A/N: This story started as a quick fic to keep a dear friend, M, who was on bedrest amused. While I'd like to think it was my hilariousness that actually sent her into labor, I'm sure it was just a coincidence. I decided to keep going in attempt to possibly perk up some of her sleepless-baby-nights - and to use as a palate cleanser while I'm writing original fiction and working on edits for other projects. Thus, this story will be posted in a higher number of shorter, varied length chapters. It's been (and subsequent chapters will be) edited, but will likely be overall less "polished". It will not be abandoned, as M would bludgeon me with various blunt objects if I were to do so.

A/N 2/23: Fixed the duplicate text, sorry!

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Thanks for letting us play with your toys, J.K. Call me, Alan Rickman.

/

Lucius Malfoy was one sick son of a bitch, but this was too much even for him.

A long-suffering sigh escaped his lips and puffed away a lock of his shimmering, platinum hair as he straightened his cravat in the mirror. He'd bet galleons that Draco had already had a full-fledged temper tantrum.

"Quit preening and get a move on!"

Lucius sneered at his reflection in the ornate mirror, one of the last few remaining relics in his estate. The damn thing had resisted all this efforts to charm it into silence - but sometimes it did give good advice.

A soft pop brought in a house elf bearing the Malfoy crest on its uniform tea towel.

"Mara is informing Master that his last guest has arrived. Everything is on time."

Lucius dismissed the elf with a wave of his hand. Head held high, he grabbed his cane and started the long walk down the wing's corridor. He could have apparated to the ballroom, but a Malfoy hurried for no one - and always made an entrance.

He paused at the top of the grand mahogany staircase to gaze down over the ballroom; a haughty sneer masked his surveillance of the crowd. As the clock struck seven, he lifted his wand to his throat with a muffled incantation.

"Welcome, friends and guests."

He spoke slowly as he descended the stairs, not once breaking stride or tone. He'd played this scene a thousand times, with his family's lives resting on his glorious shoulders. Now, he did it just for Draco. His lips turned up in a welcoming smile to his many guests as he descended into the party.

"I shall endeavor to be brief - as this is, after all, a celebration first and foremost."

A small light trained on him, while ambiance lighting kicked in elsewhere: candlelight for each circular dining table, a soft glow around the bars off to each side with food and drink, and just enough on the dance floor to illuminate feet but not wrinkles.

"Everyone was affected by the war. I will not subjugate the suffering of others by saying your losses, triumphs, blood, and sacrifices were worth more than theirs. I will simply say that we would not be here without those of you in this very room."

He leaned perhaps a bit more heavily on his cane than he would have before the war as he crossed the few feet to pick up a drink. He held a glass high - Firewhiskey, not wine - and leaned lightly against the bar.

"To those we lost, that we might honor their memory by moving beyond the shadow of war."

Over the rim of the glass he tipped back, he saw not the sneer of Death Eaters or the derision of high-society guests, but the faint spark of acceptance and sorrow in Molly Weasley's eyes.

"Please eat, drink, and otherwise make yourselves merry. Guest quarters are available in the South Wing," he gestured, "should you need a bed for the night or private conversation."

"Your eligibility, as well as additional instructions and information, is listed on your invitation. Now without further ado, welcome to the first Ministry Mixer Ba-"

Malfoy's glass shattered as it hit the floor. He stared, mouth open and all semblance of dignity and pomp by the wayside, over the heads of his audience at the side of the ballroom nearest the entrance.

"S-Severus?"

Time slowed to a crawl. The dark and dour Potions Master stood with his arms crossed across his chest, leaning slightly against the wall to his right in a relaxed manner that Lucius had never seen in his old friend. The crowd looked around themselves frantically - some with hope and surprise, others with revulsion.

Thin and raspy as the reply was, it permeated the utter silence of the party guests.

"What - am I late?"

Those in attendance were unsure of what surprised them more: Severus Snape alive and well, or the sound of his laughter as Lucius Malfoy passed out cold at his own party.