Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: Light R
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Summary: Something happens every year around Christmas, without fail. Harry wonders if it'll happen again this year -- because if it does, it will never happen again.
Note: Written for Short Precarious Anecdote Month. Also for celestlyn's birthday, for the prompt of h/d- Yule traditions. Happy birthday! :)
All sounds are muffled in snow: heavy and thick, the fattest flakes Harry has ever seen -- cold, so cold, dressing the rooftops up in silence.
The door to the back garden slides open and shut, the soft bit of Christmas jingle from inside the house like a startled cough in a whispering crowd, suppressed before it can distract.
"We're ready to start heading home," Hermione says. Harry nods without turning around.
"The invitation still stands, you know," she continues. "Why don't you join us at the Burrow, just for tonight?"
"He's not home yet," Harry says. "I've got to wait."
"Is he coming home?"
Harry looks at her over his shoulder. Her cheeks have already turned pink. "I don't know. I hope so. There's no reason why he wouldn't."
She breathes out a cloud. "That you know of."
"That I know of," Harry agrees, turning around. His boots thump softly in the snow. "I'll come and see you lot off."
five years ago
Ginny meets a woman.
That's how it all starts, really -- Ginny somewhere on the continent, Geneva or Paris or Milan, wherever they held the Junior Qualifiers that year. She meets a woman who loves her, and Ginny's more surprised than anyone when she loves that woman back.
Deep down, Harry can't blame her. He will always be a little bit broken, and Ginny deserves better than somebody a little bit broken.
But that's deep down. On the surface, he falls apart. They've been together and lived together and laughed ate slept together; he has forgotten how to do things alone. He doesn't want to be alone: even the Dursleys were people.
He's alone when Draco accidentally sits down next to him at the Hog's Head bar stand; by the time Draco realises his mistake, there are no more empty seats. The place has done well since word of Aberforth's role in the war got out. Everyone always wants a little piece of the past.
They get fantastically pissed and leave together and Draco takes him home. Nobody's fault.
What is this?
Draco calls it fucking.
Harry doesn't call it anything because he doesn't want to acknowledge it's happening, until Draco walks out on December fifteenth and doesn't come back again the next day or the next week. Harry spends Christmas at the Burrow, surrounded by family, alone.
Do I want this?
Whatever it is, Harry wants it, wants it back. He wants Draco back, even if it's just in his bed once a week, bone-white legs and a back arched so low it could snap if they're not careful.
Do I want this?
four years ago
Harry tells Draco it's over on December ninth.
They tried, they did, but the past can't be changed. Bad-blood stains don't come out. Trust is a beast born of ignorance; it cannot grow from doubt. Some things can survive the farthest distance, but in the sort of distance Harry keeps -- suspicious and cold -- nothing can thrive.
After three weeks, it's like Ginny all over again: Harry on a stool at a bar somewhere not the Hog's Head. No one comes to sit with him, not even on accident, and he leaves just as he came: alone.
It's New Year's Eve and his own fault.
When Harry gets home, he finds Draco on the steps: why don't you want me?
It's not that I don't want you, Draco, it's just you aren't the one for me.
He takes it back after three miserable months of wishing he could take it back.
Is this real?
three years ago
Draco meets a man.
The man is from America; he chews loudly and talks a lot and Harry doesn't understand why the man makes him so angry until he sees the way the man looks at Draco. When he notices the way Draco looks back at the man, his rage becomes a pure white thing that clouds his judgement.
Always second to someone when he wants to be second to none. That's it, really; his whole life was about sharing, about giving, about sacrificing. He just wants someone who won't ask him to do those things -- he thought Draco was that person, to teach Harry how to take and claim and keep.
But Draco meets a man, and on December seventeenth, Draco says good-bye to Harry.
"Why?" Harry asks.
"Why not?" Draco answers. "He's been after me for months, you've done nothing to stop him, so you can't possibly care that much."
"I care," Harry says. "People aren't possessions, though."
"No," Draco agrees. "But it's nice to be needed." Say you need me, his eyes tell Harry. Say it.
Harry can't. Draco leaves. Nobody's fault.
Harry feigns sickness and doesn't go to the Burrow, spending Christmas in the cold house where Sirius once sang God Rest Ye, Merry Hippogriffs. If he listens hard enough, Harry can still hear echoes of that voice inside the paintings. The echoes wake a long-gone grief.
He wonders if he couldn't say it because he truly doesn't need Draco.
What does it mean to need somebody?
He would give anything to hear Sirius's voice again. What would he give to bring Draco back?
He thinks the answer will elude him, but it's not far at all: anything.
But Draco's in America, and maybe he's not coming back again.
Winter melts into spring. Harry plants late-blooming flowers in the back garden. It's been months, almost half a year, since he's seen Draco, and he still would give anything to bring him home.
Give anything. Do anything. Say anything. What is pride before a sleepy smile, a shoulder to lean on, a silently carried warm cup of tea on a windy autumn Sunday when all you want to do is throw your paperwork into the fireplace?
Harry prods and cajoles his way through the Auror information network and finds out where Draco is. He takes out a full-page advertisement in Cincinnati's magical daily: Draco, I need you to come back.
He's written up for flagrant abuse of Ministry resources; the only thing between him and suspension without pay is that he used his own money to pay for the advert.
Draco comes home. Harry doesn't know until he gets an owl from Malfoy Manor telling him to hurry the fuck up and come over before he changes his mind.
Harry wakes wrapped tightly around Draco, kisses him awake and lets Draco tease him for so long that Draco can't stand it and begs Harry to make him come.
Afterwards, breakfast with the elder Malfoys is as awkward as always.
Is this going to last?
two years ago
Harry can't forget about the American man. When Draco first came back, he was so happy that it didn't occur to him that the things they did together were things Draco has done with that man.
Every time they're together, there is a sick, sick chorus of poison-thoughts in the back of Harry's mind, growing louder with time.
Was he better at this than me? Why did I have to go to all that trouble to bring him back -- didn't Draco miss me? Why didn't he come back on his own?
It makes him cold, it makes him suspicious, it makes him begin to rebuild the distance they closed two years ago. So on December fifth, only four months after Draco's return, Harry tells Draco that they should probably not see each other any more.
"Is it him?"
"I felt nothing for him."
"He touched you."
"So I'm tainted?"
"No, I am. I'm sorry, Draco." My fault.
"If you call me back again, don't think I'll come running."
"I won't call you back."
Harry doesn't. Draco comes back anyway. He doesn't say anything or ask for anything, just puts his arms around Harry's neck and cries like a child who found his way back home.
Is this worth it?
one year ago
December twentieth. It is mutual, this time: no accusations, no doors slammed, no argument. They're just not suited for each other; now that they've gone so deep and dug so far, they're just too different to fit.
Forget round pegs and square holes: they're more like an Arithmancy equation and a Blibbering Humdinger. Nobody's fault.
There are pictures, now -- a life shared. Work parties and weekend gatherings. Yes, we are dating. Little bite-sized cucumber sandwiches on silver trays. We've just moved in together. Red wine that stains a white undershirt forever, and the memory of how that stain got there.
Harry thinks about lying naked and bound to the bedposts and Draco sitting next to him in just the undershirt with a wineglass in one hand, swishing the wine around with a disaffected air. His other hand rests across Harry's lower belly, the thumb sticking down, snug at the base of Harry's cock. He just keeps his hand there, immobile, chattering away about things Harry will never remember, swishing, swishing the wine as Harry's cock grows hard from pure anticipation, as Harry arches off the bed and makes Draco spill the wine and begs him to use his mouth in a more productive way.
That was only five days ago. Do they really not suit each other, like they agreed? Is that really the problem?
Christmas at the Burrow. When he goes home late that night, he finds the stained shirt still on the floor where he tossed it. He takes it to bed with him and tries to pretend he's not alone.
In the end, they were both a little bit broken.
In early January there's an owl at his window. Aged parchment, a ribbon, three words.
The world makes sense again.
Is this love?
Harry's back outside in the snow, waiting. The question's changed again: is love enough?
Will the answer change this time, or will it stay the same? Harry has no reason to want to break up; things have gone well enough, for him. Over the years, over the break-ups, they've found their cross-purposes and hammered them into parallels. More or less. They've smoothed the edges and rounded the corners and polished the knives' edges to dullness. More or less.
If something happens every year, it becomes a tradition, doesn't it?
But if it happens tonight, it will never happen again.
If it happens tonight, they are not going to get back together.
Where are you?
Dusk creeps closer. The empty flower beds are white.
The back garden door whispers open again. No sputter of music this time; the party has moved on. Harry turns around with dread in his belly and hope at his centre.
Draco's got grey leather house-slippers on, and a green-silver scarf. Slytherin. He steps down into the powder, looking a bit like a cat on the edge of a full water basin. In his hands are two paper cups, no lids.
"I bought these all by myself," Draco says, extending one arm. "With Muggle money and everything. I didn't know any Muggle places were open tonight."
"This is London," Harry says, accepting the cup. "Someone's always trying to make money."
He blows on the foamy bit near the top, tries it. Sweet. Hot cocoa.
"Are we breaking up?" they both ask.
Harry laughs first. "I guess not." Some cocoa sloshes out of his cup and over his numb fingers. It doesn't hurt.
Draco's laughter is subdued. Snow melts in his hair, on his scarf. "First time for everything?"
"Right." A drop of cocoa plummets from Harry's knuckle and splatters in the snow. Pretty.
"Unless something happens before midnight," Draco says, wiping Harry's hand with a handkerchief.
Harry looks at him. "Is midnight the cut-off, then?"
"Seems that way. We can make it the official cut-off." Draco won't meet his eyes.
"For next year?"
"For next year. Once midnight hits on the twenty-fifth, we're not allowed to break up until at least the following December first."
Harry shakes his head. "Let's just not break up at all."
Draco turns to him, his breath mingling with the steam from his cup. "Then what will we do next year?"
"Find a place that's open and sells this stuff." Harry leans close.
Draco's mouth tastes like cocoa. His nose is cold.
Is love enough?