Pairing: Severus/Lucius

Rating: T

Content Info: No real warnings to speak of other than slashiness. Nothing graphic.

Genre: Holiday Romance

Summary: After the war, Severus Snape disappeared and became the owner of an inn on the Isle of Eigg. This Christmas, an unexpected guest could upset his new life.

Disclaimer: The world of HP and its characters belongs to Rowling. I make no money on this. I just like playing with the boys. I also don't own or make money with poetry by Gerald Manley Hopkins and he is duly credited in the story.

Word count: ~12,000

Author Notes: This was a gift fic done for Snapely Holidays. The recipient asked for a fluffy Severus/Lucius filled with the warmth of the holidays and love later in life with wine and fireplaces.

Special thanks to my wonderful, wonderful beta StarDuchess who did an outstanding job of keeping me focused on the details. I've never been to Eigg, so my apologies up front if I've gotten any details wrong. After all the research I've done though, I sure want to visit it! I also hope to one day write the companion piece that focuses on Harry and Draco after they arrive.

My Lost Heart in Hiding

The alarm went off. Severus looked up in surprise. He had placed the ward but truly never thought it would be needed. A Death Eater had arrived after all this time. He wondered how they found him.

Deciding not to panic, he checked the mirror to ensure the glamour was in place. It was certainly simple enough. Basically he just kept his eyes several shades lighter than before and reduced the hook of his nose; otherwise, he changed his looks in the muggle fashion. He kept his hair short and slightly graying. He wore silver, rectangular reading glasses that he kept on a chain around his neck. He had his teeth straightened and whitened (but not too much). He also intentionally kept himself slightly heavier these days. No longer was he the overly lean Professor he had been at Hogwarts, but of course the stress of being a double agent tended to keep the weight off naturally. No, he had made it a mission to maintain an extra stone and a half but it was a combination of muscle and fat. He lifted light weights to build extra mass. He also no longer wore only black. In fact, he rarely did, except for his trousers. He tended to solid color turtlenecks and sweaters that fit his new body snugly. He'd even been known to don the odd flannel shirt and denim pants while working outside. And he smiled – on occasion. That was the most difficult change.

After ten years, he wondered why anyone would look for him. He often wondered why Potter had never come searching for him. Surely he had figured out that Severus wouldn't be killed by something as ridiculous as a bite from Nagini. Severus had been prepared. He had made sure Potter had what he needed to go off himself per Dumbledore's overly complicated and, if he was being honest, cruel plan. Then, Severus pretended to die. He had immediately taken blood replenishing potion and the antidote to Nagini's poison after the trio left the Shrieking Shack.

It was snowing lightly as he went from the guest house up to the main house where the ward had been set off. As he walked, he thought of the events that brought him to this place.

Still recovering, he had watched the battle unfold from a distance. Once he assured himself that Voldemort was dead and that, surprisingly, Potter had lived, he disappeared. Let them think he died. He escaped to the only asset, other than Spinner's End, left to him. It had been an odd piece of property owned by his father's side of the family. All that could be said for it was that it was in a beautiful location. It was on Eigg, one of the small isles south of Skye off the coast of Scotland. It was sparsely populated by humans but well populated by various raptors, which suited Severus just fine.

After several years of restoring the home, it was now a small inn designed to cater to bird watching tourists. Although he was the proprietor, Severus left most of the day-to-day work to his staff. They consisted of a cook, manager, housekeeper, general assistant and groundskeeper. He, himself, lived in the guest house not far from the main house. Like the captain of a cruise ship, he would join guests for dinner when he could and, on occasion, take them on outings. The manager was a capable young woman named Carol who was efficient and friendly. The guests loved her. She acted as the concierge, accountant, and marketer. Truthfully, the Prince's Den would not have had any success without her. The cook was her husband, Michael, an amateur chef. Severus had been lucky to find the two of them. They hoped to one day to run their own Bed &Breakfast and were willing to work for Severus first to gain experience and save money. He knew they would leave eventually but they seemed to be in no hurry to do so.

The groundskeeper, Ian, was a local lad who had trouble with the law as a teenager and had problems finding work. Severus offered him a second chance and was pleased by his eagerness. He worked with him often as Severus liked to tend to the gardens and animals himself at times. The housekeeper was a young single mother named Shelly who was taking correspondence courses in business. Severus let her live in the official maid's quarters but had enlarged them to include a nursery. The assistant was Cormac, an eager young man who showed up more often than he was scheduled to work. Severus hadn't quite decided if it was because of Shelly or Ian yet. Cormac was very light hearted and pleasant. He always seemed happy to do whatever errands needed to be done.

The inn functioned pretty much without him but it earned him a decent income. He liked where he was. He hoped this unexpected alarm wouldn't change that.

He walked through the back door of the main building. He saw Carol shuffling papers at the front desk. As he looked around the large, stone lobby, he didn't see anyone else.

"Good morning, Mr. Prince." He had originally thought it odd for a thirty-plus year old woman to call him by his formal name, particularly since she was from America, but he had gotten over it. Her husband was from a posh family in Edinburgh and she adapted to his habit of addressing people formally.

"Hello, Carol," he responded in his now raspy voice. He may have survived Nagini's bite; it didn't mean there weren't long-term repercussions. "Has anyone arrived?" he asked without trying to seem concerned.

"Oh, yes. One of our holiday guests has arrived. He's settling into his room. Slight change of arrangements though," she said.

"Indeed? What was that?" Severus was suspicious.

"Well, it seems as if the person scheduled for one of the Doubles wasn't able to make it, so his father, who wasn't scheduled to arrive until Thursday, arrived in his stead today, but he only wants a Single. He's saving the Double for his son and didn't want to have to switch rooms in a couple of days. I know it's a little less money, but I told him we'd be fine with it since they're ultimately a bigger group staying through the holidays. I hope that's okay?"

Severus's concern wasn't over the money, it was the substitution. Who were they? And why did the alarm go off?

"It's fine, Carol. At least we're full for the holiday. Which reminds me-"

"It's arriving today," she interrupted.

"How did you know what I was going to ask?"

"About the tree, right? Ian and Cormac will be delivering it this afternoon. I thought perhaps all the staff could stay for dinner and decorate tonight?" Carol had a hopeful look on her face.

Severus noted the look. "That would be acceptable so long as the guests are not disturbed."

"Well, since there aren't that many of them this evening, perhaps we could invite them to help?" she asked.

"If any of the guests express an interest, they may help."

"Wonderful! Thank you, Mr. Prince. I'll ask Michael to prepare some Christmas cookies and apple cider for the evening. He was planning on just a simple beef stew for tonight with rolls and salad. Is that okay?"

"As usual, you are on top of things. So, who are our guests tonight? Are the Tanners still here?"

"For one more night. They'll be excited to see the tree. I overheard Mrs. Tanner asking her husband if they could stay to see the place decorated but he needs to return to his business. She'll be quite pleased the tree is being done tonight before they leave. Dr. Markwell and her son are here, but she said not to expect them for dinner as they are visiting friends. And our new guest is Louis Mallotte. French from the pronunciation, I'd guess. His son, David, is coming on Thursday as is the other adult in their party, Hayden. I'm sure you'll be thrilled to know that between them, they'll have four children, all boys! "

Severus raised his eyebrows. He thought of the Audubon group that would arrive just after the holiday and cringed. That group also had a number of children. Normally there were not that many children on the premises at the same time. He had a flash back to his days of teaching. Visions of snotty-nosed unruly brats filled his head. "Perhaps we should get some additional help? I didn't realize it would be that full," Severus said. He was curious. Why would a Death Eater go through the pretense of arranging a big family Christmas just to get to Severus?

"Ian's sister, Nan, offered to come up to play with the children. He wanted me to ask you about it. She's 17 now and is planning to get her teaching certificate. She said it would give her some experience in dealing with children in a group setting."

"I remember her. She seems adequate. Have you-"

Carol chuckled. "Of course. Even though I know her, I still checked her references and background. It seems she used to babysit for everyone in town and not one person had a bad thing to say about her. They all seem genuinely impressed," she assured him.

"I don't know why I bother coming in," Severus said with a smile.

"Must be either for my good looks or Michael's cooking," she smiled back.

Severus was about to respond when he heard footsteps. He looked up and saw an elegant man walking into the lobby. The slender man was about his height. The short, neat blond hair was turning to grey. He wore well made trousers and a dark blue cashmere cardigan over a light blue oxford. It made his steel-grey eyes stand out. He carried a walking stick that was carved out of mahogany and was adorned with an intricately designed dragon. It was a beautiful piece and made you almost not notice the slight limp that the man had. While beautiful, it obviously served a practical purpose as well.

"Mr. Mallotte? Is there something I can help you with?" Carol asked.

"Yes. Can you please have someone send Earl Grey to my room? I'd also like some extra towels." Severus knew that voice. He was staring at Lucius Malfoy. Of all the people he expected, Lucius was not one of them. He had heard nothing about the man since the war except that he hadn't gone to Azkaban. He had read the account of Harry Potter's defense of the Malfoys which exonerated Narcissa and Draco. He recalled Lucius had avoided prison, but paid a rather hefty fine for damages.

"Certainly. Mr. Mallotte, this is the owner, Ewan Prince," Carol said. Severus wanted to cringe but instead held out his arm and greeted his one-time friend. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Mallotte. I do hope you enjoy your stay." As Severus was introducing himself, Carol stepped away.

Lucius shook his hand, as graceful as ever but he seemed slightly uncomfortable. "Thank you."

He didn't seem to recognize Severus at all. Wondering about Draco and Narcissa, Severus inquired, "I understand we're to have some of your family join us for the holidays?"

"Yes. My son, Dra ... er, David," he corrected himself. No one else but Severus would have caught it.

"That is something to look forward to," Severus said, curious as to whom the children that Carol mentioned belonged to. Could Draco have had that many? It seemed unlikely given the Malfoy lineage and Draco's relative youth. The Malfoy heir would be about 28 now. Perhaps this Hayden came from the Prewett family and breeded true, like Molly Weasley. The absurd thought of a Malfoy breeding anywhere close to the Weasley family gave Severus an odd sense of justice.

"Yes." Lucius had a slightly faraway look in his eyes.

"Here are your towels." Carol had returned and handed them to Lucius, bringing him back to the present. At his startled look, she said, "Are you okay?"

"Yes, thank you. It's just, I haven't seen my son in some time," Lucius admitted.

"Well, I'm certainly glad you will be reunited at our place," Carol smiled warmly. "The tea will be up in five minutes," Carol said as she patted his arm.

Lucius smiled at her before turning around and heading back up the stairs. Severus thought he needed to give her a raise if she could make Lucius Malfoy smile.

"I believe I'll join you for dinner tonight," Severus said to Carol.

She winked at him. "He is rather attractive, isn't he?" Severus rolled his eyes at her. Let her think that was the reason he'd be playing close attention to his new guest.

Just then, the front door opened and Ian walked in, brushing some snow off his shoulders. "We 'ave the tree, then. You ready for it?"

"Yes. Bring it in through the side doors. Everything's ready." Carol turned to Severus and asked, "Did you want to help?"

He arched a brow at her. "I believe I will leave that in your capable hands. I will see you this evening."

SLSLSLSLSLSLSLSL

As Severus freshened up for dinner, he ignored the niggling memories of how he and Lucius had once played at being lovers. That was before Narcissa, before Voldemort, before the war. Lucius was his first kiss, although Severus had never actually told him that. They had never gotten very far. Where in Hogwarts would students have had enough privacy to do more than snog a bit? After Lucius graduated and married Narcissa, they never spoke of their adolescent fumblings.

As Severus entered the dining room, he noticed Lucius was already there speaking with Carol. It stopped his heart a moment. Lucius was not only smiling at her, he gave a genuine laugh. How long had it been since he'd seen Lucius like that? The man was always working an angle or two, trying to maintain his place in society … ah, that was the crux then, wasn't it? Lucius Malfoy no longer had a place in wizarding society, and Louis Mallotte was a muggle of no societal standing. He had nothing to gain by pretending otherwise.

"Good evening," Severus greeted them. Carol and Lucius turned towards him.

Carol grinned in welcome. "Mr. Prince! Dinner is almost ready. I was just telling Mr. Mallotte that we have a small group tonight with just he and the Tanners joining us, but that we've invited the rest of the staff for a change since we'll be decorating the tree this evening."

"I trust that is all right with you, Mr. Mallotte?" Severus asked as he reached them.

"That's fine. And please, call me Louis. You as well, Carol. Mr. Mallotte sounds so dull." Severus couldn't help but think how attractive the man still was. Even with the tell-tale signs of an additional ten years, Lucius actually seemed younger.

Severus prodded, "Some people would consider it inappropriate to eat with the staff so I do like to be sure I do not offend our guests. The Tanners have been with us for awhile so I know they do not have any issues."

"Thank you for your consideration, but I harbor no beliefs regarding that. I am pleased with good company no matter who they are."

'That is a change, indeed,' Severus thought. 'What could have happened to have drastically changed your opinions so much?'

"Care for some wine?" Severus asked, putting the mystery aside for now.

Carol's eyes widened, "Oh, yes – that is what I originally came out to ask! I got lost in our conversation. Did you know that Mr. Mall …, I mean, Louis used to be a sommelier? I'm quite nervous now about our wine selection!" She was obviously uncomfortable using their guest's first name.

"Really? A Master Sommelier?" Severus asked Lucius.

"Oh no, not a Master. There are only about 170 or so of those in the entire world. I would never presume to be that knowledgeable," Lucius refuted.

Severus knew well that Lucius could have easily become a Master Sommelier with his extensive knowledge of wines, but had chosen not to. Now that he knew there were so few of them, he realized a new one would attract attention perhaps Lucius did not seek.

"I am sure I will be pleased with your selection," Lucius said, graciously.

"Perhaps you'd like to make a recommendation? I don't have extensive cellars, but as wine is a passion of my own, I do have a private collection I would be willing to share if we do not have something appropriate in the house stores," Severus suggested.

Carol looked stunned at Severus' offer. "Wow! I mean, that's … um, what a wonderful idea," she exclaimed. Severus understood her surprise. He thought himself a generous boss, but he could count on one hand the number of times he offered something from his private collection to anyone.

Lucius looked at Severus appraisingly. "Not necessary for this evening. I would indeed like to see your cellar at some point but I believe dinner is almost ready," and, at seeing Carol's nod, he continued, "and I'm afraid I would delay everyone far too long it if I started perusing your private collection now."

Severus blinked. Had Lucius just implied…? Carol coughed loudly in a poorly executed attempt to hide her laughter. Lucius blinked innocently at him which confirmed to Severus that he did indeed intend for that statement to be taken they way Severus had. Severus flushed at the innuendo. The man just flirted with him. Lucius turned back to Carol. "Maybe just something simple for now. We are having beef stew, correct?" Again Carol nodded, grinning. "A well-balanced cabernet sauvignon will do nicely."

Recovering, Severus said to Carol, "Go open a bottle of the Languedoc Mas de Guiot 2000." He turned to Lucius, "I'm afraid we might not have enough time to let it breath properly, but it's probably the best we have on hand in the inn's cellar."

"I think it will be a fine choice," Lucius said. "You seem to know your wines," he observed.

"Certainly not as well as you do, but I had a friend when I was younger who was a connesiur. I learned to appreciate fine wines from him. After I moved here, I had more time to explore my interest in depth."

"And do you still see this friend?" Lucius asked.

"It has been a number of years. Life took us in different directions, and I'm afraid we didn't part on very good terms. I sometimes regret that."

"I see. Yes, life often forces us to make decisions that we regret later."

Before they could go further in their discussion, the Tanners arrived accompanied by an exuberant Cormac. They were all red-nosed and out of breath, gibbering excitedly.

"Ah, Mr. Prince! So good to see you. Young Cormac here just took us on a most fascinating tour of the Viking burial grounds where that sword was found."

"You mean the one near the chapel of Kildonnan?"

"Yes! I had no idea Vikings had been on this island!" Mr. Tanner exclaimed. He was an excitable, wiry older gentleman in his sixties. "I'd been so caught up in the geographic uniqueness of the island, like the singing quartz beaches, and the more recent history of its people, that I had completely missed that fact in my pre-research."

"The singing quartz beaches?" Lucius asked.

The balding man turned to Lucius as if noticing him for the first time. "You must be new! Hello. I'm Fred Tanner," and he held out his hand. Severus almost choked when Lucius held his hand out in return.

"Louis Mallotte," he said by way of introduction.

"This is my wife, Allison." Fred tugged on a short, robust looking woman several years younger than himself with short graying brown hair and bright blue eyes. Severus admitted her eyes often reminded him of Dumbledore. She had that same cheeky sense of humor. Truly, Fred and Allison Tanner were well matched in their temperaments.

"Delighted! I'm sorry we have to leave tomorrow so I won't be able to get to know you," she squealed. "Fred has to go back to work."

"The Tanners are from the United States," Severus said to Lucius in case their accent wasn't quite enough to indicate their place of origin.

"You don't say?" Lucius responded with a hint of a smile. Severus could see he was rather amused by them. "And what do you do, Mr. Tanner?"

"I'm a museum director in Tulsa, Oklahoma," he answered. Fred turned to his wife. "But you know dear, I think we might be able to take a few more days after all. I'd love to talk to the town historians and maybe get some more pictures of those ruins to take back. It would be a lovely lecture for the community." He then turned to Severus, "We could tell all our Oklahoman friends about your little island here."

"Sounds delightful," Severus said, trying very hard to leave the sarcastic tone out of the statement.

"Dinner's ready. Hope you don't mind us being a bit informal this evening," Carol said as she carried out a couple of baskets of bread. Behind her, Ian came out with the open bottle of wine and began pouring into the glasses on the already-set table.

"Sure don't, if you don't mind us all askew after our trek. We don't have time to freshen up, so I do apologize for that," Allison grinned.

"We'll just sit down at this end with our guide, Cormac, so we don't stink up the meal!" Fred laughed as he put his arm around the young man's shoulder and hauled him away. Cormac winced at Carol as he noticed Shelly walking in and moving down the table away from where Fred was tugging him. Severus felt a bit bad for the lad.

Michael came in carrying a tray full of bowls ladened with stew. He was a fairly large man and easily handled the weight. Carol helped him put the bowls down, and then everyone sat to enjoy the meal.

Carol said, "A moment of silence for anyone who wants to observe grace." Severus appreciated that she gave their guests the opportunity to observe whatever traditions they wished to without forcing it upon others.

The fire blazing in the old stone hearth lit the room in warm colors. As usual, the wine helped ease the camaraderie and conversation flowed easily, even from shy Shelly and her young son, Christopher, who gurgled delightfully at everything.

Eventually conversation drifted to smaller groups rather than the entire table at large which suited Severus as he was next to Lucius.

"Tell me, Mr. Prince, have you lived here your entire life?"

"Please, it's Ewan. You asked earlier that we call you Louis. I hope you can call me by my first name as well. And no, I originally visited Eigg about 15 years ago."

"What brought you here?"

"An inheritance, actually. A solicitor found me. I had an uncle that passed with no heirs other than myself. And while I had not seen the man for many years, he still stipulated that I receive his estate as I was the only living blood relative left. Originally, I only visited to see the property and then returned a few times a year for summer holidays. I never intended to make it permanent. A few years passed when I realized I wanted to a make a major change in my life and realized that this could be the place I could do that."

"How extraordinary. The estate is beautiful." Lucius said.

"It wasn't like this when he got it," Carol chimed in. "It needed a lot of work."

"Have you been here that long as well?" Lucius asked her.

"No. I saw the photographs taken during the restoration. The townspeople were quite pleased about Mr. Prince renovating the place and choosing to open it as an inn. It provided work for them and increased tourism."

"Yeah, an' he were the one that suggested they buy the island off the previous owner. They'll not likely ferget that," Cormac added.

"Buy the island?" Lucius asked.

"Eigg has had several owners, most of them were unliked by us locals. Fer sure, we didna like the last one," Cormac explained.

Ian snorted. "That's an understatement! My dad said everyone hated the man, some German bloke. He finally put it up for sale just as Mr. Prince here first visited. During a subsequent visit, he was the one to suggest they all pool their local resources and ask the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Highland Council to help them and buy it themselves. And in 1997 they were able to do just that. Now Eigg is owned by all of us!"

"Is it true, sir, that you matched their funds in order to help them raise enough cash?" Shelly asked Severus. "My grandmother said that was the only reason it happened was because you donated so much of the money yourself."

Severus flushed in embarrassment. He hadn't realized anyone had known about that except the town officials he'd orchestrated that with.

"Shelly, that is not polite to ask in the presence of company," Carol rebuked her gently. Shelly reddened.

"Although, I think it explains why you are so well thought of, Mr. Prince," Lucius added and then took a spoonful of the richly colored stew. "Michael, this tastes wonderful. It's perfect for a chilly evening such as this," Lucius praised the cook.

"Thank you, sir," Michael answered.

Lucius turned to the young man at the end of the table. "Cormac, I would very much like to see these ruins for myself tomorrow if you are able."

"Ah, well, sir, tomorrow's no good. I got supplies I gotta fill. Maybe the day after?"

"I will take you tomorrow, Louis," Severus offered without knowing why.

"That would be acceptable. And perhaps then you can tell me about the singing quartz beaches," he smiled and took a sip of wine. With the change of subject, conversation flowed smoothly again until they adjourned to the main room to decorate the tree.

He arched a brow at her. "I believe I will leave that in your capable hands. I will see you this evening."

SLSLSLSLSLSLSLSLS

"Would you like to help?" Carol asked their newest guest. Michael was setting out the cider and cookies as Shelly and Ian took ornaments out of boxes. Cormac was struggling with getting the lights hung on the tree just right. It was a gorgeous eight-foot Norway Spruce that would be transplanted outdoors after the holidays just as they did every year.

Lucius looked around at the commotion. "I'm afraid I'm not particularly good at decorating so I'll just enjoy watching all of you." He sat in one of the oversized chairs by the room's fireplace as the staff and the Tanners got busy decorating the room.

Severus walked into the room shortly after. "Do you play chess?" Severus asked Lucius.

"Yes, I do," Lucius responded. He spotted a beautifully carved set in the corner of the room as Severus headed towards it.

"Perhaps some brandy as we play?" Severus asked as he stopped at a small bar in the room and unlocked the liquor cabinet. "Or would you prefer wine?"

Lucius joined Severus at the bar as he pulled out a couple of glasses. "No cider for you?" Lucius asked in a teasing tone. Severus grimaced at him. Lucius snickered. "Brandy is fine for this evening," Lucius answered. "I don't care for mixing wines in too short a time."

Severus poured out some of the rich amber liquor into two exquisitely cut glasses.

They sat down at a small game table. The chess set was ornately carved. It was a traditional Staunton set, named after the 19th century master himself. The black pieces were made from ebony and the white from white boxwood and both were heavily weighted with leather base pads. The king stood four inches as expected. It was a far cry from Wizarding chess, but nicely made all the same without being overly extravagant. The board was equally well made.

"You may play white," Severus offered.

"At least it will match my hair," Lucius smiled.

The first few moves were made in silence as the chatter of the staff filled the room underneath the Christmas music Carol had put on. Every so often he could hear Michael, Ian or her humming under their breath.

He was happy when he finally recognized that Lucius was using the Winawer Variation of the French Defense. Lucius was trying to use his bishops against Severus' kingside, and Severus knew he needed to counterattack against the weakened pawns on Lucius' queenside. Whether he'd be successful or not was up in the air. In chess, Lucius and Severus were always evenly matched.

Up close like this, Severus could see some new wrinkles around Lucius' eyes but, yes, all in all, he was still very attractive. Lucius seemed absorbed in staring at the board as Severus' hand hovered over a pawn.

"Other than being a sommelier in your youth, what do you do?" Severus asked. He was curious about the other man's cover.

"Hmnn? Oh, I've done a bit of this and that. Currently, I'm running a small bookstore that specializes in older texts."

"Fascinating. I never knew you …" Severus stopped. He'd been about to blurt out his knowledge about Lucius' lack of bibliophilia. "I mean it must be difficult making a living with all this new-fangled technology."

"At times, it can be difficult. Certainly e-readers are a growing market. I'm afraid some people in the near future may never actually hold a book."

"That's a disgrace. I love the smell of old books, feeling the weight in my hand, knowing so many people before me have spent evenings with the same book in their hands," Severus commented.

"That sounds very much like a friend I used to have. He loved reading. In fact, much like you and your friend, it is what got me interested when I found the time to pursue it. "

"The truth is," Lucius continued as he made his next move, "my clients will always love old books. I believe that market will expand as books become rarer when publishers stop actually publishing them. The masses will turn to their iPads, Kindles, Nooks or whatever the next thing is for their best sellers. For people who love the real thing though, they will have fewer places to turn to to get them. I am working in that niche. I actually love the new technology as it makes it so easy to read junk food books so I can save my limited storage space for books that have meaning such as like Chaucer or Hugo. I prefer to have my favorite books bound using exquisite paper, leather bindings and gold leaf on the cover. Books that were printed when publishers cared about the actual book quality. I don't really care if I read the next Janet Evanovich or Tom Clancy novels on screen as the published versions are always made so cheaply."

"You read Tom Clancy?" Severus was surprised. He completely ignored the reference to Janet Evanovich.

"We all have our vices, I suppose. Sometimes it's nice to read mindless fun in between heavier fare."

They continued the match for awhile in silence as the strains of "It Came upon a Midnight Clear" played in the background.

Severus thought about how much Lucius had changed. It warmed him that, in some ways, Lucius still thought of him.

"The tree is coming along nicely," Lucius observed. Severus looked up. He had to agree. Most years, he came into the room after all the decorating was finished. It was always beautiful, elegant with its silver/white and gold ornaments. Carol and Shelly were finishing the tree while Ian hung a large wreath over the fireplace and Cormac and Michael were draping ivy.

"Okay, everyone. Close your eyes. I need to place the pickle!" Carol yelled.

"Pickle?" Lucius asked.

"I'll explain in a moment."

"You too, Mr. Prince and Lucius," Carol said with a laugh.

Severus closed his eyes, mildly amused at Carol's insistence on this ridiculous tradition. But the guests and staff enjoyed it, so he tolerated it.

After a minute or so of rustling, Carol called out. "All done!" After everyone opened their eyes, she announced they'd be moving to the rest of the public rooms to finish decorating.

"So, what was that about?" Lucius asked.

"Carol is inordinately fond of Christmas. She was raised Catholic, but I don't believe she's ever found a holiday tradition she doesn't like. There are several versions of how the Christmas Pickle tradition began, but ultimately the child that finds the Christmas Pickle on the tree is granted an extra wish for the year and an extra present."

"I've never heard of it," Lucius said as he moved his remaining knight.

"Legend says the tradition began in Germany, but as most Germans have never heard of it, that is unlikely. The other two stories are that it originated in the Americas during the Civil War or in Spain during medieval times. In the American version, a Bavarian-born soldier was taken prisoner. He was in poor health and was starving to death. He begged a guard for just one pickle before he died. The guard took pity on him and found a pickle for him. The pickle, by the grace of God, gave him the strength to live.

The other legend says two Spanish boys were traveling home from school for the holidays. When they stopped at an inn for the night, the innkeeper, a mean and evil man, stuffed the boys into a pickle barrel. St. Nicholas stopped at the same inn that evening and became aware of the boys' plight. He tapped the pickle barrel with his staff and the boys were magically freed."

"Magically, huh?" Lucius said.

"If you believe that sort of thing," Severus answered. "Anyways, Carol loved the idea of placing a glass ornament shaped like pickle to get our guests' children excited. I see no harm in it, so I've allowed her free reign on it."

"You have a well trained and pleasant staff," Lucius pointed out. "I am quite happy Har… Hayden chose this place," Lucius said with a smile.

Severus noticed the hesitation but chose not to dwell on it. "I am pleased as well. Even if your next move puts me in checkmate," Severus smiled back. With that, the game was won, but Severus did not feel like he had lost at all. In fact, Severus couldn't remember a more pleasant evening.

He arched a brow at her. "I believe I will leave that in your capable hands. I will see you this evening."

SLSLSLSLSLSLSLSLS

Wednesday morning was dry with a touch of crisp wind. The little snow that had fallen the night before had frozen but was not enough to whiten the landscape overall. This time of year yielded late sunlight and sharp winds off the water but often dry weather and relatively mild temperatures as the sea prevented the small island from overheating in the summer and freezing too much in the winter. Severus was assisting Ian as he tended to the aviary. It was still dark but he wanted to complete this before breakfast and before he and Lucius set off on their hike.

They also kept chickens for the eggs, sheep for the wool and border collies for the sheep. Ian usually cared for the animals the majority of the time, but Severus often liked to assist him.

The aviary was used to care for injured birds of prey or abandoned baby birds. One way Severus had supported himself early on was by collecting the feathers of wild birds-of-prey like the Peregrine Falcon, the Golden Eagle, Kestrels, and short- and long-eared owls in a humane manner and would sell them to wizarding wand makers or other potion creators. That was his only connection to the wizarding world since the war.

Ian was quite comfortable in caring for the birds and a local vet made regular visits when there was a need. Severus, himself, had become quite adept at healing injured birds. At the moment, no birds were being cared for so it was a matter of just keeping the area clean and well supplied. It was a place that Severus enjoyed. Often the birds he had cared for returned as if they remembered him, so some mornings found him not doing tasks but just watching his former patients.

Many of his guests came specifically to bird-watch the many native species found on Eigg. Those were the tours Severus usually took himself as he felt a great kinship to the birds-of prey. All the other tours, he left up to the staff to handle. Today would be the first time he took someone to the other tourist areas, although he had certainly made the various treks himself many times. It was, after all, a rather small island.

He entered the dining room to see Michael bringing in a full Scottish traditional breakfast. Normally, they reserved it for the weekend, but after the previous evenings lighter meal, Severus found himself very hungry and decided they had made the correct decision.

The Tanners and Lucius soon joined them. The Markwells had decided to stay with their friends for the evening. The table was filled with bowls of hearty porridge, scrambled eggs, crisp bacon and Lorne sausage. Michael made the sliced, square sausage with a fifty percent mix of beef and pork and fried it rather hard. Severus was rather fond of Michael's recipe. Tattie scones were piled high as well. Severus also liked the rather flattish, soft texture of the scone with its mild potato flavoring. He was happy to see that Michael had chosen not to include haggis or black pudding. Although traditionally Scottish, most guests did not care for those dishes, so unless specifically requested, Michael did not make them.

Lucius sat next to Severus once again. Severus had never seen Lucius in denim jeans, but he appreciated the view as Lucius took his seat. The man also wore a dark red mock turtleneck and cream colored fisherman's sweater.

"Fred and Allison, will you be joining us for the tour this morning?" Severus asked politely. He was relieved when he got a shake of the head.

"No, I believe we'll go into town first to see the library. We can make our way up there later since we've been there already," Fred answered. "I believe the roads are dry enough for the bikes, yes?"

"Yes. It seems as if we will have a clear day today. Feel free to use the bikes," Severus answered. Motorized vehicles, like cars, were not permitted on the island except those owned by the citizens as there was only one main road. Severus kept a couple of golf carts on hand for travel over the grassy areas of his own property and occasional forays into town, although they mostly used the lone pick-up truck for deliveries. Severus found few reasons for leaving his property with the exceptions of his trips to deliver the feathers which he limited to several times a year.

"Anything special I need for today, Ewan?" Lucius asked.

"You might want to wear some rubbers for protection if you have them. I'd recommend a jacket that you can easily carry in case you get warm. The exertion may make you hot," he said, and without thinking, he smiled at Lucius.

Lucius smiled back and added in a low voice, "Hmmn … you think I may get hot today?" He raised an eyebrow at Severus, looked him up and down a little, and added, "If I need rubbers, you may be right." Severus felt a very large hand touch his thigh and gently squeeze a bit.

Severus about choked on his tattie scone and blushed. It took him a second to catch Lucius' double meaning as he was not as familiar with American idioms as Lucius seemed to be, but he wasn't completely ignorant of them. He was, though, very aware of the heat on his leg.

"What are you talking about over there?" Carol piped in, looking suspiciously humored.

"Nothing. I was just asking your boss about the appropriate gear for today's activities. " Lucius grinned as he went back to his meal. "He suggested good footwear."

"Ah, yes. You might also want something to keep your neck warm," she said. "Maybe Mr. Prince has something on hand if you don't?"

"I'm sure Mr. Prince can find a way to ensure I stay warm," Lucius added, and as Severus was about to choke again, he continued, "A scarf, perhaps, I could borrow?"

"Will you have any issues walking the terrain?" Michael interrupted. As everyone turned to look at him, he explained. "It's just, I noticed you were using a cane but I wasn't sure if maybe you might like to use one of the walking sticks that Ian has made. They're designed for outside use and have a strap on the handle to make it easy to carry. Then you wouldn't have to worry about damaging your cane at all."

"He also added a bottle carrier to the side, which is actually quite handy," Shelly added as she slipped another spoonful of porridge to little Christopher.

"That's very thoughtful, but my cane will be sufficient. To be honest, I may have a slight limp, but other than that, everything is in perfect working order and I can go for quite awhile without fatigue."

At this Severus looked up and decided to fight fire with fire, "That is good to know," he said with a hint of teasing. "We may be going for some time."

"I look forward to it," Lucius smiled and took a rather large bite of sausage.

Carol leaned back in her chair with a smile. Everyone else was too engrossed in their breakfast to notice the little change of atmosphere between the two men.

Later, Severus and Lucius set off to explore the island while the rest of the staff prepared for the additional guests arriving on Thursday. The Tanners chose to remain for the holidays after all, and with the addition of not only Draco, Hayden and their combined children, they were expecting another couple celebrating a Honeymoon Christmas and a university student who was working on a doctoral thesis on the geography and geology of the island. The Audubon group would arrive just a couple of days later. While the inn would be full, he didn't expect he'd see much of the new guests at all. This was one bird-watching tour he wouldn't be leading. They had hired an outside expert. He also suspected he wouldn't see much of Lucius once Draco and his family arrived, either. He wondered, of all the places they could have chosen, they had come here.

"Shall we start with the ruins?" Severus asked. "It's a bit of a hike. It will take about 45 minutes to reach them. We can do the Singing Sands later as they should dry out by mid-afternoon from yesterday's light snow. The sands don't 'sing' unless they are dry."

Lucius looked around the island. Being only about 9 square kilometers, there wasn't a lot of land to see. It was stark grassland surrounded by water and a very large moorland plateau in the center of the island resembling the spine of an enormous dragon. There was something quite peaceful about it. The center of the island featured some nicely thick forests that were home to many of the bird species Severus observed. Several lovely waterfalls could also be found within the forest.

Lucius looked up at the plateau's profile against the very blue sky that had graced them this day.

Severus noted his gaze. "An Sgurr. It's the most defining geographical element of the island."

Lucius nodded as a light wind blew. "I saw it as I arrived on the ferry yesterday. I imagine the view from the top is quite spectacular."

"It is indeed," Severus agreed. "You can easily hike up even though it's about a 390 meter rise to the top. The back end slopes gently up but the surrounding sides are quite steep. At the top you can see Mull, Coll, Muck, the Outer Hebrides, Rùm, Skye, and the mountains of Lochaber on the mainland. I often walk there. It's a good place for putting things in perspective."

"Then a change of plans are in order. Seeing as today is so clear, I'd like to start there. I could use some perspective."

Another surprise. Lucius was not known for acting spontaneously. When he knew the man, every move had been meticulously thought out, planned, strategized, and thought about again before implementing. Although considering some of his failures, perhaps he learned that wasn't always the best way to go about life. Severus himself had been very much the same. He still was in many ways in the major areas, but living on the island had taught him the value of flexibility.

"Then, shall we? It should take us just slightly over an hour to walk there." Severus said.

The two set off in a southwest direction in companionable silence. After a few minutes, as they walked side by side, Lucius broke the quiet. "I hope you are not too offended by my teasing this morning. I was not attempting to embarrass you."

"This morning?" Severus pretended he didn't recall the moment Lucius had squeezed his leg.

Lucius laughed a little. "Carol might have mentioned that perhaps there was no Mrs. Prince for a reason. And I find myself drawn to you. You remind me very much of a man I cared about once."

Severus almost froze. He was grateful they were walking side by side and he had the excuse of the wind and their walk for the sudden rush of red to his face.

"If I have made an incorrect assumption about your preferences, please forgive me. I hope you do not mind my forwardness. I have learned life is far too short to waste. If you are not of the same persuasion, I shan't mention it again," Lucius added.

"I will have to talk to Carol about minding her own business, but she is not wrong. I am, however, by nature, a cautious man, but I will admit you, too, remind me of someone I once cared for. If you do not mind that as a starting point, perhaps we could get to know each other as unique individuals and see where that leads."

"I understand. My son is coming tomorrow and so I shall be busy with them. I wanted you to know before they arrived that I was interested. I enjoyed my evening with you very much."

Severus nodded, "As did I. May I ask what happened to Mrs. Mallotte?" Severus wondered where Narcissa was.

Lucius pursed his lips. "Ah…we parted ways, I'm afraid. She was unhappy with many of decisions I'd made over the years and chose to end it. I was neither surprised nor, to be frank, unhappy about it. I haven't seen her in many years, although I do get the occasional letter."

That Narcissa finally decided to leave on her own surprised Severus. He wondered who currently resided in Malfoy Manor. Had Lucius let her stay there? Were Draco and his wife living there? Was it empty? Certainly Lucius himself was not residing there. Unfortunately, there was no way he could ask without giving himself away. The silence resumed for a bit as they walked. It was not uncomfortable.

Along the way, Severus pointed out various nesting areas for the local birds that were so common, and they discussed his involvement with the protection of the local species.

As a kestrel flew overhead, Severus recited,

"I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom

of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,

As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!"

"What's that from?" Lucius asked.

"'The Windhover' by Gerald Manley Hopkins. He compares the kestrel's rare ability to hover in the air to a rider on horseback. A creature in control of its ride and yet, at the same time, able to adjust to the shifting grounds or winds around it, or even powerful enough to be able to control the wind itself. He uses it as a metaphor for divine epiphany."

The two stood in deep reflection and watched the bird in the air, catching updrafts as it watched for prey below.

"I can certainly see why he would think that," Lucius finally said.

"Were you aware that most birds-of-prey are monogamous? Some, like the bald eagle, mate for life," Severus said. He wasn't exactly sure why he felt the need to say it, but watching Lucius' profile outlined against the sky sent his heart humming. He had never truly cared for anyone as much as he had about the man in front of him. He only recognized now that he had never truly recovered from that loss.

Lucius looked at him intently. "Is that so? I suppose if I had a partner as impressive as one of these creatures, I, too, would never look elsewhere."

Severus' heart skipped a beat as Lucius smiled at him. After a pregnant pause, Lucius turned and began walking again.

As they neared the rise, Severus enjoyed seeing the dawning look on Lucius' face as he saw the spectacular view for the first time. It never failed to inspire or revive Severus.

"Truly remarkable," Lucius said. The wind had whipped up now that they were elevated. It felt crisp and sharp and refreshing. Severus took out a couple of water bottles and offered one to Lucius. He took it gratefully as he took in the view.

"You said this would be the first time you saw your son in some time," Severus asked gently. He couldn't deny his curiosity any longer.

"Yes. It's been ten years," Lucius said, looking far off into the distance.

So, not since the war. Severus wondered what happened. He watched Lucius' face falter a bit.

"I made mistakes. Mistakes that could have cost him his life. Mistakes that surely cost others theirs," Lucius said by way of explanation. "He found it difficult to forgive me. I found it difficult to stay."

Lucius turned and looked at Severus seriously. "I expressed an interest in you earlier but it would be unfair not to disclose a few things first. I have not always been a nice man. I've done things I am not proud of. I've done things that are illegal. I thought at the time I was doing it for the right reasons but I see now how wrong I was. I've paid my debt to society, but still, my past deeds have a way of catching up to me. I will understand if you do not wish to entangle yourself further." Lucius was gazing at Severus earnestly. His blue eyes watered a tad.

"I appreciate your honesty. I, too, have not always made the best choices. Perhaps it's not such a bad thing we've met," Severus said and honestly smiled. "So why now? Why has Dr … er, you said his name was David? Why has he agreed to see you now?"

"Hayden."

"You mentioned Hayden before. Is that his wife?"

"No, he is David's best friend. My son's wife past away not long after giving birth to their child. I would probably have never known of either event except that Hayden tracked me down to tell me about them. While I was never kind to Hayden growing up, he felt his friend needed his father and his grandson needed his grandfather. Hayden himself came from a broken family, so perhaps that drove him in his decision to seek me out. He was raised by unkind relatives after the passing of his own parents, and then his wife left him after the birth of their second child. Hayden has been raising his own children and a godson and has helped my son with his child."

"He sounds like a remarkable young man," Severus observed.

Lucius laughed. "I suppose given that lens he would be viewed that way. He would be the first to tell you he's not perfect, but I admire his tenacity. He does not like me. He may never like me, but he cares for my son and what more can a father ask for. He's been there for him when I cannot be. I am grateful for the chance he has provided. My son may not forgive me either, but at least he is coming. And I will get to meet my grandson. It's more than I expected. Probably more than I deserve."

"Perhaps we'll toast to new beginnings tonight, then," Severus said.

"Ah, yes. Maybe I can see that wine cellar you were talking about last night," Lucius said.

"Shall we head into the village for a light lunch before continuing? Or perhaps you'd like to visit the Massacre Cave and Cathedral Cave first? We could detour to see it before heading to the Pier. I believe it would be low tide when we got there so we could actually enter it. It shouldn't take more than an extra hour."

"Massacre Cave? Sounds scenic. I'm sure some of my former acquaintances would have loved a place like that," Lucius chuckled.

Severus almost laughed thinking that their former Death Eater friends would have liked the sound of that before realizing he couldn't act like he knew who Lucius was talking about.

"I imagine many people have romanticized views about the violent past. The history of Massacre Cave is quite tragic, though." They began walking down the gentle slope and veered westward yet again towards the shoreline as Severus explained the caves' histories.

"Cathedral Cave was used for Roman Catholic services. The Massacre Cave is officially called the Cave of Francis. It became known as the Massacre Cave after the MacLeod clan killed 395 members of the McDonald clan in 1577. While the reason is still shrouded in mystery, it is widely believed that it occurred because of an incident when some visiting MacLeods became too amorous with the local girls. The McDonalds, offended by their behavior, bound and cast them adrift in the Minch. In retaliation, the MacLeods returned in the spring of 1577, but were unable to find any of the McDonalds. It seems the locals had spotted the returning MacLeods and had hidden in the cave. There was a small opening hidden by a waterfall, but the cave itself opens into a wide chamber once inside and could comfortably accommodate the large number of people.

"Unfortunately, one member of the family chose perch upon a promontory to see the disappointed MacLeods about to leave the island, and he was spotted by the invaders. Though he returned to hiding, the snow gave his footprints away and the MacLeods were able to follow him back to the cave.

"The MacLeods piled thatch and roof timbers from nearby crofts at the cave mouth and set it on fire. They dampened the flames thereby asphyxiating everyone inside. Only one family member escaped the massacre because they had taken refuge in a different cave."

"Gruesome," Lucius said. "How did your family come to the island?"

Severus paused but realized there was no reason not to tell the truth. As focused as Lucius had been on pureblood lines, once he had learned of Severus' half-blood status, he would have never delved into his family history. He had been amazed that Lucius had even bothered to consider Severus as a friend, let alone a snogging partner in school.

The only hint of reason of this acceptance came late one evening in the common room after Lucius had read the letter that informed him the arranged marriage to Narcissa Black had been settled and he muttered, "I guess they win again." When Severus had asked him about it, his only explanation was, "I'm a Malfoy so I'll have to do what they want until I procreate like a good little pureblood. Ridiculous. Invoking blood bonds." The bitterness in his tone betrayed his feelings about the match.

Severus had later looked up what blood bonds meant, and basically the parents of the arranged marriages vowed that each of their children would accept the marriage terms until a child borne of their blended blood was raised to adulthood or they risk losing their magical power to the injured party. Once a child was successfully raised, the marriage bond could be broken with no ill effect. Most purebloods insisted on the tradition. No wonder Lucius had been upset. It was also no wonder why his kisses that night were so passionate and desperate. If they had not been discovered by a teacher, he believed they would have gone much further than they did.

After that evening, the blond became cooler to Severus and explained he would have to learn to adapt to his responsibilities. He never told Severus he loved him, but Lucius was kind enough to explain it wasn't him and he wanted to remain friends. It was a difficult pill to swallow. He was angry at Lucius but he also understood the position Lucius had been in. That's when he turned his attentions to Lily. He thought maybe a girl wouldn't hurt him as much, and he thought he'd never care for another man. In the long run, neither was true. Lily did hurt him and he did find solace in other mens' arms over the years. They were few, but they were there.

A slight stumble on a rock brought Severus back to the present as Lucius reached out to grab his arm to steady him.

"Okay?"

"Fine. You'd think I'd be the one to know my footing on this island and not the new arrival," Severus said with a slight smile and an embarrassed flush.

Lucius smiled back. "Well, when something is new to you, you tend to take everything in – aware of every nuance. Once it becomes familiar, you tend to take it for granted and not pay attention to it anymore. That's when it becomes dangerous."

"Sounds like experience speaking," Severus said.

"More than you know. It's how I lost my son to begin with. I expected since he always followed my every lead as a child with enthusiasm, he would happily do so as an adult. Imagine my surprise when he became his own man and resented the decisions I had made and, instead, chose his own path. At the time, I was furious and forced him to comply. I made the same mistake with him as my father made with me and I was too blind to see it. That's why I have never met my grandson. In a way, I'm the reason he exists in the first place. I arranged the marriage for my son with a woman he did not know, and he paid me back by refusing to see me or allowing me to see my grandson when they finally, after many years, had a child."

"Arranged marriages are not common in our society," Severus said, thinking of the muggle world both men had adapted to.

"True. But it has been a tradition in mine. My family instilled a sense, almost a need, to continue the bloodline regardless of any effect it had on your life."

"Did your parents ever know you were homosexual or did you hide it?" Severus was very curious about this.

"I believe they suspected which was why everything was arranged prior to my graduation. My father would not have wanted to take the chance I would dishonor the family. While homosexuality is not as frowned upon as much now, then it was considered something you could dabble in so long as you still married and procreated afterwards. And then, to my shame,I did the same exact thing to my son."

"Dra … David is also gay?" Severus was gob smacked.

"I suspect so. He never admitted it to me but in school there was only one person that he got passionate about, and it was not a woman. Oh, he acted as if he hated the young man. At the time I assumed it was on my account as I did not care for the family the lad came from. I never stopped to think that if that was the case, he would have just chosen to ignore him, but much like a little boy that pulls a girl's pigtails to get her attention, he went out of his way to taunt the boy."

Severus thought back on Draco's interactions with Harry Potter. How could he not have seen that? It seemed obvious in retrospect. As much as Severus noted how Pansy clung to Draco, he also noted how Draco dismissed the girl. Mostly his godson seemed bored or slightly scared throughout his school years. The only time Draco was truly animated was when he and Harry fought. Severus wondered how the Boy-Who-lived would have felt about that.

Lucius continued, "Anyways, through the grapevine, I understand that he and Astoria managed to have a pleasant enough marriage to please society. His friend told me that David mourned her loss greatly so I assume they found a semblance of peace together."

"I suppose that is some consolation," Severus said.

"And you never answered my question. How did your family come to the island?"

"Hadn't you guessed? One of my ancestors was a MacLeod." What Severus didn't mention was that was why the battle was so one-sided. The MacLeods had magic. The McDonalds were mostly muggles. They never had a chance.

"Interesting. And the locals don't resent you?"

"After all this time? No. And besides, there was only one survivor. Most of the current residents are descended from the MacLeod side or from families on neighboring islands. I can't say what it was like back then. My particular ancestor's descendants must have moved to England at some point as that is where I was raised." Severus didn't feel the need to elaborate on specifics.

They finally came upon the small cliffs that faced seaward. A very small opening in the rocks beckoned them. It was nestled in a rocky outcropping surrounded by wintered grasses.

"And there it is – Massacre Cave." Severus stood gazing at the small, unimpressive entrance to the cave. "We'll need to crawl to get in as the opening is quite tight. Once through it, though, it widens quickly."

Lucius laughed. "I apologize. I was having an inappropriate thought about forgetting to bring lubrication."

Severus stared at him and then laughed as well as he realized what his description sounded like. He shook his head. "So, do you want to go in?" Severus asked.

"I would very much like to go in, but let's explore the cave first, shall we?" Lucius winked as he passed by Severus and lightly stroked his arm. Lucius got down on all fours and slipped his cane into a hip holster on his belt and began to crawl.

Severus tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a torch. "You might want this if you're going first." Lucius took it with a nod.

Severus enjoyed the view. For an older man, Lucius was in terrific shape and the curve of his backside was still as graceful and taut as he remembered.

It was a short journey and soon the cave opened into an expansive area. He pulled additional torches out and set them around to light up the cave.

An eerie mist filled the cavern and a quiet hush surrounded them. It never failed to move Severus. He often felt he could reach back and feel the terror the people felt knowing they were dying. He wondered how many people he himself had made feel that way during his years of being a Death Eater. He wondered if Lucius ever thought about it.

"There's not really much to look at in here," Severus began, but Lucius stepped up and touched his finger to Severus' lips.

"Quiet," he ordered. Severus watched as Lucius stepped around the damp cave listening to the odd noises it often made.

"So much death here and yet it's somehow so tranquil. What do you suppose that means?" Lucius finally asked.

"I'm not sure," Severus answered bluntly.

"Are you ever ashamed of your family's participation in the massacre?" he stepped up to Severus again and this time took his hands and held them.

"It was a long time ago, and I did not personally commit those crimes," Severus said watching Lucius' face.

"Hmmn … and yet you admitted earlier you had done some things as well. Criminal things, perhaps?"

Severus watched as Lucius stroked his hands with his thumbs. A shiver that had nothing to do with the chilled cave went through him.

"Yes, but it was a long time ago. I was a different person."

"Indeed you were - Severus," Lucius said firmly and gripped his hand hard.

Severus tried to pull back. Lucius knew! He knew it was him. How could he have let his guard down like that?

Lucius yanked him closer, much stronger than Severus remembered him being. "I think the cave is whispering to us. 'The past is the past. Let it lie.'"

Severus searched for animosity on his old friend's face and found none.

"Severus. I've missed you even after all these years," Lucius' voice hitched in the request. "My son will join me tomorrow, but we have all of tonight to make up for lost time, even if you never want to see me again. Consider it an early Christmas present," Lucius smiled.

"How did you know it was me?" Severus whispered.

"You can glamour your face and your voice has changed, but you forgot about your hands. How could I forget how elegant your hands were?" He picked up one of Severus long, lean hands and gently caressed them. "I was always so entranced with them from the time we were young and played at being lovers. I want to stop playing now."

"I think I need a drink," Severus said, the sudden change of circumstances forcing him to recalibrate his world view.

"Perhaps, we could change our agenda once again and leave the Singing Sands for another day? I believe you promised to show me your wine cellar. Could we retire there and resume our conversation in more comfortable surroundings," Lucius suggested. He lifted Severus hand to his mouth and kissed it softly. "Any possibility we can apparate there or do you have wards against it?"

In a split second, Severus decided if Lucius was here to finally kill him, he couldn't think of a better way to die. And if not, then maybe, just maybe, they could be reborn together and put the past behind them. "Hold on," Severus said and took hold of Lucius.

Severus' magical signature allowed the men to pass through the strong wards. The cool dampness of the expansive cave shimmered out of sight and was replaced by the cool darkness of a small room. Several recessed lights flared to life as the motion detectors triggered upon their arrival.

Severus watched Lucius as he pulled away slowly to view their new location. The entire room was lined with dark wooden shelves that housed a great selection of bottles. There were several intricately carved cabinets and a marble bar with a copper sink towards one side. Various wine goblets, beer steins, snifters and shot glasses lined the shelves directly behind the bar.

"You don't get many guests, I take it?" Lucius smiled as he looked at the single oversized reading chair off to the side. Beside it was a side table with a variety of books stacked on top.

"No one has wanted to visit before," Severus stated truthfully. This was Severus' private collection. The one the staff actually used for the guests was just outside. No one except Severus ever came into this room.

"Well, I'd like to change that, if you'll let me," Lucius replied. He pulled a bottle from a nearby slot and examined it. Before Severus could answer, Lucius' eyes widened in surprise. "A 1982 Chateau Haut Brion Pessac-Lognan?" He looked up at Severus. "Impressive, and appropriate, I think."

Lucius set the bottle down on the bar and moved to get two glasses. Severus hesitated. That was one of the most expensive bottles in his collection.

Lucius looked up at him and smirked. No doubt he saw the look on Severus' face. As he set to open the bottle, he said, "Severus, why are you holding onto this? It's one of the most spectacular wines there is. I know it's still relatively youthful but it has matured well enough. It's truly not going to get any better with age so it needs to be enjoyed soon." Lucius walked back towards Severus and handed him a glass. "Much like us."

They each sniffed the rich Bordeaux before sipping. Severus appreciated its intense aroma of roasted herbs, sweet black currents and scorched earth. Its dark ruby color swirled in the glass. Lucius clinked his glass to Severus', "To us."

Severus was still a bit confused by this new, open Lucius, but, like the wine he sipped, the ripe, mature flavors of the other man were revealing layers of complexity Severus had never expected. He responded in the only way he could; through droll sarcasm. "I believe this vintage is considered palatable until at least 2020."

Lucius laughed loudly. Severus wasn't sure he'd ever heard the man laugh like that. It warmed almost as much as the wine. Lucius took both glasses and sat them down. He pressed forward against Severus, "Well then, I guess we have a little time to allow it to breathe, then."

Severus let Lucius back him against the closed door that lead to the outer wine cellar. Severus felt the heat of Lucius' breath just before he felt firm lips against his, a seeking tongue asking entrance. Their tongues swirled around just the wine in the glasses had. It tasted dark and mature. Warmth went through Severus that had nothing to do with wine as Lucius' body pressed against his. Sweet mingled with earthy richness as they sought each other out. Severus finally felt the silky strands of Lucius' hair as cupped the back of his head to deepen the kiss. Lucius put his arms around Severus' waist and pulled him tight.

Severus now walked Lucius backwards towards the chair. He briefly moved his hand to get his wand. He managed to transfigure the chair into a bed.

Lucius looked behind him and then arched an eyebrow at Severus.

"I'm not being too presumptuous, am I?" Severus asked, in a husky whisper.

"Certainly not." Lucius sat down and pulled Severus towards him onto the bed. "I just hope you know that when you uncork this bottle, you have to finish it."

Severus snorted, "That is the corniest thing I've ever heard." He continued to follow Lucius until he lay on top of him.

Lucius smiled up at him. "Whatever works to make sure you stay this time."

"I wasn't the one that left."

"I know." Lucius resumed kissing Severus. Slowly the couple made love. As urgently as Severus wanted Lucius, he wanted to savor this first time after having waited for so very long after that initial taste. The impetuosity and mistakes of youth behind them, Severus disagreed with Lucius' earlier statement. He believed they would get much better with time.

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