"I do feel so sorry," Draco drawled, "for those people who have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because they're not wanted at home." He said it to annoy Harry, who was bent over his potion measuring out ingredients. The black-haired boy surprisingly ignored him.

Draco was just jealous, Sylvi knew, that Harry had been able to win the Quidditch game last month, even if his broom had been trying to knock him off. The Slytherin boy had taken to needling the Gryffindor about his family - the Dursleys, she remembered Hermione calling them. They apparently did not like anything to do with magic, including Harry. It usually got a rise out of him, which was why Draco did it, but Harry had been ignoring him lately.

"Draco, please add two drops of flobberworm mucus when I am finished heating the cauldron." She added the two measures of horklump juice, and then heated the cauldron a bit more. Her lips twitched in satisfaction when he did as she asked. Professor Snape had them brewing an Herbicide potion, which she found to be very easy and quite relaxing to do.

She watched as he used the wooden spoon to stir the cauldron four times clockwise. With a flick of her wand, the potion was done. They used a ladle to bottle it up into individual flasks, labeled them, and then set them on Professor Snape's desk, who nodded at them with a small amount of pride in his dark eyes. They were the first to finish their potion, and Sylvi knew that they would receive perfect marks on it.

She saw Hermione staring at her. She resolutely ignored the bushy haired girl, preferring to drag her Potions textbook. Ever since the last Quidditch game, Hermione had been avoiding her. She had even stopped going to the library - the one place that Sylvi was sure Hermione would not avoid. It hurt, to think that the Gryffindor girl would throw away what friendship they had for whatever reason, but Sylvi had a feeling that was about to end.

After class, she meandered down to the dungeons to drop off her bag and then went to the Great Hall for lunch. Boudicca flew in, dropping a small envelope in front of her.

"That's an invitation," Draco said from her side. "Mother and father would like to meet you over the holidays. They sent a letter to your parents first asking permission, otherwise they would not have sent this."

She raised a brow, and opened the envelope, which was lightly floral scented.

Miss Forstrom,

With this letter Mr. and Mrs. Lucius Malfoy hereby wish to invite you to an extended stay to celebrate the holiday season. The event will take place at Malfoy Manor in Wiltshire, England on Saturday the 21st of December.

We hope you will manage to join us for a night of new beginnings. Please reply with your decision.

Mr. and Mrs. Lucius Malfoy

She raised her eyes to Draco, who looked slightly apprehensive. "Do you have a parchment and quill?" If she was not mistaken, and she rarely was, the 21st would be a new moon, which would definitely give credence to the wording of 'new beginnings' - at least magically. What were they planning?

"Yes," he replied. With a sense of anticipation, she penned her reply.

Mr. and Mrs. Lucius Malfoy,

I am pleased to accept your kind invitation for an extended stay on Saturday the 21st of December.

Miss Sylvi Forstrom

Sylvi rolled up the parchment, tied it with a small ribbon, and then attached it to Boudicca's leg. "Give this to Narcissa Malfoy, please." The owl gave her an affectionate rub and then flew off.

"So what was your answer?"

"I accepted, of course." She resumed eating.

"Oh. But I thought you said that we should wait and see if anything happens between us."

She smiled at him. "I would have had to meet your parents sometime, Draco. Do you not wish for me to be there?"

"No. I mean," he sighed, running a hand through his blond hair. "It's just that mother and father can be quite persuasive."

"You are afraid that they will get me to change my mind?" Her smile grew. "Don't. Any decision I make - if I made any - would have to be discussed with at length with my father, and he will not be there. Don't worry, Draco, I'm sure it will be fine." He nodded, looking calmer but not entirely convinced.

"Word has it that Lord Malfoy approached your father, Sylvi." Pansy whispered conspiratorially with a wicked gleam in her eyes.

She fought the urge to roll her eyes at Pansy's dramatics. "Yes, he did."

"And?" She was practically bouncing in excitement. Her feet definitely had a bounce to them as they walked towards the Slytherin dungeons.

"And nothing," Sylvi replied with an arched brow.

"What?" Pansy stopped, forcing her to stop as well. "Did your parents refuse him?"

"No, Pansy. The Forstrom family is different from other pureblood families. It is one of the reasons why Cantankerous Nott left us out of the Pure-Blood Directory - not to mention because my family is not even British and the book was meant for British pureblood families. We do not betroth our children at an early age, preferring to wait and let them make their own matches." They were stopped right outside Professor Snape's office. Wonderful.

"So you're not betrothed to him yet?"

"No. Something may happen later, when we are older," she said, knowing full well that something most likely would happen. She liked Draco and knew that he liked her, but they were only friends at the moment. The chemistry was there, she knew, but she didn't want to rush anything. Just in case, she told herself. "In any case, they have invited me to stay over the holidays."

"What?" This time it wasn't a surprised gasp but more of a squeal. "Oh, my Circe!"

"Pansy, can we please move to the safety of our dorm room? I don't need the gossip mill flinging my name about." The other pureblood girl had the decency to look embarrassed, and they started walking. Once they were within the confines of their dorm room, Pansy asked for every single detail. It was nice to have a friend like Pansy, who she could talk about boys and gossip with. She could forget some of the pressure she felt, some of the responsibilities and tasks she had ahead of her.

"Hey, Sylvi," Hermione slid into a chair across from her. Sylvi did not look up from her book, and Hermione sighed. "I know I haven't been around lately, and that I've been kind of ignoring you."

Sylvi looked up, her green eyes narrowing in anger. "Kind of is an understatement. I'm not sure what you want from this relationship, but if it is anything other than a friendship, you can leave. I refuse to waste my time on a one-sided friendship."

Hermione looked down. "It's just… well…"

"You thought I was like some of the people in my House? That I would ridicule you, maybe call you a Mudblood?" She felt angry and insulted - as she should be. She would never call Hermione a mudblood. She had, in fact, been the one to tell the bushy haired Gryffindor about the meaning of the word.

Hermione winced and Sylvi knew her words to be correct. "Perhaps this is the reason why Slytherins and Gryffindors do not mesh well. Gryffindors make assumptions and impulsively act on them before making sure that they were right."

"And Slytherins can be too cold and unforgiving." Hermione snapped at her, folding her arms across her chest.

"May I remind you that you were the one to start ignoring me for no reason? I have a right to be angry, and even if I do not show it in the loud way that you Gryffindors do, it doesn't make it any less important." Hermione looked away. Sylvi took a breath, biting back any hurtful words. She would have to be frank, as Gryffindors apparently did not understand subtlety. "You hurt me. My friend was avoiding me for no reason, and any attempts at communication were rebuffed. You were shunning me without my having done anything."

"I'm sorry for the way I've been acting. Ron really doesn't like you and well… you being so close to Malfoy I guess got to me."

"Draco is in my House. We are of the same social standing. If my parents were not so reclusive, I most likely would have grown up with him. From a logical standpoint, there is no reason why I should shun him. I understand that he can be a bit childish. We are, after all, children. I am not excusing his behavior, however. But consider this. If I had not been there to help… curb his behavior, he would be a lot worse."

"So you've been - what? Following him around, telling him what to do?" Hermione's brows furrowed and Sylvi sighed.

"No. I have simply made him see that his behavior is not befitting of someone of his station."

"And he listens to you?" She leaned closer.

"For the most part." His frequent altercations with Harry and Ron were testament of that. "Hermione, I am going to be friends with people you are not fond of. Not only because I'm a Slytherin, but because I'm a pureblood. I'm not saying you are beneath me in any way." She shot a look at Hermione, who had opened her mouth and narrowed her eyes. "Just know that when I am with them, I am not bad mouthing you, or sharing your secrets, or whatever it is you suspect me of doing. In fact, I am usually diverting the conversations away from you three."

"So you're not… making fun of me?" Sylvi could see that Hermione had been hurt by this before. It was an old hurt, likely from her time before Hogwarts. Children could be cruel, magical or not.

"No, I'm not." She shook her head. "And you will notice that Pansy, Tracey, Daphne, and Millicent no longer bother you." She had had a talk with them about social conduct and how ladies should present themselves in public. The girls had since then stopped their bullying and had, instead, taken to simply ignoring the muggle-born.

"And they listen to you, too?" Merlin, help her. Hogwarts really needed a Wizarding 101 class alongside Muggle Studies. Muggle-borns and even halfbloods could benefit from such a class.

"It's complicated. Purebloods," she stopped short. Not all purebloods acted the same - the Weasleys being a fine example. "Most purebloods", she amended, "act on a hierarchy. Your wealth, influence, and power place you in this hierarchy. There's a general hierarchy, and a more refined one, one that is often in your social circle. In my social circle among the Slytherin girls, I am placed at the top, which gives me a certain influence over them. I can guide their actions, as it were."

"Oh, so it's all really old-fashioned."

"To Muggles, yes. To pureblood society, no. It is the way things are done." Hermione still looked confused.

"So all this time you've actually been trying to help me?"

"Yes. Even so, I'm not going to stop being friends with them just because you don't like them. I do not speak ill of you, have stopped the girls from bullying you and generally keep the topics of conversation away from you. I can do nothing about the heckling of Potter or Weasley, as I really only have influence over Draco." She had been working on that, however. Already, Theo and Blaise had started reigning in their actions a bit. Sylvi did not include Crabbe or Goyle in her plans. She had tried in the beginning, but it was clear that they were set in their path, whatever path that may be. She was sure it wasn't a good one.

"Oh." Hermione bit her lip. "I'm sorry," she said after a few moments of silence.

It wasn't exactly fine; she was still hurt. But she could forgive her. "You are forgiven." Hermione visibly relaxed. Sylvi needed to teach her how to hide her emotions better. Now there was a though. "Hermione… would you like me to teach you?" The girl had certainly been interested several moments ago. Even if it was just pure academic interest, at least Hermione would have the knowledge. Maybe it would come in handy one day. Sylvi knew that part of the reason why purebloods did not like muggle-borns was because they had such a lack of knowledge about pureblood customs. Perhaps if one showed that they had the knowledge and was willing to take part, it would change a few minds. Sylvi certainly hoped so.

"Really?" Hermione's eyes lit up. "You would do that?" When Sylvi nodded, Hermione broke into a smile.

"Thank you!" It was a good thing that they were in a secluded spot in the library, or Madam Pince would have heard her. She seemed to remember where she was and blushed, lowering her voice. "I would love to learn."

Sylvi ran through a list of things to start with and finally settled on how to present oneself. "First off, ladies do not slouch." She noticed Hermione's posture straighten up and smirked.

A/N: And there you have it! I hope you all enjoyed the newest chapter. I think I've gotten my update schedule down to at least once, if not twice, a month. I do have online classes, so that will always be a priority. I do enjoy writing, however. Thank you all for reading and please let me know how you enjoyed the chapter.