A gift ficlet for my friend and fellow writer - zeshadesofjustice. The world may not be ready for the two of us together...but there's a lot to be said for the element of surprise.

A Way to Warm

The beginning of Yule Holidays found the Malfoy family…larger than usual. Seated at the elegantly bedecked dining table were Lucius (looking dapper), Narcissa (looking posh), Draco (looking sullen) and Bellatrix LeStrange (looking psychotic). There was a massive ham on the table, piled high with cherries and glistening with honey, surrounded by creamy mash, crisp greens, a pate and caviar tray and assorted cheeses.

And it wasn't even Yule dinner yet.

However lovely the table was, though, the conversation was…less than attractive. There'd been little more than 'good evening' spoken since the party had been seated, and now the sounds of throat-clearings and silver against china were heavy in the echoing hall.

Finally, Narcissa addressed her sister. "Bella."

The dark witch raised a brow. "Cissy?"

Narcissa sipped her wine. "Can we not expect Rodolphus to join us for dinner?"

Bella fisted the sliced ham as though it had offended her before extracting a chunk she deemed worthy of consumption. Lucius grimaced at her despicable manners. "He can join the fucking maggots and feast on a dead mudblood poxied whore cunt for all I care."

Draco did not contain his laughter.

Narcissa's lips thinned at her son, then her eyes cut to her sister over the pork mountain. "Bella, please mind your language at the table. I like a civilized meal."

"Yeah?" Bella grinned. "I recall you always liked seafood, too." With that said, she opened her mouth to reveal her half-chewed ham to her mortified sister.

Again, Draco laughed.

"Don't encourage your aunt's behavior, son," Lucius drawled. "She's quite unhinged."

"At least I'm not a foppish self-righteous prick," Bella shot back.

"Bella!" Narcissa scolded.

Draco snorted, and Bellatrix winked at the teen. "Besides," she continued gamely, "some folks might call me 'funhinged.'" Draco grinned at her.

"I'm glad the two of you are getting along," Narcissa sighed. She buttered another roll. "Are you happy to be home for your holiday, son?"

"Of course, mother."

Narcissa smiled at him as though the sun shone out of his behind. "Well, I'm glad you're home, darling. I miss you so when you're off at school."

Bella rolled her eyes. "Best times of my life," she grumbled. "Being off at school. Eh, Draco? No prissy mum nagging you to eat your veg. No doddering old dad dribbling on about his dreary day at the office."

Her comments were obviously directed toward the older Malfoys.

"Indeed, Bellatrix?" Lucius took the bait. "And I assume you were a devoted student? Made high marks?"

She shrugged. "I was high, all right. Used to sneak into the greenhouses and pilfer the belladonna –"

"Enough!" Narcissa's fork clattered to her plate and Bella looked at her innocently. "Please pass the potatoes." The Malfoy witch's voice was strained. Draco handed over the bowl of mash. "Thank you, son."

Again silence descended. This time, Draco broke it. "Oh, mum. I meant to ask you what you were doing at school the other day."

"At school?" Her fork was frozen halfway to her mouth.

"Yes. Blaise said he saw you in the dungeons."

For a second, her face worked mysteriously. The expectant gazes of her son, husband and sister made her twitchy. "Oh. I…um…I met with Professor Snape. Briefly." She ate the bite of potato.

"You did?" Draco's lip curled. "Why?"

"Yes, why?" Lucius chimed.

Bella watched the three like a muggle tennis match.

"Well." The blonde nearly spluttered. She dabbed at her mouth with her serviette. "I – your father and I, I mean – we check up on your progress occasionally, Draco."

"We do?" Lucius' tone suggested this was news to him.

"Of course we do!" His wife glared at him.

"I'm hardly a child, mum!" Draco insisted.

"He's hardly a child," Bella echoed.

"Quiet, Bella!" Narcissa was blushing furiously. "I know that!" She snapped. "But it doesn't hurt to inquire after your marks and behavior as an involved parent should!"

Bella cackled. "And are you an…involved parent, Cissy?" Her eyebrows waggled.

"Gross!" Draco groaned.

"How dare you!" Narcissa flushed and glared at her sister. "Severus is most knowledgeable when it comes to –"

"I bet he is!" Bella was screaming laughter.

Narcissa spoke over her almost desperately. "Dammit, Bella! He is Draco's head of house and –"

"Head!" Bella slapped the table and guffawed.

Draco looked stricken. Lucius took the matter in hand firmly. "Enough!" His clear voice rang. The clamor muted. "I have you as a guest in my house at the request of our most honored lord, but I will not have you casting aspersions on my wife, Bellatrix." He nodded to his wife, who stared embarrassed into her lap. "Now. Apologize to your sister, please."

Draco watched Bella watch his mother. The moment was tense.

But Bella surrendered with a sexy pout. She sighed and turned formally to Narcissa. "Cissy. I'm…sorry…for telling everyone that you're fucking Snape."

Narcissa shot toward her sister. "Because I am not," she hissed violently. "And I am horrified you would make such an implication!"

"Horrified!" Draco repeated. And he looked it.

"Right." Lucius was pushing away from the table. "There will be no more of this absurdity. I want no mention of such foolishness when Severus arrives for holiday dinner."

"Holiday dinner?" Narcissa regarded her husband in shock. "Sever – um – Snape is coming to holiday dinner?"

"Yes." Lucius rose gracefully. "I invited him as well as a few of our other colleagues." (Narcissa knew that by 'colleagues,' Lucius meant 'Death Eaters.') He pointed at Bella. "And you'll be on your best behavior, you deranged bat."

Bella was affronted. "I'd worry about your randy wife's behavior, you arrogant, impotent –"

"Harpy!" Lucius was quick, drawing his wand on Bella.

But the deranged bat was quick, too, and they soon faced off in dueling stance over the ham. "Go on," Bella dared, delighted.

Narcissa shoved her chair back loudly and stood, shaking with anger. "You both make me want to vomit," she spat. "I don't care if you kill each other!" She stalked out of the dining hall.

The would-be combatants watched her leave, arms lowering. They looked at each other warily. "You'd draw your wand on me, you wretch?" Lucius asked. "The master of the house?"

"Master my arse!" Bella shouted back. "I'll hex you til your cock shrivels up like a raisin."

Lucius swelled and prepared to retort, but Draco cut him short.

"Mum's right," the young man said decisively. He also rose from the table. "You are both sickening." He left the room without glancing back, headed determinedly down the darkened corridor.

His mother was where he expected to find her – the library. He smirked as he entered, closing the door softly. She turned to him, and he knew she'd been crying. "Alright, mum?"

"Are they dead?"

He joined her at the window, looked out at the swirling snow. "We should be so lucky."

A smile cracked her face. "You shouldn't speak so of your father."

"And you shouldn't speak so of your sister." The library was dark and cold. No fire burned in the hearth.

Lovingly, she squeezed his bicep in one neatly manicured hand. "Gods, you're growing up." She shook her head. "When did that happen?"

"You know I'm growing up, mum." He gentled her. "You don't need to check up on me anymore."

"I know." She blushed again, gaze falling back onto the snow.

"You weren't checking up on me, though. Were you?" His voice dropped to a level of secrecy, of tender recognition, of deference to a greater matter than himself. "Blaise said it was very late when he saw you. That you tugged your hood up, but not before he caught a glimpse."

Her nostrils flared, but she avoided his eyes. "Mr. Zabini should not be out in the corridors so late."

"None of us should," Draco agreed. He looked to the door, and comfortable they would not be interrupted, continued. "I shouldn't have brought it up over dinner. It was spiteful. I apologize."

"Draco," she whispered. Tears choked her voice.

"But now I know. And it's true, isn't it? What Aunt Bella expressed so…rudely." He touched her satin-covered arm. "You're…having an affair with Snape." His tone and expression both conveyed the presence of a young man uncomfortable with the matter at hand.

Narcissa's hands covered her mouth. "What you must think of me," she murmured.

He withdrew his comforting hand and stiffened a bit. Her emotion was intimidating. "You're my mother," he said. "I…I love you."

Then she whirled against him and so suddenly his arms were full of his mother and she was clutching him as tightly in her own. "I'm no whore," she sobbed into his shoulder.

"Of course not!" He patted her back awkwardly.

"Oh, Draco! Please, please don't tell your father! Or Bella! Goddess, help me…"

"I won't." He assured her. And he wouldn't. "I promise, mum."

As suddenly, she pulled away from him, collecting herself with aplomb. She sniffed unattractively. "I wouldn't expect you to understand, really. But…" He hands shifted helplessly.

He held one in a loose grip. "I probably couldn't understand. But I know…love is – "

"Love?" Her eyes widened in almost alarm.

Draco faltered. The moon cast a shadow upon half his face, making him appear doll-like. "Or…whatever is between you and him…"

Narcissa shook her head. "It doesn't matter," she said briskly. The subject was tabled. "I shall exercise better discretion."

Draco was confused, but nodded. She wanted to be alone. He backed away from her as one would an unpredictable animal. "Right," he said. "Well. Good night, mother?" His hand scrambled until it found the door's latch.

"Good night, son." She was again staring out the window.

In the hallway, Draco gasped for breath and pressed against the library's double doors. 'What the hell just happened?' He wondered. From far down the corridor, he heard his father and Bellatrix shouting at each other. He grimaced and thought of his mother. 'Hell. I would want to escape, too.'

Then he wondered about Snape - that billowing black enigma that was his professor, mentor and sometime presence at his parents' home. His forehead creased. 'Can Snape truly care about my mother? Or anyone?'

Narcissa Malfoy was no idiot, Draco knew. She certainly wouldn't subject herself willingly to a person who mistreated her. Though it was obvious to Draco that there was little love between her and his father.

'Love,' he thought. He remembered the terror in her eyes when he'd mentioned that word in regards to Snape. 'Love.' He remembered the coldness in Snape's voice when he lectured. It reminded him of the coldness in his mother's voice when she…well, when she said anything, really.

He looked across the corridor to the window. The snow eddies thickened. He shivered, thought of the witch in the cold library behind him. 'Maybe two cold people can find a way to warm together.' Secretly, he hoped so.