Sebastian Delacour resisted the urge to shudder as he stared into the cold, hard eyes of his guest. There was not a speck of emotion in those emerald orbs; no love, no hate. Nothing. And for a man who prided himself in reading the faces of others, it was a very disconcerting thing indeed. The French Minister of Magic wet his lips before speaking.
"I will assume that you know why I have summoned you into my office?"
The man - no, boy, blinked at him. To his chagrin, Sebastian found himself looking away from the impassive gaze. It was like staring into a cold void, and seemed to suck in all the warmth from the room. Then the boy nodded, and the Minister released the breath he had inadvertently been holding.
"It has only been a few months since my election as Minister of Magic," Sebastian guessed, correctly, that his guest's continued silence meant for him to continue, "and already I find myself slandered by the ultra-conservatives within the party. I am married to a half-Veela, you see, and the blood-purists in our government are quite literally screaming their heads off. They consider my wife to be a half-breed, not even human, and to see a minister elected into office championing the rights of her kind is something they will not abide. They cannot do me any harm politically, for the rumors they spread are just that. Rumors. And the population thankfully holds no such bigoted bias. But I am afraid for my family."
The boy's face remained blank, but Sebastian could see he was digesting the information at a record pace.
"Just a week ago, an assassination attempt at my manor cost me the lives of three aurors and several of my household staff," the Minister paused, remembering the bloody scene he arrived home to, "Thankfully, my wife and two daughters were out visiting relatives that day, or I fear I would be speaking to you as a widower. The blood-purists in our ministry have only a small following, yet they are all powerful men with powerful connections. They may deny it, but I do not doubt for a minute that the attempt on my family's lives was made by them."
"And that is where I come in," the boy said. This time, Sebastian did shudder. The voice was like the face, toneless and utterly without emotion.
"Yes. I will be honest with you. If Hogwarts was not hosting the Triwizard Tournament, an event my eldest daughter wishes dearly to compete in, your services would not be needed. I have more than enough protection here in France, but that protection is limited to my daughter if she is to go to England."
"Simply convince your daughter not to go."
Sebastian smiled slightly at his guest's suggestion.
"My eldest has inherited the stubbornness of her mother, to an exact degree almost, and I am afraid any insinuations I might make to her regarding the subject will be met with a… unpleasant temper."
To this, the boy just shrugged, and the silence resumed.
"Yes, well," Sebastian continued uncomfortably, "I have seen your credentials, and I must say I am impressed. But I do find myself curious how a wizard your age could bring down notorious criminals famed for their use of the Dark Arts."
"I was better."
Sebastian let the boy's statement hang, hoping for more, but he was soon disappointed. The boy just stared at him, and the Minister realized those three words were the only explanation he was going to get.
"I see," Sebastian halted before moving onto what he hoped would be the last part of the negotiation, "You understand the predicament I am in. I have always prided myself in being a man capable of protecting his family, but with the resources the blood-purists have at their disposal, I fear for my daughter's safety outside France's borders."
"England has blood-purists of its own," came the toneless reply, "I have dealt with them before."
"And no doubt you have seen what violence they are capable of should their bigotry be unleashed."
"It is my hope," Sebastian tread carefully, "that we can come into an agreement, a contract if you will, for you to provide protection to my daughter for her trip to Hogwarts and back. Of course, you will be rewarded for your efforts with a substantial payment from my own vaults."
"And the public?" the Minister marveled at the boy's cunning, "They would not shun you for your choice of a bodyguard? They are a fickle lot after all."
"I would gladly suffer through the recriminations of the public for the safety of my family."
"Then you are a better father than most," a gesture of respect, the first since the conversation had started, and Sebastian dared to hope the deal might come through.
"However," the boy's tone had turned clipped and business-like, "I must ask you of a certain condition before I accept the contract."
"The money I can give to you when you accept-"
His guest raised a hand to stop him. Sebastian found himself angered by the boy's impudence while at the same time respecting his courage. He was the Minister of Magic of France, with the power of an entire wizarding country at his hands, and the boy was talking to him as though he were his equal! Sebastian allowed himself to smile inwardly. Were it any other being speaking to him in such a manner, magical or non, he would have assumed arrogance. But here, the boy's demeanor radiated not superiority, but confidence. As though if nothing in the world could stop him. A worthy trait indeed.
"Money is not the issue. I will accept payment when my task is completed to my contractor's satisfaction. What I require from you, Minister, is a promise."
"A promise for what?"
For the first time, the boy smiled; a cold, cruel smirk that did not reach his eyes.
"A promise that I may use whatever is necessary to destroy those who would infringe on your daughter's honor."