Disclaimer: The characters all belong to J.K. Rowling.
A/N: Written for hbp_ficafest’s Christmas Fic Challenge on Livejournal.
My beta, Mistral, is awesome. *Hugs her*
The twilight reflected silver in the purity of the snow. There was no wind; the air seemed oddly still and thick, the calm before the blizzard. Glowing squares of amber lit up the winter gloom - beyond the village windows, fathers stretched and yawned with pipes in hand, mothers scolded, fussed and smiled, and the children held a collective breath, waiting and hoping for morning, as if all joy and excitement culminated in that one day. Bundled in heavy jumpers and squeaky Wellingtons, three little ones still played in the street, ignoring their mother’s frequent calls to bed. Scarves were pulled up to red-tipped noses, and small mittens left tracks in the whiteness as they scraped together fistfuls of snow. The little girl giggled at the sight of coal eyes and carrot nose; her brothers shushed her. There were only a few hours left in which to be good. Footprints traipsed back and forth, as the children searched for sticks. Their friend needed arms. The elder boy snapped a brittle branch from their favourite tree; his sister’s find was little more than a twig. They pushed both proudly into the body and laughed in delight.
Their mother’s voice came again, sharp with impatience now, and they turned reluctantly toward the house. Before they could move, however, a sharp hiss was followed by an angry roar. The girl swung to face the snowman; her creation bared its teeth and lunged. Screaming, the children threw down their tools, ducked their heads, and ran. The front door was left swinging after them, banging on its hinges.
By the time their annoyed father came to look, the snowman sat placidly in place, its foolish black mouth fixed in a smile.
Santa Claus doesn’t bring toys to children who make things up.
Draco Malfoy laughed and stepped back from the window, letting both the curtain and his wand hand fall. Almost immediately, the brief amusement faded, leaving him once again listless with boredom. Traipsing loudly across the room – stomping his feet to give the old cow below something to complain about – he dropped into an overstuffed armchair and sneered at life.
His father wouldn’t have approved of his attitude; Malfoys weren’t defeatists. There was no need to be. If a Malfoy couldn’t get what he wanted, he had no right to the name.
And didn’t you live up to it? Draco thought, disgusted. Losing my money, my mother and your soul. Maybe the Dementors will live up to your expectations, you pathetic sod.
He reached out, not needing to look as his hand closed around the bottle. Staring into the crackling red of the fire, he yanked the cork free with his teeth and tilted his head back. The drink burned his throat, and he shuddered. He could smell the acrid scent of burnt toast; this ruddy shack was a sty.
There was a significant pause before the wizened house-elf answered his summons, but he eventually appeared with a pop and a resentful bow. Even Kreacher’s misplaced loyalties were wearing thin.
“Master called, sir?” Large bobble eyes settled on the half-drained bottle; Draco saw the smirk in them.
“Clean this bloody place up,” he said flatly. “Now.”
Kreacher hesitated, gaze shifting, and Draco lifted his wand a fraction. The house-elf bounced back a step, spindly fingers rushing to protect his face. Harsh red strips of scars stood out on the thin arms.
“Don’t make me tell you again,” his master said softly, rolling the wand over his fist.
Kreacher turned and left in a rush, knees quivering, his body lurching against the Christmas tree. As it swayed, the slave cast a glance of pure panic over one shoulder. Draco, however, had almost forgotten his presence. The full intensity of his revulsion was now focused on Pansy’s holiday tripe. One quick, sneaking look at the front door, one raised white hand, and the tree would have been a satisfying pile of dust for Kreacher’s broom – if the lady hadn’t chosen that moment to return.
Pansy Malfoy made, as always, a grand entrance. Poised in the doorframe, she placed a hand on her thin hip and pressed narrow scarlet lips together, evidently waiting for admiration. Draco felt the numbing boredom slow his blood as he looked at her. The small, closely spaced eyes fastened on the bare branches of the Christmas tree.
“Draco, darling,” Pansy said, in the tones she believed to be sexy. After twelve months of marriage, he would rather hear Ron-sodding-Weasley murmur endearments. “I thought I asked you to put up my nice decorations, angel.” The voice was dulcet sweetness; the intent was fire-forged steel.
“Pansy, my love,” Draco replied mockingly, “I’ve told you…” He took another swig from the bottle before meeting her petulant pout with a glare of unveiled hatred. “I don’t celebrate this rubbish holiday, I’m not touching your bloody decorations, and if you call me by either of those names again, I swear by the Dark Lord’s grave that I’ll…”
The mantle of perfect housewife slipped from Pansy, in much the way he imagined her trashy lingerie had fallen to an inn floor that morning.
“You’ll what?” his wife sneered back. “Beat me? Perhaps you’ll try the Cruciatus. I know you won’t divorce me.” She laughed shrilly as his cheeks flooded with livid colour. “Poor Draco. Mummy’s run away, Daddy’s had his soul sucked, and you don’t have two knuts to bang together. Life really is too bad, isn’t it?”
Draco’s hand clenched around his wand, the fingernails drawing blood from his palm. “Speaking of banging,” he said, between clenched teeth. “How’s Zabini? Or are you still screwing old Borgin?”
Pansy calmly smoothed her skirt, bending to peer inside a ratty box of decorations. Holding the gold string between thumb and forefinger, she lifted a delicate angel to face height, ostensibly smiling at its frosty beauty. He could see the vain bitch checking her refection in the glass wings. Cold black eyes flickered in his direction, lit with a smug gleam.
“Guess who I saw in town today?” she said lightly, ignoring his flat accusation and carefully attaching the ornament to the tree. She stepped back a fraction on the teetering heels, admiring the effect. Pansy admired everything that she did. “Harry Potter.”
Draco, though determined to show no reaction, was unable to suppress the snarl that clawed up his throat.
“Hmm,” continued his wife, sounding enormously amused. “He looks well. Entirely recovered, in fact. You didn’t think he would, did you?”
He said nothing.
“Isn’t it funny?” Pansy mused. “For awhile, it looked like you were both finished. Harry should rightly be dead after that curse; you, my darling, really ought to be in Azkaban. And instead you’re both free to live happily ever after. Isn’t that just lovely?” She beamed at him. It was a sickening smile.
She’d kept the worst news for last.
“I didn’t speak to him, of course,” she continued, a little disdainfully. Famous or not, a Gryffindor was still a Gryffindor in Pansy’s book. “But dear Blaise caught me up on all the gossip.” She waited a beat. “Harry’s getting married tomorrow. To Ginny Weasley.”
Draco sat, frozen. One side of Pansy’s mouth rose in an odd, cruel, bitter sneer.
“I knew you’d be pleased for her.” She turned and headed toward the kitchen, throwing the words over her shoulder without looking back. “Oh, and Draco? Finish decorating the tree.”
He continued to sit in the quiet for a long time, not moving, not even thinking.
Then, with a shout of rage, he threw the bottle against the wall and snatched up his wand.
The glass angel screamed and twisted in frantic agony. The rough movements jerked her string from the branches of the Christmas tree. Her wings smashed on the wood floor, as she continued to writhe and sob.