Stepfather Number Six owns property in Switzerland. There is a large estate with stables, a lake, and a dozen bedrooms, each more lavish than the last. Obviously, this is where Helene chooses to spend the Christmas holidays. Blaise doesn’t mind the frigid cold or the snow, but the altitude gives him a slight headache that a potion can’t even cure. Fortunately, Number Six lacks an extended family, so there are no distant relatives lingering about who need to be entertained. It will also allow for a quick funeral once Helene tires of this one and decides to dispose of him.
Blaise finds this one uncouth and uneducated. The vast vault might be appealing to Helene, but he doesn’t find any amount of galleons a fair trade to be surrounded by senselessness and poor table manners. Number Six slurps his soup, which is annoying enough that he hopes Helene is already working on her plans to remove this one from their lives. He doesn’t pay any attention to the stepfathers anymore, hasn’t since he was eight and Henry died, but he knows this one is a former Hufflepuff with a family inheritance massive enough to warrant Helene’s interest.
There must also be provisions involved because Blaise has seen the way Helene reacts to the bad manners and knows she wouldn’t still be playing the part of doting bride if it wasn’t required. The return of Voldemort seems to be a point of contention between them, too, which interests him. Helene is cagey, has been since Black escaped from prison all those years ago, and Number Six refuses to give in to her requests to go abroad until the war is finished. Blaise expects a natural death to occur before he finishes sixth year, provisions or not. Helene does not like to be told no, after all.
There is a large tree in the foyer with coordinated decorations that indicate someone has been hired to make it pretty without regard for any type of holiday sentimentality. It’s cold, in a way, despite the supposed warmth of this particular holiday. It’s interesting, which is why he’s been spending time in the dark edges of this foyer since they arrived a few days ago. Blaise doesn’t care for special occasions, has never been fond of Christmas or Boxing Day because they either don’t celebrate, if they are between stepfathers, or there is a big farce of celebrating that is empty and meaningless.
Christmas also usually mean lavish parties and accompanying Helene so he can gather information in one way or another. He’s never been fond of attending the parties she’s invited to, even if he’s learned to find ways to make them enjoyable. When he was younger, it was watching people and listening. After he turned fourteen, she taught him how to use his natural gifts to seduce and control. Dear boy, you’re far too handsome to rely on such common methods of information gathering. Those are best left for homely creatures who lack your beauty and intelligence. Besides, people will always tell a lover things they will not tell anyone else.
Beauty is a fading attribute that only lasts a limited time, so Blaise doesn’t place high significance on it like Helene does, but he does value intelligence. He’s fortunate to have both so there’s no need to wish for one or the other. He knows how people see him and want him just because he’s got beautiful dark skin and eyes that are a deep brown that occasionally look golden. He’s heard the compliments from men and women over the years, and he uses his looks when necessary. However, he finds that much more common than gaining information and controlling others because of his cleverness. Of course, Helene is not as intelligent as he, which is the main reason she relies on her beauty to get her way. It’s also the reason he is able to control her now without her even realizing it, putting all of her lessons to good use.
Sometimes he wonders what his father was like. He’s seen the records, what little there are, and he knows Nicolas Zabini had been a Pureblood from Sicily. There are photographs of a handsome man with a charming smile and golden skin kissed by the sun hidden away in a box that Helene keeps in her wardrobe. The man in those photographs is full of life but there’s something around his eyes that makes Blaise think of harsh possessiveness, and he thinks that’s why the young man had a fatal heart attack when Blaise was just a few months old. Still, he believes his father is where he gets his need to collect from, because Helene is not a collector. She discards people like most toss used tissues in the rubbish, after all.
Blaise is actually looking forward to the end of holidays so he can return to school. At least there he can continue solving the puzzle regarding Malfoy’s odd behavior this school term, and he plans to attend a few more of those ridiculous parties Slughorn hosts in order to learn more about Granger and what she and the two buffoons are planning to combat the whole Dark Lord’s return slash war beginning nonsense. While he has no intention of choosing a side, neutrality being one of the first self-preservation techniques Helene taught him, he is interested in whether Potter has a chance of success or not.
“Dear boy, why are you skulking about in here?” Helene asks as she glides into the room, her robes floating around her. She’s strikingly beautiful, and Blaise can see why most are fooled by the image she projects.
“Did my father enjoy Christmas?” he asks coolly, arching a brow and quirking his lip because he knows she’s going to be perturbed by his question. That’s what he wants, of course, and he is pleased by the way her lips tense and her eyes narrow. She never likes to talk about his father, though he still hasn’t managed to find out why.
“I don’t recall,” she says tightly, reaching him and flicking her wand to light the nearby candles. Her skin is darker than his, despite his grandfather being a pale Englishman, and he admires the contrast as he touches her cheek. She looks at him and frowns. “Nicolas is a distant memory, and I only spent two Christmases with him before he passed. Why must you bring up such maudlin topics, dear boy? You’re becoming depressing.”
“Isn’t Christmas the time of year when we’re supposed to think about family?” He blinks at her innocently as he drops his hand, tilting his head slightly so that she can straighten out his tie. It’s perfectly tied, of course, but she still insists on fussing over it because it gives her something to do with her hands. “He is my father, even if he died when I was a baby.”
“You have your mother, and I’m all you need, dear boy.” She stares at him a moment, reaching up to touch his face. “You do have his sharp cheekbones and his lips.” She drags her thumb over his mouth, staring at it as she rubs his full bottom lip. She raises her gaze then. “And his cruelty. That’s why you delight in behaving in this way and upsetting me. A boy should be nice to his mother.”
“No, I learned that particular trait from you, Helene.” He corrects her and smirks as he takes a step back. “Do stop being so dramatic. There’s no one around to benefit from your performance. Number Six isn’t here to watch you play the part of doting mother, and you know how that act bores me.”
“There’s my darling boy. Beautiful and ruthless.” Helene smiles proudly. “Actually, Edward is currently meeting with his solicitor in London. The possibility of war has convinced him that he needs to make revisions so that we are properly provided for in case of tragedy. Now, why don’t you stop standing here by this ridiculous tree and escort me to town. I’d like to buy a new set of dress robes to wear to the holiday party this weekend. You’ll need a set, too, as there will be plenty of people eager to make your acquaintance.”
Blaise glances at the tree and considers the invitation. Number Six is unknowingly signing his own death warrant by changing his will, but he doesn’t care. If men are so easily led around by their cocks, he sees no reason to waste any emotion on them beyond possibly contempt for their stupidity. “I won’t find any acceptable formal robes in town. We can go to Milan to shop,” he decides, looking back at her. “Besides, it’ll allow me the opportunity to practice my Italian.”
“Learning a language in homage to a father you never met is ridiculously sentimental, dear boy,” she points out, scowling slightly. “Milan is an excellent suggestion, though, as they’ll surely have better quality there.”
“Of course they will. Only the best fabrics and styles in Milan. Much more appropriate for a tedious holiday gathering than something from town.” She laughs and strokes his hair, which makes him roll his eyes once she turns her back towards him. Blaise doesn’t bother to tell her that he’s not learning the language in homage to Nicolas but because he knows about his inheritance when he’s eighteen, which includes a property in Sicily that’s going to be his. Naturally, he wants to be able to communicate with the locals as to not draw much attention when he’s there. She isn’t aware that he knows about it, and he intends to keep it that way until his birthday. He waves his wand to extinguish the candles before he follows her out of the foyer, listening as she talks about buying a Christmas gift for Number Six while they’re in Milan.
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