Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: none since the story takes place in 1906

Summary: The year is 1906. Lord and Lady Grantham have decided to invite a much larger crowd for Christmas and New Year's this year, including a distant cousin, Matthew Crawley. How will a young Mary take to a teenage Matthew? Will sparks fly? Instant friendship?

All the Crawleys are here, including Cousin Patrick. Lady Mary Crawley is fourteen years old, Matthew almost sixteen. A few new characters surface of course, some human, some not (they are all mine by the way). The story takes place during the holidays, staring a few days before Christmas and ending a couple of days after the New Year's Day shoot in 1907.

Special thank you to the lovely Tambear for catching missing commas, odd grammar and offering excellent suggestions & advice!

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Christmas Past and Present

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Downton Abbey 1906

Chapter 1 – A New Friend

Fourteen year old Lady Mary Crawley was bored out of her mind. She was pretending to listen to one of her father's friends, but her concentration faltered and instead she glanced around the room. This year her parents had invited a larger crowd than usual for Christmas and New Year's. The usual relatives were present of course, as were her annoying sisters. Mary's eyes narrowed for a second as she spotted Edith looking at Patrick as if he was a god. She knew that her parents wanted her to marry Patrick. Mary sighed and sipped her lemonade. It was not that she did not like Patrick; she did. The problem in Mary's mind was that he was not romantic. No, Patrick was nothing like what was described in stories. He was just plain old Patrick. Mary was still young enough to dream about love, romantic encounters and forbidden kisses. She flushed a little but then sighed again when she looked at Patrick. She could just not imagine that any of that would ever happen between them.

"Mary!"

Mary turned and smiled at her youngest sister, Sybil was nine and an absolute darling. She idolized her older sister which made her even dearer in Mary's eyes. Mary tenderly caressed a lock of hair away from Sybil's cheek.

"Hello darling," she said and smiled at her.

"Have you met Matthew yet?" Sybil said excitedly. "Cousin Matthew I mean," she said quickly, and made a face as she realized that she had forgotten her manners.

Mary looked up at the young man standing behind Sybil. He smiled at her and bowed his head. She noted how his blond hair charmingly fell down in his eyes and she almost reached out to smooth it away just like she had done with Sybil. Before she could make a move, she reminded herself that she was a young lady, and young ladies do not touch strange men, relatives or not.

"Cousin Matthew," she said and smiled at him.

"Lady Mary," he said and his smile widened. "I have heard so much about you from Sybil."

Mary laughed and caressed Sybil's hair affectionately. Sybil beamed at her.

"Mary is so pretty in her new dress, don't you think, Cousin Matthew?" Sybil said excitedly and gently touched the beads adorning Mary's dress.

"She is very beautiful indeed," Matthew agreed and winked at Sybil. "Perhaps it was for our enjoyment?"

Sybil covered her mouth as she giggled. She looked up at Mary who was blushing and then threw her arms around Mary's waist.

"Do not be cross, Mary. You really are very beautiful tonight."

"Thank you Sybil," Mary said and caressed her hair again. She glanced at Matthew and he grinned at her.

Mary wondered why he was looking at her like that. She could not quite determine if he was laughing at her or if he was smiling fondly at her and it bothered her for some reason. She looked down when Sybil pulled away.

"Oh, Mary, look, sugar mice!"

And just like that she was gone, chasing after the young footman who carried the sugary treats. Mary laughed and shook her head. She turned when she heard Matthew laughing next to her.

"It appears that our appeal to young Sybil has fallen to less than that of a sugar mouse," he said amused.

"Sybil has a sweet tooth I'm afraid," Mary said and smiled. "Mama never lets her have more than one, unless it is a special occasion."

"I would say that this is a special occasion, would you not agree?"

Mary nodded and sipped her lemonade again. "If you would like a sugar mouse I suggest getting one now before Sybil finishes them all." She leaned a little closer and lowered her voice. "I know that she will put a couple in her handkerchief and hide them in her room."

Matthew laughed and his blue eyes twinkled. "I think I will let Sybil have her fun then. I remember liking them when I was younger, so I can see the appeal."

Mary nodded. She looked at Matthew and tilted her head a little. "I don't remember ever seeing you here before. Why is that?"

Matthew shrugged. "Mother and I live in Manchester and since father passed away mother has not been very keen on keeping in touch with his side of the family. I think she is still somewhat upset at the number of people who were absent at the funeral."

"Oh," Mary said softly. "I am so sorry. I did not mean to bring up unpleasant memories."

"No harm done," he said quickly and smiled at her. "I miss him of course, but it has been several years now so the pain and sorrow are not fresh."

"Still, it is not something that one should bring up at a festive event," Mary said sadly, feeling badly for him. She looked at her father who was smiling and talking to some people across the room from them. "Just the thought of losing Papa," she whispered.

Matthew gently touched her shoulder. She stared up at him. His warm smile made her forget all the words of objection to the touch that she was about to throw at him. Instead she just looked into his eyes for the longest moment.

"Mary," he said softly. "May I call you Mary?" She nodded, surprised at herself. "I want to thank you. I was so incredibly bored, even with Sybil's attempt to amuse me. You saved me."

Mary smiled and chuckled a little. "It is rather boring, isn't it?"

"All these people that I don't know," he whispered to her. "What am I to say to them? So far they have only been asking me about my schoolwork and my plans for university. I fear that sooner or later they will throw something at me that I have no idea about."

Mary giggled and nodded. She looked around and her eyes fell on Sir Anthony and his wife, Maude. "I would stay clear of Sir Anthony then."

"Which one is he?" Matthew asked quickly.

Mary leaned closer. "See the tall man over by the fireplace? The one with blond hair and the silly smile?"

Matthew followed her gaze and snorted when he caught Sir Anthony smiling. "Dear God," he gasped and looked at Mary.

Mary covered her mouth as the two laughed together. To her surprise she found Matthew rather pleasant and nice, for a boy that is.

"How old are you?" she blurted out.

Matthew smiled. "I'm almost sixteen."

"A year younger than Patrick then," she said softly.

"He and Lady Edith seem to be very close," Matthew observed.

Mary huffed and made a face. "Edith is delighted with anyone who shows interest in her."

Matthew raised an eyebrow. "Mary," he said with a chuckle. "Surely she cannot be that bad."

"You obviously do not know my sister," Mary snapped.

"Clearly not," he said softly.

"Mary, my dear," Lady Grantham said and sidled up next to Mary.

Mary rolled her eyes and Matthew smirked a little.

"Yes Mama."

"I think Patrick is waiting for you to show him your father's new collection."

"Oh Mama, must I?" Mary said and sighed. "I already promised Matthew I would show him the same thing. Surely Edith can…"

"Mary," her mother said sternly, but then softened when she saw her daughter's face as she looked at Matthew. "Very well," she sighed and patted Mary's cheek. "You take good care of Cousin Matthew."

"I promise, Mama," Mary said and grabbed Matthew's sleeve, pulling him out of the room.

"And what is this that you promised to show me?" Matthew asked amused.

"Thank God," she whispered and closed her eyes. She jumped when she again felt his hand on her shoulder. "Matthew, you really should not be touching me like that."

"Why not?" he said and tilted his head. "I am not doing anything inappropriate. I was only touching your shoulder out of concern."

She made a face at him and he laughed. Before he could tease her more she started walking towards the library. She led him to a glass display case that held a few very old looking books. Matthew leaned closer as his curiosity was peaked.

"Are these real?" he whispered as if talking any louder would somehow be inappropriate.

"Of course," she said and made a face. "Would they be displayed as my father's pride and joy if they were not first editions?"

"I guess not," he said and straightened up. "Still, this is very exciting. It is too bad really that they are locked up like that. Books, no matter how old, are meant to be read."

Mary nodded and smiled. "I agree. Though I admit I would not be able to read them. They are in Latin and Greek."

"Perhaps I could translate for you?" he offered with a friendly smile.

"You speak Latin?" she said surprised.

"Guilty as charged," he said and laughed a little embarrassed. "I fear that I had to learn both Latin and Ancient Greek at school."

"I see. Well, perhaps Papa will allow you to read them."

"Maybe. In the meantime I will settle for HG Wells or Jules Verne."

Mary gaped at him. "I really like them too, but I'm not supposed to."

"A lady should prefer Austen and Shakespeare's Sonnets?" he teased.

"Precisely," she muttered. "Austen is so silly."

Matthew chuckled and looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "You are much different than you pretend to be."

"Of course not," she said and made a face.

"But you are," he said and smiled. He held out his hand to her and she took it, allowing him to lead her over to the sofa by the fireplace. They sat down facing each other. "In there you were the perfect little lady, smiling at the right time, sipping your drink with perfect manners. But that is not all there is to you, is it?"

Mary blushed and looked down. "It is how I am supposed to behave. Surely you know that, Matthew."

"But you're also a young woman who likes to dream with Wells and Verne, someone who has a passion for excitement and the unknown."

Mary stared at him. No one had called her a young woman before. It made her feel very grownup and she felt her heart flutter.

"Only in secret," she whispered. "At night, under the covers in my bed."

Matthew grinned. "See, you are not just the perfect little lady. I bet you like to ride too?"

"Of course I do," she said and rolled her eyes. "Matthew, honestly, families like ours have always had horses and dogs and we learn to ride almost as soon as we learn to walk."

He chuckled and his eyes twinkled. "So let me see if I have it right," he teased and tapped his finger against his lips. "Currently you have a pony, but you feel that you're outgrowing him. It is a him, because a filly would not be fast or spirited enough to suit your personality. You have your eyes set on another horse, a young one, a gelding I think. He is a little wild, as young male horses are sometimes, but he is beautiful and you love him very much. I bet he is just as dark as your eyes."

Mary just stared at him. "How did you know all that?" she whispered.

"Lucky guess?" he said and laughed.

"Papa bought this new horse recently. He's only two years old and absolutely gorgeous, black with a white mark on his forehead. We call him Diamond. Papa refuses to let me be the one to break him in, saying that it is too dangerous for a girl. I know I can do it. Diamond likes me best of all. It's all Edith's fault as usual."

"Why do you say that?"

"She was jealous of how Diamond likes me so she tried to give him an apple. Bribe him really. She got scared when he nuzzled her arm for more and she screamed. It frightened him and he bit her. Stupid girl, she should stick to her chubby little pony."

Matthew bit his lip trying not to laugh. Mary's eyes narrowed and the look on her face was so funny he could not hold back his laughter any longer and the two laughed together.

"Mary, time to say good night," Lady Grantham said cheerfully from the door.

Mary sighed and looked at Matthew. "Good night I guess. Thank you again for saving me from dying of boredom."

"I wish you a good night as well, Mary," he said and to her surprise, kissed her cheek.

Mary silently walked by Matthew's side to join her mother and sisters. With a last glance at him over her shoulder she continued upstairs.

Author's Comment: A quick note on Austen. I absolutely do not have anything against Jane Austen. I was just trying to make a point that Mary wanted to read other things than romance, and romantic drama. Just wanted to clarify that :)

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To be continued in Chapter 2 where Mary and Matthew get to know each other a little better. Carson makes an appearance. Matthew acts like a true gentleman, earning Mary's respect.

Please let me know what you think. Do you already love nine year old Sybil? Can you see the adult Lady Mary in her younger self? What about Matthew? Was he always a good boy, or will we learn that he has a little bit of a rascally streak too? Why doesn't Mary feel close to Patrick? It will all be revealed eventually, but in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts.