Chapter 18: Cheers

Harry collapses onto his bed with a groan. It's been an incredibly long weekend. Yesterday Draco woke up after weeks of being asleep and he hasn't had a chance to properly talk to him yet. Most of the students are back and the Gryffindors threw an impromptu party he had to drag himself away from because he's just so exhausted. If he wasn't so tired, he'd be downstairs enjoying the company of the other Gryffindors. But that's not actually true - there's a reason he doesn't spend much time with anyone beyond his small circle of friends. People who aren't used to being in the presence of "Harry Potter" act strange around him. If it isn't the unwelcomed looks of wonderstruck or reverence that they have, it's the shamelessly personal questions.

If Harry's honest with himself, he can admit he was having some fun. Neville had snuck in some drinks - which he had wordlessly given to Harry. The warmth after a couple of beers had marginally subsided the uneasiness he felt after seeing Draco yesterday. It all felt so normal and so casual that Harry didn't feel the urge to leave straight away, even as he wondered about Draco. What was he doing? How was he coping? Were things going to be different between them now? Where did they stand? He had tried to leave the party to see him but someone always managed to corner him. Now he regrets not getting away. It's strange to not see him all day after spending every waking and sleeping moment next to him.

He turns to his Christmas gifts, which he didn't even have a chance to finish unwrapping, and puts on the emerald green sweater from Mrs. Weasley. Opening Ron's gift, he snorts to see that it's a guide to swoon pretty witches. He sets it aside a little guiltily, already sure he won't be needing that. From Hermione - yummy - he receives some Swiss chocolate in the shape of a snitch. The small package from Ginny is curious and when he unwraps it his face goes hot with both laughter and embarrassment. He can't believe she gave him a handbook labelled, "Using Your Wand Creativity: Safe and Fun Sex Spells." It's obviously a joke because she knows he's a "blushing virgin" as she so eloquently puts it on her note. He breathes out impatiently, letting his cheeks puff out before the breath collapses past his lips. Well - he doesn't think that will change anytime soon.

Stashing away his gifts, he makes sure his curtains are completely closed before he takes out his invisibility cloak from under his pillow and unfolds it. There laying in the middle of it is Draco's pendant. He runs his fingers over its intricate design, noticing how warm the gold feels. He's overcome with the impulse to put it on and with a swift motion, he swing it over his head, contentedly tucking it into his shirt. His plan was to give this back to Draco when he woke up - a gift of some sort. But now, he has this irrational urge to hold onto it. It's strange that he hasn't told Draco that he has it yet. He hasn't told anyone.

Harry rolls onto his back, staring up at his canopy and not wanting to close his eyes just yet because he knows what he'll see if he does. Instead, he focuses on the weight of the pendant, how he could almost feel it pulse against his skin, and a calm warmth envelopes him. Somehow, wearing it makes him feel better - makes him forget what happened in the Manor. He's sure that if he were to fall asleep right now his dreams wouldn't haunt him.

A tapping on his window startles him, and when he opens his bed curtains wide he sees a large, majestic owl impatiently waiting just outside. He recognizes him as Draco's owl, but he's never actually seen him this close before. Rushing to let the poor creature in, he swings the window open.

The owl swoops onto his bed and ruffles his feathers to shake off the fresh fluff of snow on him. "You have something for me?" he affectionately asks as he sits next to him. He takes the tied parcel from his claw and scratches under his chin. "You're a beautiful boy, aren't ya?"

The eagle owl nips harshly at his hand and he winces, "ouch, what was that for?" The creatures gives him an unwavering stare before ruffling his feathers in offence. Harry sticks his tongue out at him and then turn his attention to the small rolled-up parchment. Something like a smile tugs at his lips as he read the note:

Jan 3.

Did I wake you? No, I didn't because you're probably getting plastered with your … people. Didn't think to invite me, Scarhead? I won't pretend to care but I'm bored so you can come and meet me at the Tower when you're done. I can't sleep, surprise there, so I'm getting away for a bit.

p.s. Wiggy's acting odd - she nearly attacked me. Give her some treats or something from me.


"Wiggy - Oh, you're a girl!" he says to the Wiggy, who bobs her head with a low clatter of chirps. It's a sound Harry misses. He goes to Ron's deskside and opens the first drawer. He must have some scraps of owl treats in here somewhere. He rummages through the mess and stops abruptly when his fingers close around a small, royal blue box. With surprise, he picks it up and glances over his shoulder at the door before he carefully opens it. Inside lies a delicate looking ring with a cluster of small diamonds that sit on a thin, gold band - an engagement ring. One side of his mouth quirks up in a sad smile. He's glad for them, really, but he feels a little disappointed that Ron didn't mention anything to Harry. If Harry were in his shoes and he had chosen a ring, he probably wouldn't be able to resist showing him. He puts the ring back and tries to place the box exactly where he found it, even though he knows Ron won't notice if it's slightly out of place. He spots some owl treats beneath the scatter of abandoned parchment and goes to sit on his bed again, holding his hand out for Wiggy.

Her beak tickles against his palms and with his free hand he scratches the top of her head. She chirps in gratitude, her large eyes blinking slowly.

"It's my fault he hasn't told me," he says to her, and she tilts her head at him. "I haven't been a great friend." Harry continues to scratch between her feathers, a gesture that would have made Hedwig melt. Hermione's right - he has to try fixing things with Ron. Being honest with him would be a good start. With a tired sigh he realizes that this week will be the week he may lose a friend. If Ron forces him to make a choice, Harry knows what he'll choose, but he tries hard not to think about what that means.

"Do you want to come with me to meet Draco?" he asks Wiggy, who has been moving comfortably closer to him, but she ruffles her feathers and before Harry can think twice of it, she spreads her wings and swoops out of the open window.

He sees his familiar silhouette dark against the falling snow, sitting by the edge of the Tower, and Harry's heart hiccups uncomfortably. Draco senses him there and turns his upper body around to face him, even as his legs swing and dangle over the edge. "Finally!"

"What are you doing?"he rushes towards Draco in alarm.

"Waiting for you - took you long enough!"

"Draco! Can you please come down from there? It's really making me nervous."

Draco offers him a chilling smile. "Stop fretting - I really am enjoying the view. Where's your broom?"

"What?" Harry asks in confusion, seeing Draco's broom next to his feet.

"Your broom! I said I wanted to get away."

"I didn't think you meant flying off the Tower! I thought we'd go to Hogsmeade or something."

"No. I want a hamburger."

Harry blinks at him slowly and Draco stares back, impatience making his eyes narrow. "A burger?" Harry asks weakly, only to make sure he's hearing him right.

"Yeah - stop looking at me like that! Every single person in the bloody world has tried one and I wasn't allowed because Lucius didn't think it was proper. I'm just - I'm done following those absurd rules of his. I'm going to do whatever the hell I want and if you want to join me, perfect, if not, go back to your stupid party and leave me alone." He huffs and stares at Harry with calm coldness, even as his face twitches and Harry can make out a hidden layer of desperation.

Harry takes note of the way Draco is referring to his father, but doesn't say anything. Instead, he nods lightly and walks towards him, knowing that there's no point arguing with him when he's like this. "I'll come with you." Draco flashes him a quick smirk before he stands up, turning his back to the skies behind him and Harry hurriedly grabs his hand to pull him down. "Can you please be careful?" he hisses, yanking him down hard. "You're being extremely reckless - it's unlike you."

Draco just shrugs easily enough and Harry turns away annoyed, wondering if this is how he makes other people feel when they're calling him reckless. He picks up Draco's broom, placing his legs on either side and then jerks his head for Draco to get on.

"I call it being spontaneous," he hears Draco mutter as he swings his leg over and wraps his arms around Harry's chest. "I can be spontaneous!"

"Of course you can-" he says tightly, trying to ignore the sudden flip-flop in his stomach. Draco edges closer and Harry sits up straighter. He does his best to ignore Draco's hands pressed into his shirt and his breath tickling the back of his neck - but a familiar tightness in his trousers has him leaping up into the air without a second thought. Fuck - no! Now?!

"I wasn't ready!" he hears Draco complain. "I'm all lopsided!"

"Stop squirming!" Harry hisses, "For fuck's sake."

"Why did I let you ride anyway? It's my broom!"

"This is my first time I'm flying - since -since I got my sight back."

"What?" Draco asks in bemusement. "Why did you wait so long?"

"Didn't feel right." Harry falls silent, remembering he had little will to do much besides stare and sleep. He focuses on his flying, trying to keep both of them steady on the broom as snow swirls around them and into his hair. He can make out the frosty grounds before them, the shimmering white hills of snow making him feel like he's coasting above the clouds. He feels rather than hears Draco laugh against his back and his arms tighten around Harry as he drops down sharply to descend, and Harry can't help but speed up until -

They land clumsily, both laughing. Harry plants his feet into the ground to keep them from stumbling, but Draco still manages to gracefully swing himself off and give Harry an amused why-are-you-so-hopeless look. Draco runs his fingertips through his hair, shaking away the snow. Harry's eyes follow the quick motions of Draco's hands as they continue brushing away the snow from his dark robes, before he straightens them out effortlessly. He takes out his wand and with an easy flick of his wrist he shrinks down his broom. "Where to now?" he asks, oblivious to Harry's stare.

Harry blinks. "Er - How should I know? This is your mad plan!"

"Harry -" and Harry's glad to hear him say his name again, "I literally have never set foot in a muggle community before. Why do you think I asked you to come?"

"For the pleasure of my company?"

"Hardly," the pretty bastard smirks again.

Harry's lips quirk and he runs his hand through his own hair, trying to shake off the snow and the fatigue that hangs on him, but both seep in a little deeper. He's surprised when Draco wordlessly points his wand at him to cast a drying charm. "You know, this snow isn't going to stop anytime soon. Maybe we should try another time," he offers, but Draco gives him a stony look. Sighing, Harry continues, "Alright - at this hour - a pub maybe? But be warned, by the time we get there it might be too late."

"I'll take my chances - lead the way." Draco holds out his hand for him to take, and Harry tries not to look too awkward when he clasps it tightly in his own and apparates them both to muggle London.

They appear in a dark alley and Draco feels Harry lose his balance, stumbling into him. Draco chuckles as he straightens him up, glad that Harry can't see the way he's smiling at him.

Harry straightens up in embarrassment, something like envy mocking his tone. "You make it look so easy."

"That's because it is."

"Now with all this snow," Harry mutters, already beginning to move towards the main street. He sighs, ruffling his hair again. Draco narrows his eyes at him, tempted to slap the sleepiness out of him. "Come on," Harry says, stepping out of the alleyway.

Draco steps out into the clearing and tries to mask his surprise, which he's sure that Harry catches. Scowling, he decides he has to work on not being such a bloody-open book around him. Draco looks around himself in all directions, taking in all the strange details of the things he wasn't allowed to learn about his whole life. He walks past tall light posts and parked automobiles, which look so different from the pictures he's snuck a look at from the textbooks at Hogwarts' library. He jumps when he hears a piercing, metallic bell ring close to him, shrilling and unforgiving, and can't help but nervously turn to Harry for an explanation. Draco isn't even annoyed to see him laughing. "Don't worry - just a car alarm." Draco nods, pretending to know what that means.

There aren't many muggles out on the street, but from the looks of it, several of them are gathered in the pubs, which isn't surprising considering the weather. When they try a pub, Draco lets Harry do all the talking - asking if the chef is still in house - which makes him feel a little more hopeful about this whole hamburger rebellion of his. Who knew only a chef could prepare it?

They continue to wander aimlessly in silence. While Harry is too busy pretending he isn't watching Draco, Draco's too preoccupied with his thoughts to say anything. It's odd - that this whole intricate world exist and he knows nothing about it. It's unsettling. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he can't help but feel utterly out of place and out of touch. He has to distract his thoughts from getting too dark again, as they did earlier today when he was left alone in the Hospital Wing. "Part of the reason I wanted you to come -" he says distractedly, actively ignoring the flickering florescent signs on each window they walks by -"um, was because we have a lot to talk about."

Draco tries not to smile at how enthusiastically Harry nods, but he stays silent, waiting. "You left in hurry earlier- I didn't get to ask if you've heard anything about my mother." Draco knows that Potter will suspect something's off if he doesn't ask.

"No, nothing." He looks apologetic. "What's the plan to find her?"

"I - I don't have one." The thought of formulating some plan to find her never occurred to him - which is strange, isn't it? But thankfully he sees another pub across the street. "Let's try there."

Draco begins to cross the street, but Potter tugs at the back of his cloak and says, "Look both ways before crossing- it's a rule."

Once inside, Draco begins to take out his wand out to dry himself off again, out of habit, but stops mid-motion. When Harry asks the bartender about the hamburgers, Draco sees his relief more than hears it. Finally, good gracious, finally they've stumbled upon a pub that serves the bloody 'burger'. Harry wisely asks to be seated in the far corner, in a black leathery booth away from most of the muggles that are avidly watching the picture box by the bar. What's that called again? Oh yes, the tevelision - and Draco's momentarily distracted by the display of miniature muggles playing something like a Quidditch game on the ground. He can't help but snort.

He catches Harry's eye, who's watching him with an odd mix of pride and pleasant surprise. But still, underneath that, there's that same trace of concern he had back in the Hospital Wing. Draco looks away quickly, wondering if Harry suspects that something's different.

"I need the loo." He quickly stands up. "I'll be back."

Harry's concern deepens but he nods, getting up too. "Potter - I'd rather do this alone. I think I can manage."

"I know that," he snaps, sitting back down. Good – frustration's something that's easy to understand right now. Not, not - this other stuff that comes creeping back when he's with Potter.

He leaves without a glance, needing to get his thoughts straight and tries to walk across the bar casually, not caring that he's getting some stares, but trying his best to not bump into anyone. He comes across a door that has a small figure of a man on it and wonders absently if many muggles are illiterate. Pushing through the door he goes straight to the sink, turning the tap to cold to wash his face.

Draco inhales slowly, trying to makes sense of what the fuck is happening to him.

There's no use denying that his father did something to him. Draco can feel it. He's different. He's trying to fight it off, trying his fucking best to deny the change. But pieces of who he is are gone: unattainable or incomprehensible. Except - he catches his eyes in the mirror - except when he's with Harry. With Harry, it's evident he's lacking something because a part of him misses it. A part of him still remembers that old Draco, still empathizes with him. He doesn't want to let that Draco go - even though it's painful to be him- because he has enough sense to know this isn't normal, that Lucius has broken him in some way. He looks away from his reflection, his eyes much darker than what he remembers them to be.

He's trying to hold onto the fragments that feel like memories now, trying to uphold the expectations of who he is - or is it of who he was?

Being with Harry helps. The fragments don't feel like fleeting memories. They feel as real as the cold water on his face. But when he's alone he notices that the change doesn't bother him; it's seductively liberating. Nothing holds him back: not his guilt or shame or empathy. And then - his thoughts turn on him, seeming to belong to another. His mind begins to spin beyond his control, into a direction that once would have petrified him but didn't today. For the first time in his life, sitting alone in the hospital wing, he felt strong. He felt so much better and clearer, without the clutter of emotion holding him hostage.

He wonders for the thirteenth time why's bothering holding on to these … pieces - why doesn't he just let it all go? And he realizes that if Harry didn't care, he would have. It's shocking that his lack of fear is the only thing that scares him. He has to remind himself, again and again, that this isn't normal. Lucius did this to him. But even as he reminds himself, he's tempted to not give a shit. Let it all go. Be free. Be strong - No! He has to remind himself! This isn't who he is. Harry knows who he is. Harry can see it, somehow, that Draco's broken -

A bearded man in jeans and a plaid shirt walks in suddenly, breaking Draco out of his thoughts - and he gives Draco a curious look. "Alright, mate?"

"Yeah." He turns the tap off and wipes his face. Leaving quickly, he tries to compose himself. He can't lose his shit here, not in front of these muggles, not in front of Harry. If Harry knew … he shakes his head, each step closer to Harry a better reminder of who he was. All he has to do is sit beside him and breathe. He silently slides in beside him in the wretched booth, feeling as if the very space is closing in on him. This setting is too loud and unfamiliar for him to deal with right now. The very light of the room doesn't make any sense: it's too even and steady and the shadows it casts are too linear. Draco already misses the orange tinge of candlelight that's soothing, that dances as someone walks by or flutters when it burns out, not like this fake light that merely pretends to burn. He shifts in his chair, not sure what to do with himself or how to even act. This is deranged. What is he doing here? He doesn't belong here -

He feels Harry lightly brush his hand and pulls away unconsciously, not trusting how much he needs that touch. "You okay?" Harry asks.

Draco barely shakes his head. "This was a mistake. We should go."

"No - I think you need this - look she's coming with our drinks. It's alright." Draco glares at his reassuring tone.

She places a bottle of scotch down on the table next to two glasses that appear to have crushed ice in them. Draco raises an eyebrow at Harry imploringly.

"Like I said, I think you need this." He smiles sheepishly.

"What will you be having to eat?" she asks Draco.

"A hamburger -" he says automatically. "Please."

"With chips?"


"What do you want on your burger?"

Draco gives her a blank stare before turning to Harry for assistance.

"Er - he'll have everything!" Harry jumps in. "Wait, do you like onions?" he asks Draco.

"Not raw."

The waitress gives him a strange look. "We can fry them up if you like."

"Sure," he says, trying not to make a face.

"Great, I'll er… have the same order." Harry says a little too quickly and Draco's glad to see the waitress giving him an odd look too.

"Alright," she says, "should be ready in 15."

"Thanks!" Harry calls after her retreating back before sighing dramatically and cracking open the scotch. He pours some for Draco and himself before shooting the drink back with a cough and a grimace. "Ugh. Stronger than I realized." Draco hides a smile - he's adorable. He takes a shot of his own drink, liking the immediate burn he feels in his empty stomach. He probably shouldn't be drinking after his diet of fluids for the past couple of weeks, but oh well.

Harry pours them another glass, seeming to be on the mission on getting them sloshed. He raises his glass towards Draco. "Cheers to being alive?"

"I'll drink to that." Their glasses clink and they settle back in comfortable silence.

Until Potter opens his mouth of course. "So what should we do about your Mother?"

"I don't know," Draco says quietly. He's avoiding this topic because he knows he doesn't feel as worried as he should. "Rook said she was with family, but the only family I know that's alive is - well -"


"Yeah - but that seems very unlikely."

"Unless she's under Lucius' control!" Harry says excitedly, and Draco tries very hard to latch onto that feeling. "This is a real lead! You need to talk to her."

"How do you think that scene will play out, exactly? 'Hello, Aunt Andromeda! This is your Death Eater nephew -"

"Ex - Death Eater-" Harry points out.

"Whatever - same difference to most people. 'Ex-Death Eater nephew, Draco, whom you've never met. Did my dead father happen to force you to hide my Mother here against your will? 'Cause you know, I'm looking for her.' Augh, why are we talking about this?"

"Because the sooner we have a plan the sooner we can find her."

Draco sighs. "I'll send her a letter."

"What? No! We have to go there in person - sometime this week - just in case she really is under some spell."

"Fine - whatever."

Potter frowns and sips his drink. He bites on his lip, trying to hold in a question before he blurts out, "Why do you seem so... unconcerned?"

Several excuses filter through his mind and he knows each lie won't do, so Draco opts for half-truths. "I was worried - but that was before - everything that happened. As far as I know now, she could be dead. Why do I want to know that? Or feel that? Isn't it easier not to?"

"Maybe, but if something does happen while you do nothing to try to stop it, you won't be able to live with yourself."

"How can you be so sure?" Draco asks, taking note of the way Harry's looking at him, right now. You could be completely wrong about me, Potter.

Harry offers him a strange, timid smile, "I just know, okay?" Draco looks down, busies himself with another drink, unsure of what to say to that.

The waitress approaches them a moment later with two warm plates, and Harry bites back a smirk at Draco's incredulous look. When she leaves, Draco turns to Harry. "This is it?" On one side there is a handful of greasy chips, but on the other side sits a rather stuffed looking bun. "I thought it would look a little less… unhealthy." Draco glares when Potter snorts. "Hey, wait! Let me have yours - it's prettier." Harry rolls his eyes but wordlessly switches the plates. Draco picks up his utensils, unsure of where to begin. He pokes at his hamburger with the tip of his fork and lets it sink into the bun slowly, holding his knife ready.

"Oh dear god - What are you doing?" Harry asks.

"I'm eating my hamburger." Draco frowns.

"No. No, Draco - You're supposed to eat it with your hands!" Harry demonstrates by picking his up.

Draco snorts with indignation. "The very fact that I'm even eating a muggle meal is - is- senseless enough! I'm not going to resort to behaving like a savage."

"But that's the point! You poncy lunatic!"

"Not happening, Potter," Draco snaps because Harry is giggling around his burger.

He doesn't like the way Harry mischievously grins, leaning his elbow on the table like some plebeian. "You wanna bet?"

Draco glares at him suspiciously. "Maybe I do. You would lose and have to owe me - bigtime." He resumes in stabbing his hamburger meal with the tip of his fork while his knife saws away one side. Satisfied, he puts the slice into mouth and chews slowly, letting his taste buds become accustomed to the strange texture and flavour. "Oh, that's only a little horrid."

Harry's wearing a very amused and incredulous expression, which he quickly changes to a sly grin as he picks up his hamburger and takes a massive bites out of it, the sauce spilling all over his fingers before falling onto the plate below. He then closes his eyes and groans, "Mm, so good." Right before he swallows his mouthful he sucks the sauce off his pinky finger.

"You're revolting-" Draco says in a low voice with narrowed eyes, watching Harry's eyes light up as he takes another bite of his hamburger.

"I haven't had a hamburger in years-" Harry's thumb swipes some sauce of the plate before he cleanly licks it off. "Yum."

Draco gives him a disgusted look before he neatly cuts another piece of his burger and chews it slowly. He begrudgingly watches Harry devour his in an unrestrained and sensual sort of way. He looks back at his own traitorous meal, which he decides doesn't nearly look as tasty as Harry's. "I think yours is better than mine."

Potter snorts in between chews, "You wanna try?" He holds out his half eaten thing, which looks like a sorry mess, and Draco is tempted to rudely refuse, but the ketchup on Harry's chin has him nodding and leaning in for a bite instead.

Harry, the git, moves his hand away from him with a twinkle in his eye, "a proper bite, Draco. Not a lame, little posh one. You have to commit to being a savage."

Draco rolls his eyes before he takes Harry's hand and brings the burger to his mouth. He closes his eyes and takes a huge bite, much too large for him to properly keep his mouth closed while he chews! Draco whimpers as he tries to bite around it and it's here that Potter loses all composure. He clutches his stomach with his free hand and leans over himself and closer to Draco with a rush of laughter. "You're going to choke!" He gasps, "You fool!"

Smiling only makes it harder to chew, dammit! When he's done he leans in with a smirk, still holding onto Harry's food-smitten hand. He takes a reasonable bite this time before he licks some sauce off of Harry's palm. "Mm - thanks," he mutters contentedly, because he's managed to get the bastard to stop laughing.

Potter stills, his eyes flickering between Draco and the last bite in his hand. Draco also looks at his hand and they both reach for it at the same time. But all Harry has to do is move his hand away and shove the last bite in his mouth. Harry's cheeks warm with a fresh smile as he smugly wipes his hand clean with a napkin. "Good, right?" he asks with a grin.

Draco nods and leans in to wipe the ketchup off his chin with the side of his thumb. Harry's lips part in surprise when Draco sucks the side of his thumb clean. "Not bad."

Harry blushes again and his eyes flicker down to Draco's lips. When he realizes that Draco has caught him staring at his mouth, he stills and visibly swallows. He looks up at him, almost nervous, and green and silver lock. Draco doesn't dare look away, not for anything in the world. They stare at each other and barely breathe - until Harry unconsciously bites his lower lip.

"Scared, Potter?" Draco whispers.

In response, Harry leans into him. Draco's heart begins to thump hard against his ribs. He finds that he's also falling into him against his will, and just before their foreheads touch, he closes his eyes. They both inhale slowly, both still unsure. But when the familiar scent of Harry fills his lungs, Draco knows this is how it's meant to be. Tentatively, he brushes his nose against his, and Harry tilts his face so that their lips meet. And in this kiss, Draco forgets everything but this feeling that he loves - loves this.

Harry's the first to pull away, just enough to say, "You wish."

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