Special thanks to my Beta Reader, 'Just William' for the excellent feedback and diligent work in making the story better.

A Black Family Christmas

12 Grimmauld Place

Dec 24, 2003

Lucius Malfoy was standing inside the entrance way of Grimmauld Place, right beside the large oak door. He was wearing his winter cloak and was obviously ready to leave. He looked both annoyed and supremely in control. Draco knew this was a practiced look and one he had come to loathe in recent years. It was the look Lucius adopted when others weren't doing what he desired. Tight lipped, chin turned slightly up, hair pulled back… So calm and commanding. So self-possessed. Muggles would refer to it as 'The look of the Eagles'. It was the very image of an all-knowing aristocrat.

Lucius turned to his son. "My decision is final. You will break off your relationship before the Yule begins." Without turning, he held out his elbow for his wife.

Draco's mother, Narcissa, was calm and intense. She had the high cheekbones so famous in the Black family. Every move and gesture she made showed her poise and control. Yes, there was warmth, but only for him. Draco had come to the realisation that she still saw him as a child. One in need of her direction and guidance.

Narcissa talked to him as if he had no choice. "You know in your heart it's the right thing to do my Dragon." She smiled and said with sympathy, "It's a kindness, really."

Draco hadn't expected this at all. "Mother, Father, please… I am capable of making my own decisions. I'm the head of the Noble and Ancient House of Black…"

Lucius' eyes flashed and he whispered venomously, "You are what I made you! Had I not stepped in; Potter would be heading the Black family." Draco saw his mother flinch out of the corner of his eye. She always did that when Potter was mentioned. "The Black assets had been decimated after decades of neglect… I turned its fortunes around. The House of Black owes its prosperity to the House of Malfoy! To me! Never forget that!"

Draco fought the urge to roll his eyes. Lucius had help Draco invest what was left of the Black estate, but Draco was proud to have never borrowed a penny from his father. He was tired of hearing how much in debt he was.

"Father, I'm not denying that… But I am an adult now. And this is my decision to make."

Narcissa spoke before Lucius could reply, "It may seem unkind Draco, but it is not. You are freeing Miss Greengrass to find a more… suitable spouse. A Wizard who shares her…" She adopted a look of revulsion. "Progressive views. Trust me my son, this is for the best."

Draco looked away and to the wall. He loved Astoria Greengrass… How on earth could this be for the best?

Narcissa reached out and cupped his chin lovingly. "Surely my child, you don't share Miss Greengrass' views…" Draco noted her look of alarm. He loved his mother dearly… She was so tense…

Instinctively, he replied, "I… No. No, of course not." His mother visibly relaxed. "But her views are not the reason I'm…"

"Enough!" Lucius apparently had heard all he could stomach. "You forget your place, Draco! You are my son, and you will do as I say lest you risk my alienation."

Draco noted his father's 'tells'… His posture, the alienation comment, and the way he was twisting his hand on his walking stick. He'd seen his father like this more times than he could count. There is no mistaking this for anything other than a threat.

Narcissa calmed Lucius with a gentle touch, then turned back to her son. "Trust me to find a suitable spouse for you, my Dragon. I've always looked out for your best interests. Please remember, in the end, this is a kindness. You are honouring both your family and hers with this decision."

Draco took a deep breath and gave a simple nod. Perhaps it really was for the best.

Lucius gave a small smile of satisfaction. "Well, it seems we've come to an agreement. You won't regret this son." Draco noted his father had once more adopted the bearing of the all-knowing aristocrat. "Now, we must head home to check on Celeste."

At the mention of his four-year-old daughter, Lucius' entire demeanour changed. It was subtle, but to his wife and son, it was obvious. He still had the same arrogant bearing, but there was a softness there as well. Draco exchanged a brief look with his mother and caught a flash of irritation. Celeste was a late addition to the family and Draco wondered if his father was hoping to replace him. Thank Merlin he had moved out of that house.

Lucius and Narcissa then left and bid him happy Yule… He was glad to see them out. Tonight, had been a disaster.

He had invited his parents over to share with them his plans to ask for Astoria Greengrass' hand in marriage. She was smart, cultured, fun and a pure blood member of the Sacred 28. Whenever he was with her, he felt a happiness and a warmth that lasted for hours even after they parted. He had expected his parents to be supportive of his choice… especially his mother. He was mistaken… their reaction was decidedly not what he had hoped for. True, she had progressive opinions, but she still held the pureblood traditions in high esteem. What difference did it make if she had a slightly different perspective?

The more he thought about it, the more hypocritical his parents seemed. She actually believed in the charitable causes his mother and father paid lip service to. Astoria actually believed in the charities and contributions the Malfoy family donated to… What was it his father had once said…? 'Charitable donations pave the way to power and influence…' To his shame, young Draco had eagerly listened and had eaten it up. But that was a lifetime ago. Smug bastard…

Draco slowly walked into the study and poured himself a glass of Ogden's finest. He absolutely loved this room. It was the perfect study for someone with his rarefied tastes. Leather wingback chairs, dark stained wood floors, a massive and ornate desk that was over three hundred years old. The library was located here as well and contained many rare and valuable tomes. Unfortunately, many of the rarest books in the library had been destroyed by Molly Weasley when Sirius Black had been in residence, but there was nothing that could be done about that.

Taking a sip from his firewhisky, Draco looked at the enormous tapestry showing the Black Family tree. Sadly, it had numerous burned-out sections. He couldn't help but grimace at the idea anyone would damage such a unique and amazing artefact. This was not the work of the infamous Molly Weasley, either. Walburga Black had obviously lost her grip on sanity and took her frustrations out in a regrettably destructive manner.

Draco scowled at the thought of that fool of a witch desecrating the family tapestry… burning off the names she didn't like. At least he was still on it, as was his mother. Yes, there he was, a Wizard in his prime on a powerful artifact. His face was artistically captured… No one could miss the resemblance he shared with his father. A resemblance that now irritated him. He glanced a few feet away on the tapestry and was greeted by another face… one he had come close to burning off himself.

There on the tapestry, was Harry Potter with a small raven beside his image. The ravens on the tapestry mark the heads of house and clearly show that the Black Family Magic recognised Potter as the true Lord Black. His father had consulted numerous enchanters to have that changed, but it couldn't be done without destroying the magic of the tapestry itself. Fortunately, not being recognised by magic didn't really matter in the Wizengamot.

Potter had moved to South America after the war and was still in self-imposed exile five years later. His position as Lord Black had been legally stripped from him by the Ministry and Draco was now recognised as head of the Black family by the Wizengamot. It had become rather commonplace for the legal Heads of House to differ from those recognised by magic. After all the purges, not all of the heads were able to assign an heir… In fact, nearly a third the seats on the Wizengamot were filled by members legally recognised as Head of House, but not designated so by magic.

But that wasn't what now irritated Draco. Seven months ago, a new name and face appeared on the tapestry beside Potter's name. Last Spring, Harry Potter had apparently married his Hogwarts sweetheart, Ginevra Weasley. That fact now caused Draco an intense irritation. The idea that Potter, unlike him, was given a choice in who he was going to spend his life with. There were no political pressures or manipulative parents standing in his way. Potter was free where he was not.

Draco raised his glass, "No matter where you go or what you do, you continue to vex me, Potter. I wonder, will your continuous irritation manifest itself as a pearl?" Draco snickered and abruptly drained his glass. Without hesitation, he poured another. His Envy was the capstone of a horrible evening, the firewhisky would dull the ache. He knew that from experience.

For the next hour, he sat in his study and drank. He tried not to think of Astoria and how hard it would be to end their relationship. How bitter he was…

After his fourth glass, Draco began to settle down. He couldn't get the vile image of his father out of his head. Chin defiantly raised up… mouth set in a slight frown… eyes half closed, as if he were slightly bored and the opinions of others were of no interest to him. He was completely dismissive of any opinions other than his own. Draco knew that look far better than most… it was the same haughty look he had practiced and adopted as his own. The look of the all-knowing aristocrat. How he despised it now… so self-righteous and conceited.

Draco glanced again at the magnificent family tapestry, searching once more for his childhood rival. The image with the raven beside it.

"Was that the way you saw me, Potter? A mini version of the kind of Wizard my father worked so hard to become?" Draco bitterly laughed and shook his head.

Of course, that's how Potter had seen him. Isn't that how everyone had seen him? How they still saw him? That arrogant demeanour that was so common in the Malfoy family. Years before he went to Hogwarts, he began practicing that vile look in a mirror. Now here he was, twenty-three years old and just as despised by the magical community as his father. Only one person on this earth had ever seen through his arrogant veneer.

Astoria. Warm and kind… How he longed to hold her…

But that was not to be. He had a destiny and an obligation to fulfil. One that did not involve romance and flights of fancy. Potter may be able to follow his heart, but Draco knew he didn't have that luxury. He would assume his rightful position in the Wizengamot beside his father and their influential family friends. Together, they would work together to steer Wizarding Britain into a new golden age.

Yes, he had planned to ask Lord Greengrass for his Astoria's hand. But his parents were right. They were just too different… He'd break it off. Was it a kindness, as his mother had said? Perhaps. Astoria saw something in him that wasn't really there. The idea of walking away from her was heart wrenching, but he'd do what had to be done.

If only it didn't hurt so much…

Draco set his glass down on a coaster and walked toward the staircase. Looking about, he couldn't help but take pride in his luxurious residence. Grimmauld Place was gorgeous and a perfect home befitting the Ancient and Noble House of Black. It had been in shambles when he'd assumed his position as Head of the Family in 1998. It had taken over a year to get it looking the way it did now. But what difference it made… a year well spent. The home was absolutely gorgeous with its hardwood floors and baroque stylings. The furniture was just as nice, all antique and master crafted. Gold leaf and ornamentation. His home screamed 'aristocrat'.

The only point of contention was the wall of house elf heads. They were somehow tied into the ward structure and could not be removed without destroying the legendary Black Family wards. As Draco walked up the stairs, he tried to avoid looking at the heads. Especially the one on the end: Kreacher. Somehow, that wretched face seemed to stare at him. Draco always had the sensation of being judged. Yes, it was a ridiculous figment of his imagination, but he just felt like that miserable old elf was somehow judging him. Based on the chill he frequently felt when he walked past the mounted head, he had been found lacking.

Draco staggered into the master suite and stripped down. He entered the master bathroom and turned on the water. While it was heating up, he turned and gazed into the mirror. The scars from his sixth year 'bathroom duel' with Potter were still there. A crisscross of lines on his chest and abdomen showed where Potter's dark curse struck. The scarring was now minimal thanks to generous applications of Dittany, but the lines would always be there. Haunting him with how close he came to death.

It never became common knowledge that he had been in the process of casting the Cruciatus curse… Potter knew… but had never told anyone. Severus also knew… he had confessed to his godfather, but Severus had never shared that fact with anyone. Draco had never been punished for his actions that year, but Potter had spent the rest of the year in detention. He felt uncharacteristically conflicted about that whenever he saw the thin lines across his torso. The guilty party had been released and the innocent party was punished. Well… 'Innocent party' wasn't quite accurate.

Draco scoffed, "No, Potter… No one who casts a curse like that is innocent. You were merely less guilty." Of course, considering what he did to Katie Bell and Rosmerta, a few faint scars were better than a one-way ticket to Azkaban.

As the mirror began steaming up, Draco rolled his eyes. Yes, he was talking to himself again… No, that's not entirely true. Talking to himself wouldn't be so bad. Unfortunately, he was talking to Potter. It was a bad habit and whenever his life became rough and he felt like shite, he tended to focus on his childhood nemesis.

Merlin, why did he do that? Why was it always Potter? Was it something to do with the lingering trauma from the war… or was it just a guilty conscience? Potter had left Wizarding Britain to be with the love of his life… He was free to be whoever he wanted to be and act as he saw fit. Draco wondered why in the hell he should feel guilty about it. Potter leaving was an ideal scenario for everyone involved. Good riddance!

Stepping into the steamy shower, Draco took a deep cleansing breath and murmured, "No more Harry Potter tonight."

He let the heat of the shower wash over him. Washing away his tension and all thoughts of his parents and of his woes. When he finally stepped out, he was slightly pink from the hot water, but he felt clean and relaxed.

Draco dried off and wiped the steam off the mirror. He wrapped his plush towel, around his waist and picked up his toothbrush. He stared into his reflection for a moment. Something was off… His reflection seemed to be lagging his movements by a fraction of a second. He held up his hand, and his reflection did too… But it seemed slightly off. Yes, he had more firewhisky than normal, but this seemed odd. Like his reflection was mimicking him. Then his reflection smiled at him and winked.

In the space of two heartbeats, his reflected face morphed into a face he hadn't seen in years. He was now staring into the eyes of his long deceased cousin, Nymphadora Tonks.

With an amused and playful smirk, she said, "Wotcher, Draco".

Draco dropped his toothbrush with a startled 'yelp' and staggered back, almost tripped over the low shower ledge. He regained his balance and bolted for the master bedroom. He quickly snatched up his wand as Nymphadora Tonks stretched out of the mirror and shimmied over the sink.

Stepping out of the bathroom, she was now wearing a dragon hide jacket over a 'Weird Sisters' tee shirt. She also was wearing skin-tight distressed blue jeans and a pair of black leather boots. Draco did a double take… Where the hell did the clothes come from?

"Why Draco, you look like you've seen a ghost!" She took a moment to laugh mockingly, making him very conscious that he was only wearing a towel. "Relax Drakey-pooh, I don't bite. Well, not first cousins anyway…" The accent was dead on… Muggle London… Uncouth and offensive in her familiarity.

Draco held his wand up as she entered the room. "What… What do you want?" She seemed so real, but that was impossible. What the hell was she? This was a dream… It had to be.

Draco then realised he was now wearing his school robes… definitely a dream! He was relieved to know this was all in his head. This would end soon enough… He just had to wake up.

Nymphadora's hair shifted to a bright bubble-gum pink. "I thought we could reminisce about the good old times, dear cousin." She looked younger now… perhaps sixteen or seventeen. She was now in school robes with the Hufflepuff emblem and trim. It was somehow familiar…

She held out her arms and turned around. "Do you recognise me like this? It's how I looked when I approached you in Diagon Alley. You remember, a year before you started at Hogwarts. I introduced myself and offered to tell you about the school. It didn't go well, that's for sure."

Draco paused a moment, "I… vaguely remember." He had rejected her outright. Insulted her mother and her father… Her membership in Hufflepuff… He even called her a filthy Half-blood… Not one of his finer moments.

She winced, "Vaguely… Yeah… Your rejection was pretty rough."

Draco tightened his lips. He really didn't want to deal with this… Could he not just force himself to just wake up?

Nymphadora Tonks then smirked, "Of course, Harry put you in your place, didn't he? You showed your smarmy little arse on the Hogwarts Express and he told you to hit the bricks. Go pound sand. Take a hike. Get lost… He saw right through you."

Draco still remembered the sting of Potter's public rejection. "My offer was genuine and altruistic!"

Tonks just barked out a laugh. "Ha! Genuine and altruistic my arse… Enlighten me, what did you think when you first saw him? Hmmm?" She rolled her eyes. "I bet you looked Harry over, top to bottom, and judged him for his clothes. For his fragile appearance. For his crooked glasses. No, Draco, you didn't want a friend, you wanted a follower. One who would bring you fame and recognition."

Her words bit, and not just because they were true.

Draco retorted, "Potter rejected an offer from the Heir of House Malfoy! He set the tone of our future interactions, not me! Who knows, maybe things would have turned out differently if Potter had accepted my offer on the train…" Friendship, maybe? Draco shook his head, why not wish for world peace?

Tonks gave a rude snort. "Right… Tell me cousin, have you ever had a friend in your selfish little life? Not a hanger-on, but a real friend?"

Draco was taken aback by her vulgar 'snort'. "I… Of course… Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy… Nott." Why was he on the receiving end? This was his dream…

She waved him off, "No, no, no. Those are minions, not friends. You didn't even use their first names!" With a brief pause, she amended, "Well, I suppose Pansy Parkinson comes close, but she's more of a 'hanger-on'. Tell me, did she ever correct you? In the years you were in school together, did she ever say you were wrong about something? Anything…?" She paused and waited a moment before continuing. "No, she wasn't a real friend. You aren't capable of that. Having a true friendship takes loyalty. Empathy. Kindness. At least you used her first name, though."

Draco crossed his arms, "Friends are overrated." In the back of his mind, Draco knew that was something his father would have said.

She scowled, "How would you know?" She then smirked and said, "I bet it ate you up. Watching the 'Golden Trio'… knowing they had something you never would. You hated Harry for that, didn't you? First, he rejected your oh-so generous offer, then he went and found true friendship elsewhere. People who would stand beside him through thick and thin."

Draco curled up his fingers and looked at his nails. It was a practiced look of boredom and disinterest. A look he used to tell people they weren't worth his time. This was just a dream, why indulge it?

He sarcastically replied, "Right. So, I hated Potter because he had friends. Of course… it's all so clear now. How could I have been so foolish?" Why was he even indulging this dream? "Now that we've established that, it's time for you to go. See yourself out, 'ghost'."

She ignored him. "You hated Harry for rejecting you. For having what you never had. You hated him for being good and pure… for having a kind and loving heart while yours was full of selfishness and bile."

That stung. He snapped at her, "No…! He was a typical Gryffindor. Always strutting about thinking the rules didn't apply to him. Thinking he was better than everyone else…" No one had a kind and loving heart. Well, maybe Astoria… but not Potter!

Tonks burst into a laugh and theatrically had to lean against the door frame to stay upright. "Oh, mercy me! This is too rich! Did you, Draco Malfoy, just accused Harry Potter of acting like he was better than everyone else? I'd say that's your greasy old godfather talking." She then whispered, "We both know the truth…"

This dream was pissing Draco off. "And what's that?" Was this dream for real?

Her hair turned a neon green. "You only value others to the extent of their wallet and their influence. You mock and sneer at families like the Weasleys for their lack of wealth. To you, wealth is the only worthwhile measurement of a person's value. To real families, like the Weasleys, wealth is defined by the way they loved one another.

Draco looked away from her. "That's not… No… Your accusations are as ridiculous as your hair."

She took a menacing step forward. "You are a vicious, petty, selfish, and vain little Wizard. You are cruel, conniving, and incapable of caring about anyone. You mocked me because my mother had the courage to defy her family and marry a good man who came from a non-magical heritage. But these were never really your opinions, were they?"

Draco stepped back a step. "No…" Why was she affecting him so…? She's not real…

She menacingly moved forward. "You are nothing but a sock puppet. Repeating the vile and bigoted words of others. You've always pathetically sought your mother and father's approval. So afraid of letting mummy and daddy down."

"No…" Draco stepped back another step. This is just a dream…

Nymphadora continued ruthlessly, "You've never shown even an ounce of courage. Tell me cousin, how can you live with yourself knowing what a coward you are?

Draco stopped backing up as his anger took over, "Shut your foul mouth! I could have identified Potter when he was captured, but I didn't! That took courage!"

His cousin stopped and smirked, "Is that all you've got? You refused to identify an innocent teenager, knowing that if you did, he would be tortured and murdered?" To Draco's shock, her face morphed into that of Hermione Granger. "Then you stood there and watched another getting tortured. Didn't you? Tell me, how many others did you watch getting tortured?"

This didn't feel like a dream, "There was nothing I could do… I hated it… It haunts me…"

The face of Hermione scrunched up in sadness. "Boo-hoo. Poor ickle Draco is haunted." She emphasised the last word comically, then became stone cold serious. "You weren't haunted enough to step in and help. You didn't even have the courage to open the dungeon door and free Harry and Ron."

Draco now was frantic, "That would have been impossible! I would have been killed!"

The face of Hermione Granger morphed into the face of Harry Potter. "Harry would have. But you didn't even try. Still… You didn't identify Harry… So, I suppose you are right. You showed… an ounce… of courage. No more, no less. Bravo for the hero…" The face of Harry Potter was smiling… mocking…

Draco stepped forward; his fists clenched. "Stop it! You, Nymphadora Tonks, are dead! The wards… This isn't real…" She was preying on his most painful memories… But this was just a dream… Right?

Harry's face morphed once more and was replaced by Lucius Malfoy. "You and your pureblood Death Eater friends claimed to have been controlled by a Tattoo. The mark you all willingly took. You all claimed to have been forced to do Voldemort's bidding." Somehow, she managed to mock Lucius' mournful expression. The one he adopted during his trial. "You were the 'poor victims' of a terrible man… Luckily for you, after a year of purging and assassinations, there weren't enough unbiased voices in the Wizengamot to hold you accountable. The guiltiest walked free…" She was still wearing Lucius' face, but was now displaying his arrogant pose… The same one Draco had cursed earlier tonight…

Draco's rage broke as he stared at his father's face. "There were trials! Many were found guilty and punished… Tossed through the veil…"

'Lucius' said, "Yes. Snatchers and sycophants. Disgusting and ill-bred Witches and Wizards we prefer not to associate with… Filthy and uncouth… Expendable."

Draco was once more holding his wand up again, "No… no… It wasn't like that…" This isn't a dream, it's a nightmare!

Lucius' face fell away to be replaced with Nymphadora. This was her true face. The high cheekbones of a Black. Dark eyes. A few small freckles on a smallish nose. Her hair was light brown and wavy. She looked… normal.

In a calm voice, she said, "I sacrificed my life for the future of Wizarding Britain." She morphed into Remus Lupin, "So did my husband." Then she adopted the face of Ted Tonks… "So did my father."

Draco lowered his wand. He didn't want any accidental magic to damage his home while he slept. When would this terrible dream end?

Nymphadora now had her own face once more. "We paid the ultimate price to save those we loved. To free Magical Britain from the control of a psychopath. Now the war is over, and everyone should be oh-so-happy. But they're not." She looked at her boots a moment, "My son isn't infected with Lycanthropy, but his father was a Werewolf. Because of this, my mother and my child had to move to France. To keep him out of a ministry approved camp."

Draco was shaking his head slowly. "Not real… this isn't real!"

She actually smiled. It was a sad and lonely smile. "We paid the price for your prosperity, cousin. Don't you dare tell me my sacrifice wasn't real!"


Draco suddenly bolted upright… He was downstairs sitting at his desk. Rubbing his eyes, he realised that he must have fallen asleep in his study. He started to laugh at the fact that he hadn't even gone to bed… The dream was obviously from the firewhisky. Then he noticed a man in the study, looking intently at the tapestry.

Draco stood up and confronted the man. "Who are you? What are you doing here in my home?"

The man slowly turned around to face him. "It was my home before you stole it, Lord Black." The way the man said 'Lord Black' was exaggerated in a way to sound insulting. Mocking the name and the title.

Standing before him was a young man of perhaps twenty. He was classically good looking. Dark wavy hair, grey eyes, high cheekbones, tall and lean… He made Draco feel almost common in comparison. Sirius Black. Not the wastrel he became after twelve years in Azkaban, but the perfect image of a pure-blooded rake. This is how he had looked in his prime.

Draco took a half step back. First Nymphadora, now Sirius Black?

"You're not real. The Black Family wards prevent wandering spirits from entering the premises." Realisation then dawned on Draco's face. "The wards also allow the master of the house to influence the dreams of the occupants." He visibly relaxed and almost laughed at the irony of it all. He was tormenting himself!

Draco's mother had once explained how Arcturus Black would meddle in his family's dreams from time to time to maintain his control. As the Head of the Black Family, Draco likely controlled those same wards, and they must be reflecting his internal struggles. All the firewhisky he'd consumed wasn't helping. Grimly he realised he obviously had issues to work through.

Sirius Black smiled mirthfully. "Wards and dreams… So, what do you think I am?"

Draco shrugged, deciding to just play along. "Indigestion? Too much firewhisky? A guilty conscience? Does it even matter? You, Sirius Black, are dead and gone; nothing more than a cheeky memory." This might be amusing.

Sirius clapped his hands. "Bravo! I do value an active imagination. And for the record, I prefer 'forever young' to 'dead and gone'." Sirius was all grins and laughter. Amusing and engaging.

Draco understood why Sirius was once so popular at Hogwarts. On the surface, he had it all. Looks, money, status, and he seemed like the life of the party. But there was something else there… a cruel edge. Sirius was a true Black despite his unfortunate sorting. He was every bit as willing to hurt the people he disliked as he was willing to protect those he cared for. Then again… this was all just his own imagination.

Draco rolled his eyes. "I'll play along. We have until morning. Or until I wake up." He also considered that dreams cost less than therapy… Not that he was hurting financially.

Sirius was now holding a glass of whisky that had somehow appeared in his hand. "Let's use that imagination tonight and work out that 'guilty conscience' of yours." Draco watched him sip his drink, then, with a glint in his eye, Sirius started in. "I do so love the holidays… Tell me, dreamer-boy with an overactive imagination… What do you think most Pure-blood families are doing tonight?"

Draco tilted his head. "If they're awake, I suppose they're decorating the yule tree and spending time with their families. Gifts, feasts, music and dancing… General merriment."

Sirius took a sip of his drink and smiled. "That sounds about right. Yuletide spirit. Horns a plenty… I've always loved the holidays. Even in this house, they were magical." He flashed a brilliant smile. "What about the Mud-bloods?"

The warmth drained from Draco's face. "I don't use that word anymore!" He closed his eyes and turned away. In his mind, Bellatrix was carving that word into Grangers arm as she screamed.

Sirius seemed pleasantly surprised. "Good for you! What about the other undesirables? How about those afflicted with Lycanthropy?"

Draco passionately exclaimed, "Werewolves are dangerous! How should I know what they're up to?"

Sirius looked saddened by that comment, "No one ever asked to become a Werewolf. That curse has always been forced on them. However, once bitten, they weren't viewed as victims… No, no, no. They were too dangerous! They needed to be punished!" Black gave him a thought-provoking look and asked, "Did you know Fenrir Greyback actually considered himself a freedom fighter? They never caught him, either… Five years have passed, and no sign of him."

Draco shivered at the thought of that animal. "He's most likely dead now." He tried to forget how savage Greyback was. How he had shared their home for months. Those yellow eyes…

Sirius threw his head back and laughed. Once finished he shook his head a moment. "Do you really believe that? Greyback has been around for decades… The man can disappear into the wild and live there for years. Until he decides to make an appearance."

Draco wanted to believe Greyback was dead. "If he was still active, we'd know." He then smugly made his point. "But since you brought him up, he's a perfect example of why Werewolves can't be trusted."

Sirius scoffed, "No, he's a terrible example. He surrendered to his infection decades ago. He is vicious and vile, he's the exception. Think of Greyback as a rabid dog. Most dogs don't act at all like that. But where dogs are fed and cared for, most Werewolves lead a sad and impoverished life. The vast majority are bitten as children under the age of eleven. From that point on, they are doomed to a life of pain, sadness, and loneliness. Unable to find comfort or happiness anywhere. Tonight, most are hungry and cold. To them, the Yule holidays are just a reminder of what they've lost and how far they've fallen. All due to the fact that one night a month, they are possessed and consumed with madness."

Draco ignored the flickers of sympathy he was feeling. He reaffirmed his opinion. "Possession and madness don't excuse them from the crimes they commit…"

"HA!" Sirius immediately interrupted and pointed at him accusatorially. "Say that again Lord Black! One more time… I beg you!" It was clear he was especially pleased with himself. Clearly visible was that vicious glint in his eye.

Draco immediately knew he had said the wrong thing. "I didn't mean…"

Sirius mockingly imitated him, "Madness and possession does not excuse one from the atrocities they've committed." Yes, he was enjoying in the pain he was about to cause.

Draco shook his head angrily, "You're twisting my words! The fact is… What I meant to say…"

Sirius leaned back against the wall, "I'm waiting… Well? Do enlighten me. Whatever did you mean to say?" His eyebrows were raised mockingly.

The two men looked at each other and nothing was said for a solid minute.

Sirius calmly spoke, "Possession and induced madness were the foundations of the defence you and your Death Eater comrades used to avoid prosecution. At least Werewolves can honestly say they had no control… We both know you and your friends had far more control than you let on… but enough about the past. Let's go back to the 'filthy Mud-bloods' we started with."

Draco's irritation was rising. "I told you before! I don't use that word!" This was becoming less amusing by the moment.

Sirius smiled serenely. "Right. You had an epiphany while watching your dear Auntie Bella entertain Hermione Granger. I beg your pardon. As you know, being a Wizard or a Witch results in leaving the muggle world behind. But that forces Muggle-born children to abandon their primary education in the non-magical world in favour of a magical education at Hogwarts. The unfortunate result being they are under-educated by Muggle standards."

Sirius continued. "No education means no Muggle job prospects. That means they can't go back to the non-magical world without being impoverished. So, they go all-in for the magical world… Now let's look at our world. Unless a Muggle-born has a truly brilliant mind, like Hermione Granger, or an influential sponsor willing to help them, they can't find meaningful work here either. Being a Muggle-born in the Wizarding world means a life of low-level jobs where the most they can hope for is mediocrity.

Draco responded automatically. "The cream always rises." Painfully, he realised he had just quoted his Father.

Sirius grinned. "Bravo… That's what those who inherit money say to make themselves feel as if they somehow deserve it. If only it were true… Check the stats Lord Black and see for yourself." Draco hated the way Sirius said Lord Black… mocking him…

Sirius continued, "Find out what the annual wages are for a Muggle-born and imagine yourself in their shoes. Assuming you can imagine yourself in anything that isn't dragon hide or Acromantula silk."

Draco snapped back, "Look who's talking. The biggest dandy ever produced by the House of Black. Love 'em and leave 'em Sirius Black. The 'pretty boy' of Hogwarts way back in the seventies. Always dressed in the best. You were such a poseur you could have given Gilderoy Lockhart a run for his money."

Sirius shrugged, "Touché. I always did like wearing nice clothes… But after more than a decade in Azkaban, I'd have settled for anything warm."

Draco refused to accept a guilt trip from a dream. "Here we go, the pity party… Poor Sirius Black was unfairly sent to Azkaban and Dumbledore never came to help him… Now I'm supposed to give you sympathy."

Sirius sneered, "No Lord Black, I'd never look to you for sympathy. I'd have more luck try to find warmth in an icicle. You're far too much like your father."

Draco snarled, "Shut your mouth!" Realising he had just lost his temper with a figment of his own imagination was a bit embarrassing.

Sirius smiled maliciously, "Struck a nerve, I see. Maybe there's hope for you yet. I doubt it, but you never know… Let's get back to the original point. British Muggle-born citizens are restricted in both the Magical and the non-magical worlds. The former by a lack of education, the latter by blood prejudice and nepotism. Their holiday festivities are something you would consider to be rather meagre. Perhaps a chicken and a few vegetables for the family meal, followed by a gift or two for the children. They might even have a tree they've cut down themselves. Is it any wonder that most Muggle-born of reasonable talent and intelligence end up leaving Wizarding Britain within three to five years of graduation? Just look at my godson, Harry."

Draco visibly angered and barked out, "No one forced Potter to leave!" He then added, "Not that I'm complaining…"

Sirius gave Draco a long and appraising look. "Are you telling me you don't know how your family pushed my godson out of the country? You seem surprised. Don't you know about the subtle threats toward Ginny and the Weasleys? All that was left of his family…"

Draco gave Sirius a disdainful look. "No one threatened Potter… My mother simply warned him… Of others… She did him a favour." Hadn't she? Draco briefly thought about the times he'd seen her in action. His mother was ruthless, but in a subtle way.

Sirius stirred him from his thoughts. "I never imagined you to be so naive."

Draco chuckled a bit, then replied, "Coming from a figment of my own imagination? Forgive me for not caring. I'll wake up and you'll be long forgotten by the time I have my morning tea."

Sirius seemed to be ignoring his last comment. "You should ask your mother about her last meeting with Harry in the Ministry. Did you know that he almost murdered her at the conclusion of the meeting?"

Draco rolled his eyes, "Potter? Murder someone?" Draco scoffed and shook his head, "We both know that's not possible. His signature move was the Disarming charm! He doesn't have it in him."

Sirius just smiled, "Rumour has it he used the Confringo charm quite a bit in the last battle. I'd say his little visit to Malfoy Manor may have altered his belief structure a bit."

Draco had heard similar stories…

Sirius went back to his mother, "You know, there's a reason Cissy may have avoided talking about her last meeting with Harry. I would bet she was actually frightened for her life… Had he killed your mother; it would have sparked a civil war in Magical Britain. I suspect many more would have risen up and began punishing the wicked… Britain would have run red with blood and whichever side had emerged victorious, no one would have truly won." Then Sirius laughed and ended his mirth with a shrug. "But that's all supposition. And I'm just a figment of your imagination."

Draco sobered at that thought. "Why is it everyone wants to talk about Potter? I try not to even think about Scarhead."

Now Sirius rolled his eyes. "Is that what you tell yourself?" That cutting look was back in his eyes. Trying to cause pain. "I bet you never stop thinking about him. Wishing you could switch places… Wishing you had made different choices… Friendships… Freedom…"

Draco sneered, "Why would I want to switch places with anyone? Let alone Potter! I don't have a clue what he's up to, nor do I care."

Sirius seemed to gaze off a moment and his eyes softened, "He's doing quite well. Happily married to the love of his life. He just finished a very intense apprenticeship and achieved a mastery in two subject areas." Draco noted the man's apparent pride. This was a dream, right? "They're both quite happy. In the fall, Harry plans to begin Auror training. He's already been accepted. And Ginny, that spitfire is the top chaser for the Tarapoto Tree Skimmers. Those Peruvians are Quidditch-Crazy."

Draco laughed maliciously and settled into an amused smirk, "That must eat Potter up. Second place in Quidditch… Right behind the Weaslette."

Sirius looked at Draco with annoyed disbelief. "You already know Harry's not like that. He's happy for Ginny. He wants his wife to pursue her dreams while he pursues his goal to make the world a safer place. That's what drives him…" Sirius' eyes became hardened once more. "What about you, Lord Black? What drives you? What defines you and separates you… from your father?"

Draco turned away. Always back to his father… He doesn't owe Sirius Black anything! He turns to insult the 'spirit'… but he's alone in the study.

"Stupid dream! Why did I even play along? Too much Firewhisky…"

With that thought, he angrily left the room and went upstairs to bed.



Draco Malfoy bolted upright in bed. Something had awakened him… He pinched himself to make sure he was awake… but did it really matter? His last two dreams hadn't felt any different. There were oddities, but he always felt alert and focused…

He climbed out of bed and put on an enchanted robe and slippers. The magical warmth was nice, but the room seemed unnaturally dark and oppressive. Draco extended his hand and grasped his wand.


The light was bright and pure, but it only seemed to make the shadows deeper. Something was off and that something seemed nefarious. The entire house seemed malevolent in a way Draco couldn't put his finger on. The feeling was vaguely familiar... Then he heard footsteps in the attic. They were not heavy, but they were moving about rapidly. Rhythmically. There was also a very faint sound that resembled a singing voice… The sounds were dampened to the point that Draco couldn't quite make the words out. Despite the heated robe and slippers, it chilled him to the bone.

He crept out into the hall toward the stairs to the attic. The closer he got, the greater the sense of dread and foreboding. Holding his lighted wand before him, he climbed each step one by one. Ever so slowly, he forced himself forward. Whatever it was in the attic was terrifying him. Why on earth was he drawn to it?

Draco wanted to run back downstairs and hide! Turn back!

But he kept climbing. With each step, the singing became slightly louder, but he still couldn't make out the words. It terrified him, but it drew him in closer… step by step. His hands were shaking as he reached the upper landing and reached for the doorknob. In a moment of lucidity, he pulled his hand back.

"No… No… I will not open this door!" His voice was quivering even more than his hand.

He knew who was behind the door. He knew, and yet he didn't want to know. The oppressive dread he felt was crushing. He hadn't been this afraid since… NO don't say it! Don't think it!

Draco shouted, "I am Lord Black, and you are my wards! This dream ends NOW!"

But it didn't end.

This dream seemed to deepen with the shadows. Mocking him. Why can't he wake up? Why was he compelled to move forward? That door led to something that horrified him… Draco felt tears streaming down his face. He watched helplessly as his hand ever so slowly extended and grasped the doorknob. Try as he might, he couldn't bring himself to let go. He ever so slowly turned the knob.

It was as if he couldn't stop himself. He had to know what was on the other side of that door. There was a pull on his very being to open that dread door. It was as if he had no choice. In truth, he really did NOT have a choice. Was this how people under the Imperius curse felt when they were forced to do unspeakable acts?

Draco slowly pushed open the door.

The attic had the deepest shadows he had ever seen. It was the coldest room he had ever been in, but the chill didn't have anything to do with the air temperature. He remembered his third year where Dementors were on the Hogwarts Express. It felt like that, only this was personal. An oppressive presence seemed to draw him in. One he knew very well…

Draco stared as a petite woman from dressed head to toe in tattered black robes was spinning around like a top. Her arms extended and her black hair whipping about. Occasionally, he caught a glimpse of her face… it was white and ghoulish. He knew exactly who this was…. She was singing while she slowly spun around.

Roses are red,

Violets are Blue,

My blood is sweet,

Your blood is too…



We all fall…


Upon pronouncing the last word, she collapsed in on herself, leaving a dark mound on the attic floor. Draco couldn't blink or look away. He tried to back away, only to realise that he was moving forward. Moving toward the dark pile in the middle of the attic.

As he approached, his trembling increased. He was muttering something inarticulate. It could have been 'Nonononono' or 'Pleasepleaseplease' or just the odd sounds of a person delirious with fear. The closer he got, the more his wand illuminated the centre of the attic… The pile wasn't a pile at all. It was a deep shadow. Soon, it wasn't even a shadow. The light of his wand had driven it away, leaving only a marked up wooden floor.

Just then, right beside his left ear, he heard a familiar female voice say, "Boo!"

Draco screamed out in terror and his wand fell from his trembling fingers as he recoiled from the ghoulish figure of Bellatrix Lestrange. Unlike the other 'spirits', she actually looked dead. She was even more terrifying than she had been in life. She was just smiling at him. Blackened and broken teeth… milky eyes staring.

Draco couldn't breathe. He couldn't think. His mouth moved, but no sound escaped. His heart was beating madly.

Draco's wand was on the floor between them, illuminating the room eerily. It should have gone out, but it didn't. He actually wished it had gone out. Better know, but not have to see… This was pure madness… Draco backed all the way away and was up against a window. Bellatrix was between him and the door.

Just when he thought it couldn't get worse, she spoke.

In a baby voice, she said, "Hello dear nephew. I came to pway with you." With an exaggerated pout she added, "Don't you want to pway with me?"

She approached with movement resembling an inhuman automation. She was both jerky and awkward. Like some kind of broken toy that had been wound up.

She continued with the baby voice, "Pwease, don't weave Dwaco… I only have a wittle time…" She grimaced in pain and the baby voice became the adult voice he knew all too well. The same voice that trained him before his sixth year. The year he was supposed to kill Dumbledore.

"Please, Draco. I'm so very cold. So very alone." Bellatrix spoke quietly, but it filled the room.

There was no mirth in her voice. Her milky eyes are pleading and pitiful. Her very image redefined the word 'misery'. Her pain and suffering were palpable. Against all rational thought, Draco found he pitied her.

"Aunt Bella…" It was just a whisper.

Yes, he was terrified, but he somehow felt sympathy and a longing to help her. He knew he had somehow invited her to stay… He could see the relief on her face… His terror had not ended, but it was lessened. He could breathe once more.

She walked past him to the window and gazed out at the snow-covered view. Draco was now less than three feet away… he could see muggle Christmas lights reflected in her dead filmy eyes. He wanted to run, to flee this horrible nightmare… but he can't get his legs to work. Instead, he found himself beside her, looking out the window.

The scene was lovely. Snow was everywhere and Muggle Christmas lights were shining. Streetlights were creating a soft and warm illumination. Draco wondered how he hadn't noticed this view before. His own Master Suite was just below and shared the view.

Bellatrix then softly whispered, "I never took the time to realise how beautiful it all is. But that's the way of things… You appreciate it the most when you no longer have it. I remember gazing out the window long ago on a similar evening. When I was young and beautiful."

Draco now felt as much pity as fear.

She continued, "I loved another, but my father said he was beneath my station. His blood was pure, but his family was working class."

Draco felt compelled to ask, "What did you do?" He couldn't help but think of Astoria.

She smiled sadly. "I listened to my family. I married a cold and stupid man. Rodolphus looked good on paper and he looked good in the mirror. But he was ugly underneath…" She grimaced in pain. "Years later, I allowed myself to be branded by another vile man… a mark that forced me to love a monster who only sought to use me…"

She closed her eyes in even more pain.

Bellatrix shook her head slightly. "No, that's not true. I wish it were… but it's not. The Mark affected us, but our choices were still our own. I could have resisted, but I yearned for the escape. I embraced the madness and the viciousness that came with the Dark Mark. I thought anything would be preferable to the miserable and loveless life I had. How wrong I was…"

She turned to look at him. "What I wouldn't give to go back to that night so very long ago."

Her eyes were no longer milky. "When I was young and happy…"

She seemed less ghoulish… "Before I walked away from my Walter. I loved and lost… No, that's not right. I loved, and I threw it away."

Draco didn't know what to say. This was all so terrifyingly surreal.

Bellatrix turned back to the window. "I never really hated Andromeda; I was jealous of her." She closed her eyes and placed her forehead on the window. "She had the courage to do what I could not. I hated myself for that, but I took it out on her. I took it all away. I killed her husband and her daughter."

A putrid yellow tear ran down her face. "I didn't get the grandson… Thank god for that…"

She then turned and advanced toward Draco. He began backing away… toward the door.

"Fight for what you want, Draco. And know this, there is no blood status in the afterlife, but there is Accountability."

With that last word, Bellatrix's tattered robes fell to the floor. Her naked alabaster skin was covered in horrible cuts… As Draco watched in horror, they healed, only to reform… the word 'Pureblood' was being carved all over her body. Over and over. To his revulsion, Draco somehow knew she was to be forever more in pain and misery.

She continued to advance. "I wish I could return to the warmth of Azkaban. It was so much better than where I am now."

Draco kept moving backward in fear.

"Be smarter than me Draco… be braver… follow your heart." She then lunged at him.

Draco fell backward in fright… onto something soft and 'springy'. He then bounced up off his mattress and was sitting upright. He heard a wailing scream and realised it was him.

A tiny house elf was at the foot of his bed.

The little creature said, "Master? Can Pip be getting you anything?"

Draco kept repeating, "Only a dream… All a dream…"


The translucent form of Severus Snape reflected on the evening. It wasn't every day the dead get a chance to affect the living. He prayed his godson would make the right choices. The war changed Draco for the better. It had also changed young Miss Greengrass. She went from being a spoiled and arrogant child to a charitable and empathetic young lady.

The spirit of Severus Snape knew Astoria and Draco were both touched by the horrors they had seen and been forced to participate in. He remembered how Miss Greengrass was never able to cast the Cruciatus curse. How she couldn't bear to watch it in use. Yes, the war had tempered her and made her a better person. Draco could go either way. He was at a pivotal point. Severus glanced over to another ex-student of his.

Harry Potter was sitting upright inside a glowing circle made up of flickering runes dancing around him. His eyes were closed in deep concentration. After several minutes, the runic circle cease glowing, and he relaxed.

Harry's voice was strong. Mature. "The wards of Grimmauld Place are reintegrated. We are done."

The ghostly form of Severus Snape approached him. "I know how hard that was for you…"

Harry slowly rose up. "My part of our agreement is complete." The effort of controlling the Black Family wards from so far away had clearly taxed him.

Severus nodded, "I can only hope it was enough…" With death, came clarity. His own behaviour weighed on him terribly in the afterlife. He couldn't help but notice Harry's innate athleticism as the young Wizard crossed the room and picked up a glass of water.

Harry scoffed. "Don't get your hopes up. You can't un-rot a bad apple. And some apples are rotten to the core." He had spent hours on the ritual to reconnect him to the wards of Grimmauld Place. Wards he still had true mastery over.

But Severus did have hope. "I failed Draco long ago… I have to believe he can still change."

Harry took another sip of water and steadied himself. "Only a naive fool gives a second chance to the unrepentant. I learned that the hard way." He then shook his head, clearly believing Draco Malfoy beyond redemption.

Watching Harry, Severus noted that all signs of childhood malnourishment had vanished. He was now lean and strong, moving like a predator. At twenty-three, Harry reminded him of Dolohov in his prime, before Azkaban broke him.

Severus whispered, "Perhaps it helped." But Snape couldn't stop thinking about the other child he failed. He had missed all the signs… The child was obviously underweight and malnourished. Hyper aware of his surroundings, as only an abused child would be… The signs were all there, but he failed to see past his own bitterness…

He hovered near Harry and said, "Failing my godson was not my worst mistake…" Severus couldn't help but think back to that tiny boy in his Potions class. Wide eyed and amazed at the magical world. So eager to learn… struggling to take notes with a poorly prepared quill. "You were the one I failed the…"

Harry shouted, "NO! Don't say it! When I summoned you, you demanded a favour in exchange for services. Against my better judgement, I went along."

Severus tried again, "Please, I implore you to hear me out…"

Harry sneered at him. "Save it! You are a lifetime too late." Severus saw his cold green eyes. They looked dangerous. "I held up my end of the bargain, Snape. You will do as we agreed. I have no desire to hear… requests for… absolution." This was another man who had seen far more death than any twenty-three-year-old should. He had been changed as well. Severus felt the power the Wizard commanded. The same power that had been used to summon him.

Severus nodded sadly. "As you wish…" The past was his burden to bear. He Looked around the room and acknowledged it was a good training space. It had a duelling area and a well-appointed potions lab.

Harry snapped his fingers. "One year and a day. That was the agreement. I start Auror training in eight months, so our time is condensed." Looking at the clock, he added, "We have a few hours before Ginny arrives, let's make the most of it."

Harry produced a well-used Advanced Potions book and a notebook.

Severus recognised the Potions Book immediately. Potter never knew he had left that book specifically for him to find all those years ago… Seeing it now gave him hope. He had learned much since he'd left his annotations in that book. Now, he would pass on the rest of what he knew… About potions, charms, curses, rituals… and so much more.

Severus began his instruction. "Open your book to chapter one… We'll start with the basics. In the next hour we'll focus on the different types of cauldrons and how they can affect a potion… Not just the metallic composition of the cauldron, but the shape and thickness as well. The size of the cauldron mouth in comparison to the widest part of the body is far more important than most Wizards realise."

Severus hovered beside Harry and watched him taking notes. The spirit no longer saw a dangerous and menacing Wizard. He saw a tiny malnourished first year with round glasses and messy hair. Severus Snape's spirit took a moment to give thanks to a higher power for granting him his greatest wish:

A second chance…


The Daily Prophet

December 31, 2003

Mr. and Mrs. Cyrus Greengrass

are pleased to announce the engagement

of their Daughter Astoria Greengrass, to Draco Malfoy,

son of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy.

I hope you enjoyed this special Christmas one shot. The story is set in the Unrepentant AU which is canon through the final battle. Obviously not Epilogue compliant. So, was it all the Grimmauld Place wards? Were the ghosts real? Maybe a combination of both? Does it really matter?

Take care and have a Merry Christmas. If you want to read more about Harry in the Unrepentant AU, Follow this one-shot and tune in spring 2021 as I kick it off.