The Sugar Quill
Author: Mrs Weasley (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Malfoy’s Christmas Carol  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Author's Note: This was published on fanfiction.net last Christmas, but as it is Christmas again I thought I would add it to the rest of my stories on Sugar Quill!

Summary: Draco Malfoy meets three mysterious spirits; will the experience change his attitude? Not exactly original, but I have tried to be fairly faithful to the spirit of "A Christmas Carol".

Disclaimer: The Harry Potter characters belong to JK Rowling, not me. "A Christmas Carol" belongs to Charles Dickens, but as it's out of copyright I can do anything I like with it!

MALFOY'S CHRISTMAS CAROL

A seasonal ghost story

 

Malfoy was livid: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The fury on his face had been seen by Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy Parkinson and most of the inhabitants of Hogwarts. Draco Malfoy was as livid as a raging Hungarian Horntail.

Did they know why he was so angry? Of course they did. How could it be otherwise? Malfoy was angry for two reasons.

He had been annoyed when the first blow fell - the letter from his father telling him to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas.

Your mother has been called away to nurse a sick relative, Lucius Malfoy had written, and I will be entertaining some of my own friends. With your mother away I think it is better than you stay at school for the holidays.

Narcissa Malfoy's enclosed note had been a little warmer in tone. Dear Draco, I'm so sorry you can't come home for Christmas. I will send all your presents to you.

The second blow, however, had really made Malfoy's bad mood complete. It was the discovery that, this Christmas, only two students were staying at Hogwarts - himself, and his least favourite companion, Harry Potter.

That Christmas Eve, the school seemed very quiet. The remaining staff and students ate supper together at one long table. Malfoy cast dark looks across the table at Harry Potter, whose head was bent over his plate, but he dared do nothing more to him with several members of staff watching both of them. Neither boy contributed much to the genial conversation Albus Dumbledore was endeavouring to maintain.

Draco wondered moodily, as he drank his pumpkin juice, which hexes might suffice to ruin Potter's Christmas Day. The problem was that if Potter did happen to develop Jelly-Legs or a rash of boils tomorrow, suspicion would almost certainly fall straight on Draco, there being no-one else around for it to fall on.

It seemed far too long before Professor Dumbledore rose, nodded pleasantly to his colleagues, and ended the meal. Draco paused when he saw Potter pushing his chair back, not wanting to find himself in the position of leaving the room at the same time. He followed after a few moments, and saw Potter's back view heading towards the stairs to Gryffindor Tower. Malfoy headed in the opposite direction, down the stairs to the dungeon entrance, and through the cold stone corridors to the entrance to the Slytherin common room.

The corridor seemed very dark as Malfoy reached the stretch of bare stone wall which hid the common room entrance. The torches which lit the walls were guttering in their sockets, the flames sinking very low. He put out a hand to touch the wall, opened his mouth to utter the password - and froze.

There was a face looking out of the wall at him, and one he recognised. It was the face of his grandfather, Festrus Malfoy, who had been dead for five years.

"Grandfather?"

Draco shut his eyes and opened them again. The wall appeared perfectly normal. No face was to be seen.

To say that Draco was not startled would be untrue. But he put his hand gingerly upon the wall, murmured rather distractedly, "Asphodel and Wormwood," and when the wall slid open he walked into the common room.

He did pause, and look cautiously at the back of the wall as it slid back into place, but there was nothing unusual there.

The common room was empty, and the fire cast dancing shadows around the dim room. Malfoy decided to go to bed, and walked down the passageway which led to the fifth-year boys' dormitory.

The dormitory was empty too, and silent, but Malfoy, for reasons he was unwilling to admit to himself, had a good look round it before he went to his own bed. There was nobody under the green hangings of the four-poster beds, nobody in the vast carved wardrobes, nobody in his dressing-gown, which was hanging from a hook on his bed-post. Everything was quite as usual, including the faintly ripe aroma from the pair of socks Goyle had mislaid three weeks earlier and which had so far resisted all the boys' efforts to find them, including calling charms.

Malfoy sat down on his bed and took off his shoes, wondering about the face he thought he had seen. There were ghosts at Hogwarts, but why would Festrus Malfoy suddenly decide to haunt the school? He had never been seen haunting anywhere else since they had buried him in the family vault at Malfoy Manor. Draco shrugged, and pulled off his socks - and paused, as he heard something strange.

There was a clanking sound out in the stone passageway, a noise like a metal chain being dragged along the floor. Someone was coming. The noise grew louder, and then, without a pause, Festrus Malfoy's ghost passed straight through the heavy door and into the dormitory. Draco paled slightly as his grandfather seated himself opposite him, on Crabbe's empty bed. He had a heavy metal chain twisted around his body, dragging across the floor behind him, but otherwise he looked just as Draco remembered him, except that he was transparent.

"Grandfather!" Draco said, staring transfixed at him.

"Draco," said the spirit in return, eyeing him severely. "You have grown since I last saw you. You look like your father - unfortunately."

"Why - why have you come?" Draco asked nervously.

"Not to wish you a Merry Christmas, Draco," replied his grandfather's ghost. "You see this chain I am wearing?" He rattled it as he spoke.

"Yes."

"I made it myself, in a lifetime of pureblood pride and unkind deeds, Draco. You have already started making yours."

The ghost paused, and Draco found himself shivering in the silence.

"I have come to give you a chance of avoiding my fate - and the fate of your father," Festrus continued. Draco looked hopeful. "You will be haunted by Three Spirits."

Draco's face fell.

"Expect the first when the bell tolls one," said Festrus.

"Couldn't I take them all at once, and have it over with, Grandfather?" hinted Draco.

"No. I will visit you no more, and for your own sake, remember what has passed between us!"

When it had said these words, the ghost rose from Crabbe's bed, and, letting out a mournful cry, vanished through the door.

Draco stood up, on rather shaky legs, and checked that the dormitory door was locked. "Poor old Grandfather, being dead must have driven him nuts," he said aloud, but his voice lacked conviction. He got into bed, pulled the covers well up, and despite what he had just seen, went straight to sleep.

* * * * *

When Draco awoke, it was very dark. He was just wondering what had woken him, when he heard the distant clock in the common room striking one. "One o'clock," he thought, remembering his meeting with his grandfather. Perhaps it had been a dream?

Light suddenly filled the room, and the curtains around his bed were drawn by a hand. Draco, sitting up, startled, found himself face to face with the visitor who had drawn them.

The spirit who stood there was a small, slight figure - in build he reminded Draco of little Dennis Creevey. A brilliant light shone from it, so that Draco was forced to look away.

"Who, and what are you?" he demanded.

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Past," replied the spirit, in a low, gentle voice, quite unlike the Dennis Creevey-type squeak Malfoy had expected. "Rise, and walk with me!"

It was in vain for Malfoy to protest, because he found the spirit's grip on his arm strong enough to draw him out of bed. It pulled him not towards the door, but towards the solid stone wall.

"I'll hit the wall!" he protested, but the words were scarcely out of his mouth before he found himself passing through the wall, along with the ghost. It was a very cold, strange sensation, and not a comfortable one.

Draco expected to find himself in another dungeon passageway or dormitory, but to his surprise they were standing in a room he recognised. It was a large bedroom, richly furnished, with a high ceiling, velvet curtains, portraits in heavy gold frames, and antique furniture. It was lit by one branched candlestick full of burning candles, which stood beside a huge bed.

"This is - this is my bedroom!" Draco said, turning to the ghost in astonishment. "My room at Malfoy Manor!" He looked around, frowning. "But it doesn't look quite the same -"

There was nobody in the room, but as they stood there they heard a raised, angry voice in the passage outside, and a moment later the door was flung open. Draco recognised his father, Lucius Malfoy. He expected his father to look straight at him in astonishment, but Lucius did not seem to notice him at all.

"These are but shadows of the things that have been," said the Ghost. "They will not see or hear us."

Lucius was looking furious, and was dragging a small pyjama-clad child by the arm - a blond boy of about four years old. With a shock, Draco recognised his younger self. His father looked at least ten years younger, too.

"You will never do such a thing again, Draco, do you understand me?" Lucius said, pushing the little boy towards the bed. The young Draco's face was blotched with tears, and he was choking back more.

"Embarrassing me in front of our guests - how dared you?" Lucius continued. "Some of my guests are very important people, boy! They are not to be bothered by whining brats!"

"I'm sorry, Father, I'm sorry - "

"You will go to bed and stay there, this time, do you hear me? I do not wish to see you tomorrow morning until I send for you, Christmas Day or not."

Draco, watching the little boy climb sobbing into the oversized bed, remembered the incident, and the shame he had felt. He had woken up, and run downstairs to ask his parents if it was Christmas Day yet, and whether he could open his presents. Unfortunately, they had been entertaining important guests for dinner, and Lucius Malfoy had not been inclined to laugh off the intrusion of a four-year-old into a rather secret and delicate discussion.

Lucius Malfoy paused by the door, watching his son pull up the bedcovers. "You are not a baby, and don't need a nightlight," he observed, blowing out the candles, and shutting the door firmly behind him.

Draco could still see, thanks to the light shining from the ghost next to him, but the young Draco in the bed obviously could not, and was sobbing loudly under the bedcovers.

A few minutes passed, before the door was opened again softly, and the light of a single candle shone into the room. It was carried by Narcissa Malfoy, resplendent in a glittering green evening gown.

"Mother!" the young Draco choked, as she hurried towards him.

"Ssh, Draco!" Narcissa sat down on the bed and stroked his hair soothingly. "Father is very annoyed. But everything will be all right tomorrow. Don't forget, it's Christmas."

The little boy's sobs subsided as she soothed him, and she held something out to him. "Look, I've brought you some chocolates from the dining-room."

There was a soft tap on the door, and the worried face of Dobby the house-elf appeared. "Mistress - the master is missing you. He is wondering where you is, mistress."

"Tell him I will be down in a moment, elf," Narcissa ordered, and Dobby vanished obediently. "I must go, Draco - your father wouldn't like it if he knew I'd been up here."

"W-will you leave the candle here, Mother?" asked the little boy, as she tucked him in.

"Yes, all right. Sleep well." She looked back and gave him a rather sad smile as she closed the door behind her.

"Do you remember that night, Draco?" asked the spirit, looking at him.

"Yes," Draco said in a low voice, shielding his eyes from the spirit's bright light. Seeing this long-ago Christmas had given him powerful mixed feelings.

The Ghost of Christmas Past was pulling on his arm, and Draco felt another surge of cold run through him as his feet left the ground again. Leaving the little boy curled up in the grand room, they melted through the panelled wall...

...and into a completely different room. A suburban sitting-room, with flowered curtains, overstuffed furniture and many things which were strange to Draco's eyes. Bright light came from a glass bulb on the ceiling, with a pink fringed shade. A strange box with moving pictures on it stood in the corner of the room, next to the elaborately-decorated artificial Christmas tree.

"Is this - a Muggle house?" asked Draco, who had never been in one before.

"Yes," said the spirit. "A Muggle house...the same Christmas as the one we have just seen, but in a very different family."

The door opened, and a small boy waddled in. Draco blinked. His friends Crabbe and Goyle were solidly-built by anyone's standards, but they lacked the rolls of blubber this child had already managed to accumulate. Piggy eyes in the pink face glinted as the boy made for the pile of presents under the Christmas tree.

A thin, horse-faced Muggle woman with blonde hair in curlers followed the boy into the room. "Happy Christmas, Duddy darling!" she exclaimed. "Come and give Mummy a Christmas kiss."

The boy ignored her, and began purposefully ripping the wrappings off the nearest present, seemingly as unaware of his mother's presence as he was of Draco and the ghost standing behind him.

"Petunia!" A large man entered the room, beefy and pink-faced like his son, and with a large moustache. He was carrying a wrapped present, which he handed to his wife, who simpered at him. "There you are, my dear. Happy Christmas."

He was followed into the room by a boy of about four, much smaller and skinnier than the first boy. He had black, untidy hair, green eyes and round glasses. His glasses and his clothes were too big for him, and the sleeves of his threadbare jersey had been rolled up several times. He was staggering under the weight of several large gift-wrapped boxes.

Draco frowned at this boy. He was pretty sure he knew who this was. It had to be a younger Harry Potter.

"Put them down there!" the large man barked at Harry, who struggled across to the Christmas tree and put the boxes down next to the pile that was already there.

A smile appeared on the large man's face. "Happy Christmas, Dudley - that should be enough to keep you going."

Dudley, the pudgy child, abandoned the toy train he'd just taken out of a box, and pounced on one of the new packages.

Harry watched him for a few moments, before turning to the woman. "Happy Christmas, Aunt Petunia."

She looked him up and down for a few moments, with what Draco thought was a rather exasperated expression, before she reached down and grabbed the empty train box from the floor. She handed it to the skinny little boy. "There's your present. You can keep things in it."

"What can I keep in it?" asked Harry.

"Don't ask so many questions!" she snapped at him, before her expression changed completely as she turned to her son. "Do you like the new Action Man, Duddykins?"

"It's broken," Dudley whinged, having just pulled the head off the toy. He flung it away from him, and looked at Harry, who was still clutching his cardboard box. "Give that back to me, it's mine."

"She just gave it to me," Harry complained. Dudley's face went red at this, and he screwed up his eyes, opening a cavernous mouth to scream.

"I - WANT - MY - BOX!"

"Give Dudley the box!" the large man barked at Harry. "And then go and make us some tea, and when you've brought it in, keep out of the way until Dudley's finished opening his presents."

The younger Harry opened his mouth to protest, then obviously decided it wasn't worth the trouble and closed his mouth again. Silently, he handed the box to his cousin, walked to the door and went out.

Draco frowned again as he watched the parents kneel down by the tree and soothe the still red-faced Dudley, encouraging him to continue with the present-opening.

"I wouldn't blame Potter if he thumped that boy," Draco murmured to the ghost, feeling a twinge of sympathy for his old enemy which surprised him.

"I told you these are but the shadows of the things that have been," said the spirit. "We cannot change them."

As the spirit turned towards him, Draco shut his eyes against the glare from its light, and became suddenly conscious of being exhausted. He felt the sensation of flying again, of being suddenly whirled around and dropped into a soft surface. When he opened his eyes, he was lying in his own bed in his Slytherin dormitory, the ghost had gone, and it was dark once more. Exhaustion seemed to overwhelm him, and he sank into sleep immediately, without time to think about the strange things he had seen.

* * * * *

The common room clock had struck one again.

Waking from a troubled sleep, Draco was sure of this, however strange it might seem for the clock to strike one o'clock twice in the same night. What had Festrus Malfoy said? There would be three Spirits - where was the second? Draco sat up and pulled back the curtains all round his bed, looking round the dormitory, but he could see no ghost. He lay there, puzzled, for five minutes before he became aware of a warm orange light streaming under the dormitory door, and he got out of bed to investigate.

When he unlocked the door, it was clear that this glow was coming from the empty common room, and Draco walked warily down the passageway, half-afraid of what he might find. When he reached the common room door, however, he stood for a moment with his mouth open in astonishment.

The rather dark, gloomy Slytherin common room had been transformed. Holly, ivy and mistletoe hung from every wall, picture frame, mantelpiece and surface. A huge fire was blazing in the fireplace, and heaped up on the floor in front of it was a mountain of food - turkeys, geese, game, poultry, sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, apples, oranges and much more. A giant of a man sat behind this pile, a giant who reminded Draco of Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper. He wore a green robe bordered with white fur, had a holly wreath on his head, and was holding a huge glowing torch, which he held up to shed its light on Draco.

"Come in!" exclaimed the ghost.

"Who are you?" Draco asked, walking forwards with some trepidation, but reassured by this ghost's jolly appearance.

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present."

"Do you - do you want to show me anything?" Draco asked.

"Touch my robe!"

Draco did as he was told, and held it tightly.

Holly, mistletoe, turkeys, geese, all vanished instantly. So did the room, the fire, the hour of night, and they stood in a room Draco had never seen before. From the stone walls, the red upholstery of the furniture, and the people in the room, he knew where he must be though - the Gryffindor common room at Hogwarts; and he couldn't help noticing that it looked cosier than the Slytherin equivalent. Winter sunshine was streaming through the tower windows. They had obviously gone back in time a couple of days, before all the Gryffindors except Harry had gone home for Christmas.

The gigantic spirit who stood beside him motioned Draco to look at two people who were near the fire, and Draco recognised them both. Harry Potter was fixing a swag of holly above the fireplace, and Hermione Granger was arranging Christmas cards along the mantelpiece. Draco found himself unable to look at Harry without remembering that scene he had witnessed at Harry's relatives' house.

"Hope Ron doesn't take too long wrapping up his presents," Harry was saying to Hermione. "I want to ask him if he thinks his mum will like the cookery book I've bought her - 'Spells for Seafood', it's called, I hope she hasn't got it already - "

"She'll love it," Hermione assured him, stepping back to look at her card arrangement carefully and looking satisfied with it. "What have you got for Ron? I've bought him the new International Quidditch Yearbook, I hope he likes it, it's got a review of the World Cup in it - "

"Whatever you get him, he'll like," said Harry, giving her a rather meaning look. Draco was interested to notice Hermione colouring slightly. "I've got him a Chudley Cannons scarf. What time does your train leave tomorrow?"

"Eleven o'clock from Hogsmeade station," Hermione replied, looking sympathetically at Harry. "It's a shame you're not coming with us Harry - I think Dumbledore's mean to have said you have to stay here for safety. You know I'd have kept you company, only Mum and Dad said they wanted me home for Christmas for a change. And Ron's mum wanted him home because Bill and Charlie are coming and she wants to get the whole family together for once, so neither of us can stay this year."

"I know - honestly, it's OK," Harry assured her, but Draco could tell he was not really looking forward to spending Christmas alone. "I'll be fine - I'll catch up on my reading, and practice my flying, and eat too many sweets, and hang out at Hagrid's. It'll be quite peaceful."

Hermione looked unconvinced, but her attention was distracted from Harry by the entrance of a sobbing Dennis Creevey, who had just climbed into the room looking very distressed.

"What happened to you?" Harry asked Dennis.

"M - Malfoy," Dennis sobbed, manfully trying to choke back his tears. "M-me and C-Colin were having a last flying practice before we go home, and Malfoy hexed us. The - the twigs on my broom are all bent, and Colin hurt his ankle. He's gone to the hospital wing. Malfoy laughed at us - " Dennis wiped his eyes on his sleeve, and showed them a large bruise on his arm. "That's where I f-fell off."

Draco looked guiltily at Dennis's unhappy face, as Harry and Hermione exchanged angry glances.

"That Malfoy!" Hermione said crossly. "He's nothing but a bully. You should report him to one of the teachers, Dennis."

"Oh no," Dennis said quickly. "If I did that, he might do something worse to me. And I'm scared of Crabbe and Goyle - they might beat me up."

"We'll sort him out for you," Harry said grimly.

Draco cast a quick glance sideways at the unsmiling face of the Ghost of Christmas Present. He was starting to wish he had left the Creeveys alone that day. It had seemed like an easy laugh at the time, but...

"Not now, we won't," Hermione said. "You don't want to get into trouble now and have all the teachers cross with you for the whole of Christmas, Harry. But next term - next term we'll teach Mister Malfoy to pick on people smaller than him." Draco did not like the expression of determination she wore, and he couldn't help remembering the time, in their third year, when she had smacked him in the face.

He was feeling so uncomfortable at watching this scene, that he was quite glad when the ghost motioned to him to hold on to its robe again. The Gryffindor common room vanished at that instant, and instead Draco found that they were standing in the streets of Hogsmeade on a snowy morning. It was cold, and the clouds were grey, but the people who hurried past them - without noticing them at all - were happy and cheerful.

"Happy Christmas!" Draco heard one shopkeeper call to another. He saw Madam Rosmerta opening the shutters of The Three Broomsticks, calling a laughing warning to two small boys who were pretending to aim snowballs at her. Children were playing, people on street corners were gossiping and exchanging Christmas greetings, and Draco could smell Christmas dinners cooking in the houses they passed.

As he followed the spirit through the streets, Draco noticed the ghost waving his torch towards certain people. Two boys who were quarrelling stopped quarrelling immediately when the spirit's torch was waved towards them, and went off together amiably. Through an open door Draco saw a harrassed witch struggling to light her kitchen fire, waving her wand unsuccessfully and muttering to herself. One wave of the spirit's torch, and a wonderful fire suddenly roared up in her fireplace, much to her astonishment. Draco could not help smiling at the expression on her face.

"Touch my robe!" the spirit said again. There was a flicker, and Hogsmeade was gone. They were standing in the yard of a rather crooked stone house. There was no snow here - they were obviously further south than Hogsmeade. Chickens pecked around Draco's feet. He could hear yells and shouts nearby, and a moment later three red-headed boys pelted round the corner of the house in pursuit of a fourth. Draco recognised them all.

"Is this Weasley's house?" he asked the gigantic ghost standing beside him. The ghost nodded.

Draco looked at the jumble of things in the yard, noticing the general shabbiness, which did not surprise him. Meanwhile, Fred, George and Ron had caught Percy, who had completely lost his dignity and whose glasses had been knocked sideways. George and Ron were now holding his arms while Fred tried to force him to put on a lumpy jersey.

"Come on, Perce, it's Christmas, you've got to wear a Weasley jumper at Christmas!"

As Percy struggled and his brothers laughed helplessly, Ginny Weasley appeared at the back door, looking happy. "Dinner's ready!" she announced. Her brothers released Percy and made a dive for the door. Percy, muttering, followed them, and Draco and the ghost brought up the rear. The ghost waved his torch across the Weasleys' doorway as they entered.

The Weasleys' kitchen seemed small and very full of people, but Draco could not help sensing the warmth which filled the room, and noticing how cheerful everyone looked. Mr. Weasley was carving a turkey, and steam was pouring up from the pan where a pudding was boiling. There was a great clattering of chairs as the whole family sat down. Draco counted six brothers - he thought he vaguely recognised the eldest two, perhaps he'd seen them at the Triwizard Tournament - and Ginny. Mrs. Weasley was beaming as she sat at the foot of the table and began dishing up vegetables.

"It's so nice to have everyone here," she said. "I can't remember the last time you were all home for Christmas."

"Shame Harry couldn't come," Ron murmured, next to her. Ginny, on his other side, blushed, and Draco remembered that she had always had a bit of a crush on Potter.

"Yes, but I'm sure Professor Dumbledore knows best," said Mrs. Weasley. "I hope he got his presents all right."

"Thanks for the sweater, Mum," said one of the two oldest brothers. "It'll be just the thing for keeping warm when I'm on dragon-watch at night. It can get pretty chilly there, you know."

Other members of the family chimed in with comments about gifts they had received, and Draco, as he listened, realised that most of the gifts seemed to have been home-made. He supposed that this was probably necessary if there was not much money to spend on presents. Lack of money did not seem to be depressing anyone's spirits, however, and there was a lot of laughter and chatter around the table, even from Percy. The loudest uproar came when the crackers were pulled, and found to contain certain unusual objects which Mrs. Weasley accused Fred and George of having put there. Draco had always seen the twins as hated members of a rival Quidditch team, but he couldn't stop himself laughing out loud as Fred and George protested their innocence to their mother while Ron and Ginny extinguished a small fire which had broken out in Ginny's cracker.

The Ghost of Christmas Present touched Draco's arm, and he looked up, rather disappointed to be leaving this happy scene just as the Weasleys were discussing their plans to play games and open more presents off the tree. But he took hold of the spirit's robe obediently, and with another flicker the Weasleys' kitchen disappeared and they were standing in a much more spacious, but gloomier room, a complete contrast to the jollity of the Weasleys' house.

Draco shivered as he recognised his Great-Aunt Asphasia's bedroom. She was a haughty witch of ninety, with a hooked nose and an imperious manner. Draco had always dreaded being taken to visit her by his mother. She must be the ailing relative his mother was visiting this Christmas, because there was Great-Aunt Asphasia sitting bolt-upright in bed, the usual disdainful look on her face, and there was his own mother sitting next to the bed, reading aloud to her aunt, a long-suffering look on her face. There was no trace of Christmas decoration in the room.

"You do not read clearly enough, Narcissa," Great-Aunt Asphasia said severely. Even though he knew she could not see him, Draco quailed at her cold stare. "Very few people do. It has taken me years to get Robinson to read aloud properly. I cannot understand why she insisted on abandoning me for a week -she claimed she felt obliged to spend Christmas with her sister. Most inconsiderate."

"Yes, Aunt Asphasia."

"And what is Lucius doing while you are here?"

Draco thought he detected a flash of resentment on his mother's face. "He had meetings with - important friends - over Christmas."

"And Draco?"

"He's staying at school for the holidays, Aunt Asphasia."

"Well, I hope he attends to his books - although, with that fool Albus Dumbledore in charge, I will be surprised if he has learned anything there," Great-Aunt Asphasia sniffed. Draco gave her a hard indignant stare. Learned nothing, indeed - he sometimes thought it amused the Hogwarts staff to set three-feet long essays, which no one except Hermione Granger seemed to enjoy doing.

"I'm sure Draco works very hard at school," Narcissa said, and Draco felt a rush of gratitude towards her.

"His father has great hopes for him, I know," Great-Aunt Asphasia said, and Draco felt a sudden chill as he saw the look in her glittering black eyes. "The destiny of the Malfoys must be fulfilled."

Draco shivered. He had a very good idea of the plans she and his father had for his future, and he had never felt less like fulfilling their hopes. Great-Aunt Asphasia leaned closer to Narcissa, who looked uneasy as the old woman whispered, "You know what Lucius hopes to do with the boy - "

At this interesting, but uncomfortable moment, the Ghost of Christmas Present bent to murmur in Draco's ear. "The time is drawing near."

On Great-Aunt Asphasia's wall, a gilded clock began to strike midnight, and as Draco lifted his eyes to the clock, he realised that the room, his mother, the old woman and the gigantic ghost had all vanished, and that he was in a dark place, where a hooded figure was advancing slowly towards him.

* * * * *

Draco stared transfixed as the solemn ghost, draped and hooded in black, came towards him. This ghost frightened him more than the other two spirits had done. For one thing, it looked horribly like a Dementor, although something told him it was not.

It halted in front of him, but did not speak, which unnerved him further.

"Are you - are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come?" he stammered.

The ghost nodded slightly, but still did not speak.

"Are you - going to show me things that haven't happened yet?"

Again the ghost nodded. It pointed, with a ghostly hand, to indicate that Draco should follow it, and he did, though his knees were trembling.

He did not feel any sensation of movement this time, but suddenly he was following the black-robed figure along a gravelled path. It was wintry, and frost covered the grass beside the path. Looking around him, Draco realised they were walking through a graveyard, and that the path was climbing a hill on which grey tombstones, covered now with white snow, were jutting out of the grass. Beyond the graveyard, wintry fields rolled away beneath them, and Draco could see the rooftops of isolated houses here and there. A winter sun had just risen, reddening the grey sky.

When they reached the top of the hill, the silent ghost halted, and Draco waited behind it, not liking to say anything. A few moments later, he blinked, as a man and woman Apparated about five feet away from them. Warmly dressed in winter cloaks, hats, scarves and gloves, carrying wreaths of scarlet holly berries, the couple walked slowly across the frosty grass to a tombstone which stood by itself a short way away. As Draco now expected, the couple showed no awareness of the ghost or himself at all.

The man and woman stopped by the tombstone, and the ghost began to glide towards them. Draco was compelled to follow, until he was standing right beside them. The woman was brushing the snow away from the tombstone with her gloved hand, until the lettering became visible. Draco looked at it curiously, and felt a sickening jolt in his stomach as he read the name and dates on the stone.

HARRY POTTER

1980-1998

He Died So That Others Might Live

Draco's eyes flew from the writing to the face of the woman who had brushed away the snow. Muffled in her hat and scarf, only part of her face was visible, and she was in her late twenties or early thirties, but he recognised her with a shock.

"Hermione Granger!" he blurted out, almost expecting her to turn at the sound of her name, but, of course, she remained oblivious to his presence.

"After all this time, I feel as though it would be wrong to have Christmas Day without coming here first," she remarked to her companion. "Do you think he knows we're here?"

"Yes," said the tall, red-haired man firmly. Draco recognised him too, although he was at least fifteen years older too. Like Hermione, Ron had lines on his face which made him look older than he probably was. "He's probably watching us right now and practising U-turns on the best broom ever." Draco wondered what Ron would say if he knew who was watching him right now.

Hermione smiled reluctantly at this, but her eyes were still very sad as she cleared some more snow from the base of the tombstone. "Look - someone's left fresh flowers quite recently."

"I think a lot of people come here regularly, not just us," Ron said, looking across the snowy graveyard.

"It seems such a waste - especially at this time of year. I was thinking the other day - in another few months Jamie will be the same age we were when the three of us first met."

Ron nodded. "Well, I hope he makes such good friends when he gets to Hogwarts next autumn, that's all."

"Mmm." Hermione was silent for a few moments, before she burst out, "It really was a waste! Voldemort was already dead - everything was going to be all right - if those last few Death Eaters hadn't found out where Harry was, and decided to make a last gesture - "

"I know." Ron patted her on the back soothingly. "Imagine being Draco Malfoy now. They never proved it was him who betrayed Harry to the Death Eaters, but everyone's avoided him like the plague ever since."

"I don't mind if he is suffering," Hermione muttered, while Draco looked at her in unseen horror. "The more miserable his life is, the better."

"Well, look at what happened to him after that," Ron pointed out to her, as they arranged the scarlet holly wreaths on the tombstone. "His cronies all gone, he saw his own father get the Kiss from a Dementor, his mother driven insane and put in St. Mungo's - they say Malfoy's practically insane these days himself, all he does is sit alone in Malfoy Manor staring at the walls - "

"I know." Hermione had calmed down a little, though the stony look was still on her face. "And I know I can't change anything by getting angry, it's just - well, I miss him, Ron."

"We all miss him," Ron murmured, pulling her into a comforting hug, and they stood for a moment by the tombstone before pulling apart.

Hermione looked at her watch, and became suddenly brisk again. "We must get back, Ron, or Jamie and Molly will be awake, and tearing open all the presents without us."

"Yes." Casting a last look at the tombstone, where the bright wreaths made a splash of colour against the white and grey, Hermione and Ron Apparated away, leaving Draco standing beside the hooded ghost, sick and stunned by what he had heard.

"What they said - it won't necessarily come true, will it?" he asked the ghost pleadingly.

The ghost made no reply.

"Is there - is there anything I can do to stop it?"

Again, the ghost made no reply, and gave no sign of having heard him. Frustrated, Draco tried to grab the sleeve of its robe.

"Please - listen to me - I can change that - I can make sure it doesn't happen - can't I?"

The sleeve was fading from his grasp...Draco reached out desperately...grabbed something...fell forward...and found himself holding the post of his own bed.

* * * * *

He was back in the Slytherin dormitory, in his own bed. For a moment, Draco sat frozen in the dim light, before he patted the mattress, the bedpost, the sheets, the pillows, trying to reassure himself that they were real.

"Was it all a dream?" he demanded into the silent air of the room. Yet it had not felt like a dream...

The clock in the common room was chiming eight o'clock. The long night was over. On the floor at the foot of his bed, Draco saw a heap of packages - Christmas presents.

"Is it still Christmas morning?" he wondered aloud. He jumped out of bed and looked at himself in the long mirror inside the wardrobe door. Yes, he was still Draco Malfoy, still at Hogwarts, fifteen years old, and realising that made a smile spread across his face - not the usual Malfoy smirk he liked to cultivate, but a real smile of gratitude. He pulled some clothes out of the wardrobe and started throwing them on hurriedly, thinking hard while he did so. Once dressed, he pulled the wrapping paper off his presents. Doing so reminded him of Harry's unpleasant cousin Dudley, and he wondered how the fifteen-year-old Dudley compared with the four-year-old version he had seen.

His father had sent him a bag of golden Galleons, which gave him an idea. There was a book of Dark Magic from Great-Aunt Asphasia with a picture on the cover which made him shudder and throw it into the back of the wardrobe, making a mental note to dispose of it later.

After opening his presents, Draco pushed one or two things into his pockets and left the dormitory in a hurry. He was hurrying along the corridors on his way to the owlery when he met Dumbledore and Snape walking in the other direction.

"Merry Christmas, sir!" Draco said, beaming at them.

"Er - Merry Christmas, Draco," Albus Dumbledore said, giving him a rather surprised but affable nod. Snape just looked deeply suspicious. Draco fought back a grin at Snape's expression as he raced off towards the owlery. His eagle owl looked even more suspicious than Snape when he gave her the bag of gold to deliver, and whispered the Weasleys' address to her.

"They won't know who sent it," he grinned, as he made his way down to the kitchen to find Dobby. He thought Dobby might quite fancy the socks he had chosen for him, though he was going to be very surprised at their donor.

All the staff noticed how cheerful Draco Malfoy seemed to be at breakfast. "Makes a pleasant change to see that boy without a sneer on his face," Professor McGonagall murmured to Professor Flitwick.

"The magic of Christmas?" Professor Flitwick suggested.

"I wonder what he's thinking about?" Professor McGonagall mused, still watching Draco. She would have been astonished if she had known that he was planning to give Dennis Creevey Quidditch coaching on his Nimbus Two Thousand and One. He was just a bit concerned that Dennis wouldn't actually trust him enough to let him do it.

As breakfast ended, Draco hurried to catch Harry, and fell into step with him as Harry left the Great Hall. "D'you want to have a snowball fight, Harry?" he asked.

Harry opened his mouth, and was clearly about to refuse when Professor Dumbledore's voice said, "Excellent idea, Draco. Make the most of this snow, you two. The exercise will help you work up an appetite for our splendid Christmas dinner."

This left Harry with no choice but to agree, although Draco could tell from his face he was far from keen on the idea. Never mind, Draco told himself, they had a whole week ahead of them. Potter was bound to think Draco was up to no good, but eventually he was confident he could convince him of his good intentions...it might just take a while...

"You know that horrible Muggle cousin you live with," Draco said, as they made their way down the snow-covered steps. "I've thought of an excellent Christmas present you could send him - have you ever heard of Toe-Squeezing Trainers?"

* * * * *

And so Draco Malfoy's character - and ultimately his fate - were altered for the better.

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them (except when Crabbe and Goyle resorted to physical violence against him); for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset. And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!

And so, as Dennis Creevey (who DID learn to fly) squeaked,

God Bless Us, Every One!

THE END

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