The weekend had come far too quickly for Severus' liking; something he thought would never be possible since he had taken up teaching. As he dragged his pitiful-self up the gravel walkway to Malfoy manor, he wished he could be anywhere other than Whiltshire: a meeting with Dumbledore while the old sod fussed over lemon drops that had stuck together, a history class with Binn's, an appointment with his hairdresser who whined endlessly at his lack of conditioning – anywhere!
But then the peacocks appeared, looking more frayed than usual; the bandy legged one had developed a twitch every time the others startled, and Severus had no choice but admit that he was here for another two days. Grumbling up the steps, he had little to no time to knock on the door before it was yanked open and a tired looking Lucius Malfoy greeted him with a grunt.
"You look…fabulous," he smirked; the blonde's hair stuck out peculiarly at the back and his collar was a little ruffled. "I like what you've done with your hair."
"Don't start," Lucius snipped, slamming the door behind them. "It has been a long week, Snape; one in which you seemed unusually preoccupied during." He led them to the day room where a small fire crackled.
"Formalities, you know?" said Severus, waving his hand dismissively. "I've boarded up my fireplace since Dumbledore figured his way around my wards. The man's a nightmare during allergy season."
Lucius glowered at him.
"And anyway, have I not already said you look fabulous? This babysitting business is doing you wonders."
"Do not patronise me, Severus, not at this hour." Lucius' eye twitched threateningly.
"Where is he then?" he sighed, looking around the room for the familiar whirl of blonde hair that seemed to cause so much damage in such little time.
"Dobby has taken him to play with the peacocks. They need a good startle every now and again to keep them out of the vegetable gardens."
"I'm pretty sure that's what fencing is for, Lucius," Severus mumbled as he took a seat. "Your salary is hardly beyond some timber and nails."
"My salary is none of your business, thank you very much," the man declared with an arrogant jut of his chin. "If you must know, I prefer to spend it on more social habits. Ones which profit me long term; vegetables rot, galleons do not." He unfolded a newspaper from within his waist coat and ruffled it in Severus' direction. "Care for a small wager?"
"I don't gamble, Malfoy; you know this," warned Severus; his look was ominous and only darkened when Lucius smirked conceitedly. Arrogant fuck. "Do not look at me like that. Gambling is like a prostitute; it screws you, sends you on your way with a smile and haunts you three weeks later with a terrible itch."
"What have S.T.D's got to do with Quidditch? Is that why you never took that witch I arranged for you on a second date?"
Severus growled. Why that little… "It's a metaphor you arrogant berk and anyway, I thought your wife had forbidden you."
"What she doesn't know won't hurt her," Lucius smiled, waving the paper. It crinkled annoyingly. "I'll sweeten things up; if you win, I'll take next weekend all by myself. You won't have to come and help. I'll go solo."
Don't do it…you're going to regret th- "And if I lose?"
"Nothing; we commence as normal," Lucius assured with a pristine smile. "Come on, Severus, live a little."
"One bet," said Severus, accepting the paper. Weak bastard. "Is that clear?"
Draco screamed louder, running his hand along one of the shelves and knocking every book onto the floor in a flurry of pages. "IT'S. NOT. A. DUCK!"
Severus peeked around the edge of his godson's bed, narrowly avoiding a well-aimed hippogriff plushy. They had been hiding – no, stranded – behind the bed for 15 minutes after an attempt to clear away Draco's old toys had gone array. They weren't throwing them out, as Lucius had insisted amidst an air assault of building blocks, they were just making room for more.
The five-year-old showed little interest in their reasoning and soon became a screaming hurricane of uncontrolled magic and ridiculous threats. "I'LL TURN YOU INTO A HOUSE ELF!" he roared at them, stamping on a book about goblins and trolls. He jumped up and down, crushing his feet into the pages with a triumphant grunt each time one ripped.
"Now, Draco, let's talk about this," Lucius said, peering over the mattress so that just his eyes and forehead were seen. "If we move all of these old and tattered looking toys, we can make room for far better ones." A light up pygmy puff bounced off his head and rolled between Severus' feet, blinking on and off. "Brat," he grumbled, retreating behind the bed again and rubbing his head vigorously. "This is your fault."
"Well if you had snuck up the stairs a little more quietly he wouldn't have noticed."
"That is the most ridiculous excuse you have ever spun, Malfoy…that's saying something, in case you're wondering!"
"Are you calling me-ouch! Dammit! This is ridiculous!" Lucius growled and kicked the wooden block under the bed. He had almost hurled it back in a fit of irritation. "I will not be held captive behind a bed by a five-year-old wielding wooden bricks and soft toys. We are fully grown wizards… I am a father and you are a teacher. We should be winning this war, dammit."
"Attack on three?" Severus suggested, wielding his wand; Lucius nodded. "One…" A splat of purple goo hit the wall near his left ear; it began to flop towards him. "Two…" Lucius grunted when a toy quaffle landed on his groin. "Three!"
They rolled from behind the bed, each of them scuttling to the nearest wall, wands held out right and then….silence.
"Oh for goodness – he's asleep!" Severus snapped, pocketing his wand and striding toward the small blonde figure curled around a shredded book and snoring gently.
Lucius stopped the hovering charms his son had unknowingly placed on the toys. "He's rather impressive, isn't he?" he said fondly, bending down to scoop him up and bring him to the bed.
"Tuck him in and grab a bag – quietly. We might as well get the job done while he's sleeping. There'll be less ammunition for him to use when he wakes," Severus suggested, kicking the blob of purple goo that had flopped after him.
"And then what happened?" Draco urged, his small fingers clinging to the front of Severus' frock coat.
They were perched in one of the fine Queen Ann chairs near the fire; two shaggy wolf hounds nestled near Severus' feet, and Draco kneeled on his lap, grey eyes wider than saucepans with a look of trepidation sweeping his pointed face.
"And then, just as I was about to add the final ingredient, the meddling old coot named Dumbledore appeared in an obnoxious flash of twinkling stars and grand robes; his trademark twi-"
"Did he kill you?" Draco interrupted in a worried tone; his tiny fists shaking the opening of Severus' coat. He needed to know now!
"I managed to escape before he could grab his wand," Severus assured him, peeling the hands from his coat – it was his favourite black one, after all. "But the door was-"
"Did he find the package? What was in it? Why did you have it?"
"Draco, calm down," Lucius said from the chair opposite them; he grimaced over the top of his paper at Severus. "And must you bring that insolent man's name into my home? Goodness knows it will be trial enough convincing Narcissa not to allow him attend that run down old castle."
"But the package!" Draco whined, swivelling to meet his father's gaze. "I want to know if Dumbleroar finds his lemon drops or not."
"I'm sure he found them eventually," Lucius said looking scandalised and returned to reading the Quidditch fixtures.
"Uncle Sev'rus ate them all, didn't you?" Draco declared fondly, staring up at his uncle hopefully.
"I'm afraid not," Severus said, batting a hand at Lucius who had held the paper up to show him the fixtures. Smug bastard has won every bet he placed.
"Then what? I bet Hogwarts has a bajillion places to hide lemon drops in, right?"
"Then bed," Lucius decided, folding the paper and tucking it under his arm. "We've got a long day tomorrow. Uncle Severus might be cranky if he doesn't get his sleep."
"You said he's always cranky no matter how much sleep he gets," Draco said, sliding from Severus' lap and padding toward his father.
"We mustn't rub it in though," Lucius smirked, hoisting Draco into his arms and hugging him close. "It's only appropriate to laugh at your equals in private, never publically."
"And never family," Draco told him, wrapping his arms around his father's neck and nestling into the familiar comfort. "Uncle Severus is family."
"I suppose you're right," Lucius said, climbing the stairs with a smile. "And I suppose he'll finish that story some other night, too."
Thanks for reading.
To come: The boys meet.