rabbit: Aw… Look at them all out there…
jinx: sitting in the darkness…
rabbit: all gleaming eyes…
rabbit: that maybe, just maybe…
jinx: at the end of the credits there'll be an…
The library's clock chimed discreetly, giving Lucius exactly one hour to gather his belongings, and extract Sev from his favorite haunt, and still get back to the dormitory before curfew.
It hadn't been a good day. It had commenced in the infirmary, which Was Never An Encouraging Prospect, and invariably meant a breakfast of dry toast and weak tea (which in light of Pettigrew's performance of the previous evening they had left untouched). It had continued immediately with a Visitation by Professor Keele, who had escorted them to the library with all the friendliness of a Dementor before distributing essay assignments.
Crabbe and Goyle had gotten:
Explain just why, if Lucius Malfoy told you to leap off a cliff, you would do it.
After the requisite pause for deciphering the question, Crabbe had brightened, written, "'Cos Luke i said /i ," and signed his name. Goyle had signed the parchment too and the pair of them had departed in the direction of the Great Hall and rashers of bacon and eggs. They'd made a brief appearance near lunchtime to tackle their other homework assignments with the confidence of wizards whose allowances were not Dependent Upon Performance and by now they were probably up in the dorm room, lazing about.
Lucius collected his notes and those books he was still using, and glared at the extracurricular report which had been imposed upon him following yesterday's sequential debacles:
Explain why, exactly, a person who feels himself Born to Lead should take into account the limited mental faculties (innate or alchemically induced) of his followers.
As if he didn't know. The bruises weren't going to fade for weeks.
And so he had explained (Bitterly) at length, filling two rolls of parchment which he would deliver promptly First Thing in the Morning, As Specified to Professor Keele, and at long last he was Finished.
He snapped the locks shut on his dragonhide satchel, neatly stacked the books he would not be taking from the library this evening, and turned his baleful glare upon the cold-iron gates barring him from the Restricted Section.
Within that Forbidden Realm was Sev, who had relapsed into unfathomable swotdom the moment he had awakened. He had colonized a long table now thoroughly overstrewn with books and scrolls and worn-out quills and scraps of parchment ; he'd spent hours with his oversized nose buried in a quaint and curious volume of long forgotten lore and he was quite plainly In Heaven.
Lucius, excluded from this happiness, caught himself pacing and made himself hold quite still.
And stop grinding his teeth.
He reminded himself firmly how Setbacks Encourage Greater Thought, Which Engenders Greater Success.
That helped only slightly. He was still smarting with the knowledge that, although he had acquired Lupin's frayed Permission Slip granting limited access to the Restricted Section, all of his resultant Bargaining Power had melted away when every effort had failed to alter Professor McGonagall's handwriting to make the document specific to another student. He'd sacrificed most of the morning in the attempt.
And then That Overweening Swot had dared to take the initiative, A New and Bad Habit Sev had acquired along with the disquieting change in his voice. The accidental combination of potions, smoke, and cleansing products he'd ingested during their detention had infused his voice with a didgeridoo's resonance, which affect Madame Pomfrey had deemed permanent. She'd even offered Snape her congratulations.
Subsequently and for the very first time in his life, Sev had found his endless explanations and pontifications greeted with rapt attention.
People would actually stop and stare, like cobras entranced by a sinuous air.
Snape had never before managed to attract a crowd without enduring abject humiliation. He had adapted with lightning speed to his New and Improved Circumstances; by lunchtime he had developed an unbecoming confidence, a persistent smirk, and a strange ability to add several syllables to even the smallest word.
All of which had somehow possessed Sev of sufficient temerity to petition Professor Keele for his own sanctioned access to the Restricted Section, with the argument that actually he would be less dangerous to himself and others if only he had clearer guidance and cautionary examples such as Lovecraft, Phibes and Morrison.
Really it was incredible the effect That Voice had on witches. Professor Keele had granted her permission straightaway.
Sev, of course, had promptly taken his paranormaphernalia into the New Realms of Wonder and continued to work on his assigned essay:
Explain why Up-All-Night Potion (even when incorrectly brewed) is not meant to be drunk three tumblers-full at a time.
While this had saved Lucius from pontifications, it had made getting the answers off of Sev's work more difficult.
And now There was Sev, chattering avidly with that spooky little Ravenclaw Prefect, Siouxsie Sinistra. She was actually Hovering over him, animatedly explaining something, pointing to various books in turn as she pursued some idea. Silver rings flashed from all her fingers as she performed some illustrative pantomime; her eyes, sunk in tarpits of kohl, were shining with the thrill of the hunt.
Sev laughed appreciatively, a creamy sound capable of causing arterial obstruction. Lucius stared as the foolish girl's knees actually Unhinged. She caught ahold of Snape's shoulder To Keep Her Balance, and actually Clung to him.
Lucius forced himself stop grinding his teeth again.
After all she was A Perfect Fright, hair like a bats' nest and she's forever glooming about... She couldn't touch Narcissa for looks and anyway a clever girl was Nothing But Trouble, which Sev would soon learn to his Everlasting Regret.
And handed Snape two slim volumes, one of which had a scrap of parchment very obviously tucked between its pages. She giggled again, with an effervescence like spilt champagne, and fluttered away into the shadows of the bookstacks.
Lucius called sharply, "All ready, Sev? Time to go!"
Snape jumped, and looked through the bars at him. The smirk resurfaced, and That Uppity Swot commenced arranging the voluminous tomes he'd pulled from the shelves. Lucius tapped his foot impatiently as his upstart minion spent an extra moment or two with his selections, arranging them with scrupulous precision before placing a little "reserved" sign on top of the stack.
Really, it was a great pity that Snape couldn't take books out of the Restricted Section.
Still, Sev could access the shelves and that was Something to Write Home About.
Sev finished packing up his belongings with dispatch, probably because he didn't care to get caught breaking curfew and lose his newfound Privilege.
He pulled a second bookbag out of the first, and began to pack it with a complex realm of parchment which had to be The Essay. The attendant charts, graphs, and illustrations bulged at the corners in spite of his efforts. Snape was only faintly disturbed by this and gently transferred some of them to the first bag, accompanied by the various Tables of Elements, robe protectors, astrolabes, astronomical slide rules, quills and parchments which were the essential trappings of an Aspiring Alchemist.
Saddlebagged by two overcrammed satchels and looking insufferably pleased with himself, Sev slipped through the gates, and swirled all three yards of his persistently capacious cloak clear of their swing's radius, as the iron bars clanged shut behind him. Snape joined Lucius, and, there was no mistaking it now, had the bad grace to rather Loom.
"Come on," Malfoy clipped. "We've only got thirty minutes to get back before curfew, thanks to your malingering."
"I am engaged in the steady pursuit of knowledge," Snape had the absolute gall to correct him. "What the rest of you are doing here during your seven-year sojourn remains mysterious to me."
Lucius blinked at him. "You'll feel better when you've shat out that dictionary you've swallowed," he snapped. "Be a bit less snarky, I expect."
Snape arched one eyebrow, in the Gothic style.
"Come on, Sev," snarked Lucius.
"Severus," Snape corrected him, somehow contriving to turn his given name into a phonetic feast.
Lucius seized Sev's necktie and hauled him out of the library. This endeavor was made unusually challenging by the obstropulous swot's apalling refusal to Heel.
That, and Sev seemed somehow to have gotten taller. Lucius was disturbed to realize that Snape had abandoned his habitual cringe. This didn't Bode Well.
Narcissa was waiting in the hallway. She dazzled at them.
Severus said with the artful precision of Goya's finishing touches, "Good evening, Narcissa."
She giggled breathily, "Hi Sev!"
Snape didn't correct her. His smirk spread like a winestain.
Lucius greeted his fiancee a bit sharply, "Good evening, Narcissa, my Sweet Intended."
She smiled at him in rather a feral way. "Hi, Luke." From beneath stardusted eyelids she studied them both as if considering her next chess move.
Lucius keenly recalled his father's warning: Witches play Wizard's Chess with living pawns.
Narcissa reached out and took ahold of Sev's tie, removing it from Lucius's grip; gently and deftly she tucked it back into place, then graciously resettled the hang of Snape's fulsome cloak.
Sev stood extremely still and actually shook in his boots. He looked as if he were confronting a werewolf.
Lucius felt this reaction perfectly appropriate: Father had also warned sternly that one shouldn't trust anything that underwent strange changes beneath a full moon.
Narcissa insinuated herself closer, and breathed, "How do you like the Restricted Section, Sev?"
"... er..." Snape made a mighty and pitifully obvious effort not to stare at her Restricted Sections. He turned chalky, and then brick red, and mumbled something, and half-dove into one of his bookbags and began rummaging assiduously amid its contents.
He looked like a small forest creature desperately trying to burrow its way to safety beneath fallen leaves.
Lucius was entertained.
Narcissa flashed him a wicked grin and sighed, "Good night, Sev."
Snape dropped his bookbag onto his foot, yelped at the impact, hopped about on his unbruised foot and slipped on his own fallen quill and went sprawling amid a flurry of scrolls, phials and books.
Narcissa winked at Lucius, and glided from the room.
Lucius looked forward eagerly to the series of importunate events sure to be engendered by his Sweet Intended's deftly stringing along both Lackwit Lockhart and Seriously-Out-of-His-Depth Snape. Inevitably there would be tears, tiffs, tests of loyalty... and with a little creative effort, perhaps even a duel in the Great Hall.
Sev would hex That Pest of a Prefect halfway into next Autumn. Just at present, however, the flustered Object of Narcissa's Affliction was busy pursuing his scattered possessions and currently was scrambling on all fours after a scroll which was tumbling down the stairs.
"Whoops!" Lily Evans scooped up the wayward document as it rolled across the landing. "Here you go, Severus!" She pressed the scroll into Snape's hands and hurried on her way towards the Gryffindor dormitories, rusty tresses and brimming bookbag bouncing.
Sev, frozen like a startled gecko, clung onto scroll and stairs and let out a faint, strangled wheeze which might have meant either "thank you" or "sheknowsmyname!"
Lucius inquired of his petrified minion, "All right, Sev?"
Snape yelped and lost his grip and tumbled down all the way onto the next landing. He fetched up in an inverted heap against the wall, like a castoff ragdoll, upholding the scroll as if it were a reliquary.
Lucius strolled down the stairs, avoiding quills and books and phials, prompting languidly, "If you're through with your acrobatic display, you might just hurry along a bit... unless you wish to waste several more hours in Detention..."
Snape uttered some sound that certainly wasn't a word, and scrambled upright, and stashed the scroll inside his sweater and scurried up the stairs, hastily collecting the rest of his belongings.
Lucius was pleased. So there is something which can shut you up. Although it was rather pitiable That it should be that filthy little Mudstain... still-glimpsed from the Snapes' murky depths of the genetic pool, anything which managed to crawl ashore must seem like an angel.
Sev caught up to him three floors down, unfortunately not quite out of breath and clutching his frothing bookbags, his sallow complexion shaded to an unhealthy damask. He managed to ask in a kind of cougar's growl, "Where are the lumps?"
"Sound asleep, no doubt."
Snape shook his head in astounded condemnation of this lack of industry, and snarled, "Really, I wonder how they ever expect to pass any subjects at all." He scowled disapprovingly and somehow this expression seemed surlier today, as if he were some half-mad prince confronting societal demons. He huffed dismissively, "There's plenty of time to sleep all summer."
Lucius nodded aside this familiar, weak explanation of the Snape family's tendency to aestivation. "If you-"
Scrambling on the stairs nearby heralded a high, sharp cry of, "Severus!" Moments later. Jenny Goldberg appeared, out of breath and holding out a stoppered bottle of dark blue glass. "Here!" She fumbled it into Snape's hands and said in a whirlwind rush, "Iknowyou'vegot curfewhavealookat thatwhenyougetachance willyou it'sfinallygonetogreen!"
Sev grinned like a deranged monk and all but purred, "Excellent. Thanks very much, Jenny. Goodnight!"
Jenny said "hhhh!" And turned bright red and tripped down four stairs, caromed off the nearest wall, and scurried away back to the depths of the castle.
Lucius stared at the gleaming-eyed swot, who was studying the bottle with frank, corvid glee. Suddenly he was seized by a violent hope that Sev would suffer Profound Laryngitis for the remainder of their school years.
No Such Luck. "The thing is," Snape commenced animatedly, "this verdancy is almost certainly indicative that we've achieved a sufficiency of wormwood in the admixture, and now may proceed confidently in the direction of dreams... certainly this mandates abandonment of sugar," he declared, "raising the corresponding question of what might be used as a clarifying agent... moonshine, maybe... preferably caught in the dew from a virgin's brow..."
Lucius lunged forward just in time to catch Bellatrix Black as she nearly stumbled off the stairs.
She didn't thank him, as she never spoke to any student whose pedigree did not predate the Norman Conquest. She was, however, studying Snape as if she were deciding whether to accompany him with a white or red wine.
Lucius shivered and dragged the oblivious swot down the stairs and through the corridors, doing his best to ignore Sev's beehive drone of observations, negations, and ramifications. It was much more difficult to ignore the way every witch's head seemed to turn with weathervane accuracy towards that uncanny resonance.
Hastening through the crowded hallway was very much like traversing a den of lions, who'd had their fill of catnip and now desired a new plaything.
Vanessa Vector actually collided with a statue.
Pretty little Medusa Bulstrode completely ignored Lucius, which she hadn't done since she was three years old, and he resolved that Something Must Be Done.
Of course Sev never knew when to shut up, and so could simply be left to a merciless tenderizing at the hands of the boyfriends of all these mesmerized witches.
Unfortunately that wouldn't silence him for long, and when he regained consciousness, his bewildered protests of ignorance would be pathetic and extensive.
Messing about with Sev's potions might actually Worsen matters, by adversely affecting Snape or some ingredient. Lucius shivered and tried not to think how The Haggis might have found its way out of the Great Hall by now.
Surely not. It was a big hall. And the castle was laced with wards which had held their place for centuries.
Lucius had a Good Idea.
He refined this into a Cunning Plan, and at Le Moment Just he lunged with a jaguar's grace, striking Snape midsentence and shoving the blindsided swot sprawling into Moaning Myrtle's washroom. With a technique perfected by the Marauders, Malfoy quickly jammed the door shut so that it couldn't be opened from inside, even by furious spellwork.
There came a scrambling of boots on tile, and a scrabbling at the jammed doorknob, and Sev's predictable dismayed cry: "Luke! Let me out!"
Snape foolishly threatened in a voice like August thunder, "Right now I mean it!"
A burbling, eerie wail culminated in a delighted welcoming whine, "Severus! You came to visit me again!" A damply ethereal giggle precipitated Moaning Myrtle's coy warning, "We really shouldn 't keep meeting like this. People will talk!"
But not Sev, Lucius thought with satisfaction, as he hastened back to their dormitory. Not after screaming for help all night long.