It’s not very merry, at Malfoy Manor, the Christmas after the battle. Oh, there’s food aplenty, a groaning tableful fit to feed a whole dinner party of guests. Except there aren’t any guests, just Draco and his mother and father sitting stiffly and correctly in high-backed chairs, in a room with shadows that seem to cling to the corners.
Draco tries not to think too hard about Christmas last year.
Of course, the house-elves are disappointed at the lack of guests – they couldn’t resist cooking ten times the food that was needed. Mountains of succulent turkey slices, hot and dripping with flavourful juices – tangy cranberry and orange sauce by the pint – crispy batter puddings in high piles – it’s all there, and no-one to eat it.
His mother’s hardly eating, just pushing her food around with her fork. It hasn’t been a good day for her, and Draco thinks that the piles of uneaten food are only serving as a reminder of her loneliness. She looks white and miserable, and eventually she sets her plate aside.
‘I think – I think I have had enough,’ she says softly, not looking at them, and goes quickly out of the room with her hand to her face.
Draco’s a little surprised when his father stands and follows her. It’s not the sort of thing the father of his childhood would have done, but then Lucius Malfoy has been rather changed since the battle – a little softer, a little less distant, a little more affectionate.
And so Draco is left alone to finish his meal. It’s delicious, of course, but he thinks wistfully of the warmth and colour and cosiness of Luna’s home, so different from the high dark ceilings and echoing spaces of Malfoy Manor. He wishes he were there, but Xeno Lovegood had accepted an invitation to Arthur and Molly Weasley’s house.
Luna had said she was sorry, she would have liked to spend Christmas with Draco, and it gives him a warm feeling to think about it. She had wanted to be with him. Actually wanted to. She’d clasped her small red-mittened hands together and looked up at him with big, sympathetic eyes, as though she knew he’d be having a rather bleak Christmas on his own and wished she could be there for him.
Draco’s still getting used to it, the idea that someone has his back – but it’s a good feeling. Safe.
He decides to go for a walk. It’s snowy outside, and the air is clean and biting cold in his lungs. He tramps for a bit, Apparating here and there, and somehow ends up outside the Lovegoods’ house when afternoon is just beginning to slip into evening.
He knows they won’t be back yet, but there’s something comforting just in looking at the house. Such an unusual house, round and high like a castle tower, with oddly shaped windows in different places. PICK YOUR OWN MISTLETOE, says the sign outside, and he smiles a little and leans on the rickety fence.
There’s a pop behind him, and then, ‘Merry Christmas, Draco,’ says someone.
He swings around, and it’s Luna, smiling sunnily, with Xeno behind her. He can’t hold back his smile, and he reaches out at the same time as Luna does, and squeezes her hands.
‘Merry Christmas,’ he says, a little shyly. ‘I was just – passing by.’
Luna’s eyes are warm. ‘We left early,’ she says. ‘I was going to come and see you, but you’re here instead. Will you come in? I’ve been trying a new recipe for gingerbread and I need someone unbiased to test it on.’
‘Unbiased?’ he asks, smiling crookedly – but he’s only too glad to come inside, into the warmth and colourful friendliness of Luna’s house. She makes him sit in the cosiest armchair and they munch on Luna’s gingerbread – which is very good indeed – in companionable silence. She’s made a big pitcher of what she calls ‘spiced hot chocolate’ too, and he likes it.
It’s a good Christmas, Draco thinks. Different, but a good sort of different. Luna’s holding her mug in both hands, like a child, to drink the dregs, and then she licks all around her mouth with the tip of her little pink tongue.
‘I wish it was – like this at home,’ he tells her suddenly, wistfully.
She looks at him for a moment, and then reaches for his hand, holding it firmly. It’s easy to tell Luna things, and she always understands. Draco feels a sudden irrational wave of happiness as he squeezes her fingers.
It is, after all, a merry Christmas.