Dumbledore never graced the budget negotiations with his presence, the bastard. He sent his deputy instead, and she made a point to arrive fifteen minutes late to the second.

It was a mystery to Lucius, who'd suffered more than one detention in his time for arriving a trifling matter of minutes late to Transfiguration class, how she could even be of such schizophrenic dispositions with regards to time management.

But it was bad manners to arrive late at a Governors' meeting oneself, so he, and the other fourteen respectable (or not-so-respectable) gentlewitches and –wizards of the Board waited around the hefty mahogany table of the meeting room, chatting courteously. Lucius should have been using these moments to engage in conversation with his peers – networking, as it were – but he found himself unable to concentrate properly.

"Good afternoon everyone!" the Deputy Headmistress declared in her best classroom voice as she entered the room at long last. "I see you've taken your seats already – good, good, good, we shan't be losing any time. Now, the agenda for today is-"

Lucius let her drone out without listening. How was it that she never changed? She looked exactly the same, from the top of her strict bun to her black witchy boots, as she had when her first saw her appear on top of the stairs, right before the sorting feast.

She was presently handing out little folders-

"And if you have a look at our current expenses, you'll understand that we're severely under funded. The maintenance costs alone…"

Lucius fiddled with his folder. It contained a fairly standard accounting balance sheet, but the numbers sounded far higher than what he was prepared to dish out for the school. For that price they could afford silk sheets and duvet coverlets for every single pupil, and then some…

"Are you paying attention to what I am saying, Mister Malfoy?"

He looked up to her. Drat it. Caught red-handed again. How did she even spot his not listening? And the other Governors were nodding off too, why did she have to pick on him precisely?

"Er, of course," he stammered, plastering a seductive smile on his lips in a vain attempt to placate her (it hadn't worked when he was fifteen and radiantly handsome, it wouldn't work now that he was fifty and not quite so handsome any more). "How could I not be?" he added with just the right tone of voice, half-mellow, half pure enticement (but then he had more worldliness now).

"Then you'll have no trouble repeating what I just said, will you?"

He gaped like a fish about to be un-gutted. (Apparently worldliness wasn't enough.) "You, er, you were detailing the budgetary expenses for the coming school year…"

"That would not be the correct answer, Mister Malfoy, I was justifying the thirty per cent increase in expenditure over the numbers you have in your folders…"

Lucius looked around. The fourteen other Governors, happy to be left off the hook no doubt, were either dozing off or deep in the contemplation of their own folder. One thing was clear: he couldn't expect any support from them.

"But, surely, the numbers are already high enough-"

"I doubt you have enough exposure to the school's daily maintenance to have an informed opinion on that, Mister Malfoy."

She always rolled out his name, like she both enjoyed and dislike having those syllables coming out of her mouth. One instant, he wondered if she'd done the same thing to Abraxas – whether she still was doing that with Draco. That was a very unsettling thought. He'd so like to have her call him by his first name. To be unique in her eyes. It was a fleeting thought, and one he dismissed almost right away (he already was unique!) but he couldn't dismiss the feeling of longing it elicited deep in him that easily.

"But I do have some experience with handling large estates, after all, I am the head of the Malfoy house…" he paused as if to chuckle to himself, but no one else reacted, so he hastily resumed. "And, well, you already have exceeded last year's budget, and the year before that as well… one can't help but wonder whether the extra expenses incurred since Headmaster Dumbledore put you in charge of the castle's financial administration are all absolutely necessary to the students' well-being…"

Her glare had darkened alarmingly, and she smiled sweetly. The combination of both send a long shiver down his spine.

"Why, Mister Malfoy, I am surprised you even remember last year's numbers, judging by your rather shocking distraction during the meeting themselves. But it should be easy enough to put this matter to rest. Gentlemen, ladies, shall we put this up to votes?"

An indistinct mutter of ascent seemed to rise from the cluster of half-asleep Honourable Members of the Board.

"Well then," she clapped her hands to rouse those still asleep, "all those in favour of an immediate adoption of my proposal?"

She looked around the table, staring at each person in turn, and right arms lifted themselves almost of their own accord under her stern gaze. With a self-satisfied smile, she raised her own hand and announced: "In favour: fifteen. All those against?"

She made a point of looking all around the table again before resting her eyes on Lucius' solitary raised forearm. "Against: one. No abstentions. Motion approved. Well, gentlemen, ladies, this seems to conclude today's meeting. I thank you all for attending…"

They all stood up and trailed towards the door, each of them saluting the Deputy Headmistress on the way out, exchanging a few words. "Fruitful meeting indeed…" "looking forward to next quarter…" "quite satisfied, quite satisfied with your numbers…"

Lucius arranged to be last in the queue. When his turn came at last, he shook the hand she'd extended to him.

"I have been quite disappointed in your behaviour tonight, Mister Malfoy," she said just loud enough for him to hear. "I expect you to show up with a bare bottom and a nice paddle at our next come-together… I can't have your opposition to me ruin the school, you see, I need to beat this stubborn contestation spirit of yours before it gets out of hand."

She gave his hand an extra parting grip, had one of her trademark 'you'll suffer for this' smiles, and departed with an unnecessary flourish of her professorial robes, leaving him feeling stupid, and aroused.

Board of Governor meetings always made him ache for his bi-trimestrial rendez-vous in seedy Muggle hotels with the Transfiguration Mistress. They were each other's dirty little secret, a nasty habit they couldn't seem to grow out of, the one thing he didn't share with Narcissa.

It was just so unfair that it should leave her able to function properly in regular society and himself a blubbering mass of ridicule when in her presence. He resented it, as he hated the effect she had on him by doing nothing more than attending to regular school matters.

Oh how he resented Dumbledore for putting her in charge of these Governor meetings.