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Chapter 8: Greetings
The Malfoy family library arrived by owl in the form of a little book smaller than a pack of cards. Malfoy looked at the showy M embossed in the wine-colored leather cover and shook his head, smirking. "Apparently Hurdy still remembers her orientation to the life of a Malfoy house elf," he said, and then lifted his chin and mimicked his father's pompous tones: "If it is worth doing at all, then it is worth doing exquisitely."
Hermione was smiling. "Do you think she'd want another of those lacy vests the next time she comes to visit Dobby and the rest?"
"Honestly," Malfoy said, "I think she'd rather have one of the curtain cords. Her fashion sense is even stranger than it used to be." He laid the book on the sturdiest table in the library and opened the leather cover.
With a sound like a whip snapping repeatedly, the book unfolded into several hundred volumes of various colors and sizes, stirring up enough dust to make Harry's nose itch. Hermione sneezed.
"Mm, all right," Malfoy said, sorting the books into rough piles. "This is the introductory work, Potter, so you can start here ... I'll go through these three ... might be something in the Oxford Magic Dictionary, you can check that one, 'Mione ... oh, dear, this one's supposed to be kept in a lead box buried at least three feet deep ... Ah. Here's Father's diary."
He opened it and frowned at the blank pages. "Adiperio," he said, tapping it with his wand. "No ... Nolocompingo. 'Mione, can you think of any other spells to undo a privacy spell?" There was a lock of hair that persisted in falling forward over his eyes, however often he brushed it back. It looked soft, but Harry remembered it feeling even softer. He turned his eyes quickly away.
It wasn't pleasant to think of himself as the sort of person who wanted to have meaningless sex with his worst enemy.
But Malfoy was Malfoy, selfish, spoilt, and Slytherin; sex hadn't magically changed him into someone Harry could like. And meaningless sex was meaningless sex, so Harry's pulse continued to kick up whenever Malfoy entered the room in a way that not even Harry could mistake for anger most of the time.
At least Malfoy had been at war before, and he'd understand the way things like this happened. He was unlikely to mistake this -- whatever it was -- for some sort of romance, he thought as he stroked the soft leather cover of the book Malfoy had just shoved at him. That was one comfort.
Harry read two chapters of "Introduction to Calligromancy" and then shut the book with a bang. "It's impossible," he said.
Hermione and Malfoy looked up from their books -- Hermione with a frown, Malfoy with that look of exaggerated concern that made Harry want to smack him.
"The mines can't be taking their power from everyone here," Harry said. "It's impossible."
"Potter, you felt it."
"I felt something, yes, and I can't explain it," Harry said. "But look. Calligromancy can work a little by proximity, like a normal spell, but at heart it's all about names, right?"
"But you said when the chant --" Hermione began, but Malfoy interrupted her.
"Or titles, sure, but most of us don't have titles. So how can it tap us? How can it even find us?"
Malfoy and Hermione exchanged a glance, and then both of them shut the books they were looking at. "Zapf's Comprehensive?" she said.
"Over there. Green cloth cover," he said. "If it's anywhere, it'll be there."
A powder of snow in early December reminded Harry that it was time to venture out for his annual errand to the Muggle world.
"Is there any safe place to get a non-magical Christmas card and post it?" he asked Remus, trying to ignore how close together he and Michelle Verte were sitting on the common-room couch. "I don't think my aunt's and uncle's hearts could take it if I sent one by owl."
"I believe the portmap has a vacant flat near the train station in Middle Twombly," Remus said, pointing to the relief map on the wall. Then his face lit up. "You could take the older Muggle Studies students on a field trip!"
Which was how Harry found himself walking through the village streets trailed by seventeen first-level Muggle Studies students, some of them very oddly dressed indeed, and Malfoy, looking surprisingly comfortable in pale-washed jeans, a white sweater, and a pair of tan hiking boots.
"How will you recognize this ... Village News?" asked Sarah McDuff, who had managed to put together a fairly inconspicuous Muggle costume except for the pink bunny slippers.
"Because it will be new, obviously," said Fortunatus Grant, a Slytherin prefect on the Percy Weasley mold. Grant had refused to leave his wand at Hogwarts, insisting instead on keeping the whole group waiting in the classroom while he transfigured it into an enormous walking stick with a handle shaped like a bronze owl's head. "Compensating for something, Mr. Grant?" Malfoy had drawled, and Harry had turned his head away so the students wouldn't see him smiling.
In Village News, the children looked around curiously, tilting their heads to listen to the recorded carols, poking the tinsel gingerly as though they expected it to move on its own, while Harry looked for a Christmas card that didn't have any sentiment he couldn't agree with. At last he settled on "Wishing you a Happy Christmas," which was true as far as it went.
"Professor? What does it do?" Medea Martin asked him.
"Well, the postman will deliver it to my aunt and uncle in Little Whinging. They'll tear open the envelope, they'll look at the picture" -- in this case an old-fashioned family in a sleigh, singing -- "and then they'll open it and read it." And after that they'll probably throw it on the fire, Harry added privately.
"You could make the picture really sing. It's a simple spell. A fourth-year could do it."
"Yes, but my aunt and uncle ... They're a little bit ... different." Harry knew that Uncle Vernon opened each year's Christmas card with fear and suspicion, waiting for something to jump out at him. Imagining this was the main pleasure he got out of the seasonal ritual. "They're not ... comfortable with magic."
"Kind of you to spare them," Malfoy said at his ear.
Harry smiled. "I figure every year the suspense gets worse."
The students clustered round him as he approached the counter to pay for the card and buy a stamp.
Jack Talos snatched it from his hand. "This is what forces the postman to go to their house? It's a sort of Imperius transfigured into a little square of stickum?"
Harry looked up from writing, your nephew, Harry, on the card. "They're from the County Philanthropic School for the Insane," he murmured to the clerk.
"Poor lambs," she said.
"For Monday I'll want eighteen inches on the Royal Mail," Malfoy said as soon as they'd all portkeyed back to the Great Hall. "You'll find all the background information in 'Busy People, Busy Places.' "
The students scattered to their dormitories and Harry and Malfoy made their way toward the staff wing. " 'Busy People, Busy Places'?" Harry asked.
"The Muggle Studies texts on the governors' curriculum are appalling," Malfoy said. "The 2000 edition of Calendula Hawkshaw's 'Understanding Muggles' has an entire chapter on caring for your crossbow. So 'Mione got some books from her cousin, the kindergarten teacher. Hello, Professor," he added, nodding to the Snape statue.
"Good day, Mr. Malfoy. Mr. Potter, your buttons are askew."
Harry looked down. "Shit! Sorry, Professor -- Malfoy, why didn't you tell me?" He rushed for his rooms.
"Relax. You had a jacket on," Malfoy smirked, and followed him right into his rooms. He made an elaborate bow to the milkmaid. "Draco Malfoy, at your service. Potter, you didn't introduce me to your doorkeeper."
"That's because I don't want you here, Malfoy," Harry said, turning his back on him to undo the misfastened buttons.
"Mm. Where do you want me?" Harry jumped a little as Malfoy's hand slid over his belly.
"How's Australia sound?" But the sight of Malfoy's pale, ring-adorned fingers on his skin made it impossible not to lean back against him.
"Damned hot this time of year, Australia," Malfoy said, mouth moving over the nape of his neck.
"You could do with a bit of sun. You're paler than Peeves." Harry finished undoing buttons and began refastening them from the top. Malfoy brushed his hand away and slowly tugged the sides of his shirt open.
"All tanned and leathery like some field hand?" His fingers caught and plucked both Harry's nipples at once, and Harry couldn't hold back a noise. "It's all very well for you and Weasley. You haven't got even a pretense of class."
"Then you're --" Harry stopped with a gasp as one of Malfoy's hands smoothed over the front of his trousers. "Um. Slumming?"
"It's one of the traditional perks of the aristocracy, dallying with the help."
"Never been a ... perk before." He was talking nonsense, but Malfoy had undone his trousers, so it wasn't surprising. He reached behind him to grip Malfoy's hips, and Malfoy steered him a couple of steps sideways and tipped them both over on the couch.
Sitting down equalized their heights, so that instead of talking to the back of his neck, Malfoy was mouthing his ear, sending little shivers of goosebumps down his neck. Then Malfoy rubbed his face around into Harry's hair and took a deep breath -- was he smelling him? He shouldn't be doing that. Harry leaned into Malfoy's left arm where it lay along the back of the couch and turned round a bit to get a kiss instead.
Malfoy's jeans were well worn and soft. Harry stroked his thigh, as far back as he could reach, and Malfoy mm'd into his mouth.
This was all going too slow, and it was making him nervous. Too much time between kisses for murmuring and sighing, as if they were some sort of lovebirds or something, and he had to keep stopping himself from saying things like, "Your hair is so soft," and, "Yes, touch me there, you feel so good"-- and that was for romance, for the kind of relationship that people who weren't heroes got to have in times that weren't wartime. Not for burning off tension with a quick grope on the couch with someone who couldn't even be civil to him in public.
"Look," Malfoy whispered, nudging his head, and Harry looked down the length of his own body to see Malfoy's glittering hand spreading open his fly and drawing his cock out of his pants. "Watch," Malfoy insisted, looking down over his shoulder too as he touched him delicately, just enough to tease, not enough to satisfy --
"God," Harry gasped, and he wrapped his own hand around Malfoy's, closing his eyes at last as he forced Malfoy into the tighter-faster-rougher that his body had been begging for, over and over. And Malfoy gave in with a sigh and kissed him until he spilled over both their hands.
He lay for a moment panting into Malfoy's mouth, and then he felt Malfoy's lips move as he murmured a cleaning spell. He opened his eyes, expecting some snide comment about his stamina, and surprised a look of pure hunger on Malfoy's face, though Malfoy wiped it off as soon as he saw Harry's eyes were open.
"What sort of host am I?" Harry said, and he pushed Malfoy down to lie on the couch and crawled on top of him.
Malfoy kissed him wildly, hands on either side of his face, pushing up against Harry's knee between his legs, until it seemed as though he'd be content to do nothing else until he came. When Harry drew back, Malfoy tightened his hands. "Sh," Harry said, unbuttoning his jeans one-handed, and Malfoy's hands in his hair followed him down as he took Malfoy's cock in his mouth.
There was something intoxicating about having this kind of power over Draco Malfoy, and Harry gave him a little tooth just to remind him that he could. Malfoy shuddered, and one hand left Harry's hair, and the sudden muffling of his whimpers told Harry that Malfoy had put it over his own mouth.
Even so, he was making a noise, that same little whine Harry remembered from last time. Draco Malfoy, pleading! The victory made him feel generous, and he gave Malfoy more of everything -- more depth, more suction, more speed -- until with a great gasp Malfoy came in his mouth.
He was tugging Harry up instantly, hauling him into a kiss, even while his cock was still pulsing in Harry's hand. It took a moment before his breathing began to slow and his hands on Harry's head loosened enough for Harry to draw back.
He found he couldn't resist smiling at Malfoy, pink-cheeked and mussed and heavy-eyed, and Malfoy's responding smile was sweet and sleepy for a moment before it recovered its customary edge.
"Some people get gifts in their shoes on St. Nicholas' Day," he said lazily. "I've never heard of anyone getting them in their trousers."
Harry snickered. "You're the one who's all for innovation." He disentangled himself with some difficulty and sat up, pulling his shirt together. "Reminds me, though, I'd better get to Hogsmeade this week. Still got some of the Weasleys left to buy Christmas presents for before --" He looked at Malfoy, who was still lying on the couch. "You're going to be by yourself at Christmas, aren't you?"
Malfoy shrugged, sat up, and started fastening his jeans. "Haven't made any plans yet."
"You could -- Molly probably wouldn't mind if I took you to the Burrow with me. I guess. If you want to."
Malfoy's eyes narrowed. "Much as it pains me to refuse such a very gracious invitation, I shall certainly be acquiring some other plans any day now."
"Excuse me for trying to help you out," Harry said, stung. "It's not my house, you know. I can't just bring anybody I meet on the street."
"Don't put yourself out on my account." Malfoy stood up, tugged a wrinkle out of his sweater, and swept out the door. By the time Harry had fastened his shirt and trousers and followed, he was out of sight.
On Christmas Eve, Harry, Ron, Charlie, and Sofia took the portmap to Hogsmeade and then Apparated together to the doorstep of the Burrow.
There was an ear-splitting noise coming from one of the long-empty henhouses; after a moment, Harry got accustomed enough to the din to make out a voice singing: "I'll raise a terrible army, and through tremendous danger go. In spite of all of the universe, I'll conquer the bonny bunch of roses-o ..."
"Lovely! Ginny's brought her band!" Ron said.
The kitchen was stifling and full of mouthwatering smells. Through drifts of steam, Harry could see Molly with a wand in each hand, directing five or six different cooking and cleanup tasks. When she spotted them, though, she dropped everything to smother them with embraces, and she was still exclaiming over Harry's height when the door opened behind him and in walked Percy. Arthur followed, leaning heavily on a crutch.
"Why, what's happened to you?" Harry asked Arthur as Percy gave Charlie and Ron a stiff handshake. Percy's Ministry ID badge was very shiny.
"One of your mysterious magic mines, I'm told," Arthur said. "I'm on the list for a healing spell, but of course the Ministry healers have so many ahead of me to see to. But tell me about America! Did you see any of those Muggle thinking machines -- what were they -- confuters?"
There was a strange noise from the living room. Ron glanced at his mother. "Did you let Fred and George do the decorating again? Haven't you learned anything? Last year," he said to Harry, "they were testing a new kind of enchanted mistletoe to see if they could sell it at Weasley & Weasley Novelties in Hogsmeade, and Mother spent the whole of Christmas eve kissing --"
"Everyone who's not out of the kitchen in five minutes had better start casting washing-up spells," Molly said loudly.
Suddenly there was a loud honk through the open door, and something gray barreled into Harry's chest. "Spielberg!" he grinned, catching hold of the goose, whose feet weren't well suited to sitting on his shoulder as Hedwig would have done. "Oh, brilliant, he's brought me a package!" He opened it and pulled out a large, lumpy object.
"Not alive, is it?" Arthur said nervously.
"It's a pinata, but I don't know what it's meant to be," Harry said. Then he turned it around and looked at its toothy face. "Oh, for ... " He turned it to show Ron. "It's a warthog. They meant well."
"Wait, there's something else." Ron took a sheet of paper off Spielberg's leg. "A card, and --" He handed Harry a little wreath woven of pine needles. Harry stuck it in his pocket hastily.
"Blessed Yule and Io Saturnalia," Ron read off the card. "From your friends at Coven of the Americas."
"That's American for Happy Christmas," Percy explained to Arthur, and Arthur took the pinata inside to wait for Christmas morning.
The noise in the henhouse ceased, and in a moment Ginny emerged, followed by two witches and a wizard. They were all dressed in what looked like American baseball uniforms under robes that barely cleared their knees. "Fashion," Percy sniffed. "I'll have to leave early tomorrow, of course, Mum. They're opening the office on Boxing Day for a big meeting with some Inspectors of the Auror squad. They won't tell us what they want to discuss, but it will have to do with Death Eater extradition, mark my word."
"There are still Death Eaters known to be at large?" Harry asked.
"Well, I understand the Malfoy boy is at Hogwarts. He's Marked," Percy said.
"Malfoy's a snot, not a Death Eater," Harry said. "I'm sure you've got bigger things to worry about than him."
Spielberg was sent out to the henhouse to rest up, with strict instructions not to sleep in any of the instruments -- "though how he'll be able to tell Martha's autoharmonium from Father's broken-down lawnmower I have no idea," Fred murmured to Harry. "Unless he starts them both up and sleeps in the one that sounds better."
Dinner was vegetable soup, served from a cauldron that never seemed to empty -- as much of a miracle as the whole crowd of them fitting around a table that looked about the size of Harry's nightstand.
As they finished eating, there was a faint pop outside. "Come on in," George called through the door. "The more the wearier." The door opened, and Hermione came in. And close on her heels was Malfoy.
"Sorry we're late," Hermione said, hugging Molly warmly. "No, no, don't get up, we've eaten already and we can sit on the sideboard. Now, who here hasn't met Draco?"
Percy's introduction was cold, but he couldn't make a fuss because Ginny and her band had already flocked around. "Draco Malfoy? Aren't you the one who was a Muggle for a whole year?"
"A Muggle? Really?" Arthur pushed his way into the crowd of young musicians. "Perhaps you can explain to me this business of the Facts Machines. Are they used in research?"
Ron squeezed out of the fray and plopped down between Fred and George, who obviously had a great deal of catching up to do, and Percy cornered Charlie and Sofia with a longwinded question about "the state of things on the Continent." Harry was surprised to catch himself yawning.
"Goodness, look at the time." Molly turned to Ron. "I'm putting Harry and Draco and Evander in your room, Ron. Try not to trip over them when you go up."
The only boy in Ginny's band -- Evander, apparently -- said "Grim," with obvious approval, and they all trooped up the stairs.
Ron's room was, if possible, even more heavily decorated with Cannons memorabilia than it had been the last time Harry visited. Evander flopped into Ron's chair, put his feet on Ron's desk, and immediately began to snore. Harry dug two orange blankets out of the chest at the foot of the bed, handed one to Malfoy, and wrapped up on the floor in the other. Malfoy did the same on the other side of the doorway, then murmured, "Nox." The light went out, leaving only starlight coming in through the tiny window.
Down the hall Harry could hear Hermione's voice joining in with the other girls' -- "There was a drake went out to rake, Christ-i-mas day, Christ-i-mas day --" and then a muffled shout from Percy: "Could we have some quiet, please?"
"When I invited you, you said you were making other plans," Harry said to Malfoy, quietly so as not to wake Evander.
"Yes," Malfoy said. "I planned to spend Christmas with a friend." And he turned his back on Harry.
Harry was awakened by a crash and a shout of "Fred!" The first thing he saw when he came downstairs were stockings, so many of them that the fireplace was entirely hidden behind them. Hermione was already drinking hot cocoa with Ginny and the other musicians.
George crawled out from behind a pile of stockings, muttering something and twisting his wand. "Oh, hullo, Harry," he said. "Haven't seen some holly floating about, have you?"
"Literally floating about?" Harry looked around nervously.
"Wait, I see it!" Fred called from the front door. George ran out after him, calling, "No, it was heading for the shed!"
In the kitchen, Malfoy was over in the corner in a flowered apron, hair pulled back with one of Ginny's blue hair ribbons, a wand in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other. "Low heat, that's the secret," he said to Molly.
"Imagine! And they can do all that without even using a thickening spell! Oh, good morning, Harry. Chocolate's on the stove, and you can eat whatever you can rummage up -- just give the bread box a tap, it sometimes empties out if you don't renew the Pastrium spell --"
Taking his breakfast into the living room, Harry sat down with Charlie, Hermione, and one of the girls from Ginny's band, who were watching Sofia murmur healing charms over Arthur. After a moment, Malfoy emerged from the kitchen, wiping his hands on his apron, and perched on the arm of Hermione's chair.
"Excellent! I doubt our healers could do half so well," Arthur beamed, stretching slightly. "But that's Hogwarts for you. You lot are always two steps ahead of the Ministry, I'm afraid. Makes us look right idiots, outpaced over and over by a crowd that are practically undergraduates." Arthur sounded more proud than competitive.
"Percy!" he called out toward the fireplace. "Come tell Harry about your new job! Percy's a junior undersecretary with the Diplomatic Corps."
"Really?" Hermione leaned forward. "There are a lot of fascinating diplomatic problems facing the wizarding community just now."
"There certainly are," Percy said. "The war left international ties in a disgraceful state. Not to mention alliances with other nonhuman magical communities within England."
"I hope," Malfoy drawled, "that the Dementor affair taught the Ministry to be more selective in its choice of allies." He looked at Percy with that polite expression that he always took when he felt sure of winning an argument.
Percy's mouth thinned. "I don't deny that the former Minister made an error in judgment. If he had been aware of information that later came to light --"
"Information?" Malfoy stretched the word out. "Just what were the gaps in the Minister's briefing? That the Dementors violated a wizard's will and dignity? That they could sap his mind and his magic without his consent? That they acknowledged no authority but greed? This was news to him?"
Harry had never heard Malfoy speak as quickly as a normal person before, nor sit up so straight out of his usual sprawl. Percy's lips got tighter and tighter, and his eyes got narrower and narrower. The rest of the party were watching them uneasily.
"The Dementors were nobody's weapon," Malfoy sneered, "and they were the natural allies of the Dark."
"I imagine that you would be an expert on that point," Percy said.
Harry felt Hermione stiffen beside him, but Malfoy said, "Exactly," and sat back, satisfied, as though Percy had just conceded defeat. "Perhaps I ought to be a consultant to the Ministry," he went on after a moment. "I could head up the Takes One To Know One department."
The girl musician giggled.
"It's a sorry day," Percy said irritably, "when I find myself defending Dementors. The former Minister's decisions put me in a very awkward position."
At midmorning an owl arrived with a letter. "It's from Keket!" Molly cried, opening it. "Bill's daughter, you know," she explained to Harry. "We haven't seen her since Halloween." She unfolded a couple of pages heavily covered with junior-school script:
Happy Christmas, everyone! Thank you for all the presents. The jumper fits perfectly again this year, and the cakes were delicious. Mum says Uncle Fred and Uncle George outdid themselves in their box of surprises. And oh! Uncle Charlie, the aerolizard is perfect! I've named her Anat, and she looks just like a baby dragon, and she rides on my shoulder and sleeps in my bed! A little animated picture showed a tiny dragonlike creature flapping its wings.
And thanks to Aunt Ginny for the ocarina -- Mum says it's awfully shrill, so I mostly keep a Tacitum spell on it, but Tolkach-Rychag says it's perfect for Kobalin folk songs, and she's already taught me to play the Mica Dance. And tell Uncle Percy thanks for the book -- though the bit about the "Goblin Rebellion" sounds a little biased. It's all quite different in the book Tolkach-Rychag wrote.
"Her goblin godmother," Ron explained, looking over Harry's shoulder. "She's looked after Keket since she was a little baby."
"Goblin history is Keket's passion," Molly went on, "just like Charlie's dragons and Ron's Quidditch and Ginny's music ..."
"And the twins' mayhem," Ron supplied.
"I wish she could be here," Molly sighed. "Kiya does her best, but Egypt to England is such a hideous distance that Apparating leaves you half-dead for days."
"Muggles have the advantage of us, with their phonotels," Arthur said.
"Why not get 'Mione to do a Transauditum for you?" Malfoy said.
It worked perfectly, and soon the room was filled with the voice of Bill's daughter. "Happy Christmas, everyone!" she said. "Aunt Ginny, Aunt Ginny, let me play you a song! Uncle Charlie, do you hear Anat whistling?"
"And how are Kiya and Pushlever?" Arthur called over the noise.
"Tolkach-Rychag," Keket said sternly. "You ought to use her proper name, Grandpa -- after all, she doesn't call you Strong-as-a-Bear! Uncle Charlie, can I bring Anat to Hogwarts when I come next year? Tolkach-Rychag says they'll be teaching about Daddy in the History of Magic class and everyone will know I'm a hero's daughter!"
It seemed like only moments between the end of the phone call and the time Molly's spell-amplified voice called them back to dinner.
When everyone was stuffed, Fred and George convinced everyone to try out a new, experimental cracker they were working on for Weasley & Weasley. Then, while the twins rebuilt the dining room wall -- "third time this year, and I say nothing of the back porch," Molly muttered -- they all started working on Harry's American pinata. The shortest of Ginny's friends broke it open and was promptly buried under a shower of candy.
"Snickers! Brilliant!" Harry grabbed for one.
Arthur frowned at him. "But they don't snicker at all."
"Save room for Draco's bread pudding," Molly said, setting a steaming dish on the coffee table.
"Can we --" Fred began.
"Not until that wall is finished!"
A comfortable quiet descended on the living room.
"Well," Malfoy said after a moment. "Not quite as well-organized as a Death Eater Christmas, but I must admit that the food is better."
Harry felt Hermione freeze beside him. Molly's mouth fell open. And then there was a suppressed snicker from George, and before he knew it the entire room was laughing. Even Percy gave an indulgent smile.
Beaming, Molly went round with a bottle of Bumble's Magic Mead. "Christmas," Arthur proposed.
"To Keket," Molly said when they'd all drunk the first toast. "And Kiya, and Push -- er -- Keket's godmother. And -- Bill's memory." And they all drank again.
Harry had never developed a taste for mead, and would have given a great deal for an ordinary beer, or even a Pepsi, but he gamely toasted the season, family, Hogwarts, "absent friends," Ginny's band, and the coming year, until he felt a warmth in his chest and a vague urge to giggle.
Then George raised his glass. "To Neville Longbottom," he said, with a wink at Percy. "And to Severus Snape, may he rest in whatever he prefers instead of peace."
There were several appreciative laughs, and everyone raised their glasses eagerly. Harry frowned at Hermione.
"You didn't know?" she said. "They're the heroes of the Dementor Rebellion. Neville hybridized a very potent version of Night-Blooming Heartsease, and Professor Snape used it to create a variant of a vaporizing potion. When the Dementors breathed the steam, they melted. Gray goo. Very messy."
"And they say the air smelt of drains as far south as Dover," Ron said.
Harry suddenly remembered his bag of gifts, and he was going up the narrow staircase when he met Malfoy coming down with a small wrapped parcel. "Forgot my offering to the hostess," Malfoy said, "and I couldn't accio it without saying what it was and spoiling the surprise."
"What is it?"
"Kitchen timer," Malfoy said. "I added a few improvements, of course."
There was barely room for two to pass on the stair, and on a whim Harry put an arm around Malfoy's shoulders as they maneuvered. Malfoy gave him a lazy smile and then shocked him by brushing a soft kiss over his mouth.
Malfoy smelled of mead and cinnamon, and his lips felt nice. Harry leaned into him, closing his eyes. Malfoy's robe was made of something heavy and smooth, with little slubs of thread in the weave, and Harry caught at the sleeve and bunched it in his hand and opened Malfoy's mouth with his tongue, warmed by the way Malfoy sighed and leaned against him.
A door shut upstairs with a loud click, and Harry stiffened, feeling his face heat.
Malfoy looked at him with narrowed eyes. "You know, Potter," he said in a conversational tone, "being seen with me can hardly make your reputation any worse."
"Good of you to think of me."
"Well, you need all the help you can get." Malfoy brushed past him and down the stairs. Harry felt the fabric pull out of his grasping hand.
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