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posted by [personal profile] scarlet_malfoy at 10:09pm on 11/01/2009
Wednesday, December 24th 2008
Christmas Eve


"Are you okay?" Harry asked delicately, as if he were afraid of disturbing the quiet, snowy ambiance around them as they made their way up the front path to The Burrow. The silence was heavy, like a blanket, and everything around them was peacefully bathed in the orange glow of dusk. It was Draco’s favorite time of day, but his nerves were keeping him from enjoying even that small fact.

Glancing over at Harry, Draco managed to roll his eyes. "Of course I'm okay," he lied, and at the narrowing of Harry's eyes Draco knew that he didn't believe him for a second.

They had reached the bottom of the stairs. Harry turned, holding out an arm to stop Draco from going any farther. "You’re whiter than a ghost, Draco. Are you sure about this?"

"I said I would come. They're expecting me, aren't they?" Draco gestured vaguely to the Burrow, bedecked in snow and lights and lopsided wintry splendor. It looked bright inside, and warm - the way Draco had always imagined a home during Christmas should be. It reminded him of Hogwarts.

He’d always gone home over the holiday, but in truth he’d always regretted having to go. Manor Christmases had been a dreary affair, as Lucius had been pretty single-minded during his son’s formative years. His mother had done her best to be cheerful, but Christmas had just never been a very big deal at home. Those first few days of Christmas he got to experience each year at Hogwarts had become one of his fondest memories.

He had to remind himself that the warm home in front of him was also filled with little Weasleys and little Potters, Harry's wife and children and family. The joyful kind of Christmas he had always envisioned had never included a house full of people he was helping to deceive.

He’d always tried to make Christmastime a happy, memorable time for Scorpius, but he didn’t even have Christmas morning with his son to look forward to this year. After an argument with Astoria several evenings ago, she had taken Scorpius to her parents’ house for the week. His own mother had passed away, and Lucius was in Azkaban and as good as dead in Draco’s mind. He had no other family members, and no friends he kept in very close contact with anymore.

The idea of spending Christmas without his son and without Harry, alone, had finally started to sound too desolate, even for him. But he had seriously considered it for a while, adamantly refusing to even acknowledge Harry's initial invitation in his mind. The very idea of him in the Weasleys' home was absurd. And with the knowledge in his own mind of the reality of the situation, he didn't know whether he could stand to be there, in the same room with the woman who claimed Harry for her own in a way that Draco had neither right nor privilege. He was afraid his own resentment would overcome him.

Harry had persisted, though. Every day when they spoke at lunch or at the end of the day, he had reiterated how different things supposedly were now. “Everyone was really positive about you coming when I brought it up. Ron was sort of weird about it, but then again, he's Ron, isn't he... he'll come around." Harry had acted like it was going to be no big deal. Maybe it didn’t have to be.

He had decided to go.

And now, making his way up the front steps, he found himself intensely regretting his decision.

Draco had to remind himself not to grab Harry's hand for support. He had to keep everything to himself tonight, every thought and instinct, and he’d have to act as if Harry had never opened up his world in a way he hadn't even considered a possibility. He had to act as if he and Harry were merely very good working mates. He'd watch him interact with his family in a way that Harry might have wanted to act with him, but had never quite allowed himself to.

He didn't really know what he was doing here, except feeding the nearly masochistic urge that had wondered about the outcome of a night such as this.

"Daddy's here!" shrieked a small boy, the spitting image of Harry sans the glasses and the scar. He was struggling to get the screen door open on his own. Shouts of greeting emanated from inside, against the background buzz of conversation and the laughing, high-pitched voices of children. Teacups tinkered in their saucers. A baby began to cry. Draco felt frozen.

"Back up, Al, let me get it..." Harry grinned as he eased the door open finally, and picked up his son.

“Albus, this is my good friend Draco Malfoy.”

“Hello, Albus,” Draco found himself able to speak, somehow. He was glad his body could at least do that much on autopilot.

Albus Severus Potter stared at him unblinkingly, before deciding he was going to be shy. He smiled sheepishly, an expression that reminded Draco so forcefully of Harry that he could only stand there staring as the boy buried his face in Harry’s neck. Harry smiled, planting a kiss on the top of Albus’ head before pushing the door open further, and gesturing with his free arm for Draco to come in.

Draco felt a little lightheaded, but he entered with his head held high.


~*~



“Nobody’s going to hex him, you know,” Hermione whispered in Harry’s ear. Harry jumped, almost spilling wine all down his front.

“What?” he asked, turning to face her. She’d come up behind him while he’d been sneakily adding a few last minute presents to the enormous pile already under the tree.

Hermione laughed. “You haven’t taken your eye off Draco all night. You look so worried, Harry. I admit I wasn’t sure at first, but Molly and Andromeda sure seem to have taken him under their wing, haven’t they?”

Harry forced himself to smile. “Yeah. Yeah, I just want to make sure no one gives him a hard time, you know?”

“It’s good of you. I’m thrilled you’ve made such good friends with him. Now, if the entire Wizarding World could just take a lesson from the two of you… can you imagine that?” Hermione beamed. “Though it already seems to have made an impact on this family.”

It was true. It had been a little awkward at first, but the Weasleys had warmed to Draco almost immediately – Molly, especially. She’d stolen him away from Harry’s side, dragging him to the kitchen to feed him and chiding him for being so thin. Draco had looked vaguely terrified. Harry sent him an encouraging smile from his place on the living room floor, covered in children – he’d been tackled to the ground by the growing Weasley brood the second he’d entered the house.

“Must you get them all riled up before dinner?” Ginny grumbled from her place on the couch next to Ron. Ron poked her lightly in the belly in response. She was due in less than a week. Harry had been warmed to find out they would be having a girl – he loved his boys to death, but he couldn’t wait to have a little girl to spoil. He would never tell Ginny, not in a million years, but he hoped she would be a Daddy’s girl. He intended to do all in his power to ensure that she would be. The idea left a lingering warmth in his stomach, and he grabbed James in one arm and Albus in the other and pulled them to his chest, kissing and squeezing them until they grew aggravated and pushed him away, laughing.

“Ron, will you quit touching me!”

“Oh, lighten up, would you? It’s Christmas.” Ron hadn’t once glanced away from the small, now-sleeping bundle in his arms – his youngest, Hugo, only a couple of months old. Rose crawled away from the group of children in the center of the floor to settle herself – a little jealously – on the ground between her father’s legs, clinging to him and sucking her thumb. At a stern look from Hermione, the thumb popped out again. She wiped it on Ron’s trousers.

After a little while, Andromeda and Teddy arrived. Harry felt like an idiot for not ever putting two and two together, for not even mentioning to Draco that they would be coming. He had known it, but just hadn’t really pieced it together, the fact that they would be here and what that would mean for Draco.

Draco had trailed out of the kitchen after Molly at their arrival, trading an anxious look with Harry before realizing who the newcomers were. Harry watched Draco stop short, watched his mouth fall open in such an expression of shock that it was difficult not to get up and go to him. Harry didn’t even need to speak with Draco to understand implicitly what had happened – Harry himself had mistaken Andromeda for another of her sisters, once.

Andromeda herself had taken one look at Draco, burst into tears, and pulled him into a firm embrace. Draco still seemed to be in a mild state of shock, but as Andromeda began to speak, the tension visibly left Draco’s body and he smiled – the first genuine smile Harry had seen on his face all evening.

Ten year-old Teddy had been wary around Draco at first, had gone to his godfather to ask if Draco really was his cousin, and Harry had sat down with him to draw a small family tree so that the boy would understand. After that, Teddy had been so excited to have another blood-related relative there that he’d clung to Draco all during dinner and presents. Draco had looked relieved to have something else, someone else to focus on for the night, and even though Harry knew Teddy could be a bit exhausting, he was glad.

Next to the tree, Hermione nudged him and leaned in to speak quietly again. “You’re so tense, Harry. Why don’t you go take a breather? I’ll keep an eye on the kids, and on Draco. He’s fine with Teddy and George.”

Harry stared at her, wondering if she had any inkling at all of the reality of the situation. If anyone would have been able to figure things out, it was Hermione. But she didn’t look angry, and she didn’t look even vaguely questioning, either. She had half an eye across the room on Ron holding the baby, and the other half on Rose who was pulling a toy away from James. It was a wonder she wasn’t cross-eyed by now, Harry thought. He also realized with a lurch that their days of figuring out secrets and saving the school were well and truly over. His best friends were parents now, just as he was, and they no longer searched for hidden truths. Not even Hermione. He supposed he should have been grateful for that fact, but it left him feeling strangely sad.

He took a moment to be sure Draco truly was all right before heeding Hermione's advice. Draco seemed well and truly engaged by Teddy's antics for the moment, so Harry quietly retreated out the back door.

Taking a deep breath of the freezing air, Harry stood with his back to the door, just appreciating for a moment that there was no one else around him. He needed to be alone for a little while, to absorb the events of the night thus far and force himself to relax.

The sun had almost completely set, but there was a purplish tint to the sky that reflected off the snow on the ground. After clearing off some of the snow that had fallen on top of the picnic table, he sat down on top of it and tried to gather his thoughts and emotions, but found it impossible. The best he could do was to allow himself to tremble freely, and let go of the idea that he had to hold himself together. For a few moments, he could let himself freak out, and not worry about the repercussions of anyone noticing.

He wasn’t sorry he had invited Draco, because he knew that meeting Andromeda and Teddy was going to positively impact Draco for the rest of his life. However, he was going to be very glad when the evening was over. What had he been thinking? There was nothing easy or guilt-free about cheating on his wife in the first place, but to bring all involved parties together under one roof? He’d never felt more like cracking in his life, not even during the war.

And what if Andromeda and Teddy hadn’t come? Draco would have been utterly miserable the entire night, and it would have been all Harry’s fault for inviting him and then insisting that he come. He’d just wanted to give Draco more, share as much of himself as he possibly could. But he conceded now that one big happy family Christmas was probably not the best idea. In fact, it had been downright selfish of him.

The back door opened and closed again, breaking Harry out of his reverie. He looked up sharply, adrenaline now flowing through his veins and putting him on edge. He relaxed only slightly when he saw that it was Draco coming toward him, each step he took crunching through the snow and reverberating through Harry’s ears harshly.

He smiled guardedly at him as he approached, and Draco returned with a brief, shaky smile of his own before taking a seat next to him on the picnic table. They were in plain view of the side living room window, so they kept a careful distance between them. Harry could see Ron and Ginny on the couch from where he sat, and even though they probably wouldn’t be able to make him or Draco out very well in the darkness, there was no sense in being careless.

Draco let out a long sigh, and then turned to face him, elbows resting lazily on his knees. "Sickel for your thoughts?"

Harry let out a short laugh, a small amount of tension leaving his body. "Wow, a whole Sickle?"

"Well, I figure that a Knut is only good for one thought, and I want to know at least a few more than that."

Echoing Draco’s sigh, Harry rested his chin in his hands and looked passed the Burrow to the dark, lonely field beyond that stretched until it reached a dense line of trees. “Fuck, I don’t even know. Christmas is just a bad idea.”

"You've got a vendetta against Christmas?"

"Absolutely. He Who Must Not Be Jolly."

There was silence for moment before Draco chuckled to himself. "Even for you, Potter, that was pretty lame."

"Well, aside from the obvious reasons of the night, I’ve never done the whole Christmas thing very well, anyway. I think about my parents, I think about Teddy, and wonder if he feels the same way I did without a family at Christmas –"

"But he doesn’t, Harry – he's got you, hasn't he? And his grandmum and the Weasleys…”

“And you,” Harry added, turning his face in his hands to smile sideways at him.

Draco looked surprised all over again, but he smiled, too. “Trust me when I say that meeting up with long lost relatives was the last thing I expected to happen this evening." He took a deep breath. "Teddy's a great kid, and Andromeda..." Draco's words faltered a bit; he cleared his throat. "Despite you, this evening hasn’t been half bad,”

Harry didn’t laugh. He bit his lip, not in anger but just in simple resignation that there was absolutely nothing he could do to make this night any better for either himself or for Draco.

“I’m sorry… I was kidding,” Draco added.

“It’s true, though. This whole mess is my fault,” Harry spoke softly, bitterly.

“Harry, shut up. It’s a fucking mess, yeah, but we’re almost through it. And seeing you this evening hasn’t been complete torture, just for the record.”

“No?”

“No. Seeing you with James and Albus - Harry, you’re an amazing father.” Draco looked away from him then, ducking his head and seeming to deflate. “If your wife took them away from you on Christmas you’d probably traverse the entire world just to be with them, I’m sure.”

Harry sighed. “Don’t beat yourself up about that. You love Scorpius. He knows that and that’s all that matters.”

“I don’t tell him enough.”

Harry knew he was treading in mine field – Scorpius was a sensitive subject for Draco. Harry had picked up on that the very first day he’d dropped off his weekly report. But he had to explain himself, and had to make sure Draco knew he wasn't doing anything wrong. "You’re a great father, Draco. I know that just from listening to you talk about him. There’s no way he doesn’t know how much you care about him. And I... I suppose I go above and beyond the parental call of duty sometimes, because it’s my main goal that my kids never go a day without knowing how much I love them. I promised myself, the moment I found out we were going to have James, and I just… I want them to have the most perfect memories. I spent one Christmas with my Mum and Dad. I wish I could remember anything about it. Anything," he finished on an impassioned note. He reigned himself back in and after a silent moment, he continued. "My kids will never have to dig for those memories. I’m going to make sure of it.”

Harry turned to him, but Draco hadn't moved. He seemed lost in his thoughts, suddenly introspective and staring fiercely into the distance. Harry moved several inches closer to him; he couldn't help it.

“You okay?” Harry asked.

Draco finally turned to him, surprised. “Yeah, fine. Why?”

Harry shook his head. “I don’t know, I'm just so frustrated, I guess. I’m so sorry to put you through this, Draco. It was selfish of me, but I just wanted you to know that I -”

But Harry stopped, because Draco had abruptly turned his head away. "It's okay, Harry. I don’t blame you. I didn't have to come, and I'm not sorry I did."

"I'm not sorry either, in a way. I’m sorry this night has been so hard, but I wanted you to be here. You’re like family to me, Draco. Like my boys.” Harry nodded up towards the window, where James and Al and their cousins were playing together in the light of the fire. Their shadows extended out through the window and onto the crisp white snow in front of them.

“I love them,” Harry said, turning towards Draco and wanting more than anything to be able to touch him, to look into his eyes. “Draco,” he whispered, and seemingly just because Harry had willed it he did turn to look at him then. “Draco, I love you too.”

Draco’s eyes bore into his, the intensity seeming to wax and wane at random, without logic, without understanding. Harry swallowed heavily. He hadn’t meant to pronounce that, even though it was the truth beyond a shadow of a doubt. It was horrible timing, seeing as he couldn’t kiss Draco here, couldn’t convince Draco of his sincerity, which he knew Draco still doubted.

"What about her?" Draco whispered, and Harry didn’t have to ask who he meant.

Harry glanced to the window again. He saw Molly passing out cookies to the grandchildren out of a tin, an old one that she refilled each year with new batches and flavors. Because the boys hadn’t eaten a very good dinner, Ginny had expressly forbidden them from having any cookies, but Molly as usual took no heed. Ginny's furious look over her shoulder at her mother was almost comical.

But she’d always been fiery. Harry had to respect that Ginny wouldn’t have made it very long during her sixth year at Hogwarts if she hadn’t had that spirit of rebellion within her, that stubborn strength that had most certainly kept her alive and kept her strong. Harry couldn’t begrudge her that, couldn’t hate her for it. Couldn’t blame her, really, for acting the way she had over the past several months. Because he had acted worse.

Harry closed his eyes tightly. "Ginny is a part of me, Draco. I do care about her, I always have and I always will, despite the issues we’ve been having. But I've never been in love with her.” Harry smiled sadly. "So this is how it feels."

“Harry,” Draco started, then looked up at the sky, opening his eyes wide, trying to clear them, perhaps. “Fucking hell,” he almost laughed. “What can we do?”

“I’ve been thinking about leaving my wife,” Harry whispered, even though he’d only thought about it in passing before. “After the kids have gone away to Hogwarts, I think I could do it then. They'd be old enough to understand it better, you know?”

Harry wasn’t sure, but Draco might have looked even more surprised than he had upon seeing his Aunt Andromeda earlier that evening. Harry inched closer to him across the picnic table, until their arms were brushing, just barely but enough that he snapped Draco out of his daze.

“Not until they leave for Hogwarts,” Draco repeated, slowly gaining momentum. “You think you could do it then? In eleven fucking years, Harry? We’ll be almost forty years old!”

“So? Does that honestly matter to you?”

Draco shook his head in frustration. “No! I don’t care about that, I just… how can you expect me to do this for eleven more years?”

“In the same way that I expect you to understand that there is no choice, Draco! What else is there?” Harry buried his face in his hands, aware most of all of the fact that Draco hadn’t really responded to his declaration. He hadn’t had time to think it through before saying it, and hadn’t realized until now that hearing nothing in response was going to be so hard. And now Draco didn’t seem content to wait for him in any respect.

He was more hurt than angry, but all he could show was anger. "It's not as easy for me as it is for you!"

He could feel Draco freeze beside him. "What?"

"Being unfaithful to your wife. You’ve done it so well these past few months, haven’t you? You’ve been doing it well for years. How hard could eleven more be?”

Draco rose from the table. Harry watched him, taken aback by the fury in his eyes. “You have no place to say what’s easy for me and what isn’t. You have no way of knowing what these past months have been like for me.” Draco snorted. “Fuck you, Harry!”

Harry’s heart fell. “Draco, I’m sorry… I know it’s not easy for you either, I just don’t know what else you expect me to do!” He made to stand, to go to him, window be damned, but Draco held out a hand to stop him.

“Don’t,” he whispered, voice catching on itself. “Tell Molly, and Andromeda and Teddy that I’m sorry. But I have to go.” He took two steps back to Harry’s single step forward. “I’ll see you at work.”

After Draco had Apparated away, Harry spent ten more minutes outside composing himself in silence. He was almost ready to go in - or at least he'd stopped shaking - when George popped his head outside to tell him that Ginny’s water had broke.


~*~

So we just hold on fast
Acknowledge the past
As lessons exquisitely crafted
Painstakingly drafted
To carve ourselves instruments
That play the music of life


~*~


Monday, December 29th 2008


When Draco heard the knock on his office door at the end of the day, he knew it was Harry. Unlike last time, when he'd been convinced that Harry would never want to see him again. He knew now that Harry wasn't going to give up. He was a stubborn, ridiculous Gryffindor to the very core, and so when he heard the tentative knock, and saw the distorted sulking figure through the glass, he knew.

And he knew that it was going to be the last time.

"Just a second," he said, rising steadily and glancing at the Pensieve that was sitting on the corner of his desk. It was unlike any other Pensieve in the world, because it was the newest prototype. It had been tested many times, and so Draco knew it was safe - he'd tested it himself a couple of times, out of both obligation and curiosity. It was recognizable as a Pensieve, but there were obvious differences as well. It was white, for one, and made of smooth imperturbable marble. Instead of a large bowl, it dipped gently in the middle, and was filled with what looked unmistakably like clouds. They swirled quite calmly, and Draco focused on them for a moment before walking around his desk and to the door.

He opened it cautiously to see Harry standing there, looking more disheveled than usual. "Can I come in? Please?"

Draco nodded, stepping back to let him in and shutting the door behind him. He locked it magically, also placing several wards around the door and window.

Harry tensed. "Um. What are you doing?"

"Harry, if you're here to apologize, you can forget it." He finished casting the last of the wards before turning to face him.

"Please let me... please, won't you listen -" Harry began, but Draco cut him off with his mouth. Harry nearly jumped out his skin at the contact, but Draco ran his hands gently up and down Harry's arms to calm him. Harry kissed him back half-heartedly for a moment before pulling away.

"I don't understand," Harry began, placing his hands tentatively on Draco's waist, as if he was afraid he might pull away, but Draco leaned into the touch.

"There's nothing to apologize for."

"But what I said... Merlin, it was terrible. Draco, I'm so sorry. I never meant -" Draco's mouth met Harry's again, and after a moment of indecision Harry finally relented, wrapping his arms tightly around Draco and kissing him back with bruising force, breathing harshly through his nose. Draco moaned, letting Harry push him back against the wall. Harry began to kiss his neck, run his tongue along his collarbone, igniting a spark deep in the pit of Draco's stomach.

"Harry. Harry, wait." Draco brought his hands up to rest on Harry's shoulders, putting several inches in between them. Harry's eyes burned with confusion and longing, and Draco almost forgot his plan entirely.

"What's the matter?" Harry asked gently.

Draco smirked. "Have you forgotten about the wards already?"

Narrowing his eyes, Harry pulled away further. "No, I haven't forgotten. I just figured they were because of that thing on your desk, maybe. What's going on?"

Draco took a deep breath. "Harry, I want to do something for you, but you'll have to go along with it without knowing what it is. You have to trust me."

This was the part Draco had been slightly apprehensive about. His Oath forbade him from explaining to Harry anything about the Pensieve itself, but his plan also hinged on Harry's ability to trust in him. It couldn't proceed without it.

"Of course I trust you, you idiot. You just locked me inside your office, and warded the fucking room so heavily that not even the Head Auror could get through. Where the hell did you learn that last one, anyway?"

Draco just smiled.

"Right, right. Department of Mysteries business, I get it. Point is," Harry sighed, shaking his head slightly. "If I didn't trust you, do you honestly think I'd have let you kiss me after locking me in here?"

"Okay," Draco nodded. He slid out from his place between Harry and the wall, and offered Harry his hand. Harry took it at once, giving it a gentle squeeze and letting himself be led to the desk. They stood before the Pensieve, Draco's whole body tingling in anticipation. He didn't know how Harry was going to respond to this next part.

Laying on a white cloth next to the Pensieve was a slender silver dagger, its handle in the shape of a serpent's head. Harry eyed it curiously before turning to look at Draco. "Relic of Slytherin?"

"An old family heirloom," Draco explained. "This requires a bit of blood, and I figured it was the best knife to use, since it will numb the pain - unless you hit bone, that is."

Harry swallowed. "A bit of my blood?"

Draco nodded slowly. "Just a drop. Are you okay with that? If not, we don't have to -"

"No. I want to," Harry said, standing up straighter and suppressing a slight shudder. "Thanks for asking, though."

Draco tightened his grip on Harry's hand briefly before letting go and picking up the small piece of parchment he had placed facedown on the desk. He looked at it, but kept the words he had written there hidden from Harry for the time being.

"Any time you're ready."

Harry looked at him for a moment, unsure. Draco wished he was able to reassure him, to let him in on his plan, but that was impossible. Instead he just looked back at him, willing him to understand that although there was nothing at all legal about what they about to do and that he could quite possibly lose his job, it was safe. It was all for him.

"Trust me," he whispered. Harry nodded, eyes falling away from him as he awkwardly picked up the silver dagger.

He didn't want to, but Draco forced himself to watch as Harry made a small cut across the tip of his finger. "Is this what Slytherins get their kids for Christmas? Knives that tickle?" he asked as he let one drop of blood fall into the shallow basin. At once the clouds began to swirl faster, grow darker. The temperature in the room lowered noticeably, which was the one odd side affect the Department hadn't really worked out yet. It wasn't dangerous, but until they fixed it they wouldn't allow any products to be sold.

"Yes. And what do Gryffindor kids get? Swords that sparkle?" Draco asked, a smile in his tone if not his expression. He took Harry's hand in his, healing it quickly and kissing the tip of his finger slowly before letting it fall away.

"This is so strange." Harry looked into the Pensieve cautiously, watching the clouds respond to what must have been hurricane force winds, though it was completely still in the room. "What now?"

Draco looked down at the parchment one last time before holding it out to him. His heart was thudding in his chest, and he wrapped his arms around himself after Harry had taken it. "Read it out loud. Whenever you're ready."

Harry held the parchment before him in both hands, not seeming to comprehend the intent of it at first. There weren't very many words written there, but the few that were would explain everything that Harry needed to know, after the message had sunk in. He stared down at the words for a very long time, hands beginning to tremble slightly.

"Harry?" Draco asked tentatively.

Harry's eyes flickered up, brimming with unshed tears. "You remembered what I said," he spoke softly, one tear falling as he shifted his eyes back to the parchment, drinking in the words.

"Yes," Draco nodded. "Of course I did."

"I just say the words, and then... and then I'll be there?" Harry's words were rushed, hurried. Draco thought he might have been choking back a sob.

Draco closed the distance between them, turning Harry delicately to face him. "Yes. You will," he whispered.

Harry took a deep, shuddering breath, placing his hands on Draco's shoulders. "You'll come with me, won't you?"

Draco's eyes widened in surprise. "You want me to come with you?" Harry nodded, almost shyly, and Draco pulled him into a hug. Harry hid his face in Draco's neck. "Of course I will, if that's what you want. You'll have to hold on to me pretty tight, though. It won't be like side-along Apparation."

"Not a problem," Harry whispered, arms encircling Draco further. Draco smiled, kissing Harry's cheek lightly and then relaxing into him. Now all there was left to do was wait until Harry felt ready enough to speak.

It wasn't long before Harry took a deep breath and said, "Seven o'clock. December 25th, 1980."

The world began to swirl, a vicious grey wind surrounding them though not one hair on their heads was ruffled. Harry was holding on so tightly it hurt.

The prototype Pensieve was designed to bring the user back to where they had been at any particular date and time. It was superior to the older model in that it did not rely on memories to be activated. The user did not have to recall the moment in time at all. It would be incredibly useful, once all the kinks were worked out. The Wizengamot and the Ministry's Investigative branches were sure to have a field day with it.

But right now, it was going to change Harry's life. Draco wanted to give him the something important, something significant that he alone had the power to give. He loved being the only one able to do this for him, loved it selfishly, but he couldn't help it. After this, things had to end between them, for at least eleven years. He'd thought long and hard the night before, trying to find the best way to tell Harry, to find a way to ensure that Harry wouldn't forget about him in the meantime. That was when he'd recalled what Harry said.

"I spent one Christmas with my Mum and Dad. I wish I could remember anything about it. Anything."

What he needed to do was obvious, then. He'd thought about it briefly even just after Harry had said it, but he'd dismissed it then as crazy. Even without really breaking his Oath, he'd be terminated on the spot if he were to be caught.

In the end, his work was truly not very important to him. He'd entered into the position as a means to an end, and that end was no longer something he desired. All that mattered was that Harry was happy. That he could make him truly happy, just this once. He didn't know how happy Harry would be in the interim years, but he wanted him to have this, and he wanted it to be from him, and he wanted Harry to keep it with him, always.

The world settled down around them. He pulled away slightly, noticing Harry's eyes were pinched shut. They were in the middle of a brightened living room. A Christmas tree was lit and decorated in the corner behind Harry's head. And they were not alone.

"Harry, look!" he whispered excitedly, even though he knew it wasn't possible for anyone but Harry to hear him. Harry managed to pry his eyes open, but seemed unwilling to let him go. "Harry. Turn around..."

Harry did turn, slowly and shaking in Draco's arms. Draco kept his hands on Harry's waist, not wanting to let go of him, not until Harry was ready.

A man, younger than both Harry and Draco, was kneeling on the floor in front of the tree. His hair was dark and messy, and he was wearing glasses with silver frames and very strange, open-ended jeans. He was quickly - and not very efficiently - attempting to wrap a couple of presents, and shooting nervous glances behind him at the stairs. Draco was surprised to see the man's dark eyes. Other than that, and a few other small nuances about the face, he could have been Harry's twin. Opening one of the small boxes, a gold necklace was revealed - he moved it with the tip of his finger until it was lying straight. Then he shut it again, and attacked it with wrapping paper.

"Better hurry, mate!" someone said, and both Harry and Draco jumped. Another man entered then from the kitchen, carrying a couple of pint glasses. He didn't look familiar to Draco, but Harry tensed.

"Why?" James asked, sounding irritated.

"I heard Harry crying. I suspect the little woman will be down soon," the man answered.

James looked up at him sharply, shaking his head. "Arse."

"Who's that?" Draco whispered. Harry shook his head slowly in wonder as the man placed one of the pints on the floor beside James and then collapsed onto the couch.

"It's Sirius," Harry whispered back. "He looks so... god, the both of them. They're so young. I never realized..." Harry's father started to say something else then, and Harry seemed to have forgotten he had been speaking. He was listening with rapt attention, eyes locked onto him hungrily.

Someone else entered the living room from the kitchen, carrying another pint and a plate full of chocolate chip cookies. This man was one that Draco recognized, with his worn sweater and warm eyes. He sat down next to Sirius on the couch.

"Father Christmas better be pleased. I don't think they're burnt!"

Sirius shoved an entire cookie into his mouth, shaking his head. "No' bur'. Berry 'mmy."

"Lupin," Draco whispered. Harry nodded, moving forward. Draco let him go, and did not follow. He just watched as Harry kneeled down in front of his father, who was placing the last of the gifts under the tree. This was Harry's moment, not his. He felt lucky enough to even be allowed.

"Thanks for taking them out for me, Remus. I knew James was going to ignore the timer." A light, female voice sounded from the bottom of the stairs, out of Draco's line of sight. Harry's head snapped up, eyes wide and bright and terrified.

"Hey! I would have taken the bloody cookies out, you know, I was just busy with - something!" James complained, standing up and quickly Banishing the roll of wrapping paper from the floor. Harry scooted back quickly, lest James walk through him. He wasn't quick enough, though - James' foot stepped through Harry's knee for a moment, and Harry gasped before moving back further, rubbing at his knee. Draco had had it happen to him once, too. It felt like ice water going through you, leaving behind a phantom pressure that took several moments to subside.

"Busy with - what was it? Something?" A red-haired woman appeared in the archway of the living room then, a small bundle in her arms. Draco's breath caught in his throat, and Harry stood up, hands clenched into fists at his side. Draco wished that he could see his face. "That's a likely story, I'm sure."

"Very likely!" Sirius raised his pint in a quick salute, and Lily frowned at him.

"Happy Christmas, Sirius," she muttered, not sounding happy in the least. Draco couldn't get over her eyes. Everyone said it, anyone who was anyone knew that Harry had his mother's eyes. But he'd never really thought about it before, never realized how very factual the statement was. How could he have, before this instant?

Sirius took it all in stride, standing up and smiling handsomely. "A very happy Christmas to you too, Evans!" He walked around the table and held his arms out. "And a very happy Christmas to my little godson Harry!"

For several moments, Sirius held his arms outstretched and Lily stared back at him incredulously. Baby Harry let out a soft, adorable wail, and Harry himself let out a short laugh.

"This is so fucking surreal," he whispered. "That's me..."

"See? He wants me!" Sirius complained, and James came to stand beside Lily.

"Let Padfoot hold him for a little while. He's been good today." He planted a quick kiss on Lily's cheek, and she sighed.

"I know for a fact that he took a shower this morning, if that helps," Remus added, and Sirius nodded encouragingly.

"Oh, all right. But be very careful, Sirius, I mean it! Support his head, and hold him with both arms. And for Merlin's sake, please don't forget you're holding him!" Lily resignedly handed Baby Harry over to Sirius, looking deeply, deeply unsure about it.

Harry's head was turning back and forth very quickly. He seemed unable to make up his mind about who he wanted to look at more: himself being held by his godfather on the couch, or his parents embracing, conveniently enough, beneath the mistletoe. Harry chose the latter eventually, walking toward them until he was right in front of them. He was taller than his father, and broader, but then again he was also older and not currently in the middle of a war, Draco reminded himself. In fact, all four of them looked thinner than was probably healthy.

Tears streamed freely down Harry's face as he watched them, watched his father with his arms around his mother, kissing her on first one cheek, then the other, then her nose. Lily smiled, and stole a kiss on the lips. Sirius cheered in the background.

Harry held his arm out, hand just inches away from them. Draco had half a mind to call out to him, to stop him, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. There was no real harm in it, was there? Harry's hand continued on its forward path until it went through his mother's shoulder. The couple moved slightly, and Harry's hand, still extended, shifted to the middle of his father's chest - but not before the two of them jumped apart, staring at each other in bewilderment. Harry stepped back, too, surprised.

"What was that?" Lily asked, bringing her opposite hand up to stroke her shoulder.

James pulled at the material of his shirt, staring down at it. "I have no idea. Did you drag your feet on the carpet upstairs or something?"

Lily shrugged. "Maybe. I've never had a shock like that before." James grinned at her, pulling her back into his arms to kiss her again and make a corny joke before moving to sit with her on the loveseat.

Harry turned, horrorstruck. "What just happened?"

But Draco was just as blown away. "I have no idea. I'll have to let the designers know as soon as possible - nothing like that has ever happened in a test run, but I'll bet nobody purposefully tried to touch..." He let his voice fade as he realized that Harry was not really listening.

"I thought this was a memory. They can't see me, they don't hear me, but... but I just... they noticed me!" Harry cried, falling to his knees once again, staring around at his family for the first time in his own living memory. Draco's mind was racing, in two completely different places at once - of course he was here with Harry, but he was also going through the possibilities, trying to figure out exactly how something so gigantic could have slipped past his own and his colleagues' notice. Had they invented a fucking time machine by accident?

"God Harry, I'm so sorry," Draco whispered. "I didn't know..."

Harry turned his head towards him, eyes red-rimmed and face blotchy. "Please don't be sorry. Don't ever be sorry."

"Oh, Harry..."

"Could you come sit with me? I think I need... I think I need you." Harry buried his face in his hands, shoulders shuddering.

"Of course." Draco went to him and sat cross-legged, rubbing soothing circles into his back. Baby Harry started crying then, making Harry laugh through his tears.

"How can I ever thank you?" Harry whispered, inching closer. His hands still covered his face, but tears escaped through the crevices, dripped down his chin. Draco moved up to a kneeling position, hugging him and cradling him against his chest. Harry's arms went around his torso at once, and he buried his face in his shirt.

"Happy Christmas, Harry." Draco kissed his hair, finding tears forming in his own eyes. "Why are you hiding? Look, you're missing them..."

Draco didn't know how long they sat there on the floor, watching Harry's first Christmas unfold before their eyes. Harry said little, except for a few small side comments. "My Mum has so many freckles," and "I look just like Lily," and "Sirius is so weird." Harry just sat back, resting against Draco and watching them all talk, eat cookies and open gifts. Remus fed him a bottle, and Lily reluctantly let Sirius burp him. Harry threw up all over him. Harry was mortified, and Draco laughed, ruffling his hair. Draco watched them too, but mostly he watched Harry.

He took him in, trying to memorize every facet and curve. Every few moments he was reminded of the fact that everything would soon be over. Harry wouldn't want to end it, he'd surely put up quite a fight, but Draco had his mind made up. He wasn't going to give in, no matter how difficult it was, no matter how much he wanted to keep him. The fact was, Harry deserved a family. His should-be family was surrounding him now, but in reality they were dead and gone. Harry needed the family he had made, and they needed him. No matter how Draco looked at it he knew that Harry wouldn't stay the same, not for long, not as long as he stayed with him. Harry would eventually turn into that version of himself that he hated, simply because he couldn't make the choice, didn't want to make the choice. Draco would make it for him. Draco would ensure Harry had what he needed.

"I love you, Draco," Harry whispered, gripping his hand tightly and turning to look at him for the first time in hours. "I wish..."

"Shh. I know," Draco whispered back. "I love you, too."

Eventually, Lily went upstairs to put Baby Harry to bed, and Sirius and Remus left, saying goodnight to James on the doorstep before Apparating away. Draco and Harry had to dodge around their feet. And when Lily came back downstairs, James gave her the necklace he had wrapped earlier. Harry had smiled at her joy, the first smile he had had all night. Quickly, though, his smile turned into a worried frown.

"Time to go," Harry said, standing up and pulling Draco with him.

"What? Why?" Draco asked, but Harry shook his head, wrapped his arms around Draco and turned. The world swirled around them again, and a few moments later they were standing in Draco's darkened office again. "Harry? What was that about?"

Harry pulled away from him, crossing his arms and blushing. "I was not about to watch my parents having sex, thank you very much."

Draco laughed. "I didn't even notice!"

"What else was there to pay attention to?" Harry wondered.

"Well. You." It was Draco's turn to blush.

Harry smiled, pulling him into a kiss, and Draco let him because the number of kisses they would share were numbered, whether Harry knew it or not.

Harry spent the night at Draco's flat that night, for the first and last time. But the last thing on Draco's mind that night was sleep.

"What's the matter, Draco?"

I don't want to lose you. When I close my eyes, you'll disappear.


~*~

For we don't realize
Our faith in the prize
Unless it's been somehow elusive
How swiftly we choose it
The sacred simplicity
Of you at my side...


~*~


Epilogue
September 1st, 2017
Nine Years Later


Lily made her father carry her onto Platform 9 and 3/4, but he wouldn't have refused - not for the world.

"I'll walk through next year, Dad. All by myself," she whispered into his ear. "Or maybe the year after that, when I go away to school, too."

"I'll hold your hand next year if you want me to," Harry promised, petting her long red curls, knowing there was no hope of petting them into any semblance of order. She was his daughter, after all.

"Maybe," she conceded, resting her head on his shoulder. "Daddy. Are you sad?"

"Sad? Why would you say that, Lil?" Harry feigned surprise, plastering a smile onto his face and wondering why his youngest child always seemed to be able to read him - was always in perfect tune with him.

"You just look so sad to me. But don't worry, Al will do really good in school. You don't have to miss him that much, since I'll be home. I can be an only child!" Lily exclaimed, looking positively delighted. Harry laughed, kissing her on the cheek and setting her down as they approached the train. "Look, there's Auntie Hermione with Hugo. Go say hi - I'm going to say goodbye to your brothers, okay?"

She nodded, running off to play with her cousin. The two children who wouldn't be attending Hogwarts that year stood in awe of all the bigger kids rushing around them lugging their trunks and greeting their friends. Harry followed her out of the corner of his eye, making sure she didn't stray too far.

Even though he wasn't particularly looking, Harry perceived the exact moment he arrived on the platform. His hair shone as bright as ever in the sun, and so did his son's - by far the brightest spots on the platform, attracting Harry's eye quite naturally even from fifty feet away. Ron, Hermione and Ginny noticed too, but they'd stopped questioning Harry about what had happened between them long ago. Harry had never given them a solid answer before, and no one bothered to ask him about it now.

Harry allowed himself to look at Draco for the first time in several years. The world didn't turn abruptly on its axis as he had supposed, but his breath did catch in his chest. He found that not very much had changed about the other man in nine years. Draco hadn't lost or gained any weight, as far as he could tell, and his hair was still obnoxiously blond, if the tiniest bit thinner on top - Harry couldn't stop himself from grinning at that - and he still carried himself with as much graceful authority as he ever had. He was still beautiful.

Harry had wondered over the years whether his attraction would lessen with time, or whether it would be possible to fall out of love. After one glance at the other man, he realized that it wasn't. Not for him, at least.

It was a surprise to see Astoria there with Draco, so soon after their divorce. Harry hadn't seen her in many years, didn't think he'd seen her since the very first Ministry Gala he'd attended his first year teaching. She looked the same, if not colder and more aloof. She kept Scorpius between her and Draco at all times, and Draco was paying all his attention to his son. They were ignoring each other entirely.

Not unlike he and Ginny, he realized, although things had definitely improved after Lily's birth. Having a daughter seemed to shake Ginny out of her state, calm her down. And Harry getting to witness and see his own mother for the first time had put many things in perspective for him. Things had never been quite the same again, but they had been okay.

Harry had been content.

Draco noticed him looking and nodded politely. Harry looked away, heart pounding. Ron was saying something but Harry only listened half-heartedly, unable to fully concentrate when he knew that gray gaze might still be upon him, taking him in, noticing his changes. He looked older than Draco did, and this made him a little uncomfortable even though he kept in good shape. He'd worn one of his best shirts to show off the fact, because he knew Draco would be dropping off his own son for his first year at Hogwarts, too.

"Daddy, who is that guy?" Lily asked after her brothers had boarded the train, squeezing into the gap between his arm and his side. She was staring in the direction of the Malfoys. Harry glanced over again, glad to be given a valid reason to take another look, and noticed that Draco was looking at Lily in fascination.

"That man's name is Draco Malfoy. He and I used to be good friends," Harry said quietly, forcing himself to look away again.


"Well, he keeps looking at me. And looking at you, too. I think he likes me," Lily grinned up at Harry, hanging off his hand.

Harry nearly laughed out loud. "Oh, you think so?"

"Definitely," she nodded. "He's really cute!"

"Sweetheart, he's as old as I am," Harry stated, amused. "I don't think that would go over too well with your mum, do you?"

She giggled, shaking her head.

"Uncle Ron would disown you, probably," he added with a grin, gripping her hands in his and pulling her up straight. "Ready to go? I think we're going to go out to lunch with your Aunt and Uncle."

"Yes," Lily said, still staring at Draco. "But Daddy, maybe you should go say hi to him! He looks like he misses you."

Harry narrowed his eyes. "What makes you say that?"

She shrugged. "He keeps looking, and he looks real sad."

"Well, it's probably not the best idea," he said weakly, holding Lily's hand a little tighter as they began to follow at the back of the group, heading toward the exit. With trepidation, Harry realized they were going to pass right by him.

"Maybe you would both be happier if you did," Lily said, sounding a little disappointed. "Did you get in a fight?"

"Sort of," Harry sighed. "A very long time ago."

"Then I think you should say hi. Then he'd know you weren't mad at him, and you could be friends again." She looked so certain, so sure of the fact. Things were so simple when you were nine years old.

Draco was only fifteen feet away now, at most. Harry looked at his feet as he walked, hoping, wishing that Lily wouldn't push it, wouldn't do anything...


~*~*~



Draco held his breath while the Weasley-Potter brood passed by, clogging up the exit with their multitude. He was distracted by a green-haired Teddy Lupin, who was waving at him across the crowd. Draco waved back, knowing he'd see Teddy that weekend at Andromeda's. Teddy had learned early on that Draco preferred to keep his distance from the Weasleys and the Potters, and he'd accepted that without ever asking why. Draco had appreciated that more than anything.

When Draco looked around again, his heart fell into his stomach. Harry and his daughter were standing right in front of him.

"Hello, Mister," the little girl said, clinging to Harry's hand. On second glance it looked more like Harry was clinging to her hand. She looked up at him with her father's eyes.

"Hello," Draco said carefully. "How are you?"

"Fine, thanks. This is my dad, Harry Potter. I guess you used to be friends." Harry wasn't able to suppress a small smile at that.

Draco nodded. "That's true. We were, once."

"And when was that, exactly?" Astoria asked; he all but forgotten about her. He turned, watching her pull on a pair of blue gloves that matched her robes.

"Once," Draco repeated mysteriously, in the tone of voice he knew got under his wife's skin. "Is it really any of your business, dear?"

Not surprisingly, she frowned. "Thank Merlin for you it no longer is." She turned at once and made for the exit, and Draco felt immensely relieved. The only reason the three of them had been together that day at all was because Scorpius had made them promise. It was the only thing he'd asked for after the divorce, that they both be there to see him off every year.

Lily stepped a bit closer to her father, a smile on her face. "I'm going to go tell Mum you'll meet us outside in a few minutes, okay?"

"Lily -" Harry began, but she cut him off.

"No, Dad. I'll see you in a few minutes. Nice to meet you, Mister Malfoy," she smiled up at him, and Draco couldn't help but smile back.

"Nice to meet you, too!" he called after her as she scampered off, and she waved.

He turned his attention to Harry then, staring directly at his face for the first time in a long time. Harry looked terrified to be standing there before him, deserted by his own daughter. But he looked good, even with the few grey streaks he had in his hair. Draco thought it fit him extremely well. He wanted to touch it, run his fingers through it. Familiar green eyes were looking at him curiously, and he found himself unable to look away, trapped in them as if the last time they had been together had only been yesterday. Nine years had gone by since the last time they had been this close, but it might as well have been nine hours. The sudden tension between, binding them in place made his heart beat faster than it had in years. Only Harry had the ability to render him this way. Only Harry ever would.

"Someone's certainly intuitive," Draco chanced a remark, somehow finding his voice.

Harry smiled knowingly. "You're telling me. You wouldn't believe some of the things that come out of her mouth."

"No, I'm pretty sure I would."

"You actually might," Harry agreed softly. Then almost, an afterthought, "I've missed you."

Draco locked eyes with Harry, finding himself unable to breathe properly. What could he say to the man he'd thought of every day for nine years? He'd spent his time divided: when he was with Scorpius, he lived in the present as best he could. But when he was by himself - and even when he was with Astoria or with anybody else, he still felt that he was by himself - he lived for the moment that he might be with Harry again. He hadn't deluded himself into thinking that things would just fall perfectly into place the moment Lily Potter boarded the Hogwarts Express, but he couldn't stop himself from hoping that Harry would stand by his end of the deal. He couldn't stop himself from imagining the two of them together again, together for real, out in the world. He didn't care how long it took to get to that point, he only knew that he'd do anything to get there. One day two years from now, perhaps they could begin working on making that a reality.

"I've missed you, too," Draco whispered. "How have you been?"

Harry actually grinned, though it was slightly twisted in bitterness. "Content."

"That's good," Draco said, not sure whether he was glad Harry hadn't been any worse, or glad Harry hadn't been any better than that.

"How about you?" Harry asked, sticking his hands in his pockets.

Draco's eyes dropped. He couldn't answer truthfully, not without painting a perfect picture of misery for Harry to take away with him. And it wasn't actually all that bad, not anymore. He'd grown accustomed to the ache, he'd grown around it, adapted to it. "I'm okay," he finally answered.

"Can I ask you something?" Harry blurted out, causing Draco to look up sharply. He seemed to be waiting for permission, so Draco nodded. "September first, two thousand and nineteen."

"What?" Draco knew what that date meant, knew it because he'd repeated it in his mind so many times, had even considered asking the Department of Mysteries' designers to create a new Pensieve - one that could see into the future so that he could finally stop his ceaseless wondering, and know for certain.

"September first, two thousand and nineteen. Two years from now, I would like to ask you to go out to dinner with me," Harry said, voice shaking slightly. "Would you like to?"

Draco opened his mouth to reply, but had trouble finding the words.

"Draco?"

"I'd love to," he finally replied, and Harry grinned, his whole face lighting up. He held out his hand, and Draco took it immediately. To the outside world it was just a handshake, maybe a bit more prolonged than a normal one, but still just a handshake. To Draco, the feeling of Harry's skin against his was enough to keep him going for two more years at least. His hand was warm, almost unnaturally so. Letting go of it and letting his own hand drop down to his side wasn't as hard to do as he had once imagined, and of course he had imagined this moment many times.

Though he didn't have the answers he so desperately wanted, he had a renewed sense of hope. And when Harry eventually turned to exit and join his family again, Draco simply smiled and waved, and watched the back of him until he disappeared through the wall, exiting back into the Muggle World.

For the first time in nine years, Draco's heart rejoiced.

"Soon," he whispered. "Soon, now."


~*~

fin

~*~


Listen as the wind blows
From across the great divide
Voices trapped in yearning
Memories trapped in time
The night is my companion
And solitude my guide
Would I spend forever here
And not be satisfied?

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss you so hard
I’ll take your breath away
And after, I’d wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes, dear

Through this world I’ve stumbled
So many times betrayed
Trying to find an honest word
To find the truth enslaved
Oh, you speak to me in riddles and
You speak to me in rhymes
My body aches to breathe your breath
Your words keep me alive

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss you so hard
I’ll take your breath away
And after, I’d wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes, dear

Into this night I wander
It’s morning that I dread
Another day of knowing of
The path I fear to tread
Oh, into the sea of waking dreams
I follow without pride
Nothing stands between us here
And I won’t be denied

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss you so hard
I’ll take your breath away
And after, I’d wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes…

Sarah McLachlan – Possession (Acoustic Version)


~*~


In-text lyrics by Vienna Teng – Eric's Song
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