Title taken from the Pam Tillis song of the same name, which was the inspiration for this addition. Obviously, I don't own any of her music... well, I have one of her CDs, but I have no rights to the songs.
A/N: This is the first actual collaborative effort on the part of vid and me. This is neither his chapter nor mine, as we both wrote significant portions of it. Enjoy. ^_^
“Welcome to Malfoy Manor,“ Lady Malfoy greeted her young guests cheerfully. The red headed girl and the pale and rather strained looking boy looked around with eyes filled with wonder. “It’s even bigger than Potter manor!” Remus whispered to Lily, only to blush furiously when Ermingard laughed.
“Well, the Wiltshire Manor is
one of the largest Malfoy properties. Abraxas is very fond of it. His parents always celebrated Christmas in the Highlands, some sort of fad from the days of Queen Victoria, I’m told. I'm just glad that we don't. Malboral is dreadfully cold.”
Lily giggled. “Malboral?”
Ermingard rolled her eyes. “Yes, I know. One would think that a family this old would have a better sense of humour. But I think it is all the mottoes. Half of them are puns too.” She gestured at the escutcheons of the various Malfoys lining the wall of the great Hall.
Remus Lupin looked around and then up and up at the huge, silver and green Christmas tree, and then looked at Jocelyn.
Jocelyn smiled. “This is the Slytherin year; there are so many old family ornaments we have to rotate the colours.”
Lily walked up to the tree and gasped as she saw the huge pile of presents, quite a few with her name on them. “Lady Malfoy, I...”
“Miss Evans, my daughter likes you. She also likes Mr. Lupin. You apparently treat her as Jocey, and not as Miss ‘First in seven generations’ Malfoy. We appreciate that.” She waved at her husband, who was seated across the hall, in front of the great fireplace, where an enormous Yule log was burning merrily, his feet on an ottoman and deeply nestled in an obviously very comfortable club seat.
Remus swallowed. “Then why is Lord Malfoy polishing his wand?”
Jocelyn let out a squeal of outrage. “Daddy!”
Ermingard sighed. “Don't worry sweetie, I'll have a bit of a talk with daddy. Now be so kind as to keep Skippy out of the punch this year? A drunken snake, though funny to us, is terrifying to the house elves. Oh, and I understand you will be helping with the Wassailing this year?”
Jocelyn opened her mouth and then shut it again. “Yes, Mum,” she said meekly.
Once lady Ermingard had left, Lily and Remus eyed their younger friend. “What are you planning, Jocey? You're never that meek.”
“Planning?” Jocelyn shuddered. “That was my mother's patented 'one prank and suffer the consequences look’. That is not a look I, or anyone, should willingly cross”
“Really? I've seen McGonagall give you something similar.” Lily was sceptical.
“McGonagall is not my Mum,” Jocelyn replied with a certain amount of chagrin. “I've never managed to pull off anything
“Oh, how bad can she be?” Lily teased.
Jocelyn winced. “Well, ummm... There's me, and Mum, and Mum's knee, do I need to continue?”
Lily grinned. “Ah, now I understand you a lot better. Hogwarts is where you can let it all hang out.”
Remus laughed and Jocelyn groaned.
The fire whooshed, announcing the arrival of a member of the Family. Lucius Malfoy stepped through, removing the soot with an elegant wand gesture, then with his fiancée, Amelia Greengrass, following shortly after him, and Lucius flicked his wand solicitously.
Ermingard, standing next to him, coughed. ”You do know that spell you used on yourself only works on soot, and not on lipstick, do you not, Lucius?”
Lucius and Amelia both blushed and Ermingard laughed. “Oh, don’t worry. “ She waved her wand and various bunches of mistletoe around the room lit up. “Have a nice evening, dears.”
Lucius kissed his mother's cheek and bowed. “Thank you, Mum. Merry Christmas.”
Ermingard kissed Amelia on both cheeks and smiled at her. “We'll talk later, dear.”
Amelia nodded rather shyly. “Yes, Lady, Malfoy.”
“Remind me to dig up the pictures of Baby Jocey sucking on Lucius’ thumb.”
“MUM!!!” Both Malfoy children wailed. Amelia started to giggle. The lesser hearth in the antechamber whooshed, announcing another arrival.
Abraxas Malfoy rose from the great chair like the doom of God and strode towards the new arrival. Jocelyn bit her lip while gazing fearfully after him. “Mum?”
Ermingard smiled. “Don’t worry, Jocey. Your father is just going to lay down some ground rules.”
Severus Snape stepped into the antechamber, happy that the wards hadn't roasted him upon arrival. *That is something at least.*
He stopped cold when he saw the man who stood waiting, his neat blond hair and dark blue robe simple and elegant. It was sometimes easy to forget that Abraxas Malfoy was one of the most powerful wizards alive. Unless you ended up in his bad books, in which case it became abundantly clear, very, very quickly.
Abraxas Malfoy was running a cloth up and down the dark wand in his hand and smiled brightly. “Ah, Mr. Snape. Welcome. I understand Lucius invited you, you being his great and trusted friend.” Abraxas stepped forward and smiled even more brightly. “My fourteen-year-old daughter was very excited as well. Very happy. If I find someone abuses my daughter's happiness, or my hospitality, I will not
be pleased. Do we understand each other, Mr.
Snape?” His voice very clearly carried the warning that if his daughter was hurt, Mr. was no longer an option.
Severus eyed the wand. It oozed power, just as the man who held it. He suddenly was very happy he had gone to the toilet before Flooing, at his mother's insistence. He was also very happy that he was naturally pale and that he could claim his trembling came from the cold. “P-perfectly clear, Lord Malfoy.”
“Good, Good. Capital. I'm sure we will all get along like a house on fire.”
Severus had a sudden image of himself burning while Abraxas rubbed his hands to warm them over his cheerfully sputtering corpse. He swallowed. “I have no doubt it will be a very interesting visit, My Lord.”
“Excellent! Dobby!” A house elf appeared. “Dobby, this is Mr. Snape, he's the young man I told you about.” The elf glared at Severus as if he had just insulted the entire Malfoy lineage. “Dobby is Jocelyn's personal House elf. Intensely loyal and very protective of her. He once nearly killed a man for looking at her wrongly.” Abraxas said in a conversational aside to Severus. “Come on, let’s get you settled in young man.”
Holidays at Malfoy Manor were lavish affairs, and the family Christmas party was no exception. The House elves actually competed to make the house as festive and beautiful as they could, and each year the decorations became more fanciful and complex. Abraxas and Ermingard invited everyone they considered friends, and some they considered of note, but for this one party avoided those with mere political or business ties. And once Jocey started school at Hogwarts, she, like Lucius, was encouraged to invite her own friends.
Which is why, on this particular holiday, the small knots of teens those who had arrived that afternoon and who had arrived with their respective parents later were present, grouped together in the corners of the Manor’s grand ballroom, which was done up like a very festive version of a Dickensian Christmas.
The young people were a unique and mixed bunch, to put it mildly. Jocey had invited Lily Evans, and Remus Lupin, though not his friends, as she still couldn’t stand to be around James Potter or Sirius Black. Unfortunately, her parents HAD invited the Blacks, and informed them that they could bring guests, so Potter was present anyway. He’d had the wisdom to keep well clear of Jocey, however, and thus as long as Lily stayed near her younger friend, he kept himself away from her.
Lucius was squiring his fiancée around, moving between the different groups of adults, and listening more than speaking, as he’d been taught. Keeping his eyes and ears open and his mouth shut, so as to gather as much information as possible without letting anyone know he was doing exactly that. In between the sessions under the mistletoe. Both the Greengrass and the Malfoy elders had commented upon that rather favourably, if with a brand of rather ribald humour that made the young couple blush.
Amelia was resplendent in a rich plum gown that set off her dark honey coloured hair and blue-green eyes to perfection. Lucius’ pride in his future bride’s perfect appearance and manner was evident in his straight posture, and the slight smile that never left his mouth. He was dressed in expensively cut black dress robes, which made his white-blond hair and startlingly bright grey eyes stand out even more.
Jocey, Lily and Remus were in a small group near the punch bowl, apparently on the lookout for something.
James Potter and Sirius Black wandered around together, sniggering and making various denigrating remarks about the décor and the paintings.
One teen kept himself apart, looking distinctly uncomfortable in the glittering, high-society environment. Severus Snape had no idea why Lucius had insisted he come to this party, but his friend had been quite stubborn about it. Abraxas Malfoy’s welcome had been less than comfortable and it was only with difficulty that Severus repressed the urge to check every other minute if his testicles were still attached.
He sighed and looked down at himself. Lucius had even gone so far as to purchase a very nice set of dress robes for him, as an early Christmas gift, so that he wouldn’t feel quite so out of place... as though expensive robes would help, especially since all those present would know that he could never afford to pay for them himself. He remembered with painful clarity the time at Muggle elementary school, long before he went to Hogwarts, when some of the other boys had recognized what he was wearing, recognized the things their mothers had taken to be distributed to the poor.
The humiliation rankled still and even though Lucius was his friend, and would be horrified to know what his gift had done to Severus’ proud heart, it still hurt. Severus would rather have come in wearing his threadbare but honestly acquired robes, the ones his mother had bought for him with money she acquired by cleaning other people's homes, that had been bought second-hand at Madame Malkin's three years ago and were now desperately short and hung together by the patches. But that was his robe, his own, and his to wear with all the pride of a Prince, even if the collected beau monde of the Wizarding world ridiculed him for his poverty, and he be shown the door by an indignant house elf, and an equally indignant Lucius, offended by the refusal of his gift. For one reason only Severus would accept this charity: The chance to see Lily Evans, and if he were completely honest with himself, Lucius’ younger sister, Jocelyn, in dresses and dress robes. And to perhaps dream of dancing with them.
Still, he had to admit that the deep forest green robes looked nice. At least he didn’t look like a rumpled and often patched castaway, even if it had cost him his pride, even if he was playing the part of an island unto himself, sitting in a partially obscured window seat, with his journal in his lap. Even if it was just a lie told for one party, a lie concocted by Lucius for reasons Severus did not understand.
But during the obligatory round of introductions he imagined he could feel the mocking eyes of all the guests upon himself and therefore he had withdrawn even from the company of Lucius, insofar as his friend was not utterly preoccupied with Amelia. So Severus sat in his lonely window-seat, looked out upon the falling snow and the warm and busy ballroom and kept out of sight as far as he could. And if anyone had the inclination, and the stealth to see before he closed it, they would have discovered that the sixteen-year-old wizard was sketching the other guests.
There were a few uncomplimentary caricatures of Potter and Black, as well as any number of drawings of various witches and wizards as they circulated, and of the redoubtable host and hostess as they danced, oblivious to all in a cloud of love, but his most common subject was the vivacious blonde sister of his one male friend, and the red-haired girl who’d been his one female friend for eight years already. The two of them were thick as thieves, and drawing them together was a pleasant way to pass the time. He was deep in his drawing when he was discovered by the pair of wizards he most wished to avoid.
“Look, Padfoot, someone let Snivellus inside. I do hope they cast stain resistance spells on their furniture, or there will be grease stains on everything.”
Sirius sniggered. “And anti-theft wards. He already nicked his robes from a closet here, I wouldn’t wonder.”
Severus scowled, snapping his journal shut and banishing it before his enemies could take it from him. Banishing the book sent it to the guest room in the Manor that Abraxas Malfoy had shown him to, having informed him that it was his room and his alone
, and then telling him cheerfully that he was expected to stay for the entirety of the party... which was planned to continue through Boxing Day. There were wards on the room, Malfoy wards, so anything he locked away there was safe. He sneered when both Potter and Black tried to Accio
his journal and he stood, drawing his wand and waiting for them to be more than annoying.
There was a cough and the boys whirled to see Lord Malfoy, looking deceptively mild. “In this house we do not harass guests.” His voice was mild, too. “Guests of an honoured and ancient lineage, long allied to the Malfoys. Guests who are peacefully, if not very socially, attending a pleasant evening. Guests who have the decency not to insult my ancestors in their hearing,” he concluded mildly. Then he looked at Severus. “Please put your wand away, Mr. Snape. I will deal with this.” He eyed the two young men and then his pleasant smile grew a touch nasty. “Are you on the list for the Wassailing, gentlemen? I think not. But we need two big, strapping, healthy young lads to carry the wassailing bowl.” He indicated a huge white Maple and copper vat in the middle of the room. “Tradition insists it be done without magic.”
Sirius and James quailed and nodded. Abraxas gave all three of them a bright smile and took Black and Potter by the shoulder. “Excellent! How good of you to volunteer! If you come with me, I will have the House elves fit you out with the traditional costumes.”
Severus Snape, unexpectedly reprieved, smiled and went to quickly fetch his sketchbook. A few innocuous sketches of the newly dubbed wassailers would not go amiss at school, he thought. He also filed for future reference the fact that the Princes were allied to the Malfoys.
Severus was drawing once more, in a different seat, his back to a pair of wondrously well insulated French doors when he once again heard the unwelcome voices of Potter and Black, but now from directly behind him.
“Drawing ickle pretty pictures, Snivellus?” Potter sneered, tucking something in his pocket.
Sirius sniggered again. “If the grease doesn’t drip all over them. And I bet they are stick figures, or Dark Spells.” He glared at Snape.
Severus banished his book once more, cursing the Gryffindors for interrupting his drawing of Jocelyn’s familiar lowering itself slowly from one of the huge wreaths into a back up bowl of punch. The expression on the beast’s face was a priceless mix of smug anticipation and glee.
Potter growled and tried, again, to summon the sketchbook. Severus smirked as he once again failed. Severus took a step back, ending with his back against the wall, hidden by a curtain. Lord and Lady Malfoy were dancing and from what Severus had observed, they might as well be on the moon for all the notice they took of their surroundings while dancing. That meant he was on his own. He slid his wand out of the holster he had painfully sewn and held it unobtrusively in his hand. The Gryffindor Bullies drew closer, rather nasty grins on their faces.
“So, Snivellus. What were you doing? Poetry? A letter? To Lily perhaps? Lily is mine, Snivellus, she has made her choice,” Potter sneered.
Black sniggered. “Nah, mate, he was drawing naked pictures of stuck up little Jocelyn. Little bitch needs a good, hard sno-.”
“Finish that sentence and you die, Black.” His wand was extended and pointed at Sirius’ throat. Severus Snape usually maintained an icy calm. It took a great deal to aggravate him. Sirius Black had just discovered a new one, and Severus quite likely would have killed Black, no matter what the consequences.
Just then movement from behind the pair caught his eye. Lady Jocelyn had noticed the situation, and was making her way over, dragging Lily and Lupin along. He had no idea why the youngest Malfoy liked Lupin, but she did, and he did notice that under her influence, the quiet boy tended to stand up to his friends more than he once had. It didn’t stop the pair from taking every opportunity they got to bully him, but their opportunities seemed to come less frequently this year. Lord Malfoy and his wife seemed utterly oblivious still. Severus gave the two boys a cold glare and carefully placed his wand back in his holster. Black swallowed slightly.
“This isn’t over, Snivellus,” he threatened. “Not nearly, not ever.”
“What are you two doing?” Jocelyn’s voice was cold, and imperious.
Black turned his head and smirked at her. “Just wondering who had the bad taste to invite this git.”
Jocelyn’s eyebrows rose. “My brother did. Severus is his friend, remember? Who invited YOU?”
Black gave her a supercilious glare. “I’m here with my parents. Your parents invited my family, and told us to bring guests.”
Jocelyn’s eyes widened with mirth. “And you brought Potter
? It didn’t occur to you that bringing a guest to a formal ball meant bring a date
?” Black and Potter both flushed when she laughed at them, crossing her arms over her red velvet covered chest. Her dress would have been clichéd, except that it was of the finest deep-pile red velvet, and exquisitely cut, with silver trim. She looked like she belonged on the top of the huge tree taking up one corner of the ballroom. All that was missing was a pair of shining white wings.
Potter sputtered. “And who is supposed to be your date then, Lady Jocelyn
She quirked an eyebrow at him. “This is my house, Potter. I don’t need a date to attend my own family’s party.” Turning her eyes to Black, she snapped, “Take your boyfriend
and go find your parents, Black, before I ask my father to have you removed for being rude to his guests and spoiling my Christmas. I believe he warned you once before?”
Knowing that Jocelyn was not bluffing and knowing that the Chief Warlock was not likely to be amused, the Heir to the Black King snarled at her, and hauled his best mate away without a word. They both looked at Remus, but Jocey had a firm grip on his arm, and he shrugged helplessly at them.
As soon as the pair was out of sight, Jocey let go her hold on Remus and Lily both, and stepped into the alcove Severus had been hiding in. “Severus, are you going to avoid everyone all night, or are you going to ask me to dance soon?”
Blinking dumbly at her, Severus coughed uncomfortably and asked, “What?” *Merlin, Merlin Merlin, MERLIN!! MY BALLS!!*
“I said, are you going to ask me to dance? You’ve been here for three hours already, and you’ve barely said ‘boo’ to me. All you’ve done so far is sit in corners with your sketchbook. I had
hoped you would at least dance with me tonight.” Her smile was demure, and she looked at him through lowered lashes, a faint wash of colour pinking her cheeks ever so slightly. “At least once, please, Severus?”
Tugging awkwardly at the collar of his robes, Severus stowed his wand more comfortably in his makeshift holster, performed the courtly bow his mother had drilled into him and dutifully asked, “May I have this dance, Lady Jocelyn?”
Her smile widened as she nodded. “Yes. On one condition. You must TRY to remember to call me Jocey. Enough people call me Lady Jocelyn already. My friends call me Jocey, Severus.”
He raised one eyebrow. “And your brother calls me Sev, although you never do.” Then, his confidence deserting him, he lowered his voice and offered tentatively, “You could as well, if you like.” Then he swallowed. *Balls, Severus! You like them, remember that!*
Her smile becoming radiant, she replied, “I’d like that... Sev.”
Just then, the small orchestra Abraxas had hired to provide the music struck up a Viennese waltz, and she placed her hand in his, letting him lead her onto the dance floor. As they went, she grinned at her two friends, and told them, “Go. Dance.” Rolling their eyes indulgently, Remus and Lily found a space on the floor not too far from Jocey and Severus, and began waltzing. For some strange reason, Lord and Lady Malfoy moved closer as well. Severus swallowed again and nodded, trepidation in his eyes. Abraxas Malfoy eyed him and then nodded, leading his lady away from them.
Severus took a deep breath and then, Jocey’s hand in his, the other placed on her back, just below her shoulder blade, in a perfect ballroom hold, and they waltzed. Her free hand fell on his arm, just below his shoulder, and she lost herself in the dance, thoroughly enjoying herself as he led her quite skilfully around the floor. His form was not perfect, he obviously had practiced too little for that, but they made it through the graceful flowing dance without stepping on one another’s toes or running into anyone, so she was satisfied. When the tempo changed to a tango, he surprised her by leading her into an energetic, dramatic dance that had her laughing as they spun and whirled. She wasn’t even embarrassed by her parents’ usual antics. This was their tango after all, and Abraxas had picked up both a sprig of holly and a burgundy red rose.
Severus surprised himself by thoroughly enjoying dancing with Jocey. It was much better than dancing with his mother in all the ballroom dance lessons she’d insisted he take, at far greater cost than they could really afford. Jocelyn’s eyes sparkled and danced in time with the music and their movements, and she was smiling and laughing in genuine pleasure. As the tango ended, he smiled impishly and dipped her dramatically, making her giggle. Then, to his utter shock, she threw her arms around his neck, drew him down and kissed him. He almost dropped her on her back in his surprise, but he managed to stand, keeping her on her feet even as he pulled back, standing straight and looking around, panicked that her brother, father or mother might have seen him kissing her. Because for the briefest moment, he had kissed her back. *Balls, I knew you well, and shall miss you dearly.*
He winced inwardly.
Sure enough, Lucius was giving him a narrow-eyed stare, and he shivered as he considered what the nineteen-year-old pureblood might do to him. When Lucius looked away, Severus let out a shaky breath, and looked at the girl still holding onto his arms.
“Are you trying to get me killed, Jocey? Lucius seeing that was bad enough, but I shudder at your father’s reaction.”
She smiled flirtatiously and replied, “Really, Sev, you’re overreacting. Neither Daddy nor Lucius would kill you. We have people for that,” she winked and Severus glared at her.
“If that was supposed to reassure me, Jocelyn, it did not work.”
Jocey let out a breath. “I’m sorry Sev, I’m just a little nervous. This is harder than I thought it would be!”
“What is?” Severus asked, cautiously.
Jocelyn rolled her eyes. “Getting you interested in me! I had Lucius invite you over! I’ve been trying to get you to realise that I might just be interested in letting you court me. All night! And all you do is draw and look at my mother!
He blinked. He had to be hearing things. He’d heard how her father had driven off Fabian Prewett when Jocey was ten. If the Head of one of the Ruling Houses wasn’t good enough for Jocelyn Malfoy, he doubted her father would think an untitled half-blood would even rate a first look, let alone a chance. “I couldn’t do that, Jocey. Your father would kill me... well, not kill me... he hinted at other things. But Lucius might, he’s less subtle. And err… I wasn’t looking at your mother, but your father. And every time he was not looking at me, I was looking at you.” Severus blushed, wondering where that had come from.
Jocelyn blushed and smiled radiantly. “Oh, Severus.”
“But I cannot court you, Jocelyn. Even if your father and brother approved of me, I’m a penniless half-blood. I cannot take you away from all this…” He waved a hand. “To my world.”
Jocelyn sighed and then grinned, “All right, then I’ll court you. If you’re willing to be courted, of course. Daddy never said anything about that, did he?”
Knitting his brows, he studied her face, trying to decide if she was serious. “Why me?” He wasn’t certain if he was asking Jocelyn or whatever powers looked down and enjoyed toying with him, but Jocelyn answered. He would have been fairly shocked otherwise, almost as shocked as he was by Jocelyn’s answer.
Jocey smiled, a strangely intent light in her eyes, “Because I want to. May I court you, Severus Snape?”
Feeling out of his depth, he pressed his lips together for a moment, then acquiesced. “If you wish.”
“Ah, Mr. Snape, a word,” Abraxas Malfoy’s hearty voice resounded in Severus’ ears and he winced. A fractional move of his fingers was all the evidence of his near instinctual reaction to cover his manhood. He turned around.
“But of course, Lord Malfoy.”
Abraxas led Severus away. He grinned as they passed a set of double doors from which Black and Potter emerged, dressed in pink and purple tights and garish doublets.
“Those are traditional?” Severus asked, astonished.
“They are for bullying cretins. Orion needs to take that boy in hand, or there will be trouble. I will be speaking to him and Lord Potter both.” Waving off the topic of Potter and Black, the blond wizard looked levelly at Severus. “My daughter has expressed an interest in courting you.”
Severus closed his eyes. *Maybe I can develop a potion one day to regenerate my testicles. A good thing my voice has settled.*
“Yes, Lord Malfoy.”
“The Prince family is an old and noble one, even if they treated your mother cruelly. You seem to be a courageous and upright young man. I have one question. Why did you accept the robes?”
The question surprised Severus enough that he answered honestly. “I wanted to see Jocey dance. I wanted to see Lily have fun. I wanted to see what one of these feasts was like. And… I have pride, Lord Malfoy, but this robe has enough cloth to make my mother three warm dresses,” he ended defiantly.
Abraxas nodded. “I see. I have no objection to you and Jocelyn courting each other. I will want to talk to you about your family’s circumstances.” He raised a hand at Severus’ objection. “There are Prince ladies in our portrait gallery. You, like so many wizards, are my cousin. Far enough removed I have no worries about you and Jocey, but close enough that you are family, and the Prince-Malfoy alliance still holds. I will invoke that. Your mother will not refuse. Your father?”
“Korsakov’s disease. He doesn’t have long to live.” Severus’ voice was emotionless.
Abraxas nodded his understanding. “One last thing… Jocey is fourteen years old. She is however, curious and enthusiastic. You are the older, and I hope the wiser in this relationship…”
Severus gaped and then blushed. “Yes, My Lord. You have my word. I would not put her in Lady Ermingard’s position, I mean… er...” he groaned.
Abraxas stood stunned for a moment and then laughed, loud and uproariously. Then he firmly clasped Severus by the shoulder and led him to where Jocelyn, with a rather mulish expression on her face, was being lectured by her mother.
“Here is your swain, Jocey. I approve of your choice.” He winked at his daughter, who blushed, then took his wife’s arm and gestured the orchestra to strike up another tango.
From that moment on, Jocey refused to give up her prize until the evening drew to a close and she allowed Severus to retire to the guest room he’d been given. Lady Malfoy had rather pointedly followed them and Jocey had withdrawn with ill grace after only a chaste kiss.
He grinned all night, and where before that might have been the reaction to the enormous embarrassment of Potter and Black to be photographed in the horrid ‘traditional’ costumes, this night it was inspired by Jocelyn. The Blacks - not amused upon hearing their son’s and his friend’s behaviour, and a set of the pictures firmly in Lady Walburga’s possession - had left after the Christmas Eve Ball, taking Potter with them.
For the rest of the holiday weekend, he found himself in the near constant company of the fourteen-year-old Malfoy daughter, his best friend, and the one male Gryffindor in his year that he thought he could stand, so long as Potter and Black were nowhere about.
It was quite the most enjoyable Christmas of his life to date. And he wondered if the future ones would not just get better.