange. His eyes shot upwards. "Did I do it?"

Potter smiled. "Almost, Teddy. Keep practicing."

Good grief, but the child looked terrible. He should be seven or eight years old, by Draco's count, but he was a wisp of a thing, his face drawn and with dark circles under his eyes. His fingers were spindly around the cone, and he appeared to be shivering. Still, he had a bright smile for Potter.

"Could my mum do that, Uncle Harry?"

"I bet she could." Potter ruffled his hair. "She could do just about anything."

Teddy looked pleased at that.

Potter glanced out the window. "Sun's getting low, mate. We should probably get you home."

Teddy made a face, but nodded. After another few licks, though, he held the ice cream out, the cone wobbling in his little fist. He swayed in his chair.

"Oh. Hey. Easy there." Potter's eyes widened, but he was clearly trying to sound calm. He reached out and steadied Teddy by the shoulder, rubbing his back, before taking the cone and putting it in a discarded paper cup. "All right?"

Teddy swallowed. "Don't feel good," he whispered.

The blood seemed to drain from the child's face all at once. Draco stared between him and Potter, suddenly panicked. Teddy started to lean too far to the side again.

Potter shoved his chair back, one hand still holding Teddy up, and came around the table. He picked him up effortlessly, his arms flexing through his shirt as he positioned his right arm under the boy's bum and kept rubbing his back with the other. He lowered himself slowly back into a chair, and Teddy put his head on Potter's shoulder. "It's all right, little man," soothed Potter. "Too much ice cream for one day, maybe."

"No!" Teddy protested weakly, coughing into Potter's shoulder. "I like ice cream."

"I know you do, mate. I do, too. But it's Christmas tomorrow, remember. We'll have plenty of sweets at Grandma Molly's." Merlin, Potter was nearly as pale as the boy, his jaw clenched. "Let's get you home to Gran, okay? She'll have a potion for you." He was struggling to keep his voice upbeat. "You know, the one that tastes like elbows."

Coughing again, Teddy tried to make a face. "I hate that one!"

Potter let out a strangled laugh, stroking the child's hair. "Nobody likes elbows!" he said. "But it'll keep your blood working right, okay, baby?"

Sniffling, Teddy nodded into Potter's shoulder, his fist bunched in Potter's collar. "Not a baby," he mumbled, his eyes falling closed.

As Potter rose and clutched Teddy even tighter, Draco saw him close his eyes, breathing hard. Then he creased his brow and turned on the spot, Apparating the child away.

Draco whirled on the spirit. "What's wrong with the boy?" he demanded. He'd never seen Potter look like that. Glancing around the shop, he noticed that the other patrons had all turned away, ignoring Potter's evident distress. "What's wrong with these people?" he added. "Not one of them tried to help."

"Oh, I daresay Harry's used to that," the spirit answered, his voice grave. He looked angry on Potter's behalf, his imposing frame looming over the oblivious patrons. "There's quite a battle going on about werewolf children, as you know. There are a lot of people who don't think they should have any rights, or even come out in public at all."

Draco stared. "Werewolf children?" He pointed over at Potter's abandoned table. "That boy isn't a werewolf!"

The spirit crossed his arms over his chest. "He's your own cousin, Draco. And yet what do you know about him?"

"I– he's– well, he's a distant cousin, and I never knew his mother, so–"

"Excuses!"

Draco jumped back a bit at the booming voice. "Now, listen here, I have nothing against werewolves–"

The spirit's eyebrows shot up.

"I mean– now I don't. Lupin was– well, that was different." He rubbed his eyes, the look of determination and sorrow on Potter's face as he'd clutched the child still burning in Draco's mind. "Just tell me," he said quietly. "Please."

The spirit sighed, but his face softened. "The werewolf registration law that passed after the war. Harry's been one of the main crusaders to have it overturned, and your aunt, too. For all she might have thought of her daughter's choice of husband back then, she's changed her tune now, I'll say." He fixed his gaze on Draco, who tried not to cower.

"It's just to keep track of them," Draco ventured in a small voice. "Isn't it?"

"Oh, sure," the spirit said with a nasty laugh. "That's all. And once you're keeping track of them," he added, leaning down closer to Draco, "you know exactly who should be denied access to St Mungo's, and who should be barred from attending Hogwarts, and who should be kept to a curfew after dark."

"But..." Draco looked at the spot from which Potter and Teddy had Disapparated. "He's not a werewolf!" Draco was suddenly angry – at this new information, but also at himself. How had he managed to pay so little attention to any of this before? "I think I would at least have known that much if he were. Is he on the registry in error?"

"No. It's anyone with werewolf parentage or lineage back three generations."

"Three!" Draco's mouth dropped. "Okay, obviously I know nothing about this–" he swallowed down his guilt – "but even I remember studying that at school: it doesn't get passed to children that way. That's ridiculous. Surely Potter could–"

"No," the spirit interrupted, "Harry can't do anything. He's certainly tried. Apart from donating to the repeal effort and raising his voice with other activists whenever he can, there's nothing official he can do. It was put to a vote, remember?"

Draco felt sick. He did remember that. He didn't have a clue about the details of the law, apparently, and he'd still voted for it.

"He insists on bringing Teddy out in public as much as he can, though; that's one strategy." The spirit gave a small smile, gesturing around the shop. "Tries to overcome some of the prejudice by letting people like this see a child affected by the law.

"There is something wrong with the boy, though," said Draco, dreading the answer. "What is it?"

The spirit sighed heavily, lifting his shoulder. "They don't know. They can't get him properly examined or treated. His blood is weak; that's all they know. They've obtained potions that help, but he needs a Healer."

Draco was silent, his mind whirling. Dear God. He'd asked Andromeda about the boy only that morning – so flippantly, too. He hadn't given a second's thought to her tight-lipped reaction at the time, but... Did she really view him as so uncaring that she wouldn't tell him about this? You should already have known, a small voice piped up in the back of his head. If you stopped thinking about yourself for one bloody second

He squeezed his eyes closed.

"The potions," he managed, his voice shaky. "They're working?"

The spirit regarded him, his face drawn. Finally, he shook his head. "He will enjoy himself tomorrow," he said in a low voice, "with his family and more gifts than he'll know what to do with." He held Draco's gaze. "But little Teddy will not live to see another Christmas."

***

The ice cream shop dissolved, despite Draco shouting at the spirit and pounding him on the shoulder with both fists.

"Go back," he bellowed. "We have to do something! You can't leave that child to die." He choked on the word, his vision blurred.

The spirit said nothing but only guided him through the sky again, the shapes and sounds of a wintry London unfolding below them. The next thing he knew, Draco and the ghost were descending from the roof and down into a small but bustling house. Once again they hovered near the walls, blending into the scenery and going unnoticed by any of the...

... apparently eight hundred people cavorting in the living room and adjacent kitchen. Draco flattened himself against the wall even further to avoid being trampled by a group of stampeding children, screaming and laughing as they zoomed by at full speed. He looked around at the disproportionate amount of ginger hair and decided he must have descended into hell, only thinly veiled as a Weasley residence.

He shot a glare over at the ghost, but he only laughed, red-cheeked and merry, as he surveyed the party.

"Happy Christmas, everyone!" a new voice boomed out over the crowd as a family stepped out of the Floo, already holding gifts out in front of them for others to take. That must be the eldest Weasley, Draco thought, with his long hair tied back and those hideous scars on his face and neck. He didn't seem bothered by them, though, and when Draco took one look at the stunning woman flipping her long blonde hair off her shoulders beside him, he thought he might understand why. Two perfect little children followed them into the room, chattering at their mother in French and then turning in the next breath to shout at each other in English and pull each other's hair.

Draco tried to take it all in. Near the kitchen, Granger was trying to comb what looked like honey out of her freckled toddler's hair; Angelina Johnson – Merlin, was she a Weasley now too? – was fixing a toy broom for a sobbing little boy; that Muggle-device loving patriarch of the brood was fiddling with the controls on an enormous wireless system, scratches of what sounded like the holiday All-Star Quidditch match filtering into the room bit by bit; Granger's idiot husband was clearly trying not to ogle his Veela sister-in-law, gulping down wine instead and chattering at another brother; and even Andromeda and little Teddy sat quietly on the sofa, trying to make a tree decoration out of walnut shells.

Finally, his senses dulled by the brightness and cacophony of the room, Draco spotted Potter.

He was off to one side, nursing a short glass whose ice cubes clinked against the sides as he absently swirled the contents, rarely actually taking a sip. His chair in the corner was old and sad, probably more decorative than comfortable, and it was half-hidden behind an overgrown plant. His elbows rested on his knees, and he stared into the glass at the pattern of the sloshing liquid. Draco's breath caught at the clear signs of his mood.

After sending her tangle-free child off to play with the others, Granger finally approached Potter, kneeling on the floor in front of him before sliding onto one hip and curling her feet up under her. She took his hand and squeezed it over his knee. They sat there together for a long moment, not speaking, as Draco moved closer to hear.

"It's Christmas, Harry," she said at last, her voice gentle. "Are you going to mope all day?"

He gave her a wry smile. "Thinking about it."

"Well, you've got about seven minutes until that roast is done, and then Molly will be out here and she's not going to take this mood of yours lying down. Do you want to explain to her why you're looking like your cat just died?"

Draco almost snorted at that, but then he remembered saying something similar to Potter the night before. Potter must have been thinking of it, too, because his mouth turned down. "I don't care," he said fiercely. "I'll tell her. Everyone here already knows, anyway." He gestured half-heartedly around the room with the hand holding his drink, then lifted it to his mouth. He winced as he swallowed, and Granger sighed.

"Firewhisky, Harry, really?"

"I need to feel the burn to–"

"–feel alive, yes, I've heard that one before, and no, you don't." She plucked the drink from his hand and glared at him. "I will not let a prick like Malfoy ruin your Christmas."

Draco pressed his lips together. He glanced over at the spirit with a frown. "Thanks again," he muttered. "Another amazing memory."

"Not a memory, young sir," the bastard replied with a belly laugh. "This is going on right now, in fact." He gestured for Draco to keep watching. "This is what's happened to your lover without you."

"He's not my lover," Draco muttered, wrinkling his nose, but the word sunk into him and did something strange to his stomach. He looked at Potter again. His hair was messy as usual, falling over his brow and curling over his ears and the back of his neck in frankly adorable little waves. His jaw was shadowed and his shoulders hunched. He was just as attractive as always, but he was missing a key component that always made Draco weak: his self-assured demeanour, that unfailing ability he had to banter with Draco, blow off any insult, give as good as he got... to let Draco walk away as often as he had. This was a side of Potter that Draco had never been allowed to see, he realised. This was a Potter who was just as vulnerable as he'd been before the Floo grate the morning after their first night together, lowering his eyes and admitting to Granger that he'd fallen too hard and fast for a man who wasn't ready to reciprocate.

Draco swallowed, his throat suddenly dry.

He looked around the room again and saw the elder Weasley brothers in one corner, one speaking earnestly in a low voice to the one with that gorgeous wife. That one narrowed his eyes, but then a grin spread over his face. The bigger one clapped him on the shoulder and moved across the room, approaching Granger and Potter.

"Hey, Hermione," he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. "I think Rose has found some sharp knives to play with."

"What?" She jumped to her feet and raced off, leaving Weasley to laugh and Potter to grin, shaking his head.

"Always good to see you, Charlie," said Potter, affection in his eyes as he got to his feet and shook hands with the other man. He was far too well-muscled and fit, Draco noticed now that Potter was looking at him like that. Draco scowled at the spirit beside him.

"So, listen," said Weasley, leaning his hip against the nearby wall and openly appraising Potter. "I heard about Malfoy."

Potter's face shuttered, but he tried to shrug it off, looking away.

"Not my business, I know," said Weasley quickly, raising his hands.

"Oh, no, it's not that," said Potter, "it's just–"

"You're sitting over here looking like..." he sighed, reaching out – bold as you please, as far as Draco was concerned – to tuck a lock of hair behind Potter's ear. "Bloody crushed, mate," he said quietly. He leaned in closer. "Any man who can break you like this, Harry," he murmured, "I want his balls on a stick."

To Draco's surprise, Potter didn't inch away or protest. He only raised his head, giving Weasley a tiny, lopsided grin. "You my knight in shining armour?"

Draco's eyes widened.

Weasley let out a low laugh. "Might be," he said with an easy smile.

That seemed to exhaust Potter's ability to flirt, however. He ducked his head down, one hand lodged in his hair. "Thanks, Charlie," he said. "It's okay. It's not like he broke any promises. Just a fling, you know?"

But one look at Potter's face would reveal to anyone with half a brain that he didn't do flings, that he'd given their affair his all and come away from it with his heart splattered across his chest. Draco wanted to be anywhere else at that moment than on the edges of that room, forced to confront that lost look on Potter's damn face, but he also couldn't look away. How had he possibly missed it, all these months? How had he actually convinced himself that Potter didn't care?

He hadn't, a small voice piped up at the back of his mind. He knew exactly how Potter felt, or suspected, at least, but he'd led him on anyway.

How did you convince yourself you didn't care, either? He closed his eyes.

"Harry."

Merlin, Weasley was still there, still standing far too close to Potter and still trying to fucking chat him up. Draco wanted to punch him in the face.

"I'm a pretty straightforward kind of guy. You know that."

Potter gave a soft laugh.

But Weasley wasn't joking. "So I'm gonna say this, but only this one time, okay? After that, I'm gonna go back to the party and play with my nieces and get a bit drunk on Hermione's mulled wine, and it's all up to you. But before I do any of that–" he stepped closer to Potter, bringing their shoulders together as his lips came far too close to Potter's ear – "I need to say to you, very clearly, that you are fucking incredible. Not for what happened in the war, that's not what I mean. I mean for the man you've become. You are smart and gorgeous and I would fuck you in a heartbeat."

"Charlie–"

Weasley pressed his palm to Potter's chest. "Not just that, though," he insisted. "You deserve someone who knows exactly how lucky they are to be with you, someone who's not going to leave as soon as he gets off."

Draco sucked in a sharp breath.

"Yeah, I know that guy," he continued, as Potter pressed his lips together. "I've been that guy. And anyone who does that to you is a fucking idiot." He hesitated long enough to breathe Potter in before he stepped back, the hand inching up Potter's chest turning into a comradely clap on the shoulder. He gave Potter that easy smile again, openly appraising Potter's body, before he turned and sauntered away. He caught a bottle of beer his brother threw at him and flicked it open with his thumb as if it were no different than flipping a coin.

Draco's heart pounded. He whirled on the spirit. "You sadistic fucking prick! You brought me here to watch that? Give me my body back. I'm going to rip his arms off and shove them down his throat. I'm going to roast his balls and feed them to Pansy's Kneazle. I'm going to–"

The spirit laid a big, icy hand on Draco's shoulder, his belly shaking with laughter. "Don't tell me you're jealous, my boy! After all, you don't seem to want Harry anymore, so why shouldn't he be happy with someone else?"

Draco flung his index finger out. "That prick has shagged half the men in Britain and Romania combined!"

"It's Harry's choice," the spirit reminded him. "You made it clear you didn't want to be exclusive."

"Well, I didn't mean for Weasley to move in on him the very next day!"

The damn spirit just tilted his head to the side and gave him a look. "Why don't we keep watching, hm?"

The scene moved them to the kitchen.

"Well, he said he doesn't need to celebrate Christmas with us, or with anyone. Can you believe that? I'd like to send my sister an owl right now and box her ears for raising such a wretched creature." Andromeda sighed as she pointed her wand at a new batch of potatoes.

Beside her, Granger was slicing carrots.

"Oh, I don't mean that. I just wish he'd let me in. He has so much to give, but he'll never believe it of himself. I know you've no sympathy for him, darling, and I don't blame you," she said to Granger, "but he really doesn't need to be as much of a prick as his father. He's a Black, dammit!"

Granger smiled at her, passing her another bag of potatoes. "I feel sorry for him," she said, the smile fading. "Don't tell Harry I said so; I'm supposed to be outraged on his behalf. And I am," she added. "But mostly I'm just sad for Draco. He's got 'clever,' 'rich,' and 'handsome' down pat. Why is it so hard for him to add something more to that list? 'Friendly,' or 'kind,' or–"

"Hell," Andromeda interrupted, laughing, "I'd even settle for, 'neat,' or 'punctual.'"

Granger grinned.

"Oh, go tell Harry that none of us are going to judge him if he takes Charlie out back right this second and shags him stupid," Andromeda said, still giggling as she sagged against the counter. "Merlin knows that boy deserves to be happy, and my nephew certainly isn't the one to do it. He'd have to get his head out of his own arse first, and that's not looking likely." She and Granger exchanged sad looks, glancing back at Potter in the living room.

"Are we done here?" Draco grumbled to the spirit, folding his arms over his chest. It wasn't that he didn't know he could be a bit of a prick, but he didn't think anyone really noticed or held it against him. Wasn't it just expected of Malfoys?

"Yes," the spirit sighed, "I suppose we are." They went back to the living room, where the older Weasley, the one with the earring, was booming out orders.

"All right everyone, time for the three hundred and twenty-second annual game of Weasley Family Christmas Charades!" He spread his arms, turning in a circle to address everyone in the room. A chorus of hoots and hollers greeted this announcement. "This year's theme: Ways in which Draco Malfoy – as has long been suspected by all members of the Weasley family–" he added – "continues to behave like a completely heartless bastard. Now. Who wants to go first?"

A dozen hands shot up. In the corner of the room, even Potter covered a laugh, resting his chin in his hands to watch. Beside him, Granger rubbed his shoulder.

Draco and the spirit faded away before he had to watch, but his chest was tight. Well. Potter had been right about one thing: he certainly hadn't kept Draco a secret from his friends and surrogate family. Even worse for Draco was knowing that he had nothing to say in his own defence.

***

When the scene reformed, Draco and the spirit were back in Potter's flat, watching him step out of the Floo. He took a plate of food wrapped neatly in foil to the kitchen, then dropped a bag of what must have been opened gifts on the floor by the fridge. The sleeve of a maroon jumper fell over the side of the bag, limp and abandoned. Potter rummaged through the bag until he emerged with a pouch from Honeydukes, though, leaning back against the counter and popping a chocolate into his mouth.

He closed his eyes as he chewed, and Draco suddenly felt the silence of the flat weighing on him, especially in contrast to the Weasleys' raucous living room. He wondered if Potter was thinking the same thing – and whether that solitude and silence was a blessing or a curse. Potter swallowed, setting the rest of the pouch of candy on the counter. He glanced across the kitchen to the opposite counter, and Draco followed his gaze to a bottle of wine sitting there.

Draco sighed. "Going to get trashed and feel sorry for himself, is he?" he grumbled to the spirit, but his chest tightened. It wasn't all that different from what Draco would be doing at Christmas, after all, but the thought of someone as generally popular and friendly as Potter being alone was somehow more tragic.

"Why don't you watch this one by yourself?" the spirit said. He pushed Draco to follow Potter to his bedroom, giving him a knowing look and a tight smile before fading away.

"Wait," called Draco. "What am I supposed to do here?"

"Oh, I think you'll figure it out," the spirit's voice said.

At that moment, Draco heard the sound of water running in the bath beyond the bedroom. Sparing one last glance over his shoulder at where the spirit had been, he walked across the room with trepidation, pausing to peek into the bathroom. He was just in time to see Potter drop a towel from around his waist, the smooth muscles of his back and arse on full display for Draco.

"Oh." The tiny sound slipped from Draco's lips before he could stop it. He was openly staring, he knew he was, but he was still under the protection of the spirit, wasn't he? He hoped he was just as invisible as he'd been so far. Potter slid the shower door open and stepped under the spray. The steamed walls kept Draco from being able to see much, but he found he didn't mind. He already knew every bit of Potter's body, after all, from the mole on his right shoulder blade, to the rigid vein on the underside of his cock that bulged every time he got hard.

Draco swallowed. He could see the outline of Potter's body through the steamy glass, the shape of him and his movements as he soaped himself and rinsed his hair. Every motion he made held Draco riveted – stretched tall as he ran his hands through his wet hair, his chest open and his arm muscles taut; bending to wash his feet and up his legs, rising slowly until he was soaping under his bollocks, carefully cradling them and moving his hands gently over his skin; leaning his head back to rinse, the line of his throat smooth and wet.

"Weak, Harry. So fucking weak."

Draco held his breath. Potter was muttering to himself as he put the soap down in its tray, and then Draco realised what Potter meant: he pushed the palm of one hand into the opposite wall of the stall and dropped his head down to watch as his other hand wrapped around his cock. What, did he lie down on a bed of nails after each wank or something?

Through the steam, Draco could only see Potter's silhouette as he began to stroke himself. The water planed off his shoulders and down his back as he faced away from it. His head bent low, he watched himself, his fingers moving slowly over his prick as his arm began to pick up speed. Draco couldn't see much of Potter's cock, but he became fixated on the sway of Potter's bicep, back and forth with each tug.

"Spread your... legs..." moaned Potter, breathless. "Shut your mouth for once. Nobody but..." He paused, choking back a strangled sound. His voice dropped to a whisper. "Nobody but me."

Draco felt a sudden slam of lust through his body. He'd heard those words before in Potter's bed, and they always made him even harder, wanting Potter to fuck him more, deeper, with everything he had. The water was making a slapping sound, sloshing through Potter's fist as he worked his cock. His shoulders heaved and the fingers of his free hand curled against the glass wall.

"Draco." The name was quiet, clipped, swallowed in a low groan, but Draco heard it. Potter inhaled sharply, his arm stopping in its steady motion, and Draco watched Potter slump against the shower wall, sucking in deep breaths and cursing. Draco held his breath, the fucking transparent body he was in still thrumming with energy and arousal even though he couldn't do anything about it.

Finally, Potter seemed to come back to himself. He pushed himself off the wall and shook out his hair. He rubbed his hands together under the spray and then ducked his head in one more time before turning it off. Grabbing a towel, he quickly dried himself and wrapped it around his waist, stepping from the stall looking grim. His wet hair was gorgeous, dark and sleek, and Draco could hardly take his eyes off the droplets of water shining on Potter's chest. But his mouth was turned down, his eyes without their spark as he put his glasses back on, and the pink of his cheeks looked more like embarrassment than fulfilled desire or exertion.

He marched back out to the kitchen without getting dressed, the large towel snug around his hips and draping down below his knees. Draco followed him without even thinking about it, his ghostly form apparently having a mind of its own. When Potter got there, he stood in front of the bottle of wine he'd been eyeing before, one hand curled around the edge of the counter and the other rubbing over his mouth and jaw. He seemed to be giving the bottle a great deal of thought.

"Oh, fuck it," he muttered at last, grabbing his wand from the counter. He picked the bottle up, turning it in his hands, and at the right angle, Draco finally got a good look at it.

He nearly fainted.

He couldn't read the entire label, but it was definitely a Henri Jayer, probably a fucking Vosne Romanée, easily more than five hundred pounds in the Muggle world. Was this a gift? Merlin, did that dragon fucker give this to Potter? You could never find wine like that in wizarding shops, someone would have had to order it months ago, and he was... dear God, Potter was opening it.

Draco could have sobbed, not only from his inability to smell the first bloom of such an impressive vintage at the very moment it was uncorked, but from Potter's apparent inability to grasp the notion of not opening the fucking thing at all, ever, and if he did, it had better be one hell of a special occasion. One did not open a Henri Jayer just to get drunk and pass out on a sofa stained with grease from old packets of crisps.

Potter at least pulled a wineglass from a cupboard (and didn't take a swig from the bottle, thank fuck), pouring himself half a glass. When he set the bottle down, Draco caught sight of the little tag looped around the neck.

Happy Christmas, Draco. H.

Draco's lips parted. Potter didn't even know what he was buying, which only meant he must have done a hell of a lot of research to figure out where to go and what to get. He knew, somehow he knew, that this damn bottle would mean a great deal to Draco. And what had Draco got for Potter in return? He bit his bottom lip, a cold swell of guilt creeping through him.

Potter stared at his glass for a moment, watching the deep red swirls. He sighed at last.

"Happy Christmas, Malfoy," he bit out, taking a long drink.

When Potter lowered the glass again, he wet his lips, and Draco watched the line of his throat as he swallowed. Then he laughed, strangled and sudden, and buried his face in one hand. "Still tastes like it's conjured," he muttered to himself, setting the glass down. "But what the fuck do I know." He leaned both arms against the edge of the countertop and locked them, hanging his head between his shoulders. The muscles of his back and arms were tense. Draco had to physically restrain himself from moving over to him and running his hands over Potter's torso, smoothing his palms over Potter's back and doing anything he could to take that pained expression from his face.

In another moment, though, Potter was straightening up again. He took one more sip of the wine, shook his head as he swallowed, and then grabbed the bottle. With Draco watching in horror, Potter tipped the entire bottle into the sink, the gorgeous dark liquid spilling down the drain.

The scene began to swirl away from him in much the same way, even as Draco reached out one arm to stop it.

***

This time when Draco woke, he was very much aware that it had not been a dream. He sat up, clutching the sheets around him and breathing hard. He was still wearing Potter's t-shirt.

His shoulders sagged as he picked at it. It was worn nearly through in places, soft to the touch and a bit too big across the chest. He grasped at the excess material and curled his fingers into it. Then he pulled the collar of it up over his nose as he huddled on his bed, trying to stop trembling.

Just as he started to feel a bit better, his breathing evening out and the scent of Potter's shirt doing wonders to calm him down, oddly enough, he felt a wave of cool air sweep through the room.

"No," he whispered, squeezing his eyes shut. "Severus. Please. Not this one." His voice broke. "I can't–"

It was to no avail. Just as he'd feared, a menacing figure glided into his bedroom as if arriving from beyond the grave. Draco recoiled, instinctively scurrying up the bed and folding his knees up to his chest. This one had nothing on the previous ghosts, who had been either frustratingly benign or downright jolly. Its face and form was obscured behind an elaborate hooded robe, with only its pale, spindly fingers emerging to point at Draco and beckon him.

It looked almost exactly like a Dementor. Draco's teeth chattered.

Beyond the surface fear, though, he tried to keep his head. The chill in the air hadn't been sustained, and his mood wasn't plummeting. The despair he felt was of his own making, not this creature's. He unfolded himself slowly, trying to gather his courage.

"You are... the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?

The vast hood inclined once, slowly.

"Merlin," he breathed. "I was annoyed with the others, but not frightened of them. But you..." He took a deep breath, but rose from the bed and approached the spirit, trying to keep his chin up. "For whatever reason, you're the one that scares me to death."

The spirit reached out its bony hand.

"Whatever you have to show me, it's not going to be good, is it?"

The spirit didn't answer.

"Is there..." He pressed his lips together. "But I can change it, right? If it's horrible, if..." A shudder passed through him. "I can change it."

Still no answer. The spirit closed in on him, and Draco did everything he could to reinforce his resolve. With a shaking hand, he reached out and took the spirit's, the lifeless fingers cold in his.

***

In an instant, they emerged in front of a snowy house. He didn't recognise it in this weather, but it sat amidst the gathering snow banks as sombre as if it alone was responsible for the darkness of the surrounding night. It was small, and the nearest neighbour seemed some miles away. Low lighting glowed in the front room, and a few sad puffs of smoke rose from the chimney.

Draco didn't ask the spirit any questions. He simply followed it up the lane and through the door. Inside, he did recognise the place at last as his aunt's cottage. Had he really never been there in winter? It looked so bleak.

In the living room sat a more subdued version of the Weasleys' Christmas celebration he'd seen previously. He spotted Granger and her husband near the kitchen door, and Mrs Weasley wiping her hands on an apron. Children played quietly at the corners of the room rather than running rampant like before. Johnson nursed a cup of coffee in one armchair, watching the children with a sad look on her face.

Draco finally located his mother and aunt on a sofa at the side of the room, holding hands. His mother was speaking earnestly to Andromeda, as if making a fierce point, but Andromeda said nothing in return. She only nodded absently, over and over again.

"I know, Cissy," Draco heard her murmur. "I'm trying to be strong. And Harry's been incredible, even when I know how upset he is. He thinks he should have done more, but... what could we have done?"

Draco's stomach dropped. Frantically, he looked around for Potter. "Spirit," he moaned, "please tell me this isn't..."

Just then, the kitchen door swung open and Potter appeared. His black jumper and dark jeans were startling with his hair and pale skin. He didn't normally wear dark colours. Draco's eyes were riveted to him. He gave the crowd a pinched smile.

"Dessert is served," he said softly, waving his wand. "Happy Christmas, everyone." Behind him, a line of little dishes hovered, making their way to each person. As Potter caught the last one, Draco saw his eyes grow wet. "And Happy Christmas to you, Teddy," he whispered, so quiet Draco didn't think anyone but him had heard.

With trembling fingers, Potter grasped his spoon and scooped it into his dish. Draco's throat tightened.

It was rainbow ice cream.

***

"Spirit, please." Draco's voice shook, as the room faded around them. "I can't take this." He folded his hands over his mouth and tried to breathe, but the spirit did not slow to soothe him. Like a parting fog, their surroundings came into view again, this time very different than the last.

Draco found himself in Potter's spacious kitchen.

A rumpled Potter was seated at an old oak table, morning sunlight streaming through the window and a cup of coffee at his elbow. When he turned his head, Draco's mouth opened. That endearing if idiotic mess of black hair had distinct streaks of grey at the temples.

Sipping from his cup, Potter perused the newspaper, his brow creased. The ragged edges of the newsprint fluttered over his fingers as the top corner of the page sagged, but Potter didn't seem to notice. The paper had frozen in his hand, and he sat blinking at something he was reading.

"Mm, knew I'd find you out here." A low voice, still grizzled with sleep, floated across the kitchen. Potter looked up, his face looking... guilty?

"Hey."

Draco froze. He knew that greeting. He mocked that greeting every week. He was afraid to turn around, but finally forced himself to look.

Charlie Weasley was ambling into the kitchen, shirtless and with his jeans sitting low on his hips, his powerful chest and arms on display. He had more lines on his face than Potter, but they crinkled when he smiled, like they'd been forged by the sun, not by the burdens of the world. A series of detailed tattoos decorated his biceps, chest and shoulder blades. As he padded in, he wrapped one big hand over Potter's shoulder and bent to kiss him.

As Potter quickly refolded the newspaper, Draco saw the glint of a wedding ring on his finger.

Frantically, he looked around the kitchen. It was Potter's flat, Draco was sure of it, but something was different. He spotted a wood carving of a dragon over the fridge. A bottle of whisky on the counter that he knew Potter didn't drink. Photographs of Weasley with other men, just as big and tattooed, entire groups of them with their arms slung around each other and goofy grins on their faces, with bursts of fire scorching the air behind them.

"No," he moaned. "No, no, no. Spirit, get me out of here," he begged, but the thing only hovered near him, neither moving nor speaking.

"Everything okay?" Weasley paused at the fridge, grabbing an entire carton of juice and taking a long swig.

"Of course."

Draco eyed Potter. That was a frantic lie if he'd ever heard one. But Weasley either didn't notice or didn't press it. He wandered out of the kitchen again, taking the juice with him, and Potter released a breath. He glanced back down at the newspaper.

His gaze darting back to the door every few moments, Potter opened it again to a middle page. He stared at it so long that Draco could almost see the moment his coffee stopped steaming and grew cold. A dull ache settling deep in his bones, Draco moved closer.

"What is it?" he whispered, but whether to the spirit behind him or to Potter, he didn't know. The spirit didn't stop him. He continued to inch forward until he could slide into the chair across from Potter. Craning his neck, he suddenly caught sight of his own photograph in the paper, older like Potter but smirking in triumph. It was chilling.

"Spirit," he murmured, "do not tell me I'm dead. Anything but that." But as he read the headline, he didn't know whether to be relieved or even more confused by Potter's mood.


MALFOY HEIR FINALLY SIGNS BULGARIA, UNITES WIZARDING FINANCE ACROSS EUROPE

Well, that wasn't so bad. But Potter's fingers absently traced his jaw in the photograph, and Draco felt his heart sink.

Instinctively, Draco placed his hands on the table in front of him and slid them forward, coming within a few inches of Potter's. He searched Potter's expression, gutted by the pain there. He had done this, treating Potter so callously and denying his own feelings out of what – fear? Potter had moved on without him. That was... well, that was good, wasn't it?

But it wasn't just the sight of him with another man. Draco ached at the look on Potter's face. He wondered what life was like for that version of himself in the photo. It's you, he thought miserably. Haven't changed a bit from the way you are now. Just like Snape said: this was the path he was on. He could have career success. He could have things. And nothing more.

Finally, Potter stilled his hand. "Are you happy?" he whispered to the page, but it wasn't an accusation. There was no bitterness there, only a genuine question.

Draco tried to touch Potter's hand, but he couldn't make contact in his present form. "No," he murmured, dropping his gaze. The truth of that slammed through him, and he had to take a steadying breath. "Are you?" he added.

Potter didn't answer, of course, but he fiddled with his wedding ring for a moment before sliding it off entirely and placing it away from the newspaper. He continued to gaze at Draco's picture as the scene once again swirled away.

***

The fog surrounded them again, lingering, as Draco blinked to process what he'd just seen. He stood quietly in limbo with the spirit, lost in a sense of complete stillness and suspension from the world. He held one fist up to his mouth, staring out at grey blankness.

The spirit swayed beside him, and Draco finally looked up at it.

"Tell me what to do," he whispered.

In response, the spirit only glided forward, pulling Draco along with it.

"Tell me what to fucking do!" he shouted.

Still no answer. A new scene unfolded before him. Draco hugged his arms around himself, breathing hard and trying to find the courage to face whatever was coming next. He looked around with trepidation to find them in a harmless-looking shop. The door opened, clanging the bell above, and a shabbily dressed woman shuffled in clutching a small sack.

"Morning, Angel," the shopkeeper chirped, straightening up from behind the counter. He didn't wear a robe, but his sleeves were rolled to his elbows and a pair of suspenders snapped over his shoulders, hiking his trousers just a bit too high over his belly.

"Mornin,' Mister Knickle."

"Heard about your loss, there, darlin'. You still looking for work?"

"Always. You know how it is."

"I've got a sister-in-law who might be able to help you out."

"Well, that'd do just fine, thank you, sir. Got some new things for you today. Pretty, they are. Think you'll like 'em."

"Let's see, then."

She enlarged the sack and then emptied it on the counter. Out spilled a few clunky items and then a mass of delicate fabric. The shopkeeper took some between his fingers, whistling.

"Silk?" he asked.

"Best I can tell. What do you think?"

He tried to appear aloof. "Maybe. What else you got?"

"Here." She sifted through the items, and Draco craned his neck. She set forth a silver wine rack that curled into claws at the base. His eyes widened. Next came a one-of-a-kind pewter and glass vase, rectangular and flared.

"Wait," Draco told the spirit, overcoming his revulsion to tug at its sleeve.

Next she laid out a gilded letter opener, the unmistakable curve of the letter M adorning the handle.

"That's mine!" Draco burst out at last. "Those are my things! What is this woman doing with them?"

The shopkeeper was licking his lips but trying to mask his eagerness. "Just some cheap trinkets." He shrugged. "I'll give you three for the lot."

"Three! This here's real silver," she shot back, her hands on her meaty hips. "I cleaned that place for ten years, and every single week he'd tell me all over again not to scratch the damn silver. Well, he was a heartless prick and make no mistake, so this is what's happenin' to his precious things now."

"How do you know no one'll come looking for it?"

She laughed, dark and exaggerated. "Him? He ain't got no family. The parents are long gone, and he never got on too well with anyone else. And that's puttin' it nicely."

"All right, all right." The shopkeeper picked up the vase and examined it. "I'll give you four."

She still looked affronted. "You haven't even looked at this yet." She pushed the fabric forward.

"Ah-ah." He stopped her. "You'll tear it on the counter." He picked up the waves of silk, draping the fabric delicately over his other arm and holding it up. He fingered the seams, and Draco saw it wasn't a garment after all, but a... sheet. The shopkeeper gave the woman a smirk. "You take this right off the poor bastard's bed?"

"'Course! He don't need it now."

"Bet the body was still lying there!"

She rolled her eyes. "Ain't nothin' I hadn't seen before. I've buried four husbands, you know. Same as any other Monday morning, except this time when I started up the cleaning spells, he didn't storm out of the bedroom and shout at me about his beauty sleep. When I knocked on the door for my cheque, there he was just lyin' there, dead as a doornail. I don't think it was too recent, neither."

The shopkeeper dropped the sheet, stepping back.

"Oh, it's nothin' contagious. He was an old bastard."

"All right." He scratched his beard. "Six for the lot, but no higher."

Draco stepped back, breathing hard. "Okay," he whispered to the spirit. "Okay." His hands clutched at the opposite elbow as he hugged himself, rocking back and forth. "Are these things already set to happen, or can I still change them?"

The spirit only hovered beside him, flickering in the light.

"I have to be able to change them," he insisted. He felt sick, the ache of loneliness seeping over his bones. "Tell me it's not too late."

With those words, the massive hooded cloak covering the spirit sagged, collapsing in on itself as the spirit dissolved. The scene around Draco began to spin, and he found himself whisked away again into the fog, the heavy presence of the spirit disappearing from his side. His heart slowly unclenched and he felt lighter.

There was still time. He was sure of it.

***

He opened his eyes.

Immediately, he spread his palms out and patted his sheets. "My bed," he announced to himself. "My sheets. Oh God, I'm not dead." He laughed then, stupid and sudden, covering his face with his hands. He sat up, pushing his hair out of his eyes, unable to keep the grin from his face. "Thank fuck," he sighed. "Snape, you complete fucking prick!" he shouted, but he was still laughing. "I will pour champagne on your grave today, all right? YOU WERE RIGHT. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

Wait. Today. What day was it? Had he missed Christmas? He grabbed his wand and modified the Tempus charm, casting it about the room.

"Christmas Eve!" He glanced at the clock. "Six p.m. Okay." He hadn't missed it. But what now? He quickly searched for a quill and parchment, drafting a note to Gringotts to send a generous donation to Lovegood and Chang's charity. He tied it to his owl and sent it off. No sense tempting fate with those damn ghosts by being even more of a miser.

But he was only stalling from the real task at hand. He took a deep breath, and with no idea what he was going to say, he threw a handful of powder into the grate and called out Harry's address. He stumbled through a moment later to find Harry in front of the mirror in the living room, straightening his collar as if about to go out. He wasn't wearing robes – no Ministry function, then – but his button-down shirt was pressed and his jeans looked clean. God, he smelled incredible, fresh from the shower with his damp hair still curling around his ears.

He had a bottle of wine under one arm – the bottle of wine, Draco saw – but he quickly put it down on a side table and stood to block it as he blinked at Draco.

"Malfoy?"

Draco hesitated, momentarily caught up in those damn eyes of Harry's. He didn't even know what to say, so he did what he always did, striding across the living room to him. He reached Harry and backed him against the wall, ready to haul him in close and kiss him breathless, and Harry was letting him, his mouth open in what looked to be completely stupid, adorable bewilderment, but Draco stopped himself. "No, wait. If I do that, it will lead to sex, and you already think that's all I want from you." He turned to mutter to the floor as he processed what to do, then jerked his head up again. "Is that what you think? Of course it is. Fuck!" He began to pace. "How did I ever let you think that? Why did you ever believe me? No, don't answer that. And now it's too late, and you're married to Weasley, and I'm a shrivelled old man that everyone hates, and Teddy–" He bit back the words, trying to get a hold of himself.

"What about Teddy?" Harry looked at him, alarmed.

"No." Draco waved his hand. "Nothing. He's fine. We're going to make sure that he's okay."

A strange look passed Harry's face. "We... okay," he said slowly. "Let's go back to that part where I'm married to a Weasley." Harry gave him a cautious look. "You feeling okay? And..." He squinted. "Is that my shirt?"

Draco stopped pacing. He looked down, folding his fist into the fabric at the bottom. "Oh. Well. I was in a rush. You... left it one time."

Harry's face shifted. "And you... wear it?" he said softly.

The hope in Harry's voice made Draco tremble. He smiled sheepishly, ducking his head down. "Sometimes. To sleep."

Harry's lips parted.

"I– look," Draco continued in a rush. "Just to be clear: you're not married to a Weasley?"

Harry's eyes widened, although a small grin quirked his lips. "Um, no. None of them, in fact."

"Do you want to be?"

"Draco! Where's all this coming from?" He squared his shoulders and seemed to shake himself out of a daze. "If you're in a snit about last night, well, I'm sorry, but that's how I feel. Now, it's Christmas Eve and I was due at Ron and Hermione's twenty minutes ago. If nothing's changed since yesterday, then I'm afraid I have to ask you to leave." His grin long faded, Harry regarded Draco with a sad look on his face.

"Everything's changed! You're not married, though. Thank fuck." He pointed his finger at Harry. "I swear to God, I'll rip his balls off if I ever catch him even looking at you."

"Who?!"

"It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, because you're not. You're still... you're here. Potter." He took a deep breath. "Harry. Would you–? I mean, can I–?"

Harry reached out to him, holding his shoulders and smoothing his hands down Draco's arms to centre him. "Calm down," he said quietly. "What are you trying to say?"

"Would you..." Draco paused, swallowing. This was madness. But the idea wouldn't leave him "...have dinner with me?"

Harry blinked. "Right now?"

"Well. Yes." Draco looked over his shoulder. "You have a kitchen, I presume?"

"...yes. I do have a kitchen. But it's Christmas Eve. I'm already late."

"Right." Draco chewed his lip. "Of course. Sorry." Shaking his head, he almost turned to go, but Harry grabbed his arm.

"Draco, Christ." He ran his hand through his hair. "Don't fuck with me, all right? What are you doing here? Tell me the truth."

How could he put it into words? Draco did the only thing he could think of. He didn't want to send the wrong message, that he only wanted Harry for sex, but if he did this a certain way, maybe it would send the right message. He reached one hand out tentatively, curving his thumb over Harry's cheek and down to his jaw. He spread his fingers out and cupped his face, drawing him closer. It wasn't anything like the way Draco usually attacked Harry's mouth, as nothing more than a prelude to sex. Harry seemed to understand that, or at least, he didn't pull away.

When Harry's lips touched his, he felt the spark all the way down to his toes. His hand trembled against Harry's face, and he absently bunched his other hand in Harry's shirt. He did everything he could to keep the kiss light. It was slow and soft, Harry's mouth parting just enough to let Draco take his bottom lip between his as he pulled back, swallowing.

"I'm here because I can't lose you," he whispered, his mouth brushing Harry's again. "It's not just sex. But I..." He leaned his forehead into Harry's, shocked and terrified that he still hadn't pulled away. "I need you to help me do this. I don't know how to do this."

"Oh," breathed Harry, his strong hands framing Draco's jaw. "You. Okay." He took control of the kiss this time, deepening it while still keeping it slow and languid. Harry parted his lips and Draco felt his tongue probing lightly, touching Draco's mouth and tongue with a reverence Draco had never experienced before. They panted together, the kiss escalating as Harry walked him backwards until he hit the wall, his body pressing in on Draco's and his low moans washing over him. He felt Harry's fingers slip under the t-shirt at the small of his back, playing with the elastic of his pyjama bottoms and starting to dip lower.

"Dinner," groaned Draco, pushing Harry back a fraction. He wiped his mouth and then curled his hands around Harry's shoulders to keep him back. "A date. Talking. Terrible wine. Chocolate. Then this. Maybe." He fought down a grin. "I can do more than this." His face fell, and he watched Harry carefully. "You know that, don't you?"

Harry bit at his lower lip. "Not yet," he said at last.

Draco's heart clenched, but he took a deep breath. "Okay. Because I haven't shown you yet. But I'm going to. I'm not a terrible cook, believe it or not."

Harry sighed, glancing over his shoulder at the fireplace. "I'm due at Ron and Hermione's." He gave Draco almost an apologetic look. "It's our tradition on Christmas Eve. The next day is always crazy at the Burrow, but Christmas Eve is something we've always done ourselves, just sort of..." He trailed off, shrugging.

"Oh. Right. No, it's..." Draco nodded. "That's important."

Harry tilted Draco's chin up with his index finger. "Give me three-quarters of an hour," he said, leaning in for another kiss. "Get something started, if you're such a master chef, and I'll be back to eat it. And we'll have dinner. No more kissing."

"Well, I didn't mean no more ever."

Harry laughed, backing away and appraising Draco with open happiness on his face. "Not till later. If you want a dinner date, you're getting a dinner date." He stumbled back, straightening his shirt and looking lost for a moment. He turned around a few times, grabbing a gift from the table, then his scarf from the hook, then striding away from the Floo.

"It's that way," Draco supplied, smirking as he pointed, and Harry flushed.

"I don't hear any pots on yet," he shot back. When he got to the Floo, he paused with a handful of powder. Turning back to glance over his shoulder, he gave Draco a sad look. "You're not actually going to be here when I get back, are you?" he said quietly.

"If I'm not, it's because I've burned your flat down and gone for takeaway," he said, but his chest ached. That was what Harry thought of him. Well, it was no less than he deserved. Mischievously, he added, "You're only leaving because you have to ask your friends what to do about me, aren't you?"

Harry ducked his head down, flushing. "Obviously."

Draco pointed a finger. "Three-quarters of an hour."

After Harry had stumbled off, Draco stood in the quiet living room, trying to calm his racing heart. He took a few moments just to look around, something he'd never bothered to do before. The space was clean but definitely lived in, with magazines sprawled across the coffee table, an empty glass on a side table, and various keys and coins scattered around the surfaces. It was all very Harry somehow. His eyes lingered on the bottle of wine, and it occurred to him that Harry was going to take it with him, to give it to his friends instead.

But he didn't.

Holding onto that shred of hope, Draco headed off to the kitchen.

No dragon sculpture. No photos of Weasley and his crewmates. Even though he knew it was silly, Draco breathed a sigh of relief. He looked around. He really hadn't spent much time in Harry's kitchen. It was one of the rooms in a house that could tell the most about a person, though. Opening the fridge, he was surprised to find a bag of asparagus alongside the case of beer, several oranges (ugh, too many pips), whole milk, organic eggs (really?), several bottles of Asian cooking condiments, and a massive carton of... Draco squinted... peach-mango juice. Ew.

Closing the door, he turned towards the sink to wash his hands as he contemplated what to cook. On a ledge behind the sink, he found a row of framed photographs he had never seen before, mostly of Weasley and Granger, but there was one of Teddy, too. His lips parting, he lifted up the last one and took a closer look.

"Oh," he said softly, his thumb tracing the edge. It was the two of them at that Ministry Christmas gala three years ago. They were shaking hands, and Harry had his other hand on Draco's bicep, leaning in close to say something to him. They both had eyes only for each other, and their body language was so overt Draco felt himself flush. This was what they'd looked like that night? Merlin. Granger must have taken this, or hell, maybe even Astoria, the traitor.

And Potter had framed it, keeping it in a room he knew Draco would never see. Looking at it every morning, even after Draco had refused to stay the night. Draco peered even closer at himself in the photo. His face was open, his attention to Harry so acute it must have been shocking for anyone looking at them to be told they weren't lovers already. His hand shook a little bit as he placed the photo back on the ledge. He stood there for a long moment, gathering his thoughts.

"Hey."

Harry's voice startled him only slightly. It also warmed him, though, as he turned around. "That was fast," he murmured.

"Yeah. Told them I couldn't stay." He held up two wrapped plates. "Grabbed some food for us, though. Not that I didn't believe you about the cooking." He glanced around, smirking.

"I can cook," insisted Draco. "I just got... distracted."

Harry looked behind Draco at the photo. "Ah. I guess that makes me seem a bit creepy. Hermione," he explained. "She was playing with a new camera. Didn't mean to take it, but when we were going through her photos from that night, I stole that one."

Draco stepped towards him, his fingers light over Harry's shoulders. "Not creepy. I like it."

"Yeah?"

"Mm." He took the plates from Harry and placed them on the counter. Turning back to him, he held out his right hand. "Potter," he said formally, but he kept his tone light.

Harry glanced down at his hand, blinking, and then grinned. "Malfoy." He shook Draco's hand, and Draco held on. He leaned in closer, his other hand touching Harry's shoulder and his cheek brushing Harry's.

"Start over?" he murmured. He squeezed his hand.

Harry was breathing hard. "Yeah." He hesitated. "Look," he added, "are you sure you–"

"Yes." Draco had never been surer of anything in his life. His mouth moved over Harry's jaw, nibbling and breathing him in. He began to slide the buttons of Harry's shirt through their holes, one by one. "Are you hungry?"

"What?"

Draco paused, nodding at the plates.

"No." Harry laughed. "God. No. Come here."

Grinning, Draco closed in again. "You think I haven't been paying attention," he murmured, "but I have. I know every part of you."

"Yeah?" Harry's voice was shaky. "Like what?"

Draco finished opening Harry's shirt and then slid his hands inside. When he reached one of Harry's nipples, he edged his thumbnail across it. Harry's eyes fell closed and he arched forward.

"Lucky– guess. Oh, God."

Draco bent and followed his thumbnail with the tip of his tongue, flicking it softly against Harry's nipple. "Something else I know?" he murmured, his hands sliding down to unzip Harry's jeans, opening them slowly while Harry's legs buckled against the kitchen counter. "You've never asked me to suck you, but the one time I did, just for a moment while we were changing positions, your toes curled in the sheets so hard I thought they'd break off."

Harry's laugh turned into a moan as Draco dropped to his knees. He pushed Harry's jeans and underwear down his hips and lifted his cock out. It was already almost hard, and Draco glanced up as he let just the tip of his tongue touch the head of Harry's cock. He felt Harry's hand slide into his hair at the back of his head, his fingers gentle but still pressing. "Go on, then," Harry murmured. "This is me asking you."

Draco's eyes fluttered closed, and he had to steady himself with a hand on Harry's thigh. He kept his tongue light and teasing, flattening it to cover the underside of Harry's prick. He closed his lips around the head and began to slide down. Harry's fingers tightened in his hair, and he could feel Harry's breath increase where his forehead rested against Harry's abdomen. Draco's fingers curled around the base of Harry's cock, sliding up his shaft as Draco's mouth moved down. His thumb touched his bottom lip where they met in the middle, and Draco couldn't stop the groan that welled up in his throat.

After their first night together, he'd always been so concerned with getting fucked for his own pleasure, quickly and roughly, that he'd never explored Harry's body like this, not nearly as much as he would have liked. Slowly teasing him with his mouth, listening carefully to the ways Harry's breath hitched, was making Draco's body tremble in entirely new ways.

"Draco," breathed Harry, bunching his fist in the collar of Draco's shirt. "Come here. God." He pulled Draco to his feet again and kissed him mercilessly, his lips parted and his tongue pressing against Draco's. He pulled back a fraction, dropping his head to Draco's shoulder. "This bloody shirt," he moaned. "The way you look in it... You're driving me crazy."

Draco barked out a surprised laugh. He'd forgotten about the stupid thing. He looked down, plucking it away from his chest. "How do I look in it?" he teased.

Harry slid his hands up under it, smoothing his palms over Draco's bare back and pulling him in close again. His jaw brushed Draco's. "Like you're mine." His breath was hot in Draco's ear. He hesitated a moment, but his mouth didn't move. "If you're fucking with me," he continued, his voice low, "you have to walk away right now. Because God help me, Draco, if you stay tonight..."

Draco couldn't help it; he clung to Harry, his hands clutching at Harry's open shirt. Their chests were heaving together.

"...there's only me after this. I'm not sharing you. And you're not going to leave in the middle of the night anymore just because you're scared."

A cool wave washed through Draco's body, but he didn't back away. "I'm not scared," he protested, but he made sure Harry could feel the curve of his lips against his throat.

Harry gave a low laugh. "No?" He pulled back, watching Draco carefully. "Prove it."

Draco ran the tip of his tongue over his lower lip. "Oh, don't tempt me," he purred.

"Prove it," Harry repeated, jabbing Draco in the chest and walking him backwards. "Stay," he challenged. "Show me what you've got."

A slow smile spread over Draco's face. His heart was pounding. Harry was wrong. He wasn't scared. Not anymore. He backed up enough to pull the t-shirt over his head, throwing it to the kitchen floor. He spread his arms, watching Harry appraise him. "You're on." He turned and sauntered towards the bedroom. Glancing back over his shoulder, he saw Harry gaping at him, lips parted, standing in the kitchen with his shirt unbuttoned and his jeans open.

In another instant Harry was right behind him, stumbling with him back to the bedroom as they tried to touch each other everywhere they could. Harry pushed his shirt off his shoulders somewhere in the hallway and let it drop, catching up with Draco and pressing him up against the bedroom door, his hands dipping under the elastic of the bloody pyjama bottoms to curve around Draco's arse "I like these," he murmured, pushing them down over Draco's hips.

"Because you're a pervert and they're easy to get into." But Draco let him push them down, stepping out of them and falling back onto the bed as Harry crawled over him. Harry kicked his jeans the rest of the way off, dropped his glasses to the side table, and hovered above Draco at last. They were both naked, the shadows of early evening streaming across the room.

They'd been here before. This was familiar. Draco gazed up at Harry, wondering for a moment how to make this different. How to make Harry understand. He reached up and curled his hand around Harry's neck, arching up into a searing kiss. Almost instantly, Harry reached for Draco's prick, his fingers rough and Draco's hips lifting as if with a mind of their own. It took a great deal of effort, but he wrapped one hand around Harry's wrist, pushing him away.

Harry broke the kiss.

"Not yet," murmured Draco. "Now come here." He pulled Harry down again, meeting his lips and trying to control the kiss, trying to let him know. Draco felt the moment Harry understood. His mouth softened, shifting from the usual frantic pace with which they attacked each other into something that merely simmered. Harry lowered himself to the side, his chest still pressing Draco down, with one hand smoothing down Draco's ribcage, arm, hip, and then back up – a continual motion that soon had Draco shuddering. He gasped into Harry's mouth, letting the slow kiss deepen, paying attention to every tilt of Harry's head, every exploratory slide of his tongue.

He rolled them over, pressing Harry down on his back and climbing on top of him. God, he hadn't done this since that first night. It was so much easier to ignore his feelings when Harry was safely behind him, when he didn't have to see every emotion flashing across Harry's face and know that his own must be the same. He ducked his head down to collect himself, moving his mouth over Harry's throat and collarbone, down his chest and stomach, his hips, his parted thighs, everywhere he could. He brushed his mouth over Harry's cock again, tasting the tip and letting the drop of fluid there seep over his lips.

Above him, Harry groaned, lifting his hips up for more contact. Draco raised his head, gazing up Harry's body and meeting his eyes. "What do you want?" Draco said, only partly teasing. He let his mouth move lightly over Harry's cock again. His own prick was so hard he could barely keep his hand away from it.

Harry clutched at his hips, pulling him up and manouevring Draco to straddle him. Their pricks pressed together over Harry's stomach, and he pulled Draco down for another kiss, increasingly deep and desperate. "Ride me," he breathed against Draco's lips. "Let me see you."

Draco groaned, low and shaky. Harry's words drove straight to his cock. He could only nod, Summoning the lube and pouring it over his fingers. Harry stroked his own cock, lazy and slow, as he watched Draco prepare himself. Rising on his knees and reaching between his legs, he opened himself with a slow, steady touch. Merlin, Harry's face. He squeezed the base of his prick as he watched Draco, even letting his gaze drift up to the ceiling at times, giving a dark little laugh.

"I can barely watch you do that without wanting to come," he murmured.

"If you come without fucking me," Draco warned, "that little deal about me not leaving is off."

Harry grinned, turning it into a moan as Draco rolled his hips to get his fingers deeper. "Understood."

Draco bit his lip as he fingered himself, trying not to panic at Harry's avid gaze. He had to start letting Harry see him, all of him, even at his most vulnerable. When he finally felt ready, he pulled free and slid the excess oil over Harry's cock, grasping it in his fist and pumping slowly. He shifted up, guiding Harry's cock between his legs. He took his time, letting them both experience the anticipation without rushing it. He slid the head of Harry's prick over his balls and gradually behind them, nudging closer to his hole.

Their eyes locked. Draco leaned down to kiss him, needing to feel Harry's arms around him. Harry seemed to understand and took over, one hand strong across Draco's back and the other guiding his cock. Draco pressed back, feeling Harry begin to open him at a sweetly agonising pace.

"Oh," he choked out, burying his face in Harry's neck.

"God," Harry murmured. "Lift up, baby," he added after a moment, and the edges of Draco's world went blurry.

He could only obey, lifting his chest away from Harry's for a moment and sitting astride him. He sank down slowly, feeling every inch pressing him open. Harry was able to go so much deeper in this position, with Draco controlling the pace and gazing down at Harry. He paused, one palm flat against Harry's chest while the other hand guided him inside. He felt so exposed, facing Harry from above like this, watching how much Harry's eyes were riveted to every bit of Draco's body.

"Look at me," whispered Harry, his fingers trailing down Draco's chest and stomach. "Do you have any fucking idea how gorgeous you are?"

Draco's stomach fluttered. He forced himself to keep his eyes open, flicking between Harry's gaze down to his chest and lower, to where his hand was wrapping around Draco's prick. His balls brushed Harry's abdomen, the hair tickling them, as Draco ground his hips in a little circle. Merlin, Harry felt incredible. The thick fullness of his cock inside Draco was rapidly making Draco lose his mind. He lifted up, the slow slide of Harry's cock back out of his body sparking a new wave of sensation, before he pressed down again.

With each new thrust, Draco's body became able to take even more. He braced his hands on Harry's shoulders, increasing his pace as Harry's hips pushed up to meet him. He alternated between moving up and down on Harry's shaft and just letting it fill him, rotating his hips in small circles until Harry's prick caught on his prostate with each round. The rough splash of sensation each time he did nearly made Draco sob.

This was what it could have been like, all this time, if only he'd let himself have it.

"Come here," he panted, pulling at Harry's shoulders until he was sitting up. Harry shifted Draco in his lap, settling Draco's knees on either side of Harry's hips. They clung to each other, Draco's hands deep in Harry's hair and his mouth hot against Harry's neck, while Harry pressed his fingers into Draco's back, the little points of pressure shooting straight down Draco's spine.

Harry couldn't thrust very hard in this position, but neither of them seemed to care. Draco pulled back and kissed him, slow and wet, as he let them move quietly together, lost in sensation. Harry's stomach brushed against Draco's prick, a light, maddening touch that soon had Draco whimpering against Harry's lips.

"Harry." The name was out of Draco's mouth before he could stop it, murmured desperately as his arousal built. He covered it with a moan into the side of Harry's neck, but the name seemed to break something in Harry.

He thrust his hips up as hard as he could, his fingers digging into Draco's back. "Jesus, Draco," he panted. "I can't..."

"Come on." Draco pulled back a fraction, framing Harry's face and looking into his eyes.

The look of pained longing on Harry's face morphed into a grin, and with a deep moan, he pressed forward, toppling Draco over onto his back and driving hard inside him. He pressed Draco's knees to his chest and thrust, and Draco had to brace his arms over his head to keep his head from slamming into the footboard. He didn't care. Harry's wild abandon was a powerful thing to behold, even more so when Draco knew that he was the cause of it.

It didn't scare him anymore. It made him feel whole.

"Fuck me," he muttered, narrowing his eyes and giving Harry a challenging look. "Come on."

Harry laughed, his eyes falling closed as his fingers curled under Draco's knees. He pulled his cock out and thrust back in hard, over and over again, until Draco's body was lit up with sensation. He felt Harry's rhythm begin to falter, his thighs tense against Draco's arse. He grunted, bruising Draco's thighs with his fingerprints as he came hard, his cock pulsing inside Draco. His face was pink and his hair was a mess, but he had eyes only for Draco. After initially squeezing them shut, he opened them blearily as his cock kept thrumming, warmth spreading in Draco's body. Harry's chest heaved as he looked down at Draco, awed and sated.

"Stay there," Draco begged, sitting up on one elbow. His other hand dove for his prick, squeezing it to new hardness after the sensation of getting fucked so thoroughly had caused it to flag. The lingering pressure of Harry's prick inside him shot a wave of renewed arousal through Draco. He fisted himself roughly. Harry was watching him with so much naked emotion in his expression, Draco could hardly look. "Oh God, your face," he choked out.

"Let me watch you," Harry murmured, letting Draco's legs fall to each side and pressing himself forward a little bit, trying to keep his softening prick inside.

He moved his hips, working himself back in, and Draco groaned at the new sensation. He felt wet, open, and deliciously used. More than that, though, he felt something so much stronger than the sum of what their bodies were doing.

Harry leaned down to kiss him, soft and slow, and Draco exploded in his hand, his body freezing as his cock pulsed warm come between them. Harry captured Draco's moan, letting Draco gasp against his mouth, panting, as his orgasm rushed through him. His body shook, exhausted, and he crashed back down to the bed, pulling Harry to sprawl on top of him.

Harry half-laughed, half-groaned, his cock sliding free of Draco's body. Both of them were a mess, Draco thought happily as he closed one fist across Harry's back, but he didn't want to move a muscle to do anything about it.

Harry seemed to have passed out already, his breathing evening out as he slid off Draco and landed to the side a little bit, one leg still swung over Draco's and his hand resting in the mess on Draco's stomach. "Don't make a face," Harry mumbled into Draco's shoulder. "I'll clean you up in a minute."

Draco grinned, his stomach muscles clenching as he held in a laugh.

Harry raised his head at the movement.

"You think you know me so well," Draco said. He arched up to kiss Harry again, slow and deep.

"I'm getting there," he said against Draco's lips.

As Draco's eyes closed, the soft warmth of the bed and Harry's embrace lulling him to sleep, he felt Harry's head fall to his shoulder. His breath tickled Draco's skin as he fell asleep, his breathing deep and rhythmic. Something in Draco's heart seemed to lift free, like a length of chain dissolving into the winter night.

***

Draco awoke in a groggy haze, sleep clinging to the edges of his consciousness. He was on his stomach, he could tell that much, with his arms curled under the pillow. He moaned and began to stretch, one arm snaking out across the mattress.

It encountered someone.

Tentatively, as he began to fully wake, Draco let his fingers slide up over Harry's ribcage and chest with soft, exploratory motions. After a moment, Harry's hand closed over his and held it against his chest, the pads of Harry's fingers tracing his knuckles. Draco opened his eyes.

Harry was on his back beside him, watching him.

"Hey," murmured Draco, unable to hold back a little smile. He flexed his fingers without letting go of Harry's hand, then rotated his ankles and bent his toes.

Harry seemed to release a breath he was holding. "Hey." He broke into a full grin.

They watched each other with what Draco could only imagine were goofy looks on their faces before Draco yawned, letting his eyes drift closed again. "Your bed is lumpy," he told Harry.

Harry laughed, soft and intimate. He hesitated a moment before moving closer to Draco, his lips brushing Draco's forehead. "It said the same about you," he murmured.

Draco caught himself before he laughed out loud, but Harry had to have noticed his grin deepen. "Touché," he said instead. "And stop staring at me," he added, cracking one eye open again.

"Sorry." He fell back to the pillows, scratching his chest. "Just trying to figure out what spell I used to conjure your likeness, so that I can do it again tomorrow." He poked Draco's shoulder. "Very life like."

"You're hilarious."

"You are still here," Harry pointed out. "You have to admit, that's weird."

"I do not. And don't look so worried. I'm not going anywhere."

Harry raised a brow. "You're not?"

"I can't go home. I haven't shopped in a week and a half," said Draco sadly, "so there's nothing to eat but champagne and gherkins."

"...that's what you shop for?"

"That's what Pansy brings over when she needs to bitch about men," Draco clarified. "Honestly, Potter, pay attention." His lips curved up. "You hardly know anything about me."

Harry pressed into his side, one hand cupping Draco's cheek. "I know you're a pain in the arse," he muttered, but he leaned in to kiss him. "Beyond that," he murmured, his lips warm against Draco's, "tell me everything."

Draco kissed him again, stale breath and all. A sleepy, unshaven, rumpled Harry Potter who smelled of sex and morning was still the best thing Draco had ever had in his arms. When he finally pulled back again, he moved his mouth down the line of Harry's throat. "I do like coffee," he whispered.

Harry moaned, his fingers moving in Draco's hair as he struggled to keep to the conversation. "You... what?"

"You asked me once." Draco ducked his head down. "I said no."

Harry was quiet for a long moment. "I remember," he said at last. He gave Draco a solemn look, tracing the line of his jaw. Draco closed his eyes and let him, the soft touch soothing him. "Coffee it is," Harry added. He bent to kiss Draco one more time, then threw the covers aside and jumped up.

"Agh. Cold." Draco grabbed the duvet and tucked himself under it again. This was... new. Different. He still felt a flare of panic. But Harry was at that moment naked in his kitchen making Draco coffee simply because Draco had said he liked it, and it was Christmas morning, and it was cold as fuck outside the covers, and Draco could not imagine being anywhere else.

Harry returned a few minutes later levitating two cups of coffee, a jug of cream and a bowl of sugar, two spoons, and a plate of toast. Draco looked at it all as Harry settled back into bed, hovering it in front of them, and he was inexplicably overcome with emotion. "What?" asked Harry.

His hand over his mouth, Draco only shook his head. "Nothing." He met Harry's gaze for a moment but then had to look away, his face hot.

They munched their toast for a few moments in silence, Draco stealing glances at Harry when he thought he could get away with it. He never could; Harry was always sneaking his own sideways looks. Harry's coffee was almost entirely white, Draco noted to himself, with one sugar in. It must taste disgusting, he thought with a fond smile as he sipped his own – black.

Finally, Draco brushed his fingers together to rid them of crumbs, fortified himself, and pulled back the covers. He rose, shivering, and began rooting around on the floor for his clothes.

He found what he was looking for and straightened, turning back to Harry triumphantly. But Harry's face had shuttered, his jaw tight and his eyes furious. He began to shake his head. "No," Harry bit out. "No, you fucking bastard. You come to me on Christmas Eve of all nights, full of apologies and offering everything I've ever wanted from you, and now you're going to fuck off again, are you?" He looked away, and a burst of his magic sent the breakfast things whooshing to the side of the room, just barely stopping before crashing into the wall.

Draco's throat closed as he stared at Harry. Okay, he deserved that. Still, it took all his strength not to shout right back. Instead, he tried to relax his clenched jaw, walking back over to the bed and shaking out the pyjama bottoms he was holding. He climbed back up and crawled over to Harry, throwing one leg over his thighs to straddle him. He glared. "Are you finished?"

Harry blinked up at him. "Er– yeah."

"Good. Because I was about to give you your Christmas present."

"You... oh." Harry's face shifted, his guard dropping again and his eyes softening. "Sorry. I just–"

"Be quiet for once."

Harry gave him a tiny smile, gazing up at Draco with every emotion etched on his face. Draco leaned down to kiss him, just to keep him from making any more pronouncements – for better or worse – that Draco wouldn't know how to respond to.

"I owe you more," he said against Harry's lips before sitting up again. "I didn't think we were– I mean, that gifts were–"

"It's okay." Harry's hands smoothed over Draco's thighs.

"No, I'm an idiot, but that's not the point." Draco sighed, frustrated with himself but determined to do this. "Don't laugh." He thrust the pyjamas out. "I don't think they'll fit you, but you can just... keep these here."

Harry's lips parted.

"For me, I mean. In case I come over without trousers. I don't know. Just. If I need them, then, they're here." He looked away. This was stupid.

Harry gaped for another long moment, but just when Draco was prepared to take the damn things back and storm home after all, Harry pulled Draco against him, sitting up halfway to meet him and kissing the breath out of him. His hand landed in Draco's hair, cradling the back of his head, and his lips parted slowly for Draco. With a soft gasp, Draco let himself be kissed. Harry nibbled at Draco's lip before releasing it, keeping their foreheads close. "I've long suspected it, but it's taken you forever to give me any proof," he said, grinning. His fingers still moved softly through Draco's hair.

"And 'it' is?"

"You are a good person."

"Well." Draco felt himself go warm all over. "Let's not jump to conclusions just yet." He pulled back. "Now." He glanced behind him. "Where's that stunning bottle of wine you got me? I say we open it now and show up at the Weasleys' lit up like the tree."

"How do you know about that?"

"Er– kitchen, last night. Saw it." Draco swallowed, looking down at his hands. He hesitated. "I don't know what to say."

Harry gave him a gentle smile. "Say thank you."

Draco only nodded, suddenly overcome.

Harry sat up and flipped them over, pressing Draco down to the sheets and moving his mouth down Draco's throat. He nudged Draco's thighs apart and settled his leg between them. "Hey, Malfoy?" His voice was playful.

"Yes, Potter?"

His hand moved over Draco's hardening prick, cupping his balls and sliding steadily up his shaft. Draco took a shuddering breath. His lips were soft at Draco's ear. "Happy Christmas."

"That's... oh... that's my line."

Laughing, Harry kept moving his hand until neither of them could think of a reason to keep talking. Draco sank back against the lumpy mattress and drank Harry in. So this was what Christmas could be like.

Amazing.

***

Later in the afternoon, they stepped out of the Floo at the Burrow one after the other. Harry grasped Draco's hand as soon as he was through, and he greeted everyone in the living room. They all nodded, some, like Granger and Johnson, smiling knowingly, and then they all turned expectantly to Draco.

He scratched the back of his neck. "Er– Happy Christmas, Weasleys. And friends." He shot a look at Harry, who only rolled his eyes.

"Thank you, Draco," called Granger loudly, prompting the others to say the same thing or wish him seasonal greetings in return, some grumbling more than others. He caught sight of Charlie Weasley near the kitchen door, laughing with his brother but pausing to give Draco a narrow-eyed look. Draco lifted his chin and glared right back, until he felt Harry's hand on the small of his back.

"All right?"

He nodded, shooting Weasley another warning look before turning to Harry. He set off to find them something to drink, nipping a quick kiss to Draco's mouth before he left. Draco felt his face flush, but when he glanced around to see if anyone saw, he found his aunt smiling at him. "Oh, shush, you," he muttered as he made his way over to her, bending to kiss her cheek. "Go on. You told me so."

She raised her hands. "I didn't say anything!" But she was beaming.

Draco's heart skipped a beat when he saw Teddy, still wan and small for his age, sitting on the floor beside Andromeda with a group of toy soldiers.

"I can make a call on Tuesday," he said quietly to her. "I have a client in France who works for a hospital. She knows several Healers over there. Quiet ones," he emphasised.

She gazed up at him, her eyes wide. "I– yes. All right." She swallowed and squeezed his hand. "Thank you." She looked like she wanted to say more but thought the better of it, turning instead to rub one hand over Teddy's back.

Encouraged, Draco sat down on the floor in front of him, awkwardly folding his legs under to give the toys enough room. "Can I?"

Teddy eyed him warily, but nodded. Draco picked up one of the soldiers.

"Biarlgh the Rider," he murmured, recognising it from his own chest of toys as a child. He let out a low whistle. "This one's hard to get, you know."

"I know." Teddy regarded him. "I was hoping for it for three years, and then finally Uncle Harry said he found one and if I was very good for Gran, I could have it for Christmas."

"That's awfully kind of Uncle Harry."

Teddy nodded. "Be careful with it," he added, frowning as Draco played with the leg joints, bending them in slightly obscene ways.

"Sorry." He set it down. "I'm Draco."

Teddy nodded again. "I know. I've met you before."

"I– oh."

Andromeda covered a laugh, and Draco shot her a look.

"Right. Well. Do you know how to play Biarlgh versus Eominen? I used to play it when I was a kid. It's basically land riders versus winged riders." He grabbed another figurine.

"Winged riders are my favourite," Teddy told him matter-of-fact. "They never lose a race."

"Which makes them boring," Draco shot back, "and that's why in Biarlgh versus Eominen, the winged riders have to take every second lap as a penalty, and the land riders can trade in a talon card for an extra leg." He held the piece up. "But only if the Queen Rider isn't visible. If she is, Biarlgh has to follow her, and he only has four legs. That slows him down."

Teddy scrutinised the pieces on the floor. "But what if Eominen battles the Queen?"

"Then the winged riders have to loop around the lake in sacrifice," said Draco, exasperated. "Obviously."

"Hm." Teddy chewed his lip. "Okay. But I get to be Biarlgh."

Draco sighed. "Dammit. Fine, but only for this round. Then I get to." He glanced up at the feel of fingers softly touching his hair. Harry offered him a wineglass, gazing down at him with an unreadable expression on his face. Draco felt the intensity of it right to his toes, and he cleared his throat. "Uncle Harry can play the winner," he added roughly. "He'll be bollocks at it."

Teddy grinned up at them. "Bol-locks," he clucked.

When Draco glanced up again, Harry was sitting on the sofa, his arm wrapped around Andromeda's shoulders. She was watching them play, surreptitiously wiping her eyes.

He looked around the rest of the room. Granger had her toddler on her lap, reading to her from a storybook. Johnson was in the middle of a spirited debate with her father-in-law, who was holding some sort of garden hose with a pencil sticking out of one end. The Weasley siblings were situated at various places around the room, playing chess, taking a pull from their beer, calling out teasing comments to Granger, or shuffling a deck of cards.

They weren't ignoring Draco, but they weren't giving him nearly the negative attention he'd expected. They might not be family yet, but Draco surprised himself by considering the idea that they could be. Someday. That might be... tolerable.

While Teddy was busy counting the penalty laps Draco had to take for provoking a battle with the Queen, Draco offered a silent nod of gratitude to Snape, who in both life and death had yet to steer him wrong.

It was a little bit maddening, come to think.

He leaned back against Harry's legs, smiling when Harry's fingers traced lightly over the back of his neck. Maddening, yes, but if the result was going to continue to be this sense of warmth and easy contentedness that came from giving Harry everything he could, then Draco decided he could live with that.


-fin-