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Chapter Seventeen

Party Pleasures

The Narcissa Malfoys of the world love a good party. Narcissa might plan for weeks, or months in advance all the little details that make for the perfect affair that will be remembered by all that attend. Severus Snape knew that Mrs. Malfoy had spent much of her energy over the last few months attending to every aspect of this party because that was what Narcissa lived to do. She’d spent days instructing the young lads on who announced the guests on how to do just what they did. There had been endless preparations of designs for the flowers, the strolling players, the floating candles, the snowfall and moonlight on the magical ceiling, the orchestra with each instrument performed by ghosts of Christmas past and the tree, the magnificent tree. There was never a Christmas tree finer than Narcissa’s tree.

Narcissa led Professor Snape to stand by the tree, though his insistence on the ever-black attire was a nuisance as it wrecked her beautiful and delightful tree of festively colorful decorations. It was lit with candles that never dripped set in holders with mirrors that twinkled in reflection of the flame. This year she had the magical toy theme that was in truth, always her favorite. She loved the idea of children with all their wonderful playthings. The actual children themselves were not so wonderful, except of course for her precious Draco, who doted on his mother. He was such a sweet boy.

“Draco helped with the decorations for the tree, Severus,” she said to him as they stood watching the dancers on the ballroom floor. “He’s such a good boy, my Draco, don’t you think?”

“I do indeed,” said Snape dryly. “He is very talented at potions and I might add very much adept as his father at the social styling needed to do well at Hogwarts and in Slytherin House in particular.” Sometimes even Severus Snape galled himself at the extent of his butt kissing, all for the ruddy cause. Narcissa was a beautiful woman that he had always found attractive but he was angry with her for taking him from Felicity. He was a bloody prisoner at Malfoy Manor.

“You must not see that woman, Severus,” said Narcissa with such venom that he raised an eyebrow to stare at her in surprise. “She is my enemy.” She smiled up at him and put her arm through his. It was a strange contrast, the affection of the movement to the venom of her words.

“I hardly think you’re being fair, Narcissa,” said Snape coldly. “She had an affair with your husband when she was sixteen years old. Who was at fault, my dear? You’re being unreasonable. That was twenty years ago.”

Narcissa was a beautiful woman. Her blonde hair and fine features could be cut in stone by the greatest of sculptors and still her beauty would not be sufficiently realized. She was, in fact the ultimate beauty. “That doesn’t matter to me, Severus,” she said softly smiling up into his face. “My husband’s indiscretions are numerous and although irritating, they don’t offend me.” She changed her face to a flirtatious pout. “But you, Severus are a man of integrity and not given to such base acts of lasciviousness as my dear husband. You must be above such thoughts. I cannot bear you with her.”

It had been a long time since Severus Snape had wanted to laugh out loud in the presence of a Malfoy. “You give me too much credit, Mrs. Malfoy,” said Snape. “She is useful to me at the moment and I am enjoying myself. You need know nothing more. My affair does not, in point of fact, concern you.” He chose his words carefully. She was up to something, this one. He was irritated at her. His having to cater to the whims of Lucius was one thing, but also having to accommodate the whims of his narcissistic wife was unacceptable.

She looked up at him fixing a beautifully dimpled smile on her face. “I was hoping that we’d get to know each other over this holiday, Severus. You have always held my affections.” She stroked his hand lightly with her fingers.

Snape was shocked, surprised and also, truth be told, flattered. “Why are you taking this tack with me, Narcissa?” he asked suspiciously. “You know full well that I would never oblige your supposed wiles with your husband, my close friend within the same house.” She wore a faint scent of a flower that he couldn’t place. It was neither sweet nor pungent. It smoothly entered his senses intertwining with his acknowledgement of her superb beauty. He felt the attraction, and reveled for a stolen moment in the possibility of her.

She pouted perfectly. “He won’t be in the house this evening, Severus,” she said. “He has an appointment with one of his many mistresses.”

“This doesn’t bother you?” he asked curious. The music was a waltz and the many dancing couples swirled before them. He indulged his vanity thinking of her wanting him more than Lucius.

She laughed. “Don’t be such a muggle proletariat, my dear Professor.” She leaned her head on his shoulder; her blonde tendrils of hair cascading down his dark shoulder. “My husband wants me to be happy and out of the way. He would much rather I chose someone that he trusts over someone he doesn’t know.”

“I’m surprised, Narcissa,” he said softly. He watched the dancers before them. Felicity was dancing with her father. He knew that she was aware of him and felt a rush of excitement at the possibility of her jealousy.

“I knew you’d be surprised, dearest,” she purred. “As I said, you’re a man of integrity. My door will be open to you, always.”

He turned and looked into her eyes. They were blue and alight with a cunning need that he found very tempting. He could not help but feel delighted at her offer of warmth and would indeed enjoy being seduced by the magnificent Narcissa Malfoy. Even though he was fully aware that her reasons might be something other than mere lust and certainly no love would be involved, she was very tempting indeed.

“I am intrigued, Narcissa,” he whispered moving his face closer to her. “But I don’t trust your motives, nor do I trust that your husband would not care.”

Lucius Malfoy, who’d been watching from afar, extracted himself from conversation with a group from the Ministry to stand before them. He could tell, even though he was busy elsewhere that his wife needed him to prod Severus a little more to get him to cooperate. The man was tiresomely suspicious.

“Don’t you two look cozy?” he said. “Are you making plans, perhaps?”

Severus’ head snapped up at the sound of Lucius’ voice. Narcissa however looked completely unruffled and even a little triumphant. “We are, indeed dear husband,” she said lightly. “Severus will keep me company this evening while you’re away on business. Won’t that be nice?”

Lucius looked at Severus’ inscrutable face and laughed out loud. “My dear friend, you’re so good at hiding all your desires that sometimes I find myself wanting to push your buttons just to see you shut them down!” He leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek. “Anything that makes you happy, dear, makes me happy.” And walked off to greet a young man that he knew worked at the Ministry in the Department of Mysteries.

“See, my dear Severus?” said Narcissa sweetly. “You’ve made him very happy. He’s said so.” She flashed a look at him that he felt at his center. Her offer was very tempting indeed.

“I suppose,” he began. “That my plans could be changed.” It was for the cause, after all. He was here at the Malfoys to get close to them, enjoy their trust, and gather information, after all. She was so very alluring and he’d admired her from afar for almost two decades.

The look of joyful triumph on Narcissa’s face sealed his resolve. There was no aphrodisiac more potent to ones vanity than being seen as a prize won in the eyes of another.

The party whirled. The music was enchanting and everyone seemed to be smiling and chatting at once. The room was alive with the celebration of Christmas Eve and the perfect party. Roland stood with Cornelius Fudge and Lucius Malfoy as he had at various points of the evening. He had made an effort to ingratiate himself to the Minister specifically. Lucius Malfoy, like a bad penny was also never far away.

“Your daughter is very beautiful tonight,” said Lucius as if he were making polite chitchat. “Does she tell you about what Dumbledore is up to at Hogwarts?”

“Yes, yes,” agreed Cornelius. “What does she say Roland?”

“She says nothing,” said Roland truthfully. “She’s never been one to pay attention to the politics of our world.”

“It’s scandalous, really,” said Lucius. “Riding on the coattails of a mere boy who is most assuredly insane. Imagine, trying to whip up hysteria with these absurd rumors of He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named returning?”

Roland glared at Lucius. He was sick of the tact that he took incessantly. It only stirred Cornelius up. He acted ridiculously whenever Dumbledore’s supposed ambitions were mentioned. Lucius was deliberately acting meddlesome. Lucius sneered in response to his glare.

“Something has to done about them. What they’re saying is dangerous! The wizarding community should be above such political maneuvers for power,” said Cornelius frowning at the injustice of it. He’d had a few of his rum drinks and was feeling relaxed in the company of his powerful friends. “I am still aggravated by that fiasco of a trial of a few months back. Mr. Potter most certainly should have been severely punished for using magic as he’d done. Dumbledore must be stopped in his ambition for control.”

“Cornelius, Dumbledore is not after your job,” said Roland exasperated. He sighed audibly.

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that, Roland,” said Lucius pretending to reflect seriously on what he’d said. “I believe that he is secretly gathering an army of followers.”

Cornelius started huffing and turned a splotchy shade darker red. Roland couldn’t help thinking for the umpteenth time that the man was just too emotional for such a powerful position as the Minister of Magic, especially as he was so easily influenced by the likes of Malfoy.

“Excuse me, Minister, I wonder if I might get a picture of the three of you,” said a rather paunchy man with a bad wig, an unfashionable robe and a cumbersome camera dangling about his neck. “It’s for the Daily Prophet Society page, sir.”

“It would be a pleasure, Bozo, indeed” smiled the Minister who was always one to schmooze the press. “Happy to oblige, to be sure!” All three of the men stood closer together smiling at the wizard’s camera.

“Would you like to comment on rumor of someone in the Ministry of Magic having been attacked by a mysterious serpent, sir?”

Cornelius turned a bit green. “No, I would not!” he spluttered.

“They say that it was He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named, sir and in the Ministry building, as well.”

“Preposterous!!! Simply preposterous, this would be that idiot boy again trying to make a name for him self. Insufferable delinquent, that’s what he’s become. It’s a disgrace! There was no such thing as a bloody serpent within the Ministry and a rumor such as that is merely that!” Roland tried to shut the Minister up by taking his arm and redirecting his attention to something on the dance floor, but the Minister had built up a head of steam. “It’s others that have political aspirations that have spread such nonsense!”

“Who sir?”

“I don’t think the Minister wishes to associated in any way with the political aspirations of Albus Dumbledore,” said Lucius smoothly.

“Are you saying that the Headmaster of Hogwarts has started these rumors because he wants to be the next Minister of Magic, Mr. Malfoy?” asked Bozo smiling.

“I don’t think I want to be quoted as saying anything at all, sir,” replied Lucius.

Roland glared harder at Lucius while Minister Fudge pierced his lips together in anger and turned a deeper shade of red.

Lucius had a satisfied grin on his face as Roland finally whooshed the reporter aside and managed to drag Cornelius’ attention to an important dignitary that needed attending to. More and more, Ambassador Wood was seeing Cornelius Fudge’s misplaced liaisons as a liability to his own political career. He decided then and there that he would be the man’s new best friend to get him out of the clutches of Lucius Malfoy. From the satisfied look on his enemy’s face he was realizing that what his daughter had been telling him must be true. It would be all over the bloody papers by morning that Albus Dumbledore wanted the job of Ministry of Magic according to Lucius Malfoy.

Roland was livid. He had been in politics far too long not to see where this thread was leading them. He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named had returned, after all. Malfoy was up to his old tricks, helping him yet again, this time by alienating Dumbledore from the Minister and the Wizarding world in general. It was a classic case of the muggle shell game as he’d ever he seen it. He suddenly realized that something would have to be done and he might have to do it.

Felicity had spent most of the evening listening to people. Having the ability to intrude unfelt into the minds of others was too valuable a skill not to use at such a party. So far, she had memorized the faces and names of six would-be Death Eaters not already known to the Order.

Severus came up behind her as she was watching the ghost orchestra play a show tune. She was giggling at the brass section because one of the ghosts had particularly puffy cheeks. Severus slid his arm around her waist and pulled her to him, whispering in her ear. “Come dance with me,” he said feeling his now familiar need of her touch. She was so naturally seductive. He felt invigorated by Narcissa’s proposal and more than a little aroused by the prospect of two women wanting him at the same time. He was empowered by it.

“You’re really very vain, professor,” said Felicity teasing him. Her eyes sparkled with delight. She turned to look at him.

“It’s very tiresome that you know everything about me, darling,” he said frowning. “I’m not allowed to be mysterious? You must always invade my thoughts?” Even with the orchestra blaring she seemed to know all that he was thinking. It was irritating.

“I don’t do it on purpose, Severus,” she said thoughtfully. “Sometimes you practically scream what you’re thinking at me and this would be one of those times. Narcissa Malfoy has made a very promising proposal that you want to accept and you think as an added bonus that I’ll be jealous.” She laughed at his irritated expression. “Which I’m not, jealous, that is. I’m not jealous.” He lifted an eyebrow of distain and disgust. “Jealousy and possession are things that I don’t do, my love. I have memories of feeling jealousy from long ago and that’s all. It’s not a dragon emotion.”

“I mean so little to you?” he asked coldly.

“Don’t be a baby, Severus,” she said lightly. “I love you and will always love you. You, however, know nothing about love. You still think that possessing me is love,” she frowned in thought. “I have great hopes that someday you’ll understand how to love.”

He hated her at that moment. The passion of it welled up like a viper striking out. This illusive thing that she called love was a ridiculous weakness. His passion for her was indeed love and she was just too brainwashed by her Eastern trainings to understand a man like him.

“Don’t be an idiot, Felicity,” he said harshly. “Of course, what I feel for you is love. Why else would it drive me insane with jealousy whenever you speak of your outrageous infatuation with the wolf.”

She smiled devilishly. He was very appealing when he was annoyed. “I’d kiss you passionately to prove my feelings for you,” she said, “but your new lover might have a fit. She is the covetous kind of human of the worst kind. Trust me, I’ve seen her jealous before.”

“Come dance then, dragon,” he said still frowning. She’d spoiled the moment with her ridiculousness. Why he found her attractive at all was beyond him. She wasn’t even a real human.

“I don’t dance very well anymore, Severus,” she said. “There wasn’t much call for it in Tibet and I’m out of practice.” She knitted her brows concentrating on him. “I am too very much a human. I am just also a dragon.”

He dragged her out to the floor regardless and glided her around. She danced just fine. After all, she was a diplomat’s daughter and born a pureblood. All the while that they danced, he made sure that Narcissa and Lucius were occupied. Both of them, he knew, watched them, as well. Despite Felicity’s uncooperative nature, he was still resolved to have her for himself and aimed her for the terrace again. An Order member would be watching and make a full report of what they saw.

“How about a photo?” asked Bozo the photographer interrupting them, as he was about to push her through the door. “You make a striking couple, Professor Snape.”

Even better, thought Snape meanly, spinning Felicity to pose. Lupin was bound to see a photo in the Daily Prophet.

Tonks watched from her perch in the tree for several hours as the Malfoy’s party progressed. She idly wondered about parties, how they seemed to have a rhythm. At first everyone seemed excited and happy, then as the evening waned the energy of everyone would become contemplative. This party had moved into the slower pace and people were leaving. It was quite late. She watched as Felicity and her father left up the stairs. Professor Snape gazed up after them and her aunt Narcissa Malfoy came up behind him placing her hand on his back in a way that was at once intimate and possessing.

Narcissa Malfoy and all that she was about aggravated Tonks no end. They had treated her mother and father like dirt and didn’t deserve to have all this beauty and wealth surrounding them. If it came to war, Tonks knew that her parents would be in great danger, as would she. Lucius Malfoy would make an example of them just because they were of his own family. She watched as Narcissa led Snape away and wondered about him kissing Felicity as he’d done but still looking as if he had a relationship of some sort with her Aunt. Snape walked a fine line amongst these people and she wondered suddenly if he’d been acting a part.

She had a dilemma ahead. What would she tell Remus? They were going to the hospital to escort the Weasley family and Harry on Christmas day. Should she tell him what she’d seen? Remus Lupin was without a doubt the nicest and kindest of men. He just didn’t deserve to have his heart broken and she sure as heck didn’t want to be the one to do it.


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