Actions

Work Header

All Roads Lead Home

Work Text:


“Will that be all, sir?”

Draco looked down at his paltry selection of presents— a cashmere scarf for Mother and an antique, goblin crafted pocket watch for Father. The latter had taken a sizable chunk out of his salary, but Merlin forbid that Father look anything less than Lord Malfoy, even when he’d been exiled to some no name town in France.

Draco’s lip curled and he had to remind himself that the young woman behind the counter was not mocking him, likely had no idea who he was. He had done his best to sink into anonymity after his parents left the country, and by all accounts, he had done a marvellous job.

Nobody even bothered to glance at him anymore. Nobody cared.

For the first time in his life, Draco was really and truly alone.

On Christmas Eve, no less.

He shook the maudlin thoughts off and gave the girl a terse nod, shucking a few Galleons on the counter. She didn’t attempt to make small talk with him as she wrapped the packages with a quick swish of her wand. Draco accepted the paltry package and started making his way out of the shop. With luck, the Post Office would still be open and he could have these sent off today. And then perhaps, he could shut himself up in the Manor for another six months and pretend the world outside didn’t exist.

“Sir?”

Draco turned around. The girl offered him a hesitant smile.

“Merry Christmas,” she said.

Draco turned away and left without another word.

****

The walk to the Owl Post Office was short and uneventful. Draco kept his head down and made the necessary payment for his delivery, leaving quickly afterwards. It didn’t happen very often but he had been refused service in a few establishments before, and he didn’t want Mother to go without her present this year. He doubted it meant much but it was quite literally, the least he could do for her.

As he made his way out of the Post Office, he absently reflected on the festivities around him. Diagon Alley was rife with Christmas cheer. Fairy lights were strung and lanterns glowed brightly, sparkling against rows of ramshackle stores. Even from here, he could feel the raucous laughter from the Leaky Cauldron. A large tree adorned the town square and everywhere he looked, wizards and witches milled about, laughing and talking and carting armloads of presents around.

It was infectious, and a small part of him wished he could join in. But no, the thought was immature and foolish. Their joy was not his to share. He was the Other now. The War had defined him, and Draco knew that he would never truly belong here again.

With that cheerful thought, he started the long walk back home. With any luck, he would find an Apparition Point that wasn’t crowded and then...then this day would be over and done with.

He didn’t notice the hoard of children until they ran right past him, momentarily startling him. They were laughing and shouting at each other as they tossed a Quaffle, running through the crowd with little regard for safety— theirs or anyone else’s. Draco instinctively darted out of the way, expecting an accident at any moment.

He wasn’t disappointed.

The game of catch-and-throw devolved into a game of look-how-far-I-can-throw-this in record time. The Quaffle went sailing, right over one of the boy’s heads…

...and hit a matronly woman, who managed a frazzled ‘Oh dear!’ before collapsing in an undignified heap.

Draco winced at the impact, and trained an annoyed eye on the little hooligans. They gulped and ran off at once, not bothering to retrieve their Quaffle or apologise for the mess they’d caused. Draco huffed in irritation. The holiday season was seriously overrated.

The poor woman was still struggling to get up. Her packages had scattered all around, and her hat was askew. People were actually walking around her, too busy with their own problems to offer help. Draco didn’t have that problem, though. He pursed his lips and took a step forward to offer assistance…

...and then the woman turned her head and he got a good look at her.

Molly Weasley seemed just as shocked to see him. Draco paled and halted, not sure if he should run or not. For a moment, they just...looked at each other, Mrs. Weasley still on the ground and Draco wide-eyed and frozen in his tracks. A thousand images flitted through Draco’s head— flashes of green light, screams all around him, Potter charging forward with determination, Crabbe screaming and flames all around him as he prepared to die…

Draco took a step back. Something in the woman’s expression shifted and she turned away from him. Draco wondered why the gesture made him feel so small and worthless. It reminded him of his own mother’s expression when he came home with the Mark on his arm— a sad look, rife with disappointment and pain. Like he should have known better, like he should have been better.

It was that thought that made him move. Draco swallowed and took a tentative step forward, then another. Molly said nothing but her eyes tracked him as he came closer, approaching her with a quickening pace and an intent to help that he couldn’t quite understand at the moment.

He missed his mother.

Molly Weasley was nothing like her, with her frumpy coat and frazzled red hair, watching him with a blend of consternation and wariness. But, he had a strong feeling that if he didn’t help her— if he didn’t even try to be better than he’d been so far— somewhere, somehow his mother would know and she would be disappointed in him.

So, Draco willed himself to move forward and accept the woman’s ire. Salazar knows he deserved it.

“Mrs Weasley,” he greeted, with a polite nod. “Are you hurt?”

She didn’t respond and Draco took the opportunity to kneel beside her and gather the packages with a quick spell. They flew to the bag in her arms, festive and wrapped in bright, red and green paper. A few name tags caught his attention as they re-arranged themselves efficiently— Bill, Fleur, Ron, Ginny, Hermione...

Presents.

Of course.

Molly was still watching him and he tried his damndest not to feel like he was being judged. Draco averted his gaze and reached for a present that had eluded his spell. The red and gold packaging seemed to mock him, as did the tag on it.

Harry.

Draco pushed it into the bag like it had burned him, then resumed the arduous task of getting Mrs Weasley back on her feet.

“Thank you,” she offered slowly, taking his arm and pulling herself up. “Mr Malfoy.”

This was...awkward. Molly smiled tentatively and Draco ducked his head as she brushed snow off her coat and gloves. “My word, that was quite a tumble!” she exclaimed, presumably to fill the tense silence.

Draco nodded along, racking his brains for a suitable excuse to leave. “Are you hurt?” he repeated his concern. “If you like, I can see you off to St. Mungo’s or…”

“Oh no, but thank you, dear.” Draco blinked in surprise as she smiled and patted his cheek. As if he were a child. Or someone who hadn’t been out to attack her family a little less than a year ago. Draco swallowed and took a step back. Mrs Weasley didn’t seem to have noticed. “It takes more than a little slip to take me out,” she added.

Draco didn’t remember much from the Battle but he’d heard this tale a thousand times—how Molly had taken on Bellatrix Lestrange to save her daughter. Despite himself, he felt a smile tug at his lips. “I have no trouble believing that,” he replied. Molly laughed— a hearty, healthy chuckle so different from his mother’s delicate, silvery laugh. Draco’s expression clouded and he took another step back. “I should go,” he said quietly. “Have a nice day, Mrs Weasley.”

“Mr Malfoy.”

Draco cursed his luck and turned around. “It’s Draco,” he corrected. “Just...Draco. Please.”

“Draco, then,” she conceded with another smile. “Merry Christmas, young man. And please, tell...tell your mother I wish her well.”

Draco nodded tersely. “Of course,” he agreed. “I’ll send her an owl.”

The moment the words left his mouth he knew he’d made a big mistake.

Molly’s expression clouded over. “Oh,” she clucked softly. “She’s not...I had forgotten. I apologise, Draco. It wasn’t my intention to...”

“It’s alright,” Draco cut in hurriedly. Salazar, anything to end this awful conversation. “It’s...fine, Mrs. Weasley. I’m used to it, really.”

Molly trailed off and dabbed her eyes discreetly. “I suppose we’re all in for a bleak Christmas. As you might know, we have...an extra seat at the table this year.”

The twin.

Fred.

Draco’s jaw clenched and he steeled himself for what was to follow. She had every reason to blame him, even if it hadn’t been his wand that ended her son’s life. But the curses, tears and accusations he had expected didn’t come. Molly just stood there, with that sad smile and her armload of bright presents— one less than last year. No matter how much he wanted to, Draco knew he couldn’t walk away right now. This was his fault, in some twisted way. He owed her this.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he offered quietly, even if it was too little, too late.

“I’m sorry for yours,” she replied. Her eyes reflected an understanding and Draco wondered how she knew. Maybe mothers just...did, somehow. Then, Molly straightened herself, seeming to have reached some kind of decision. “There will always be time for grief,” she said firmly, “but today is a day of joy and forgiveness. Merlin knows, my family needs it and I suspect, Draco, that you could use some yourself. Not to mention, a nice dinner because really child, you look half starved!”

Draco stared, momentarily shocked speechless and quite unable to follow her train of thought. It didn’t seem to bother Molly at all. “As I mentioned, we have an extra seat this year,” she continued determinedly, “and I would be very glad to have you over for Christmas Dinner.”

“What?!”

Draco’s eyes widened and he held his hands up, whether in protest of self defence, he couldn’t quite say. Both came rather naturally to him where Weasleys were concerned. “I...Mrs Weasley, that’s very nice of you,” he began, “but I couldn’t possibly...”

“Nonsense! And it’s Molly to you, young man.”

Draco blinked dazedly at her. “Molly, then,” he conceded, because he had a feeling he wasn’t going to win any more arguments with the Weasley matriarch so why even bother. “I...I appreciate the gesture, really I do. But it just...it won’t be proper.”

“Weasleys don’t put stock in what’s proper,” Molly scoffed, brushing off his concerns with ease. She raised a challenging eyebrow. “You have met my husband, Arthur.”

Draco swallowed audibly. Yes, he most certainly had. Exactly how would Arthur Weasley react to having a Malfoy in his house? How would his very tall, very strong and more importantly, very angry sons react to a Malfoy at their Christmas dinner? Wasn’t one of them a dragon tamer? And the one who married the Delacour girl had his face slashed up by Greyback, didn’t he? And of course, there was the Weasel and his Know-It-All girlfriend who would sooner hex Draco than pass him the dinner rolls…

Draco’s head was starting to swim and his stomach felt queasy. There were just so many ways this could land him in St Mungo’s. Molly seemed to sense his trepidation because she reached out and put a hand on his arm. “No harm will come to you under my roof,” she promised him. “I know we’ve had our differences in the past but...”

She paused and shook her head. When she looked back at him, her expression was determined and fierce and Draco had absolutely no doubt that this woman could take on a hardened Death Eater in a duel and win.

“Call it an old woman’s foolishness,” Molly continued, “but I believe that nobody should be alone on Christmas. I’m sure your mother would agree.”

Draco swallowed painfully. “It’s...it’s the first Christmas after the War,” he argued weakly. “You can’t possibly think that this will end well.”

“Well, Draco,” she replied, with a slightly bitter smile, “how much worse could it get?”

With that, she thrust the bag of presents in his arms—pretending not to notice when he staggered under their weight— and took off at a brisk pace. “Come along, lad!” she called over her shoulder. “There’s plenty to do and we’re late. I hope you’re looking forward to building up an appetite.”

Draco stared at her retreating back, open mouthed and more than a little frightened. There was nothing for it. Finally, his shoulders sagged in defeat and he followed Molly, trying to convince himself that he had not been strong-armed into this.

****

They Apparated just outside Ottery St Catchpole, near a small hillock. Molly spent the walk back to the Burrow, regaling Draco with stories about previous Christmases with her family. Either that, or she was trying to lure him into a false sense of security. Whatever it was, by the time Draco was walking down the winding, snow laden path leading to the house, he had a very thorough understanding of the Weasley Jumper Tradition, the No-Filibuster-Fireworks-in-the-house rule and the super secret Weasley eggnog recipe.

He allowed himself to relax slightly, listening to Molly and trying to re-imagine the events she spoke of in his own head. The Weasleys for all their faults, did sound like they had fun together. For all they lacked in money and comfort, they made up for it with laughter, good cheer and spirit. He was slowly coming to realise that his own Christmases were severely lacking in comparison. It was somewhat depressing and he tried not to dwell on it.

In fact, he was so busy not dwelling on it, that he almost didn’t see the two men dragging a gigantic fir across the lawn, until they were close enough to call out to.

Which is what Molly did.

“Bill! Charlie! You were supposed to get that tree decorated hours ago!”

Draco’s throat went dry as the redheads turned to them. Bill. That was his name. The tall, lanky one with a slash across his jawline. Greyback’s last victim. Word was he hadn’t been afflicted with the Transition but looking at him, Draco could tell there was something...feral lurking in the depths of those blue eyes. The man stopped short at the sight of his mother. His eyes drifted to Draco. He paused and cocked his head. Draco held himself very still, trying to pretend that he wasn’t being actively sized up.

The other one, Charlie, was far more genial. He jogged up to Molly and placated her with a peck on the cheek. “Almost done, Mum. We’ll have it ready in no time, Godric’s honour.” He gave Draco the once over too, and offered a crooked smile. Draco blinked, momentarily caught off-guard by the realisation that there was such a thing as a handsome Weasley.

“I see you brought back something that wasn’t on the list,” Charlie commented, eyeing Draco. He sounded more curious than accusatory, but Draco still wished he could Disapparate on the spot.

“Oh, of course,” Molly tutted, pulling him forward. “Bill, Charlie. This is Draco Malfoy. I asked him to join us for dinner. Draco, these are my sons.”

“Malfoy,” Bill echoed. His voice was neutral, and gave nothing away. “Right.”

Draco hunched his shoulders.

“Draco was kind enough to help me carry all these home,” Molly added, gesturing to the bag in his hands and giving her sons a stern look. “Something I seem to recall you promised to do, Charlie.”

Charlie responded by pulling his mother in a bear hug. Molly huffed and smacked his shoulder, before ruffling his hair fondly. Draco looked away. All of a sudden, he was more aware than ever that he was an intruder here. He shouldn’t be here, no matter what Molly said.

“Well, it’s good to meet you in person, so to speak,” Charlie said, once he’d released his mother. “ Hope you’re hungry. Mum likes to feed people.”

Draco blinked in surprise, but Molly offered him an encouraging nod. “The pleasure’s all mine,” he replied, frowning slightly when Charlie’s grin widened. He really was a friendly sort, wasn’t he?

Bill said nothing, and continued to watch Draco with that same unnerving intensity.

“Well, we should head in,” Molly announced. “Draco dear, would you…”

“Actually, Mum,” Bill cut in abruptly. “Would you mind giving us a minute? I think we’d like a word with...Draco here.”

Draco’s heart plummeted.

“Of course,” Molly agreed brightly. “And hurry up. I expect you all to pitch in for dinner.”

Draco however, was more concerned about being dinner. Thankfully, Charlie distracted his brother with a question about how to get the tree inside the house. Draco saw an opportunity and took it. “Molly,” he whispered urgently to the older witch, “I think we’re close enough for me to say this to you now. Please let me go home before your firstborn strings me up like a wreath.”

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” Molly chided. “Bill wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Draco was tempted to point out that he wasn’t a fly and was therefore, a very eligible candidate for the aforementioned hurting. Molly cut him off with an unyielding look. “My boys will be on their best behaviour,” she said firmly. “I expect the same from you. Are we clear, young man?”

Once again, he found himself relenting. When he had a moment to himself, Draco vowed to find out how she kept doing this. “Yes, Ma’am,” he conceded with a sigh. Never let it be said that a Malfoy couldn’t die with his head held high and all that.

Molly beamed and patted his cheek. “Good lad,” she said fondly, and then she was walking away, disappearing through the door and shutting it with a sound click.

Draco swallowed and turned around, preparing to meet his doom.

Bill Weasley approached him leisurely, still watching his every move like a hawk. Or a wolf. Or something just as predatory. Draco swallowed and convinced himself to hold his ground as the man stopped in front of him, his expression unreadable. Up close, Draco could see the slash across his handsome face, the way it ended just below his right eye.

“So,” Bill said, his voice deceptively casual. “Draco Malfoy.”

Draco nodded, forcing himself not to look away.

Bill leaned in, getting right in his space. Draco tried not to think about how the man could probably smell his fear. “You here to start trouble, Malfoy?” he asked sternly.

Draco shook his head and Bill raised an eyebrow. “Use your words,” he suggested dryly.

Draco thought he heard Charlie snicker in the background, but he didn’t dare check. “No,” he managed.

“No?” Bill repeated skeptically, crossing his arms.

Draco swallowed audibly. “No...sir?” he tried.

This time he was sure Charlie was snickering. Bill gave him a long, searching look before offering a slow nod. “Then we’re good,” he announced. Draco barely had a second to register relief. Then, Bill’s hand shot out...

...and ruffled his hair.

Draco gaped as the man turned away and went back to the tree. “Get inside,” Bill ordered gruffly. “Mum’s making eggnog.”

Charlie— who wasn’t even bothering to hide his chuckling anymore— shot him a cheeky wink and went back to helping his brother. Draco backed away slowly, feeling overwhelmed and very, very confused.

“Cute kid,” he heard Charlie comment as he headed for the Burrow.

Bill snorted. “Reminds me of Percy,” he said.

Draco quickened his footsteps, not entirely sure if he was jealous or thankful that he was an only child.

****

Draco opened the door, only to stop short in his tracks for what might be the seventeenth time that day.

Every head in the cramped living room swivelled in his direction. The murmuring died down and silence descended, tense and thick. Apparently, Molly had announced his presence. That explained the lack of wands being pointed in his face. Draco could hear a soft humming and the clinking of dishes from what he assumed was the kitchen. Despite the comforting knowledge that Molly was nearby— and would at the very least give a stern lecture to the first person who attacked him — he decided that it would be in his best interests to remain very, very still and give all of them a minute to get used to him.

Ginevra —Potter’s girlfriend— twirled her wand in her fingers, like she couldn’t quite decide which hex to throw first. The Weasel had lumped himself on the ratty couch, looking like he’d swallowed a Flobberworm. Granger had a firm hand on his shoulder, but she looked fairly displeased herself.

The rest of the occupants seemed less bothered by his arrival.

“Huh,” a gangly Weasley with horn rimmed spectacles commented, before shucking a Galleon at a charming blonde. “You win.”

“Merci, Percy” the woman teased, and Draco belatedly recognised her as Fleur Delacour. No, Weasley. Bill’s wife. She nodded at him and smiled. “Bon jour, Draco.”

Draco nodded, not trusting himself to say a word.

Naturally, it was the Weasel who broke the tense silence. “So,” he sneered, “Mum says you followed her home.”

“Ron,” Granger began warningly.

“You here to start trouble?” Weasel demanded.

Before Draco could respond – or even wonder exactly how many times he would be asked that question today – someone else entered the conversation.

“Ron, that’s enough.”

Arthur Weasley dusted his hands off, and fixed his youngest son with an annoyed look. “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when you tell your Mother you frightened off our guest.”

The Weasel bristled indignantly. “But he’s Malfoy!”

“Yes,” Mr Weasley conceded, fixing Draco with a sharp eye. It was a little like being under Bill’s intense gaze again. So that’s where he got it from. Mr Weasley turned back to his son. “As far as Malfoys go, I’ve seen worse,” he announced. “Now, I believe Molly asked the three of you to put up the stockings. Off you go. On the double, please.”

The Weasel gave Draco one more filthy look and stomped off. Granger sighed and went after him. Ginevra gave him a long, not entirely friendly stare-down before turning her back and following them as well. When Percy and Fleur drifted off, Draco found himself alone with the one man in this house who had more reason to hate him than anyone else.

If Father could see him now, he’d probably have Kneazles. Then again, Father was the reason he was in this mess in the first place.

Father could go fuck himself.

“Merry Christmas, Mr Weasley,” Draco declared, drawing his shoulders back just a little.

Arthur offered him a strained smile. “And to you, Draco. I...hope you’re making yourself at home.”

Draco ducked his head and offered a jerky nod. Mr Weasley didn’t seem to know what to do either. He cleared his throat uncomfortably and then settled on the sofa, twirling an odd implement in his hand. Draco’s eyes drifted to the curious device. It looked like nothing he’d seen before. He recalled Arthur Weasley’s penchant for Muggle objects— just one of the many reasons he wasn’t fit to be a wizard, according to Father. Draco instinctively recoiled, before remembering that he was supposed to be making nice with these people.

Molly would certainly appreciate it and really, he’d faked enthusiasm for far worse things and for a lot less. Besides, humouring Arthur Weasley would only make his precarious position in this house that much stronger.

So, Draco summoned all his Slytherin training and approached the sofa cautiously. “Mr Weasley?” he said softly, making sure to announce his presence. “May I ask what that is?”

Arthur jerked as if he’d been startled. “This?” he clarified, gesturing to the yellow, squeaky thing in his hand. “I believe the Muggles call it a ‘rubber duck’.”

Draco eyed the yellow duck blandly. So, this is what life had come to. Feigning interest in Muggle garbage to get on the good side of the Weasleys. His ancestors would be doing cartwheels in their graves. “What is it for?” he asked, because at this point, why not? He was going to Malfoy hell anyway.

“Ah.” Arthur looked pensive. “That is the question, isn’t it? Fascinating things, these. Muggles usually keep them in the bath, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I suppose I could ask Harry, but he’ll only come by later…”

The mention of Potter made Draco bristle in indignation. As if they needed Potter for something so trivial. Draco could figure out what that ridiculous thing was for! How hard could it be, anyway? Whatever Potter could do, Draco could do— better and faster, thank you very much

“May I see it?” he asked, sitting down beside Arthur and holding his hand out.

Arthur looked a bit doubtful of his sudden interest, but he conceded to handing his Muggle fixation over. “Do be careful. It’s fragile.”

Draco suppressed a scoff and turned the duck around in his hands. It looked...like a duck. The colours were bright and over-exaggerated — he wouldn’t expect anything less of those garish Muggles— so this must be a toy of some sort. How did one play with it in the bath? He squeezed gently and the duck squeaked back. Ah, hole at the bottom. Interesting. A novelty. And, this material...he wasn’t entirely sure what the duck was made of, but it seemed waterproof and he was fairly sure it could float.

“I think it’s a toy,” he surmised finally.

Arthur peered at the duck, evidently seeing it in a whole new light. “Do you?” he exclaimed. “Fascinating!”

“Yes,” Draco agreed, feeling strangely proud of himself. “I assume it’s for children, possibly an incentive to get them in the bath. Children aren’t exactly fond of baths, unless I’m mistaken.”

“Oh, you’re not,” Arthur chuckled. “Ron never made it easy, I’ll tell you that.”

Draco could think of at least three good insults relating to Ron Weasley and the frequency of his bathing, and he pointedly bit his tongue. “It’s waterproof,” he continued. “It floats and makes odd sounds. All features that would appeal to young children.”

“Hm,” Arthur mused, stroking his chin. “I believe that’s it! Inspiring, Draco. You have a gift.”

Draco suppressed a smile. Anyone could have figured it out, but it felt nice to be praised— even for something so ridiculous. His work here was done. Arthur Weasley at least, was firmly in his corner. “Well,” Draco said, making to get up, “thank you for indulging me, Mr Weasley. I should…”

“Now now, hold on,” Arthur declared, snagging his sleeve and pulling him back. “There’s plenty more where that came from.”

Wait, what?

“Um, is there?” Draco questioned, plastering a bright smile on his face. “That’s...wonderful.”

“Indeed!” Arthur declared enthusiastically, Summoning a box and rummaging through it while Draco looked on in growing despair. “It’s so rare to get a new perspective on my collection. You must tell me what you think of these.”

Draco suppressed a groan. There were at least, two hundred assorted items in that box alone! “I’d...be happy to help,” he forced out.

“Excellent,” Arthur exclaimed, holding up something sharp and not very safe looking. “Hermione gave me a set of these on my last birthday. Now, what do you think a dentist’s drill is? Also, what do you think a dentist is?”

Draco sighed and settled down to study the instruments. He had a feeling this would be a long talk.

****

Time stood still. Ages passed and civilisations crumbled and Draco remained where he was, listening to Arthur Weasley talk his ear off about some Muggle bit of rubbish or the other.

So, this was his punishment then.

Ingenious, really. Luring him in with promises of food and forgiveness, only to subject him to death by mind numbing boredom.

Draco was seriously considering just Vanishing the box and feigning innocence, when they were interrupted. Honestly, he had never been so glad to see Ginevra Weasley and Hermione Granger in his life. His eyes met theirs in a desperate plea for help. Granger’s lips twitched and she subtly nudged her companion.

“Dad, we’re sorry to break this up and all but we need Draco,” Ginevra explained.

Oh, thank you, blessed women! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

“Oh, do you?” Arthur exclaimed, sounding rather put out. “But we were just talking about this...torque wrench! Surely, you can spare a few…”

“No, Dad,” Ginevra cut in patiently. “Not unless you want to tell Mum she has one less happy helper.”

A healthy fear of Molly seemed to resonate with this family. Arthur’s shoulders slumped but he conceded. “Oh, very well.”

“Arthur, I’d be happy to tell you about the torque wrench,” Granger put in, subtly situating herself between Draco and Arthur. She picked the silver instrument up, holding it with almost professional ease. “This is a dentist’s version. You see, they use it to…”

Ginevra tugged on his arm and Draco wasted no time in letting her spirit him away.

“That was a test,” she explained as she led him to the kitchen. “You passed. Congratulations.”

Draco stared at her. “You do that to everyone who comes over?”

“No,” Ginevra replied, quirking an eyebrow at him. “Just the ones we don’t like very much.”

“Right,” Draco drawled. He should have seen that coming.

“But,” Ginevra continued, “even Ron agrees that anyone who can humour Dad for two hours straight and not hex themselves in the face deserves a fair shot. So, there you go. Fair shot. Try not to mess it up.”

Draco wasn’t sure what to make of that, but he had a feeling he should be grateful. They had rescued him, after all. “Thanks,” he offered reluctantly. “But what about Granger?”

“Hermione’s got the next shift. We take turns. I’ll go over and relieve her in an hour. Then Ron, then Charlie...and so on and so forth.”

Draco blinked. They had a system. They took turns humouring their father and his strange obsession with Muggle junk. It was...kind of nice, the lengths they were willing to go to to spare Arthur’s feelings. His own father would have dismissed such sentiment as weak and foolish.

“This is weird,” he announced finally.

It felt good to say it out loud.

Ginevra didn’t seem too offended. “Oh, you sweet summer child,” she tutted. “You haven’t seen a thing yet. Now come on, Mum’s drafted us for kitchen duty.”

Draco instinctively dug his heels in. “We’re going to cook?” he asked, mildly horrified at the suggestion. Malfoys simply did not cook. He was quite sure the ability had been bred out of his genepool several Malfoys ago.

Even Ginevra looked appalled. “Of course not!” she practically shrieked. “You want to cook on your first kitchen duty shift? Merlin, why don’t we just get advanced degrees in Arithmancy while we’re at it?” She barged into the kitchen, dragging him along in the process. “Mum, I found him!” she sing songed. “Guess what? Draco wants to try his hand at peeling the potatoes!”

Molly glanced up from the stew she was stirring, looking rather surprised. “Does he?” she exclaimed. “Why, Draco, how nice! I can never get anyone to volunteer, it’s a rather tedious job.”

Draco scowled as Ginny smiled brightly, pushed him towards a heaping pile of potatoes and thrust a peeling knife in his hands. “Don’t use magic,” she advised sweetly. “Spells make them come out wonky and we need all the potatoes we can get for the roast. Right, Mum?”

Molly just chuckled and went back to the stew, completely oblivious of the devious little wench she’d raised. Draco gave the grinning girl a dirty look and started on the potatoes. “Well played,” he muttered, as soon as Molly’s back was turned. “Now, it’s my turn.”

Ginny frowned as he adopted a suitably distressed expression and dropped the knife. “Oh no, I messed up!” he groaned. Molly turned around. Draco looked at her wide, worried eyes and held out a clumsily cut potato. “I’m so sorry, Molly. I guess I just don’t have the hang of it. I apologise, I didn’t mean to let you down.”

Molly’s expression didn’t soften, it melted. “Oh, you poor dear!” she clucked. “No one gets it on the first try. It took Ginny here four years to learn how to make soup.”

“Mum!” Ginny screeched indignantly, and Draco valiantly fought a snicker. Molly was still cooing over him so he made it a point to look woeful and disappointed.

“Don’t worry about a thing,” Molly soothed. “I’m sure you’ll do just fine once you’ve seen someone else do it. Ginny, take half the potatoes and start peeling, please. And make sure you show Draco how to do it.”

She turned her back and went back to the stew. Ginny’s jaw dropped in outrage and Draco smirked. “Slytherin, love,” he whispered under his breath, before sauntering back to his peeling station. “Welcome to the Big Leagues.”

Ginny growled under her breath and picked up a peeler, making sure to shove him slightly as she dug about for a potato. “Nice one,” she offered grudgingly. “Do me a favour, and never tell my boyfriend how you did that.”

Her boyfriend.

Potter.

Draco went back to his potatoes in silence.

****

Not unlike the rest of her family, Ginevra had trouble with the concept of ‘companionable silence’. Draco sighed and peeled what must be his hundredth potato as she warbled Christmas carols.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly...”

“Fa la la la la,” Draco finished tonelessly, not bothering to stay in key. “La la la la.”

“Tis the season to be jolly…”

“Fa la la la...okay, can we sing a new song now? All I’m getting is fas and las.

“Fine, fine,” Ginevra laughed. “How about…”

“What the hell’s going on here?”

The new voice broke in, shattering the peaceful atmosphere. Molly abandoned the stew. Ginny bit her lip and put down the peeler. Even before he turned around, Draco knew something very bad was going to happen.

He was right.

George Weasley stalked into the kitchen, his fists clenched and his eyes blazing. He looked like shite, Draco noted. His hair was unkempt, there was a five o’clock shadow on his gaunt face and rings around his eyes. His clothing was wrinkled. The look he gave Draco could have frozen a Basilisk. Draco swallowed and averted his gaze. He remembered George Weasley— albeit not very fondly—from his Hogwarts days.

It was unnerving to see what had become of that cheerful, easy going, aggravating young man. There was no humour in that face anymore. George Weasley looked absolutely wretched and now that the proof was in front of him, Draco wished he could just run and hide in a corner.

“What,” George repeated, “is going on here?”

“George dear,” Molly murmured. “You’re up. Would you like some...”

“Mum,” George cut in sharply. “What is he doing here?”

Ginny mumbled something like here it comes under her breath. Draco closed his eyes and prepared for a painful hex. Molly however, was not one to be so easily cowed. She drew her shoulders back and regarded her son steadily. “Draco is here at my invitation. He’s joining us for dinner.”

George’s lip curled. His smile was a near snarl, nothing but a show of teeth. “Oh, is he?” he sneered. “Why don’t you give him Fred’s old room while you’re at it?”

“George!” Ginny gasped.

Molly drew back like she’d been slapped. Draco gazed in sheer dismay as tears welled up in her eyes. Molly was crying because of him. He was the reason she was upset. He had never felt so low.

“Ginny, Draco.” Molly’s voice was steady, even though her eyes shone. “I think you’ve done enough for now. Why don’t you decorate the tree? I’d like a word with George. In private.”

Ginny took the hint and snagged Draco’s arm, leading him out. Draco noticed that she took a roundabout route, the better to avoid George. George watched them go with a dark glare, but made no move to follow. As soon as Ginny and Draco were out of the kitchen, Molly raised her wand and cast a Silencing Charm. Ginny didn’t stick around for the inevitable row, she just led them back to the living room quickly.

“Sorry about that,” she said, wiping her eyes. “George is...he’s having a rough time dealing with...stuff.”

Stuff, she said. A poor substitute for his twin brother’s death. It was obvious that George had lost half of himself in the Battle. He was a shadow of what he used to be. And Draco was part of the reason why. He braced himself as the familiar blend of nausea and shame threatened to overpower him. How could he have thought he could ever have their forgiveness? How could he have even imagined…

“Look,” she said suddenly, drawing him to halt. Her brown eyes were large with worry. “It’s been a rough year for my family. And...I just want everyone to have a nice Christmas. So, can you just please stay out of George’s way?”

Draco nodded, his throat feeling oddly tight. He should just go. He should leave these people alone.

“And don’t go,” Ginny added, apparently reading his thoughts. “Mum wants you here and it would really upset her if you left. So just...stay put, okay?”

Draco couldn’t bring himself to disagree. From the corner of his eye, he could still see the scene in the kitchen. Even though he couldn’t hear their voices, he could tell that George was yelling and Molly was speaking in a firm, yet softer tone. Finally, George sneered and stormed out.

Somewhere in the house, he heard the telltale sound of a fireplace being activated. Someone had Flooed in.

“That’s probably Harry,” Ginny remarked, still looking faintly worried about her brother. “I’ll go say hi. Just...stay here and start on the tree, yeah? I’ll...I’ll see you later.”

She left him to his devices and went to see her boyfriend. Draco couldn’t blame her.

If he had a choice, he’d want to get away from him too.

****

The news of George’s outburst spread quickly, probably through Ginny. Draco soon realised that he couldn’t walk two steps without tripping over a Weasley. First, Fleur stepped in to keep him company while he worked. She was nice enough and it gave him a chance to brush up on his French again. When she left to find her husband, Ron (it was getting tedious calling him the Weasel all the time) and Granger trooped in to help him with the tree. They exchanged some awkward pleasantries and settled down to work in silence. It was a full ten minutes before Draco addressed the Erumpent in the room.

“So, Potter’s here,” he commented, draping a garland on the tree.

“Yeah, what about it?” Ron demanded, instantly defensive.

Draco turned to him and raised an eyebrow. “So,” he drawled, “why are you here and not out there saying hi to your best friend?”

He suppressed an eye roll as they exchanged a look. Gryffindors trying to be subtle. How adorable. Granger cleared her throat uncomfortably and tucked a curl behind her ear. “Harry knows his way around,” she said. “He’ll find us soon enough.”

“Right,” Draco replied with a smirk. “And of course, it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that George might attack me the second I’m alone.”

Ron abandoned the decorations and rounded up on Draco. “Can you blame him?” he demanded through clenched teeth.

Draco replied with a steady, unwavering look. “No.”

Ron seemed perplexed by his refusal to fight. Why bother, Draco mused bitterly. They were right. George would be perfectly justified in taking a swing at him. Draco shook his head and went back to the tree. He had agreed to help, after all.

“Huh,” Ron commented finally. “Maybe it really does happen.”

“What happens?”

“Sometimes gits grow up.”

Draco smirked. “Yeah? Let me know when you start.”

“Prat” Ron grumbled.

“Tosser,” Draco belted back effortlessly.

“Boys,” Granger cut in. She was smiling despite her stern tone. “The tree?”

And so it went on, until Percy poked his head in the living room. “Ron, Hermione,” he called, “The fairy lights are out again. Hermione, can you spell them while Ron and I string them over the trees again?”

“Uh,” Ron began, eyeing Draco uneasily.

Granger looked uncomfortable too. “We…”

Draco sighed and raked a tired hand through his hair. It was obvious they wanted to go, and he was tired of getting in the way of everyone’s fun. “Just go,” he said, waving them off. “If George wants to start something, there’s really nothing you can do to stop him.”

“But Ginny said…”

“Go,” Draco insisted. “Believe it or not, I’m actually quite good at running away from people who want to kill me.”

“Not as good as Harry,” Ron muttered. Hermione managed an uneasy laugh. Nevertheless, it broke the tension and they said goodbye, leaving with Percy.

Draco got precisely thirty seconds to himself before his luck ran out. He froze halfway through stringing the last of the garlands up on the tree when he heard loud footsteps echoing in the hallway, heading straight for him.

George.

Draco took a deep, fortifying breath and turned around, preparing to face the ire of the remaining twin. He squared his shoulders, ready to face his attacker.

It wasn’t George Weasley who thundered in, though.

The green eyed, messy haired man strode into the room and promptly stopped in his tracks when he caught sight of Draco.

And that’s how Draco found himself coming face to face with Harry Potter for the first time since the Battle.

****

Potter stopped in in tracks. He was wearing an ill-fitting red jumper with a large H emblazoned on it. His hair was messier than Draco remembered. He still had those ridiculous glasses and he had gotten just a dash taller. He was eating a candy cane, the end sticking out of his mouth as he gawked at Draco with wide, unblinking eyes.

All in all, he looked rather ridiculous.

Draco raised an eyebrow as Potter refused to break eye contact. His expression was blank and guarded, it gave nothing away. Draco found himself adopting a similar stance, not one to make the first move in the best of situations. This hardly qualified.

Potter cracked first. His foot shifted and Draco instinctively stiffened.

Then—still not taking his eyes off Draco— he took a very slow, very careful step back. As if Draco was an irate Blast Ended Skrewt who’d attack if startled. Draco remained thoroughly unimpressed as Potter withdrew, one slow step at a time, until he was back in the hall. Then the mop of black hair disappeared from view and Potter was gone.

Draco stared after him as the utter absurdity of the situation sank in.

Of all the ridiculous...

“Harry? What’s wrong?” Ginny’s voice drifted over, sounding concerned.

“Malfoy’s here,” Potter said. He sounded confused. Not agitated, like Draco had expected.

“Oh, right!” Ginny’s tone suggested that she had forgotten about Draco’s presence altogether. He wasn’t sure if that was offensive or amusing. Possibly both. “Yeah,” she went on, “Mum sort of adopted him.”

There was silence for a spell, and Draco could almost sense Potter’s impending implosion. The hissy fit he was expecting didn’t come. Instead, Potter just poked his head in again, as if to check that Draco wasn’t a hallucination after all. “Huh,” he stated, before shoving his hands in his pockets and leaving with Ginny.

Blasted idiot.

With a huff, Draco went back to decorating.

****

After that ridiculous confrontation, Draco couldn’t bring himself to relax. He had been dragged into the den of lions itself, peeled potatoes, studied rubber ducks, put up with Weasleys of all shapes and sizes— including one who would have only been too glad to hex him six ways to Sunday— and he’d remained calm and composed through the whole thing. All in all, Draco thought he’d done rather well for someone so out of their comfort zone.

Then Potter had come along and thrown him off balance again. Every time Draco turned around, there he was. And even more irksome was the fact that Draco just knew Potter was watching him (his stalking tendencies from Sixth Year had certainly not faltered), but he could never catch him in the act. The moment Draco caught his eye, he would turn around, feigning conversation with Granger or Ginny or whoever happened to pass by.

Draco firmly told himself that he was going to ignore Potter and pretend the git didn’t exist. He certainly didn’t want to start a row here, and Potter had no reason to hold back. He was in home territory and Draco was not.

So, when he got drafted in to clear the snow from the path leading to the Burrow, Draco was almost relieved. Percy had selflessly volunteered to assist. Of course, his definition of assistance was to offer Draco career advice while he worked, occasionally pointing out a missed patch of ice. Draco was seriously considering a revision to his list of least favourite Weasleys and then of course, his luck ran out again.

Potter ambled up, looking thoroughly put out and cradling a mug of eggnog in his gloved fingers.

“Here,” he said, shoving it at Draco like it pained him. “Molly’s orders.”

Draco sneered but accepted the offering, downing the drink in one hearty swig. Without a word, he thrust the empty mug back at Potter — ignoring his squawk of surprise — and went back to his snow sloughing efforts. It didn’t even surprise him a little that Potter just stood there, refusing to retreat and defuse the tense situation like a sensible person.

Idiot.

“So,” Potter spoke up. There was an accusatory note to his voice which made Draco bristle. Potter drew himself up to his full not-very-impressive height and stared Draco down. “Are you here to…”

“I’m not here to start trouble,” Draco replied automatically.

Potter blinked in surprise, but his brow arched in a suspicious frown all the same. “Yeah?” he challenged. “Then what are you doing here?”

“Shovelling snow,” Draco replied tersely.

“I can see that,” Potter gritted out, and it was clear that he was getting frustrated now. Draco smirked to himself as Potter paused to gather his thoughts— all two of them.

“Look, Malfoy,” he started off again, pointing a no-nonsense finger in Draco’s face. “I don’t know how this happened or what Molly was thinking but it’s been a rough year, okay? These are good people and they don’t deserve to have their Christmas ruined. So, I’m telling you right now— if you’re up to something, if you do anything to mess things up for the Weasleys, you’ll answer to me, got it?”

Draco’s lip curled. Of all the self important, pompous, arrogant monologues he had ever heard! And he had a childhood with Lucius Malfoy behind him, so Draco knew what he was talking about! He could feel his control slipping, the iron clad hold he’d kept all morning was dissolving like salt in hot water thanks to Potter’s pompous, would-be hero speech.

So, he wanted a villain to best, did he? Draco was happy to oblige.

He sneered and straightened up, walking right into the prat’s personal space. Potter lifted his chin and held his ground, fists clenched tight. It was like Hogwarts all over again, and as he stared into Potter’s flashing green eyes, rife with suspicion and general disapproval for all things Malfoy, Draco found the one thing he’d been looking for all damn day.

Familiar ground.

“No,” he declared. He imagined his announcement hanging dramatically in the ensuing silence.

Potter cocked his head, looking rather perplexed. “What?”

“No, I won’t answer to you if I mess things up,” Draco clarified smoothly. “I’ll answer to Molly. Got it?”

And with that, he poked Potter in the chest, completely aware that this was exactly what he’d been trying to avoid.

Oh, well. He could always tell Molly that Potter started it. She liked him better anyway, he knew she did.

But, back to Potter.

Potter wasn’t taking his rebuttal too well. His jaw had dropped and he was making odd, sputtering sounds.

Draco cocked his head and adopted a look of feigned confusion. “Sorry, what was that?” he questioned innocently. “I don’t speak Gibbering Buffoon.”

Potter scowled and crossed his arms. “Funny,” he spat out. “I’m just pointing out that you don’t have a very good track record with the Weasleys or general decency, for that matter. So again, try not to screw up the holidays for us. Got it?”

He punctuated that last ‘got it’ with a counter jab of his own and now Draco was starting to see red. He palmed his wand discreetly. “I’ll consider your request,” he bit out, right before casting a quick spell. A blob of snow shot up and hit Potter in the chest, sending him reeling a few steps.

“Oi!” the idiot squawked, making Draco snicker gleefully. Potter’s eyes blazed and he raised his own wand. “It wasn’t a request,” he retorted. Draco yelped as an unwieldy glob of snow got him in the chest this time. He growled and Potter smirked. “It was a warning,” he finished with a self satisfied smirk.

“Yeah?” Draco sneered.

“Yeah,” Potter confirmed.

“Yeah?!” Draco snarled.

“What are you two doing?”

Percy had finally noticed something amiss and was jogging up to them, frowning disapprovingly over his wiry glasses. Draco scowled at the sight. He was in no mood for interruptions. He was having it out with Potter, thank you very much, and he had no desire to be talked down to by some whiny ex Head Boy!

“Really?” Percy tutted, eyeing them like they were two naughty children fighting over the last Chocolate Frog. “Aren’t you two a little old for this?”

“Bugger off, Perce,” Potter growled, still glaring at Draco. “I’m busy.”

“Yeah, this doesn’t concern you,” Draco added. The feelings warring in his chest were close to territorial. Potter had always been his battle. Where did Percy Weasley get off coming between them? This was between them. Him and Potter and nobody else.

Potter nodded stoutly – for once, completely in his corner.

Percy however, refused to take the hint and just huffed disapprovingly. “It does, if I’m the only adult in the area!” he stated firmly. “Now, Harry, I know you’re still recovering from the War so I’ll give you a pass. Clearly, there’s some deep seated psychological trauma at work here. However, you must remember that Draco is trying to redeem himself and make better choices. And Draco, you need to ask yourself: where does this compulsive need to best your old school rival come from? Considering the evidence, I think it’s safe to say that you’re struggling with a severe inferiority complex but the question is…”

“Inferiority complex?!” Draco snarled. The utter audacity!

“Deep seated psychological trauma?!” Potter nearly screeched, looking justifiably pissed.

Draco’s mouth twisted. That was out of line. Even he wouldn’t dare say such a thing to Potter’s face. Some things were best left alone. Clearly, no one had shared that memo with Prissy Percy. Draco shared a poisonous look with Potter as Percy continued his yammering.

“Exactly,” he concluded triumphantly. “Now, I suggest that we sit down like mature adults and talk this out. Harry, I know this is hard for someone who likes to solve problems with his fists but…”

Potter growled and took a step forward, clearly planning to take up that helpful suggestion. Draco would have only been too glad to let him but just then, something caught his eye. Percy was adequately distracted, firmly in Lecture Mode. And he was standing right below a tree. A very large tree with strong, sturdy branches…

...all covered in snow.

Lots and lots of snow.

Draco’s lips stretched in an evil grin and he nudged Potter. Potter turned to him. His irritated expression turned speculative as Draco gestured discreetly to the tree. Potter’s eyes widened and then he grinned and offered a sharp nod.

It was the kind of silent communication that only Seekers— and long time rivals— can ever truly grasp. Unfortunately for Percy, Potter and Draco were both.

Potter shot Draco one more wink and then hastened to distract Percy, giving him time to cast the spell.

“Say, Percy,” Potter began idly, “what’s tall and annoying and very, very wet?”

Percy frowned. “What…” he began, and that’s as far as he got, before…

THWUMP!

Draco smirked and Potter howled with laughter as six weeks worth of snow came tumbling down from the tree, burying Percy to the tips of his ears.

“Yes!” Potter cheered. “Direct hit!”

Percy squawked in indignation and flailed in his snowball. The sight was immensely satisfying. Draco pocketed his wand with a smug grin. “Did you expect anything less?” he asked.

Potter just succumbed to another laughing fit, doubling over and bracing his hands on his knees to hold himself up. Draco watched him, momentarily forgetting Percy lamenting his lost wand in the background. Potter looked…different when he laughed. His eyes lit up and his whole body went in the motion. He looked younger somehow, and almost…

“Malfoy. Hey. Oi, Malfoy!”

Draco started as Potter tapped his shoulder, still grinning widely. Draco shook himself, blinking away the weird train of thought.

Perhaps he’d been out in the cold too long.

“We should help him before he hurts himself,” Potter said, jerking his head in a flailing Percy’s direction.

“Oh. Right. Of course.”

He followed Potter and helped hoist a sullen Percy to his feet.

“No hard feelings, mate,” Potter placated, brushing Percy’s coat down. “All in good fun.”

Percy grumbled under his breath and crossed his arms, pointedly not looking at them. Feeling slightly guilty, Draco retrieved his lost wand from the snow. “Here,” he offered, holding it out to Percy. He hoped the others didn’t hold this against him for too long. Potter was just as culpable, and it was really just in good fun…

A snowball flew right for him and got him smack bang in the face. Draco went down with a squawk of alarm. By the time his vision cleared, Potter was down as well, shaking snow out of his hair.

Percy whooped and held his wand up like a weapon, grinning like a loon. “Snowball fight!” he shouted, his voice carrying easily courtesy a hastily cast Sonorus. “Teams of four! Winners get to set off the fireworks tonight!”

His yell rang out like a battle horn. Draco watched in amazement as the Weasley horde emerged from the house, running and pushing and jostling each other as they made for the war grounds. Ginny shrieked as Bill picked her up and tossed her in a snow pile. Granger laughed and fired off a spell, sending four snowballs speeding after Charlie. Ron followed the assault with gusto, only retreating when Charlie raised his own wand.

Draco stirred as he felt a strong hand wrap around his arm. Potter laughed and pulled him to his feet.

“Come on!” he urged, pushing Draco into the fray. “You take Ginny, I’m going after Bill!”

And just like that, Draco found himself in the middle of another battle. Only this time, Potter was on his side.

****

Two hours later:

Ron groaned and rolled on his back, kicking Percy’s foot out of the way. “Guys?” he croaked, staring up at the bright sky.

Groans of pain and exhaustion echoed around him.

“Maybe we should call a truce?” Ron suggested.

Another round of tired moans.

Ginny was the first to stir. “Fine with me,” she muttered, getting to her feet gingerly. “I have to go inside and change anyway. Neville’s coming over in an hour.”

She padded away. Ron groaned and sat up, holding himself up on his arms. His family decorated the lawn, scattered about where they’d fallen. Percy was up, trying to get Charlie back on his feet. Charlie took the opportunity to yank his arm and tackle him. Bill was helping by throwing snowballs in the mix. Hermione and Fleur had drifted away from the scuffle to make snow angels. Their laughter rang out, loud and cheerful.

Ron grinned at the domestic sight. When was the last time they’d all horsed around like this? Seeing his family smiling and laughing together...it was more than he could have hoped for. His smile faded slightly as he noted that George hadn’t joined in the fun. His older brother seemed determined to remain miserable and wretched.

Not that Ron blamed him. Sometimes, when he was helping George at the shop, he would look up and half expect Fred to just stroll in and start stocking boxes of Nosebleed Nougats. Every now and again, he would instinctively check his hot chocolate for a dash of U-No-Poo. He still walked into his bedroom carefully, half expecting it to be engulfed in a Portable Swamp. Then the inevitable realisation that his things would always remain untampered with from now on would set in. It was always painful and Ron didn’t think he would ever get used to it.

But, it was like Mum said: Fred would want them to move on. He would hate the idea of his family mourning him. No, Fred’s spirit deserved to live on in laughter and good cheer, not tears. Ron had promised himself that he would honour his brother’s memory the way he would have wanted. But George...George had lost more than a brother. George had lost a part of himself, somewhere in the Battle. Sometimes, Ron wondered if he had lost both his brothers that day.

“Hey.”

Ron started, jerking out of his thoughts as Hermione sat down beside him. He smiled and wrapped an arm around her. Hermione rested her head on his shoulder, her arms wrapping around him.

“It’s nice, isn’t it?” she murmured, staring at the rest of their family playing in the snow.

Ron nodded, his throat feeling oddly tight. “I missed this,” he told her.

Hermione’s hold on him tightened a fraction. “I know,” she said. He could feel her smile against her shoulder. “We should probably thank Harry and Malfoy for starting it.”

Ron cringed on instinct, rather put off with the idea of thanking Malfoy for anything. Then, a thought struck him and he frowned. “Hey,” he exclaimed, taking a look around, “where are they anyway?”

Hermione shrugged. “Oh, you know those two,” she quipped, sounding faintly exasperated. “They probably started arguing about who hit who with the most snowballs and ran off to row about it.”

That did sound like them. Ron rolled his eyes at the thought. Even semi-decent Malfoy couldn’t resist the temptation to have it out with Harry. And if he was being honest, Harry wasn’t much better. “They’re like an old married couple,” he commented, making Hermione laugh.

“Come on,” she said, pulling him up, “let’s build a snowman.”

And if the sparkle in her brown eyes wasn’t enough to convince him, the shouts of laughter and sounds of good cheer all around him certainly were. Ron grinned and followed her back into the fray, feeling like he was finally home after a long, long time.

****

“This is ridiculous, Potter. And no, I don’t believe Muggles do this for fun.”

“It’s tradition. Come on, you can do it.”

“I know I can do it. I just don’t want to do it.”

“Be a sport, Malfoy. All you have to do is...”

POP!

The chestnut popped and leapt from the open pan roasting on the fireplace. It jumped high in the air, and Draco— ever the Seeker— reached out and caught it on instinct.

“Ouch, damn it!” he yelped, tossing the wretched, burning hot thing in his hands, before giving up altogether and chucking it at a laughing Potter.

Potter laughed and caught the chestnut easily, discarding the shell and popping it in his mouth. Draco scowled as the git grinned cheekily at him.

“Wimp,” Potter teased.

“Barbarian,” Draco retorted with a sniff.

Potter just smiled at their customary insult trade-off. He looked softer by the dim light of the fire. His green eyes were bright and vivid and even though they clashed horribly with the red jumper he’d donned, Draco found it hard to care. He squirmed, suddenly feeling rather self conscious and unnerved by just how attractive Potter looked, now that he wasn’t being haunted by a spectre of death. His features were relaxed and his lean body was languid, so unlike Draco’s stiff posture. Once again, he had to remind himself that this was Potter who was not only most likely straight, but also his long time nemesis. And there was also the detail of him being in a relationship with the youngest Weasley.

Right. Potter was officially Off Limits.

“Something on my face?” Potter asked, breaking the sudden silence. He frowned and traced his fingers across the stubble on his jawline.

Draco startled and blinked, looking away at once. “Sorry,” he mumbled, stoically ignoring the flush rising to his cheeks. “I was just thinking.”

Potter hummed and settled down again, apparently oblivious to Draco’s awkward demeanour. Draco cleared his throat and played with the hem of his own borrowed jumper, for lack of anything else to do.

“Thanks for the dry clothes,” he said suddenly.

At some point in the snowball fight, they’d found themselves flanked by attacking Weasleys. Incredibly enough, it was Potter who’d suggested the retreat and recon back in the house. They’d stolen away, changed into dry clothes (Drying Charms were effective but did little for warmth) and settled down in front of the fire.

So far, Potter hadn’t suggested heading back out and Draco was absolutely fine with that. The house was silent and empty for once, with Arthur tinkering in his workshop and Molly overseeing the last of the dinner preparations. Draco sighed and closed his eyes, taking a moment to just...rest and enjoy the warmth and silence. It had been a long, strange day.

“You’re welcome.”

Potter’s voice was soft and unassuming, but something in his tone made Draco’s eyes open. Potter was closer to him now, watching with an intent expression. Draco swallowed. His throat felt dry, all of a sudden.

“Something on my face?” His voice was a whisper.

Potter shook his head, his eyes never wavering. “Just thinking,” he echoed. His expression was so intent, so thoughtful. Draco’s breath hitched. It was like Potter was cataloguing every thought, every emotion he’d ever experienced, like he was looking right into him. Nobody had ever looked at him like that before. Nobody had ever…seen him before.

“What about?” he asked, both wanting and dreading the answer.

Potter blinked, as if coming back to himself. He cleared his throat and shifted back. “Nothing really,” he hedged, running an awkward hand through his hair. “Just...just about how different things are now.” He looked back at Draco, and an uncertain look flitted across his handsome face. “I just realised I never thanked you.”

“Thanked me?”

Potter nodded. “For not giving us away,” he clarified, “at the Manor.”

That surprised a snort of laughter out of Draco. “Potter,” he said, letting a bit of dry amusement seep into his voice, “you don’t have to thank me for that. Not after saving my life at least, three times.”

Potter’s lips quirked in a small, sad smile. “I’m sorry it wasn’t enough,” he said. “I’m...sorry about Crabbe.”

Something painful twinged in Draco’s chest. He’d never let himself think about Vincent since that night, but hearing Potter say it out loud helped acknowledge the loss. Vincent may not have been the smartest or the nicest bloke around, but they had been friends. “Thank you,” he replied quietly. “That means a lot.”

They lapsed back into silence. It was neither companionable nor relaxed. Draco was too aware of Potter’s presence now— his mussed up hair, his intense expression, the cut of his jaw and the sharp planes of his face.

He’s in a relationship, he scolded himself. He’s straight. He’s Potter.

“Malfoy?”

Draco’s eyes flitted upwards again and his lashes almost brushed Potter’s chin. Merlin, when had he gotten so close? What were they doing? He should move away. He should push Potter back. He should do or say something before Ginny or Molly or Salazar help him, anyone else walked in and saw…

“Thank you for all you’ve done today,” Potter said, and Draco’s words died in his throat, “for them. It’s...been a while since I’ve seen them so happy. Thank you for being a part of it.”

Draco swallowed around a lump in his throat. His pulse was thudding rapidly, and he imagined Potter could probably feel the flutter of his heart beat. “I…”

“Look up,” Potter whispered.

Draco obeyed. His eyes settled on a festive sprig of mistletoe, hanging gaily above his head.

Wait.

And then, Potter’s hand traced his jaw, pulling gently and guiding him into a soft kiss. Draco gasped in surprise as warm lips brushed against his. Potter was hesitant, but clearly determined to see this through. He pushed gently, coaxing Draco to open up for him. It was all so…Potter. Draco’s senses flared as the scent of pine and cinnamon surrounded him. Potter was being so gentle and careful, his kiss was so…

Draco’s eyes flew open as his frazzled mind finally caught up with his actions. Salazar’s silk knickers, what was he doing?! Potter was with Ginevra! He was in her house! He was kissing her boyfriend in her house! She was going to skewer him. And Potter, probably. And how dare Potter pull such a stunt? Did he really think Draco was the kind of person to snog someone else’s boyfriend?

How dare Potter take such liberties? How could he think so low of Draco? How could he do this?

Draco didn’t really plan what happened next. His intention was to disengage from Potter as soon as possible and then tell him exactly what kind of an inconsiderate, two timing bastard he was. What happened however, was that Potter didn’t want to let go and he was surprisingly strong, so Draco was reduced to panicky flailing.

And kicking.

“Ow!”

Draco scrambled out of his hold and huddled against the sofa like a besmirched virgin, glaring as Potter doubled over in pain, clutching his ribs.

“Fuck, shit, fuck!” Potter cursed, thumping his fist on the ground. “Malfoy, what the hell?! What are you doing?!”

“What am I doing?” Draco echoed incredulously. “What are you doing?!”

“What, the kiss?!”

“Don’t say that!” Draco hissed at him. Merlin, what if somebody heard? What was Potter thinking? “Don’t say it and definitely don’t do it, you blithering idiot! What the hell were you thinking? How exactly did you expect me to react to...to that?”

“Okay, okay!” Potter snapped, still wincing and cradling his injured rib. “I’m sorry, alright? I just...I thought... with the snowball fight and the chestnuts and you looked so...it seemed like you were giving me the signal. Clearly, I misunderstood...oh Godric, that hurts!”

Draco’s cheeks burned. Had be been that obvious? “I was not giving you ‘the signal’!” he denied vehemently. “I was definitely, absolutely not…”

“Um, what’s going on here?”

Draco whirled around as Ginny walked in, taking in the scene with a raised eyebrow. Her eyes flicked from Draco to Potter— who was still whining about his ‘broken’ rib— to the damning sprig of mistletoe. Her expression turned to one of dawning comprehension. Draco gulped and took a prudent step back.

“Were you two snogging?” she demanded.

“No!” Draco denied immediately.

“Not quite,” Potter groaned.

Draco could have kicked him again.

Ginevra didn’t seem too convinced. She took a step closer and stared down at Potter’s prone form. “Did you kick him?” she asked, sounding oddly impressed by the notion.

“No,” Draco fibbed, lifting his chin mulishly. “He was...like that when I found him.”

“Liar,” Potter hissed.

Draco gave him a look that could kill. Didn’t the idiot realise that Draco was trying to save his relationship?

“Right,” Ginny deadpanned. “Well, far be it from me to come between two star crossed lovers.”

Draco gulped. She was going to murder him in cold blood.

“Anyway,” she went on, flicking her hair back. “I actually didn’t come down here to get in true love’s way. Mum’s rounding us all up for dinner and you two should probably be there. Oh, by the way, Neville’s here. Hey, Neville! Come on in.”

And then, because the day just couldn’t get weirder on it’s own, Neville Longbottom shuffled in. “Uh, hi Malfoy,” he said awkwardly, raising a hand in greeting. “And...Harry?”

“Hey, Nev,” Potter managed a strangled greeting. “Good seeing you again.”

“Well, we’ll see you two downstairs,” Ginevra chirped. “Later!”

And then, she linked her arm with Longbottom’s and propelled him downstairs.

Draco blinked. That was odd. It almost looked like…

“Does...Longbottom come here often?” he asked haltingly.

“Uh, I guess?” Potter contributed, with a groan. “They only just started dating and...actually, can we have this conversation after I get my gallbladder surgically removed from my throat?”

Oh.

Oh no.

Draco groaned and hastened to help him.

“I am so sorry,” he muttered, kneeling down beside Potter. His face felt like it was on fire. He doubted he’d ever been this mortified in his life.

“You should be,” Potter grumbled. “You kicked me! Why would you…”

“I didn’t know!” Draco protested. “I thought you and she were…” He paused and gestured helplessly at the door when words failed him.

Potter’s eyes widened in realisation. “Me and Gin...what, no! No! Godric, we broke up ages ago. She’s...not really my type, if you get my drift.”

“Oh,” Draco murmured in a small voice.

Potter sat up gingerly, rubbing his aching side and staring intently at Draco. Draco dared a glance up, only to see a slow smile spreading across Potter’s face. He scowled defensively.

“What?” he snapped, edging away at once.

Potter cocked his head, looking infuriatingly smug. “So, was that your only objection to…?”

Draco glared and shoved his shoulder. Cocky git. “We should head for dinner,” he declared with as much dignity as he could muster.

Potter’s smile softened, but didn’t fade completely. “Lead the way,” he offered.

Draco turned on his heel and stalked off with his head held high, ignoring the sounds of Potter’s muffled laughter.

****

The family was seated at the magically Enlarged dinner table by the time he made it down, Potter following close behind. Draco tried to ignore the raised eyebrows and half smiles that their entrance elicited.

“There you are!” Molly beamed at them.

Ginny waved him over and patted the chair next to her. “Saved you a seat,” she said with a grin. “Unless you’d rather sit with Harry, of course.”

“Shut up,” Draco grumbled, but he returned her smile as he sat down. Potter took the chair opposite him, not bothering to hide his grin.

Arthur summoned a bottle and poured the wine. Draco accepted the glass with a smile, taking a moment to just soak in the warmth and happiness around him. Arthur was grilling Potter on exactly how electric shower heads worked, Bill was smiling and whispering in Fleur’s ear, Ginny and Longbottom were sharing a kiss over their wine glasses (although admittedly that sight made him happy for more selfish reasons) and Molly looked happier than he’d seen all day.

It really was nice.

In that moment, Draco realised he was happy. Happy enough to admit that if he had to do this everyday, he wouldn’t exactly be opposed to it.

“So, are we going to eat or what?” Ron demanded.

Molly gave him a fond, exasperated look and poured him another glass of wine. “Not until everyone’s here,” she admonished. “We’re still waiting for…”

“Me?” someone finished.

All heads turned towards the door. George Weasley stalked in, his mouth twisted in a near vicious smile. “Well!” he sneered, “don’t let me keep the festivities waiting.”

The cheerful air dissipated. Draco felt, more than heard, the ripple of unease flowing through the gathering. Molly’s smile faded and Arthur’s eyes were cast downwards. Fleur leaned in to whisper in Bill’s ear, no doubt telling him to do something to defuse the situation. Ginny clutched Longbottom’s arm and swallowed convulsively.

And George just stared at them, with that damning, accusing grin on his face.

“Actually,” he announced, stalking over and grabbing a glass. “I’d like to make a toast.”

“George,” Charlie began warningly, “this isn’t necessary.”

“Oh, I think it is,” George spat back, pouring himself a glass. The wine sloshed on the carpet as his hands trembled.

“George, please,” Molly whispered. “Don’t do this.”

George ignored her. His angry gaze centred on Draco and that seemed to cement his resolve. Draco forced himself not to close his eyes as George raised the glass.

“Before we begin our celebration...” George’s bitter, furious voice echoed in the silence. “...I’d like to take a moment to remember those of us who aren’t here anymore.”

“George, stop it,” Ginny whimpered. Her bottom lip was trembling.

“As you all know, my brother, Fred, couldn’t join us on this happy occasion,” George went on relentlessly, “because he died a little more than a year ago.” His eyes fixed on Draco and he knew that look would haunt him all his life. “Fred was taken from us too soon,” George ranted on. “There was so much he had left to give, left to do. He was going to marry Angelina after the war ended, did you know that? I do. We shared everything. Hopes, dreams, plans for the future. Fred had his whole life ahead of him. Until one day, he didn’t.”

Ginny was sobbing in her hands now. Percy clenched his fist around his glass and looked away.

“But that’s okay!” George nearly screamed. “That’s just fine, because we don’t need to remember Fred any more! We’ve got the mini Death Eater now!”

“George, enough!” Bill was on his feet now, while Fleur rested a hand on his arm, silently begging him to keep his cool. “Calm down, little brother,” Bill attempted in a softer, more reasonable tone. “You’re making things worse. Just calm down.”

“No!” George snarled. “I will not calm down while we sit here and talk and laugh and break bread with him...” He paused and jerked his head in Draco’s direction. “...and pretend that my brother, my best friend in the whole damn world isn’t dead and gone forever because of him and his lot!”

“Draco didn’t cast the spell,” Arthur broke in gently. “Nobody has forgotten Fred, son. How could we? He was…he was our...”

Molly was sobbing now, her face hidden in a napkin as her shoulder shook. Draco felt the ground beneath his feet tremble. He felt untethered, drifting in a sea of anger and grief and loss.

His fault.

This was all his fault.

“Fred,” George carried on, his voice shaking, “would be proud of us right now. Forgiving, forgetting, eating and drinking and laughing with one of the bastards who put him in the fucking ground! That’s what he would have wanted. That’s what he deserved. So, let’s all raise our glasses! Come on!” He lifted his glass in the air and looked Draco dead in the eye. George bared his teeth. “To Fred,” he snarled, “and to never forgetting.”

The glass slammed on the table with unbelievable force. Shards of glass flew as it shattered in a thousand pieces. After that, there was just silence.

Draco didn’t know how long he stared into space. When he came to, George was gone. Arthur was holding Molly, murmuring words of comfort. Hermione wiped her eyes and put her head on Ron’s shoulder. Fleur had her arms around Bill, hiding in his chest. Ginny was still sobbing in her hands. “I miss Freddie,” was all she could say. Longbottom tried his level best to comfort her, but what could he say?

Her brother was gone, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Draco stood up. His knees were shaky and he absently noticed that there was a cut on his knuckles from where the glass had grazed him. It didn’t matter. He had hurt everyone at this table, he could scarcely complain if it had wounded him in the process.

It was so much less than he deserved.

“Thank you for dinner, Mrs Weasley,” he said in a hollow voice. “I’ll be taking your leave now.”

Molly was the first to move. She broke away from Arthur and stared at him with devastated eyes. “Draco, no,” she murmured. “You don’t have to…”

“I do,” Draco replied quietly.

He turned away, and a hand snagged his arm. It was Ginny who’d held him back. “George isn’t the only one who lost a brother,” she said, her voice wavering with the force of her tears. “I...I want you to stay. Please don’t go.”

Draco shook his head, cutting her off. “Thank you,” he replied, “but your brother needs you right now. I’m...I’m sorry.”

He wrenched away and walked to the door with quick strides. This time, nobody stopped him. Draco swung the door open and walked out, not daring to look back.

He had no right to.

****

“Malfoy!”

Draco quickened his pace as he heard footsteps behind him.

Damn it. Couldn’t Potter just leave well enough alone?

“Mal-Draco, wait!”

A strong grip wrapped around his wrist, forcing him to turn. Potter looked wrecked. He was pale and his eyes were bright with unshed tears, but he still had that stubborn, determined expression on his face.

“That...that was terrible,” he said softly. “I’m sorry it happened that way. But you can’t leave now. Please, just stay.”

Draco sighed and pushed him away. “Potter,” he tried to attempt a reasonable approach, “you of all people should understand what he’s going through right now. This...this can’t be fixed. The things I’ve done don’t deserve forgiveness. He’s right, you know. I am one of them. I always will be.”

“No,” Potter snapped. He sounded aghast and anguished. “I’m not going to accept that. I saw what you did today, I saw how you pulled this family together. I refuse to believe that was a lie. Draco, those people in there...they all want you to stay.”

“I can’t.”

I want you to stay,” Potter said, sounding desperate now. “I don’t...I don’t want you to go.”

Draco smiled sadly. A hot pressure was building up behind his eyes, and the last thing he wanted was to cry in front of Potter.

This was his burden. He never should have imposed.

“It can’t be fixed,” he said softly, taking a step back. “Just ask George. He’ll be the first to tell you I’m right.”

“Draco…”

“Goodbye, Harry. Please, for the love of Merlin, don’t come after me.”

Harry’s eyes widened and he reached out but Draco was well out of his reach now. Without another word, he Disapparated.

****

By the time Harry gathered himself together, he was gone. Harry stared at the vacant spot for a few seconds. Then his jaw clenched and he stormed back to the house.

He ignored the questions and worried looks from the family, marched up the stairs and flung the door to George’s room open with so much force that it almost broke. George was sitting on his bed, shoulders hunched and eyes watering. He looked utterly miserable and it just made Harry angrier.

“Get the fuck downstairs,” he growled, not giving George a chance to speak. “You owe everybody an apology. And after that, we’re going to have a conversation.”

****

In the end, Draco chose to Apparate to his spare flat in Diagon Alley. He didn’t want to be within ten feet of the Manor and the house elves would only pester him to eat. He felt hollow and empty and he just wanted to be alone.

Firewhisky was a poor comfort, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. Draco was halfway through the bottle when someone knocked on the door.

Harry.

“Damn it,” Draco cursed, nearly dropping the bottle.

The knock sounded again, urgent and demanding. Draco muttered a slew of curses, getting to his feet unsteadily and ignoring his pounding headache. The knocking continued, growing louder and louder by the second, as Draco finally got his bearing and headed for the door.

“Potter,” he growled, swinging it open, “I specifically told you not to…”

It wasn’t Harry.

George scuffed his feet sullenly, glowering at a spot on the floor. “Hey, Malfoy,” he muttered, “Merry fucking Christmas.”

Draco gaped, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. “How did you know where I live?” he blurted finally.

“You made an anonymous donation to the store once,” George admitted reluctantly. “Fun fact. Those things aren’t really all that anonymous.”

Draco cursed under his breath and rubbed his temples. He’d forgotten all about that. “What are you doing here?” he asked wearily.

George huffed and stared at the floor again. “My family chewed me out six ways to Sunday,” he revealed. “Apparently, I ruined Christmas.” He jerked his head up and looked at Draco. “I came over to apologise.”

Right. Of course they would make him come down and apologise to Draco. Never mind that he’d done nothing wrong in the first place. George had only said what he’d always known. Some things just didn’t merit forgiveness.

“Look,” Draco sighed, “you don’t need to say anything. I get it. I’ll tell Molly you were gracious in your apology and we worked things out. Now, if that’s all, good night.”

George raised a hand to block the door before he could shut it. “They didn’t make me come down here,” he snapped. “I’m here because...look, can we talk inside where it’s not freezing?”

Draco was too stunned at the revelation to stop him. George shouldered past him and flopped on the couch, casting a distracted Incendio and revving up the fireplace. He stared morosely into the flames and poured himself a glass of whisky.

“You’re coming or what?” he snapped.

Draco shut the door and approached cautiously, sitting across from him.

For at least ten minutes, there was nothing but silence. The only sound in the room was the occasional crackle of the hearth.

“He was my best friend.”

George’s eyes were damp as he drained the whisky in one go. Draco poured out another glass automatically, wondering just what he could say to this grieving man.

“Fred was…”

“Don’t,” George cut in sharply. “You didn’t know my brother. You didn’t know him so just...don’t talk about him like you did.”

“Right. Sorry.”

There was another span of tense silence. Finally, Draco couldn’t take it any longer.

“Look, if you want to cast the nastiest, most awful hex you know, go ahead. I won’t tell and it’s not like there’s witnesses here…”

George made a small noise of disgust in his throat. “I’m not going to hex you, kid,” he muttered. He turned to look at Draco again. “Harry said you saved his life once. Is that right?”

“Sort of,” Draco conceded uneasily. “He’s saved mine about a hundred times though, so if we’re going by numbers...it’s really not that impressive.”

George’s lips quirked with the hint of a smile. “I’m not sure it works like that,” he commented. “He was pretty steamed when you took off. They all were.”

Draco nodded, choosing silence. It was...heartening, but he didn’t think George wanted to hear that. It would sound insincere anyway, no matter what he said. “I’m sorry I was there,” he offered quietly. “I shouldn’t have...intruded in your home.”

George sighed heavily and held his head in his hands. “This is so messed up,” he said, half to himself. “How did it get so messed up?”

“If I ever figure it out, you’ll be the first to know,” Draco promised.

He got another chuckle at that, and it felt like a victory.

When George turned to him again, his eyes were still pained, but his voice was steady. “I’m never going to like you,” he said firmly. “A part of me will always remember who you are and what you were part of. What it cost me. But, I’m not blind either. I saw the way my family stood up for you. I saw what you did for them today. It’s more than I’ve done in a damn year. So, thank you, for that.”

“You’re welcome,” Draco replied quietly. There was nothing else to say.

“And,” George rallied on. He took a deep, fortifying breath, before finishing what he had to say. “I think...I think it would make everyone, myself included, very happy if you joined us for dinner.”

It felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. It wasn’t anything close to forgiveness, but that was okay. He recognised George’s offer for what it was. A chance to put the past behind them. Draco closed his eyes and nodded, swallowing around a painful lump in his throat. “I’d...like that,” he replied quietly.

George nodded tersely and poured out another glass of whisky. “A toast, first,” he declared, handing the glass over to Draco. “To moving on.”

Draco nodded, took a swig…

...and promptly spat out what was clearly a mouthful of swamp water.

He choked on the revolting taste for a whole twenty seconds. When his watery eyes fixed on George, the man was smirking.

“New product,” he elaborated, with a dry grin. “Looks like whisky, tastes like shite. Big hit with the Hogwarts crowd.”

“Cute,” Draco muttered, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. Still, his lips quirked in a small smile that he couldn’t quite stop.

George chuckled and clapped his back. “Come on then,” he said, heading for the fireplace. “Let’s go save Christmas.”

****

It was strange how things worked out sometimes. Not even a full day ago, Draco had been convinced that nobody would care if he dropped off the face of the earth. Now, here he was, surrounded by the people who had gone out of their way to welcome him in their homes, to share their laughter and include him in their festivities. A part of him— the cynical voice in his head that always erred on the side of caution— still urged him to remain on guard but even so, Draco felt the beginning of something stir in his heart.

He had forgotten what hope felt like.

He nursed a glass of champagne, watching the fireworks light up the sky. From his spot on the porch, he could see the couples swaying to soft music on the hastily etched out dance floor. Despite the freezing cold, they all looked happy to be there. Fleur laughed as Bill twirled her around. Granger squealed as Ron tried and failed to execute a clumsy dip. Ginny and Neville were dancing too, although he couldn’t quite say who was leading whom.

Draco started when he felt a tap to his shoulder. He smiled as Molly squeezed his arm gently, before thrusting a hastily wrapped package in his arms.

“It’s not much but it’s the best I could do on short notice,” she explained. “Nobody leaves without a Christmas present.”

Draco unwrapped the gift. He choked out a laugh as a bright green sweater tumbled out, complete with a silver ‘D’ etched in the front. It was certainly not his size, and one sleeve was shorter than the other. It was positively ghastly.

“It’s beautiful,” he told Molly, pulling it on without a moment’s hesitation. “Thank you so much.”

He blinked in surprise when she drew him in for a tight hug. “Merry Christmas, Draco,” she whispered. “Thank you for everything.”

Draco wrapped his arms around her, squeezing gently. “Merry Christmas, Molly,” he replied.

Molly patted his cheek, told him he was welcome back anytime and left to favour Arthur with a dance. Draco watched the peaceful scene play out in front of him for a while, until he heard a familiar set of footsteps behind him.

He smiled to himself as Harry reached out and wrapped an arm around him. “I’m glad you came back,” he whispered.

“Me too,” Draco replied, turning around to face him. He grinned and looped his own arms around Harry’s neck. “By the way, you might want to look up.”

He laughed as Harry spotted the mistletoe. His eyes widened, and then narrowed suspiciously. “Are you going to kick me again?” he asked.

“No,” Draco replied, leaning in and brushing their lips together. “I’m giving you the signal.”

Harry laughed into the kiss and held him tight, one arm wrapping around Draco’s waist possessively. Draco closed his eyes and leaned into the sweet kiss, savouring the taste of Harry and candy canes. Laughs and catcalls and groans (Ron) echoed around them, and he couldn’t bring himself to care. Safe in the warmth of those strong arms and his new jumper, he lost himself to the magic of the night and kissed Harry under the stars.