Every year, the Malfoys had a Christmas Ball, for as long as Draco could remember. As a mere child of five, he'd hated standing in the reception line, wanting to dash off and play a prank on Goyle (for as a child, he'd only thought he was ever so good at pulling pranks, and not that Goyle was mostly humoring him). By age ten, he'd been all obsessed with acting the part of the Young Gentleman, and even if his feet pinched, he pretended not to care. By age fourteen, he faced the reception line with near equanimity - his shoes still hurt, but if he did his part, his parents would let him dance with Pansy.
Last year, Draco Malfoy had been nearly vibrating, pulling that wayward energy deep inside. The Dark Lord was coming to the Malfoy's Christmas Ball. It was his first glimpse of the powerful figure, warped and twisted with magical energies. To see his wasted figure, the skeletal hands, was to feel a chill - but Malfoy's own innate greed looked with anticipation at how much power the Dark Lord had. If only he could wrest the power from the Dark Lord's... majesty. Then he could be great.
This year, Draco Malfoy did not have to wonder if the Dark Lord would deign to attend. As a houseguest, it would be unthinkable for him not to. The only question was when he would appear. Fashionably late was a given, but how late would that actually be? Thirty-three minutes late, Draco learned, his hand chilled from the near-skeletal grasp. The Dark Lord was powerful, a boon ally and an unimaginable foe, but, by the sun above, he was creepy!
Nearly the entire guest list had arrived, before Severus Snape deigned to make an appearance. He seemed to waltz into the Malfoy residence (announced by a house elf, of course), dancing with an invisible partner. It was only when he spun around, that Draco felt parts of himself freeze. Snape was disheveled, his shirt half unbuttoned (revealing untidy chest hair), his coat entirely off one of his shoulders. He tottered a step towards them, and Draco caught a whiff of his smell. Snape was inebriated. No, he was blind stinking drunk.
"Lucius, my dear old friend," Snape cried, jumping around like a jack - surprisingly light on his feet for being so drunk. "Where's the liquor?" He pronounced it with the emphasis on the first syllable - he never was one to pretend.
Lucius had only parted his lips before Snape spun away, grasped Narcissa in his arms, and attempted to kiss her on the lips (mum demurely turned her face away), "And you, the lovely Narcissa - do you still stare at your reflection so?"
That comment would have garnered wrath, if Snape had only stayed still for it. Like a greased eel, he was away and into the party. Draco could see the party twist, wherever Snape capered, as if Dionysus himself had imbued the man with the wrath of his Maenads. Without a wand, without even laying a hand on someone, he tainted with words.
Lucius asked his wife, gently, "Don't you think you should do something about that man?'
Narcissa smiled, and said, "Hardly. Look now, at how our Lord smiles at his pretty little fool."
Draco was startled to see - the Dark Lord was smiling, if such a face could smile.
How had he known?
[a/n: want more bon mots from the Ball? Did you really think Snape was drunk?
Reviews, as always, mean more story.]