A Summer to Remember, Part III
A Summer To Remember, part 3
Well, here we are. A bit more of Jocey and Sev. Enjoy.
As always, I don't own anything but the plot.
Severus self-consciously smoothed the collar of his new, navy blue robes. Looking himself over in the mirror, he had to admit that they looked good. Cut to accentuate his lean frame, the colour even accented the light suntan he’d acquired over the previous month. Severus almost never spent enough time in the sun to get even the slightest colour, and normally had a winter pallor, even throughout the summer. In fact, the tan covered more than his face and hands; most of his body bore a bronze tint for the first time in his life.
As a child in Cokeworth he learned not to run around in anything that didn’t cover him from wrist to neck to ankles. The jeering about his pale, skinny body had been more than he could bear. Then too, his father had demanded that he keep himself covered because he didn’t want any undue attention paid to the marks that would appear on the backs of Severus’ legs from his frequent ‘punishment’. After he met Lily, those feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy had only grown. At Malboral the mores were different and no one laughed. Lady Ermingard supplied him with protective cream to apply before he went outside, noting that he was just as pale as she was and probably would need it.
On the days when he was at Malboral with the family, Lucius had worn a Muggle T-shirt of all things, and flexed his muscles surreptitiously. Severus was quite sure that the T-shirt was one size too small the day that Amelia came by for tea and they’d all trooped back to the house for refreshments after their labour in the fields.
Amelia had spent a great deal of time looking at Lucius’ sculpted upper body, and in his turn, Severus enjoyed the way Jocey had blushed every time she’d looked at him. That was after a few weeks of hard physical labour had put a finish to his muscles. Though he did most of his chores at home by hand, due to the Trace and the restriction against underage wizards using magic outside Hogwarts, he wasn’t accustomed to the intense physical activity he was getting this summer. Of course, it didn’t help that using concentrated magic – which potion brewing demanded – burned calories faster than he could replace them, so he tended to lose muscle mass during the school year. But it was still a heady feeling to be the object of such openly admiring looks from his beloved.
It had taken Severus a few days to get comfortable with removing his shirt while working, or undress even further to go swimming with the Jocelyn and the various teenage children of the tenant farmers in the lake. There was also a very large and elaborate inside pool connected to the large in-ground one outside, with a magical screen keeping in the warmth. The inner pool was nestled within a cave under the corner of the Keep that had been magically expanded, and had lots of grottoes and nooks and crannies. Abraxas had put his foot down about using the inside pool when Jocey mentioned wanting to show it Sev, much to her disappointment. There had been a very slight blush on the face of Lady Ermingard as he made that statement.
It helped to learn that Abraxas was – whenever the work allowed – in the habit of removing his own upper garments, and working in dungarees and practical boots when doing heavy chores at the various tenant farms and on the estate. In truth, he’d been surprised at how much hard physical labour the Malfoys seemed to do. Even Lady Ermingard helped with the more ‘ladylike’ chores, such as tending the vegetable gardens, and the multiple fruit orchards within the estate. Jocey pitched in wherever she could, often working right alongside the men, despite her mother’s occasional disapproval. The first time Severus had seen her in a peasant blouse, his throat went dry and he was sure his heart had nearly stopped.
The greatest surprise had been Lucius. At school, Lucius had used his wand for everything, and Severus came to appreciate just how skilled his friend really was in the course of working alongside him on various projects. Out here, he seemed to relish being able to relinquish it, though Severus wasn’t the only one who noted with some amusement that his posing seemed to vault from nonexistent to continuous whenever Amelia was near. He certainly seemed to know what he was doing, and enjoy it too.
Severus abandoned his wool-gathering, and as he pulled his hair back into a respectable queue, he smiled to himself as he recalled the first day he worked with Abraxas. They’d been helping one of the tenants rebuild a dry stone wall. Evidently, the man’s sheep had knocked it down, and were scattered along the private road leading to the Keep, placidly munching on the manicured grass edging the long drive, easily taking up their ancestral role of maintaining the lawns. Rather than taking the farmer to task for not controlling his flock, Abraxas had laughed and told the man to go back to his farm, and he would have help mending the break once the family had finished breakfast.
Severus watched the farmer leave the small dining room that the Family used, and was bemused to find his host chuckling quietly to himself. “It never fails.” Noticing Severus looking at him, the Lord of the Manor explained, “Every summer, within a few days of our arrival, the tenants come to us looking for help. They trust us, you see. If they didn’t, they’d try to keep any perceived failures from us.”
Severus nodded, noticing Jocey and Lady Ermingard exchanging knowing looks. “May I help, sir?”
Abraxas gave him an approving smile. “Of course. It’s good to know that your excellent work ethic extends beyond your laboratory, Severus. After the meal, I’ll show you where we keep the rough workman’s clothes. Farming is terribly hard on one’s clothing. It’s best to work in sturdy, hard-wearing fabrics, and good boots or clogs.”
Severus smiled back at Abraxas, and tucked into his breakfast again.
An hour later, he found himself standing beside Abraxas, waiting while the older man studied the damaged wall. Like all the walls in the area except the main wall that surrounded to whole of Malboral, it was dry stone, stacked flat stones set in courses and actually quite beautiful, covered in moss and lichen and small plants that had settled within the cracks between the stones.
“How did it happen, Burnsie?” Abraxas asked, suddenly looking a bit uncomfortable.
The small, wiry, elderly farmer in his heavy corduroy trousers, cable-knit sweater covered with a battered tweed jacket and enormous rubber boots clearly marked with several charms by the Duke’s Own Boot Company just smiled. “Well, your Lordship remembers he sent that crowd o’ young bulls along last win’er? They’s a mite stronger than yon sheep.”
Abraxas nodded, a bit chagrined. “And rather more wild. Ah, well. When was this last stacked?”
Burnsie sucked on his teeth and his eyes went distant. “Reckon… Reckon that would be the time o’ your great-great grandfather. My grandfather. It was entirely rebuilt to look pretty a’for the arrival o’ his new lady.”
Abraxas looked at the rather elaborate courses. “We’d best restore them as well as we can.”
Burnsie smiled. “Young Master Lucius ought to be a help, he been working with Dougal.”
Abraxas looked surprised. “He has? He didn’t tell me. Well, that’s fine he should be along presently. By the way, this is Master Severus Snape, he’s being courted by Lady Jocelyn.”
Severus blushed furiously under the suddenly keen eye of the old farmer. “Is he noo?”
“Yes,” Abraxas smiled slightly. “Severus, this is Fergus Burns, one of our more senior tenants. Fergus, Severus is a descendant of the Prince line.”
“A little Prince?” Burnsie grinned. “Aye, the little lady always had taste.”
Severus’ blush intensified. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir.”
“Right,” Burnsie eyed him. “You’ll be limited to carryin’, Master Severus. The course work here is a wee bit too intricate to learn on, but we got some other walls that can do with a restack on the commons an’a couple of hedges that need to be laid.” He grinned, eyes twinkling, as Abraxas winced. “Aye, the blackberry ones.”
Abraxas sighed. “I still think they ought to be replaced by walls,” he grumbled.
“But think of the fruit, your lordship, all that wunnerfull jam that’ll never be made…” Burnsie was clearly quoting and Severus was quite sure he was quoting Lady Ermingard.
Abraxas gave the farmer a half-hearted glare and put his own tweed jacket and sweater on a still whole part of the wall.
Severus looked surprised. “Won’t you be cold, sir?” He was hunched slightly against the wind.
Abraxas smiled. “Once we begin, the work will keep the chill at bay, Severus.”
The farmer, listening, made a Scottish noise in the back of his throat. “Mmmphm. Hot as ever today. Don’t know what ye mean by cold.”
Abraxas laughed. “Severus hasn’t had the pleasure of living in the Highlands all his life, as you have, Fergus. He’s not accustomed to the brisk morning breezes here.”
Fergus grunted, and began pulling the collapsed stones away from the fence, piling them neatly to the side, by size, flatness and colour. Abraxas and Severus joined in the task with a will, soon joined by Lucius, who occasionally stopped to study certain stones and directed that the wall be taken down for about two feet each way, inserting pieces of flat wood to keep the stone lying even.
Very quickly, Severus found himself sweating, despite the breeze. He shed his own sweater after about half an hour, and took no further note of the weather until the job was done. Unfortunately for him, the sun was quite hot and though his borrowed shirt had long sleeves to protect his arms from the rough stone, it slid about on his thin frame and left far too much of his skin exposed. So that by the time they broke for lunch, he was red as a lobster on his neck and between his shoulder blades. He manfully worked through the day, watched with some amusement by Lucius and by Abraxas with calculation. Fergus just sucked his teeth and chewed his tobacco.
They finished the wall a short time before the appointed time for dinner and headed to the house after taking their leave of Fergus.
“It seems to be a rather elaborate method of fencing, sir,” Severus ventured. “That would have taken a lot less time with modern Muggle materials.” ‘And magic,’ he thought.
“It is, Severus. But that wall has stood for hundreds of years with minimal repairs, much longer than even the best and most expensive of modern fences. And it looks a lot better,” Abraxas stopped and spread his arms and breathed in the air. “And it ties us to this place. Our sweat, love, labour, ties us to this place. If we ever need to put a ward into that wall, it will know us. These hills will know us. The trees, the hedges, even those infernal brambles we’ll be working on tomorrow, know us. This is our land, our place, Severus.”
Severus nodded thoughtfully. “I see…”
“I thought you might,” Abraxas smiled.
Having changed for dinner, Severus could scarcely sit still during the meal, owing to the heat radiating off his back, and he tried not to touch the high, rigid back of his chair too much. Lady Ermingard noticed his fidgeting, and after the meal, he found himself in the surgery, having the burn examined.
“It doesn’t look too bad. You shouldn’t even need a burn curing potion. A bit of cooling lotion should take care of it. Jocey can help you with the bits you can’t reach,” then she pinned him with a glare. “And be sure you use the cream I provided, Severus. Jocey won’t mind helping with that either.”
She looked over her shoulder to wear Jocelyn was standing. “And only the bits he can’t reach, young lady.”
That was the first time. As Lady Ermingard had said, Jocelyn was a dab hand at applying the lotion, and as he helped his host each morning with the innumerable tasks that arose on the tenant farms, he met her in the surgery before lunch each day the first week, in order to avoid the discomfort of that first day. After that, he had sufficient protective tan to not need the lotion as much.
He made his way downstairs, and peeked through the French doors leading out to the stone paved square behind the Keep. Surrounded by a large trellis fence covered with carefully cultivated rosebushes, the square – once a practice yard for the warriors of the clans for whom the Malfoy Lord was responsible – was resplendent in pearl, sapphire, emerald, and royal purple decorations. It was fanciful, and lovely.
He heard a soft footfall on the steps he’d just descended, and turned to look. His eyes widened. Jocelyn stood on the top step, looking absolutely ethereal. He swallowed hard and bowed, offering his arm.
Jocey smiled, and descended the stairs, placing her hand on his arm with the grace of a princess.
“You look amazing, Jocelyn,” he offered.
She blushed, her smile widening. “So do you, Severus. Truly Princely.”
Twin spots of pink appeared on Severus’ cheeks as he placed a brief kiss on Jocey’s cheek.
He walked with her to the main foyer, where they joined the senior Malfoys in greeting the arriving guests. The first arrivals for the evening were the Greengrasses, accompanied by Lucius, who had Flooed out earlier that week to attend to some tasks he had in London, and had ridden with them from the London townhouse in a beautiful carriage. Almost immediately afterward, Abraxas’ mother arrived, accompanied by her brother, and his children.
Dame Hélène surprised Severus by kissing his cheeks warmly after giving the same greeting to her two grandchildren, and Amelia. Giving him a smile, she said, “It is a pleasure to see you again, Monsieur Snape. We shall talk later, non
? You will save me a dance, perhaps?”
“Ye-yes, ma’am. It would be an honour,” he replied, nodding quickly.
“Good man,” she declared, patting his cheek.
As the arrivals began to come more and more frequently, Jocey and Lucius began taking turns guiding the families to the Grand Ballroom, with its fifteen piece orchestra, and magnificently polished marble floor. Abraxas and Ermingard eventually left the task of greeting guests to their children while they held court in the Grand Ballroom. In the main Hall, where the House elves had set up dozens of round tables, each set with beautiful china and silver and alight with candelabra, beverages and canapés were being served, though the dinner wouldn’t be served until eight. The breeze blowing gently in through the open doors in the back of both the Grand Ballroom and the Hall brought in the sweet scent of roses and jasmine, and made the hundreds of candle flames dance merrily.
Jocey was laughing, as she whirled and twirled through the steps of a lively group dance, trading partners hand to hand with several of her peers. After the last of the invited guests had arrived, her father had made a short speech, welcoming everyone, and presenting her to the peerage. Jocey had been almost afraid that none of her schoolmates would come, but it seemed like nearly everyone from Lucius’ year to hers had accepted the invitations, and she spent nearly an hour greeting each of her guests personally before she was free to join in the dancing. Not many of the old families indulged in traditional debuts anymore, and it was a treat for everyone.
When the song finally ended with a flourish, she wrapped her hand around Sev’s arm, and followed him to the buffet set up in the corner of the square, sheltered by the outer wall of the keep, and the wall of the conservatory, which was closed off for the evening. Ermingard had ruled that her carefully tended plants were too likely to be damaged if the guests were allowed to wander freely through the structure. While Sev ladled punch into a pair of crystal goblets with the skill of a master potioneer, Jocey let her gaze roam over the crowd. There were a few people present that she wished to avoid, and she was watching for them.
Accepting a cup, she led Sev to one of the numerous stone benches nestled into rose covered arbors along the edges of the square. The tart-sweet punch soothed her parched throat, and she drew in a deep breath of the fragrant air. The two of them had been sitting for only a moment when an amused voice intoned, “Not even dinner time and you two are already hiding? Isn’t this your party, Jocey?”
“Lily!” Jocey squealed, jumping up to hug her friend. “I thought you weren’t going to make it. Weren’t you and James in Moscow? I thought Apparation from the U.S.S.R. was still restricted.”
Lily nodded. “It is. James didn’t tell me he’d arranged a Portkey for us until the last moment. He let me fret all week because we weren’t going to make it, and then we did,” she frowned slightly, then sighed. “He does so love his surprises.”
“Oh, I’m so happy to see you. I’m sorry you missed Daddy’s speech. It was lovely. I am officially a debutante,” Jocelyn declared archly, affecting a snooty pose for a moment, before dissolving into giggles with her best friend.
Severus smiled indulgently at the girls, enjoying their pleasure in each others’ company. He caught Potter’s eye, and exchanged short nods with him. The two of them would never be friends, but for the sake of their women, they would avoid outright enmity. Just then, Severus noticed movement past Potter’s shoulder, and his focus shifted to a most unwelcome sight. Black was bearing down on them, escorting Livia Flint – a thin-faced former Ravenclaw with an attitude as bad as Black’s own. The daughter of Marius Flint loathed her cousins, and Severus had often seen Lucius step between her and Jocelyn when a dispute between the two threatened to turn ugly. Looking at the girls again, he commented softly, “Perhaps we should go inside. I believe it’s nearly time to sit down for dinner.”
Jocey looked at him, then followed his line of sight and scowled. “Who invited THEM?” she whispered. Then, without waiting for an answer, she led Severus and Lily, and by default James, into the Ballroom and through it to the Hall before Black could catch them up with is his battleaxe of a date.
Unfortunately, nobody had told them that the Blacks were in attendance, as well as the Flints, the Lovegood and his wife and son, and the Abbotts. Severus, Jocey, Lily, and James found themselves sharing a table with Sirius and Livia, as well as Xeno Lovegood, Livia’s elder brother Cassius, and Ruth and Rachel Abbott. Finishing out the seating arrangement for the table were the Abbott twins’ twelve year old brother Jacob, and his partner for the evening, ten year old Gwennie Jones. Jocey sighed. At least most of their dinner companions were cousins she enjoyed keeping company with. The Abbotts were her mum’s brother’s children, the Flints were her mum’s third cousin’s children, and Gwennie was her Nana Abbott’s great niece. She knew the Lovegoods were related to her mum somehow as well, and at least Xeno was nice, if absentminded. In fact, the only people she would have rather not had at table with them were Black, Potter, and Livia, although she was willing to tolerate Potter for Lily’s sake.
For a fleeting moment, Jocey wished she and Sev could exchange seats with Lucius and Amelia, who were sitting with Amelia’s parents, and four other pairs of twenty-somethings. Looking at the table angled between them, she noted that her parents were sitting with Marius and Julia Flint, Orion and Walburga Black, her Grandpa and Nana Abbott – Nigel and Gertrude Abbott, her Updaddy and his Lady – Sir Herbert and Lady Ambrosia, and her Bonne Maman, who was sitting beside Marius Flint’s father, Virgil – though most people just called him ‘The Flint’. The Flint had been a widower ever since his wife died in childbirth delivering Marius. According to her mother, even though Marius’ grandmother had been Updaddy’s sister, his mother had been fragile, and her five kilogram son had caused her to bleed out before the mediwitches could save her. Jocey smiled to see her feisty French grandmother having a rather spirited looking debate in her native language with the usually dour old Flint patriarch, who was looking distinctly amused and seemed to be quite able to trade barbs with her. Jocey’s parents were evidently equally entertained by the interplay, and overall it looked to be a fairly convivial group.
Suddenly, Jocey’s full attention was brought to bear on Livia Flint as the older girl’s cutting hiss broke through her distraction. “- did a Mudblood and a common soldier’s son manage to get themselves seated with us? They’re nobodies.”
Jocey’s stormy blue eyes fixed on Livia like lasers as she glared, opening her mouth the blister the ears off her unwelcome table companion. Before she could, however, little Gwennie twisted in her seat and reached past Black to slap Livia across the mouth. Scowling at the older girl, the little spitfire snapped, “You apologize, Livia, or I’m telling your daddy.” Her dark eyes flashed angrily at her adversary, anger sharpening her dark bronze features and highlighting the high cheekbones and pointed chin her Egyptian mother had passed on to her.
With curled fingers, Livia moved to retaliate, but found her wrist caught from the other side by her brother. She turned startled eyes on him, and he said softly, “This is not the place, Livia. Father and Mother will be most displeased if you make a scene tonight.”
Livia sneered. “I’m not the one making a scene, Cassius. That little brat just hit me.”
Cassius raised his eyebrow and glanced around at the others sitting at the table. “I rather think you’re fortunate that she was the only one who could reach you and that the others are too polite to hex you. But Gwenog is correct. You need to apologise. You were deliberately provoking Jocey and her friends, and this is her debut.”
Livia sniffed, twisting her wrist in an attempt to free it from her brother’s hold. “I was just asking a question.”
Black finally spoke, having finally gotten his temper under control enough to speak without shouting. “Livia if you don’t apologise immediately, I will be speaking to both my father and your grandfather, and you will NEVER be invited to another event attended by the Blacks again.” His voice was frigid with fury, but steady and uncompromising. Jocey resisted the urge to roll her eyes at his self-centred threat, though she grudgingly admitted that at least he was standing up for his best friend... and hers.
Livia blinked, looked at everyone else at the table, sniffed, and snapped. “Fine. I’m so sorry
that I brought it up. Why don’t I just go sit somewhere else then?”
Jocey narrowed her eyes. “If I had my way, you would be eating in the pig byre across the road, Livia, but you’d no doubt put the pigs off their feed and that would upset Fergus Burns. Like it or not, I will not let you embarrass my parents by asking someone to trade seats with you. However, if you say one more foul thing, I will curse your mouth shut and you will finish dinner by eating soup through a straw, and you won’t speak again for a week. Is that clear?”
Livia gave Jocey a sour look, and poked at her salad petulantly with her fork, refusing to say another word. For the rest of the meal, Livia seethed silently, and as soon as she could escape without drawing undue attention to herself, she excused herself and headed for the garden. Alone.
Black, left sitting at the table, gave a heavy sigh and swallowed like he was trying to force down something foul. Then, clearing his throat, he said, “Mal – er, Lady Jocelyn, I’m sorry that happened. I didn’t know she was going to do that.” Looking sheepishly at James and Lily, he added, “I didn’t think she’d be thick enough to insult you like that.”
Lily shook her head, and huffed. “Just forget about it, Sirius. It’s over and done with.”
James nodded, wrapping a supportive arm around Lily. “Why did you bring that snooty cow anyway, Paddy?”
Sirius shrugged. “My dad asked me to escort her. She, er, couldn’t find anyone herself.” He snorted. “Beginning to see why.”
Jocey refrained from making a comment about karma.
Dinner had been over for nearly three hours, and the guests had begun trickling out the front door to go home, or find other entertainment, as the festivities slowly turned more sedate. Jocey was practically vibrating with excitement as she watched the crowd thin. Soon, she’d be able to shanghai Severus and leave the remnants of the party for their own private midsummer celebration. For the moment, however, she was on her own as Lily had decided that she wanted to dance with Sev before she and James left again, and Potter was standing near the punch bowl, talking with Black.
It was at that moment that a voice she’d hoped to never hear again accosted her ears. She looked up at the grinning face of Fabian Prewett as he said, “Well, well, well. Little Miss Malfoy is finally all grown up and eligible for courting.” He gave her a look that was probably meant to be charming, but only managed to make her skin crawl. “Would you do me the honour of a dance, Miss Malfoy? I would like to apologise for frightening you all those years ago, and ask for the opportunity to get to know you better.”
He looked startled. “Surely you have the time for one dance? You don’t want to be a poor hostess, do you?”
Jocey snorted. “If you wish to dance with the hostess, you’re welcome to try to cut in on my father,” she gestured at where Abraxas and Ermingard were dancing, looking deep into each other’s eyes and oblivious to all around them. “Although that would mean explaining to him why you are here, when your family was not invited,” she added, almost sounding amused by the prospect.
“But this is your debut, Miss Malfoy. Your family issued a blanket invitation to the families of all the students who attended Hogwarts with you and your brother. Surely you would not begrudge my sister her invitation? Indeed, I would be cut to the quick if you were to refuse me even one dance,” Fabian said, smiling ingenuously but with a look of genuine hurt lurking in his eyes.
Jocey hesitated, and then narrowed her eyes. “Mister
Prewett, my father told you six years ago to keep away from me. I do not want to dance with you, nor have anything to do with you, in any way, ever. I know you better already than I ever wished to do, and I will never willingly agree to let you so much as touch my hand, let alone court me.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “So uncivil. If you will not dance with me, you will at least hear what I have to say before passing judgment upon me, if you please.” He waited a beat, and when she didn’t speak, took it as a cue to continue. “Your father humiliated me six years ago, and with good reason, I admit. All I am asking is for a single dance, and the opportunity to make amends. I never meant to frighten you that day, but unfortunately, I’d been drinking, and managed to make a complete git of myself. I apologise for that entire encounter, as well as that afternoon at your grandmother’s home, and hope we can put it behind us. I haven’t touched Firewhisky for the last five years, and I waited for your family to present you before presenting myself to you again. Your father’s treatment of me at the time was no more than I deserved, and your grandmother’s defence of you later made me realise how loyal your family, and by extension you, are. I found myself admiring that about the whole lot of you, and it has strengthened my desire to make you my wife someday. My family would benefit enormously from the inclusion of someone with that kind of strength of character. I have discussed the matter with my aunt, and she is speaking to your parents as we speak.”
Jocey spotted the older woman, and she was indeed talking to her parents. More accurately, she was talking at them, having interrupted their dance, which had the local guests murmuring to each other in shock. Abraxas and Ermingard were presenting a united front against the woman’s blandishments. She smirked slightly. “I think your aunt might be interested in what I have to say in the matter, Mister Prewett.” She stepped past him, headed for the red-haired – and red-faced at the moment – older woman. Fabian hurried to keep up with her, walking briskly beside her as though he were escorting her. Their progress across the square attracted attention, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw Severus and Lily headed her way, with Potter trailing. Even better, both her Bonne Maman and Updaddy were taking notice, and if she was honest even her father was a little wary of Updaddy when he was in a temper. That meant that Fabian Prewett would be wetting his britches soon. Good.
When she came to a stop, she was an arm’s length from Lady Muriel, and her parents were looking at her. Quirking an eyebrow at them, she received minute nods in return. She tapped the older witch’s shoulder. Lady Muriel turned, and looked her over coolly, only the slightest flicker of her eyelids giving away her surprise, before she smiled at Jocey. “Good evening, Miss Malfoy. I must congratulate you on this truly wonderful evening. You’re a vision in that lovely gown, and I hear you’re quite the talented young witch. I was just asking your parents if they would be willing to allow my nephew the honour of offering for your hand.”
Jocey smiled coldly. “I know. He mentioned that. Lady Muriel, your nephew was so boorish toward me when I was a mere child of ten that my father was nearly moved to challenge him to a duel over the infraction. As you know, my father is an undefeated duelist, which would not have ended well for your nephew. Tonight, your nephew FINALLY apologised to me for that horrible experience.” Looking at Fabian, she said very seriously, “Mister Prewett, I will accept your apology, because I can see that you meant it sincerely, but I cannot now – nor will I ever – accept an offer of marriage from you, nor will my parents do so in my stead because I am already in the process of negotiating a marriage contract. According to the terms of all Malfoy marriage contracts, Malfoys may choose their own mates, and never shall a member of the house be forced into an unsuitable match, not even by their parents.”
Her frosty smile warmed a bit, and she added, “While I’m certain there is someone who will one day make YOU a suitable match, it will not be me. I’ve made my choice, and I will marry Severus Snape two years from now. I will never even consider marriage to anyone other than him, and nothing will change my mind.” Stepping away from him, she moved to Sev’s side, and threaded her hand through his arm, smiling at both Prewetts. “If you will excuse us, we have some contract negotiations to attend.”
Ermingard gave her a sharp look, Abraxas directed his towards Severus.
Gently steering Severus into the house, she led him into the conservatory before letting her mask of calm slip. Within the frosted glass structure, she wrapped her arms around him and fell into his supportive hug while she shook with delayed nerves. Knowing how much facing Fabian Prewett had distressed her, he simply held her for several minutes, until she was calm. Then, he just hugged her because it felt good to do so.
They were still standing, holding one another, when Ermingard entered the conservatory. She smiled. Severus had been an excellent choice, even if the Malfoy Blessing, or curse, depending on who you asked, had done the choosing. He took very good care of her daughter already. Clearing her throat gently, she waited until they were both looking, and said softly, “Everyone took your exit as their cue to leave. The guests are all gone, and you may do as you wish for the rest of the night. I came to say good night. Your father is locking the wards.”
Jocey smiled at her mother. “Thanks, Mum. Good night.” She hugged her mother, and Ermingard kissed her gently on the cheek. After her mother left, she looked at Severus for a long moment, and then asked, “Sev? You trust me, don’t you?”
He blinked. “Yes, I trust you. What is it you want to do?”
“I want to ... have you. Tonight. I’ve made a place for us to take that final step, if you are ready.”
Severus hesitated. Then, he smiled. He was quite sure that both the elder Malfoys knew about Jocey’s plans and could have stopped them at any time had they so wished. That meant he had their acquiescence, if not their whole hearted approval. “Whatever you want, Jocey. I am yours.”