A/N: Feedback is loved and adored.
Entertaining a member of Hogwarts' teaching staff was not an unusual occurrence for a member of the Hogwarts Board of Governors, and preparing for it had almost become a routine in the Malfoy household. Narcissa knew to welcome them in the green parlour, with Draco standing beside her, on his best behaviour, the elves had instruction to prepare the smaller dining-room and bring out the less expensive liquor when the guests asked for refreshments.
But entertaining Severus Snape was a different matter. You could not offer the Potions Master cheap liquor or wine and dine him in the smaller dining-room and to force him to deal with Lucius' family, particularly Draco. It was a mistake Lucius had committed only once. Draco still had nightmares of the vampire man and his contemptuous sneer.
Snape was not fond of children, which made his choice of career all the more suspicious, if his closeness to Albus Dumbledore had not already made Lucius question Snape's allegiances, along with his peculiar fascination for Lily Potter, formerly Lily Evans.
The fireplace in his study flared green and Lucius stood from behind his desk as Snape stepped out of the flames, his dark robes flaring dramatically, making Lucius think of the times Snape had worn a different set of dark robes and a bone white mask. He had not yet carried himself with such dignity, nor had he dared to sneer at Lucius. This confidence that was now so obvious in Snape's demeanour and stance was something he had gained after the fall of the Dark Lord. He had been a young man, barely anything more than a child when he swore his life and magic to the service of the Dark Lord. He'd risen quickly in the ranks, not only because of his mastery in Potions but for his other talents as well. Severus Snape had been a brilliant child who'd turned into a bitter and hard man, disillusioned by the ways of the Death Eaters and powerful men. Were Lucius someone who easily felt sympathy, he would have pitied Snape more than any other human being he'd ever come across.
"Severus," Lucius greeted the younger man with a warm, almost affectionate smile. "You're precisely on time, as expected."
"Lucius," Snape replied, his lips forming a sneer that in the right light could be interpreted as a smile and bent his neck slightly, the mere hint of respect on it something that in earlier years would have made Lucius draw out his wand and curse him. Snape had bowed with more respect when he was younger, when he still thought Lucius to be everything he desired to be, when Lucius had not yet insisted Snape address him by his first name.
"Would you like something to drink?" he offered and gestured towards the chairs and the small table not far from the fireplace beside a window that had a glorious view of the garden. A white peacock; one of many freely wandering on the grounds walked past just as Snape turned. The sight made no apparent impact on Snape. He was used to seeing such things when he visited the Manor and at times hardly a week passed between his visits. Lucius doubted he visited anywhere else, and suspected that the Malfoys were the only Wizarding family he knew, or who even invited him anywhere.
"I do not have long," Snape said, instead of answering and sat down on the chair that's back was to the wall and where he could see the whole room, most importantly the door and the fireplace. "I have to attend tonight's staff-meeting and there is no one who I would trust to supervise the Slytherins in my absence."
"Narcissa and I will feel most secure knowing Draco will be in your capable hands once he is attending Hogwarts," Lucius replied, letting Snape draw conclusions of his own from his words, knowing the man would believe Lucius' trust in him was unshakeable. After all, there was nothing Lucius Malfoy valued more than his precious heir. It had become a game, to see how much he could get Snape to confide in him yet at the same time reveal nothing of actual significance to the other man.
"I thought you had decided to send the boy to Durmstrang?" Snape asked, just as Lucius had expected.
"If only it were possible," Lucius answered, snapped his fingers and a tea tray appeared on the small table, with two cups already filled to the brim, the other one flavoured with a twist of lemon and just a hint of milk, exactly as Snape always drank his tea. "But Narcissa is most insistent and my position as a Governor on the Board has made me re-think the issue. Perhaps with our joint influence we will be able to keep Draco safe from the meddling influence of the old fool."
Snape merely grunted and reached for the cup of tea and when he held it in his hand, took a small sip and smiled softly. "The tea is as excellent as I remembered," he said, as he always did.
"You know Narcissa prefers to prepare it for herself when we you visit," Lucius answered and took his own cup. "I shall pass on your compliments, she will be most pleased." Who wouldn't, when they found that they could mask the taste of a potion so well that they could fool even a Potions Master of Snape's calibre? Truly, Snape only had himself to blame. Had he held himself in check while meeting Draco that once, Narcissa would have refused to 'season' his tea and drinking your tea with lemon? Why, there were a number of things the fruit's bitter taste could mask, especially when you were as proficient in Potions as Narcissa.
"How well do you know Potter?" Snape asked bluntly, as was his habit, especially after taking a sip of his lemon scented tea.
"As well as anyone does, I suppose," Lucius replied, and took a sip of his tea, free of any kind of taste beside the herbs which he had chosen himself.
"That is not what the rumours say," Snape took one last sip of his tea and then placed it back on the table where it refilled itself, this time, without the extra ingredient. Only a small amount was needed with Snape. There was already trust between them, no matter how fragile and virtually non-existent on Lucius' side. "You have been seen dining together, he even saved you from a Death Eater," here Snape paused and gave him a long, speculative look "and you claim you are only acquaintances?"
Lucius tilted his head and gave Snape a small smile and then an approving nod as if Snape was still someone who was overjoyed when Lucius complimented him on his talents or observations. These days it only served to annoy Snape, to be reminded how much more experience Lucius had, how far Snape still was from being on the same level as Lucius in many things.
"You could say I know something a little more of Potter than your average wizard," Lucius conceded and following Snape's example, placed his tea back on the table, yet held his palm over it for a second, indicating that he did not wish for it to be refilled.
"Is he Dark or Light?" Snape asked the question which he must have been burning to know the answer for ever since he met the man, and Lucius laughed.
"Dark or Light?" Lucius asked, his mirth still obvious. "Next you'll be asking me if he is good or evil. You have spent far too much time around school children if you believe people can be categorized simply as Dark or Light or that is has any significance on anything. Or more likely, the company of that old fool has made you see the world as he does, divided in two parts, with no shades of grey in between."
"Just answer the question, Lucius," Snape's voice was sharp, his patience thin and clearly running out. "Is he a Dark Wizard?"
Lucius was about to answer when an elf popped into the room, holding a folded paper note, shivering. Lucius glared at the thing and extended his hand for the note, expecting it to be from Narcissa. But before he could open it, the elf spoke. "It is from the dark man," and popped out, causing Lucius' hand to twitch. With a frown he opened the note, all too aware of Snape's curious eyes on him.
Tell him nothing, he is not to be trusted.
Lucius scoffed and squeezed the hand that held the note into a fist and with a sharp twist of his wrist threw it into the fireplace where the flames quickly destroyed all traces of it. "A Dark Wizard?" Lucius asked. "I wouldn't know, he trusts me not a single bit."
"There must be something you know of him," Snape insisted. "It is apparent to anyone that has seen the two of you interact that he considers you a friend."
"A friend?" Lucius murmured and turned to face Snape. "Hardly. If he sees me as anything, it is as his fool." As I consider you to be my fool, dear Severus, he added in his mind, bitterly. The similarity had never even occurred to him before this, but it was there. He had seduced Snape much in the same way Hadrian had seduced him, without the added benefit of sex, of course. The thought of even touching Snape's greasy hair or his sallow skin disgusted Lucius and he shuddered involuntarily as he imagined his lips anywhere near Snape's crooked and yellow teeth.
Hadrian was having tea with Lupin and Harry in Grimmauld's garden when the owl arrived.
He knew it was from Lucius even before breaking the wax seal. It was the timing. He had mentioned offhandedly of having tea with Lupin on Monday at four, and as Hadrian knew his note had reached Lucius when he was with Snape, it would be accordance to the other man's character to interrupt his tea time in a similar manner.
Your interference in my matters is not welcomed. Please desist from further insulting my intelligence with similar helpful advice.
Hadrian laughed softly as he read the note, each word written precisely with enough force that the outline of each letter was visible on the underside of the thick parchment. There could be no mistaking that Lucius was furious.
"Good news?" Lupin asked with a hesitant smile. The man was still unsure of how to act towards him, but he was always polite, even without Harry there.
"A prelude of interesting things," Hadrian replied, folded the note and placed it in one of the pockets of his robe.